Friday, December 5, 2014

Gijon International Film Festival

Last year, I was pleasantly surprised when my film CHEATIN' won the Best Animated Feature prize at the wonderful Gijon Film Festival in Spain.  Not only did it include a money prize, but also an invitation to visit the festival the following year.  So, I was happy to come back in 2014 and hold a Master Class and some more screenings of my films.

Gijon is situated in the beautiful Northern coast of Spain, where there's a lot of beautiful nature and gorgeous beaches.  However, they kept me so busy with my retrospective, interviews and lunches that I was unable to even walk around the beautiful historic city.

Also, the weather sucked - it was raining almost the entire time I was there.  The sun was only out on the first day I was there and I was able to go swimming in the beautiful, crystal-clear warm water of the Bay of Biscay.

Still, there were a couple of amazing highlights.  I was able to share the spotlight with one of my favorite filmmakers, Terry Gilliam.  We were able to hang out together and enjoy the fantastic food and cider of the region.

He's such a raconteur - telling me all about his film projects, the successes and the failures, and especially his battles against Hollywood studios, which I heartily empathized with.  He says he still wants to complete Don Quixote and plans to return to Spain with a new cast.

The other great guest I met was Richard Lester - when I was in college, I discovered this great man's work.  Of course, he's famous for directing the great Beatles films "A Hard Day's Night" and "Help!", but then I discovered some of his more non-commercial films, like "Petulia" (which I loved), "How I Won the War" starring John Lennon, "The Mouse on the Moon", and "The Bed Sitting Room".  Of course, he made some blockbusters too, like "The Three Musketeers", "Robin and Marian" and "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum". 

But to my mind, two of his films really stand out - "It's Trad, Dad" (released in the U.S. as "Ring-a-Ding Rhythm!") which is all about the Dixieland revival in London in the early 1960's.  I loved Kenny Ball and the Jazzmen, Acker Bilk and others, but what's amazing about the film is the experimental editing and cinematography that wasn't seen again until 20 years later, when MTV started.  So Richard Lester really started it all.

The other film of his that changed my life was "Petulia" in 1968.  This film starring George C. Scott, Julie Christie and the brilliant Shirley Knight blew me away when I first saw it.  It had everything - humor, great San Francisco rock music, drama and fantastic acting, and yet in many ways it was an experimental film.  Watch it on Netflix, you'll thank me for it.

But I digress - I approached Mr. Lester and told him he's my God, and fortunately I didn't scare him away.  He's such a gentleman, he told me some great stories about his directing years.  He said he retired because he couldn't get used to the new technology - and he looks great, slim, trim and as youthful as ever. 

What a joy to hang out with my two favorite directors!  I give the Gijon Film Festival an A+.

--Bill Plympton

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