Salisbury Arts Centre by Chris Talbot

On a very rainy night in July in the medieval city of Salisbury, in a church converted into an arts centre, Roobla met the venerable Mark Kermode at the Hansel Of Film festival. So – what is Hansel Of Film?

Salisbury Arts Centre by Chris Talbot

‘Hansel’ is the Shetland term for gift, and this travelling festival is literally what it says, a gift of film. The brainchild of Kathy Hubbard, the effusive and disarming Head of Development for Shetland Arts, it takes the form of a relay from the Shetland Isles to Southampton and back again, taking in 24 different venues and showcasing over 120 short films. The films are taken between each venue by ‘runners’, a nod to the Olympic ideal in this unique year of celebration, and feature the talent of not only the Shetlands but also local film-makers.

Kathy was joined at the Salisbury presentation by a selection of ‘runners’ and some of the film-makers themselves. Lurking in the wings, and struggling with the microphone, were the esteemed film critic Mark Kermode and respected film historian Professor Linda Ruth Williams.

Mark and Linda’s involvement goes back to the genesis of the project as Mark explained. ‘Linda and I are the co-curators of the annual Shetland film festival, ‘Screenplay’. We were having a few beers with Kathy in the local pub when she came up with this crazy idea of a UK relay and we chatted about it briefly. We didn’t give it much thought after that until sometime after when we got a call from Kathy to say she was going ahead with it.’

Not only was she going ahead, but she had started to organise the ambitious project. Mark continued, ‘this has been an amazing celebration which is so wide-ranging, one film is called ‘Zombie Asockalypse’, a zombie film populated by socks in a washing machine which is, without a doubt, the best zombie film populated by socks in a washing machine I have ever seen!’ Praise indeed from the father of ‘wittertainment’.

The films are diverse; emotional journeys to animations, a silent film with children to a suicidal teddy bear. An insightful documentary about the most northern bus shelter in the British Isles summed up the flavour of the evening, with there being something there for everyone. The runners themselves reflect the sometimes eccentric nature of the proceedings.

Kathy explained, ‘we have had everything from a pantomime horse getting on a bus in Cambridge to one of our next runners who is a poet dressed as a tree. They don’t technically run, they have to transport a large reel of film in a canister any way they want to. However, on the next leg, Salisbury to Southampton, the runner is actually running all the way!’ In order to assist him Mark presented him with a special mini canister.

The relay is now winding its way back up to its starting point in Shetland in time for the launch of this year’s Screenplay 6th -9th September 2012. A mammoth showing of all the films will take place alongside guest appearances from Jenny Seagrove and Bill Forsythe, who will be introducing the classic ‘Local Hero’. Kathy would encourage everyone to come and see the festival and visit the Islands, ‘it is a long slog to get here but totally worth it and this year we are unveiling our very first cinema where we can show these wonderful films.’

More information can be found at www.hansel2012.org where you can view the films and read the blog. To find out more about Screenplay visit visit www.shetlandarts.org/.

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