LIFF27 Day Summary - 15th November - Cats, Cannibals and Controversy

A word of warning before I begin recounting my first day at the 27th Leeds International Film Festival - and indeed, my first time in Leeds at all - that, on the first day at least, my food exploits will pale in comparison to Sam’s. The most exciting it got was a ham and cheese sandwich from M&S at a motorway service station - a very tasty (if slightly pricey) ham and cheese sandwich, but pretty boring stuff.

Unfortunately, large chunks of my first film, The Strange Little Cat screened at Vue in The Light, made me yearn for the exhilaration of pork and dairy nestled between two slices of bread I had experienced earlier. Whilst it looked very pretty at several points throughout, my inaugural Leeds movie was really rather dull. No story as such, no genuinely engaging characters, and too many lingering static shots. I’m all for making films feel like real life, but when you’re focusing mainly on the boring bits of real life, what’s the point? I was also tempted to contact trading standards, with the titular feline neither particularly little nor strange.

No travel needed for the second film of the day, Summer House, which was a notable improvement upon the first, although it covered similar themes and areas in several ways: a focus on ordinary people and the details of their lives, a style intended to evoke realism, and a setting that stayed largely in one place. The difference with Summer House was a few stand-out performances within the cast and dynamic direction from the co-directors. Even though both films clearly had different aims, it was an interesting introduction to Leeds to have the first two films I watched share facets whilst achieve considerably different levels of success.

To Hyde Park Picture House next, via my first experience of the cruel toying antics in which Leeds’ bus service seemingly takes pleasure. The illuminated bus countdown panel informed me of a number 56 bus’ impending arrival, only for it to disappear from the screen with no bus materialising. A game of “guess how long it’ll actually take for the bus to arrive” then ensued, with the chances of me arriving at the Picture House for the start of my third film reducing every second. Thankfully, although a good twenty minutes late, the tardy double decker eventually got me there in time.

And very glad I am now of that fact too, as The Future ended up being the best watch of the day. An oddity of a movie which chips away at you long after you’ve finished watching and featuring excellent performances from its largely young cast alongside veteran Rutger Hauer, The Future’s story takes in ideas of spirituality, the supernatural, father figures and our place in the universe, amongst many others. It’s a film that continues to grow on me the more I mull it over.

My first day concluded with a special treat of veteran Italian director Ruggero Deodato undertaking a Q&A session at Hyde Park Picture House before a screening of his most famous film, 1980’s seminal horror Cannibal Holocaust. The discussion with Deodato was fascinating, not only as an insight into filmmaking in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, but also to see that the man behind one of the most infamously censored and banned films of all time is actually a charming, avuncular gent.

Deodato had a seemingly endless treasure trove of stories surrounding Cannibal Holocaust, many to do with the reaction to its initial release. He also passed judgement on more modern films and directors, professing to being a fan of Tarantino’s work but casually dismissed The Blair Witch Project as “shit”. The controversial issue of animal slaughter - of which actual footage features at a few points in the film - was also covered in various ways. Interestingly, Deodato stated that he does regret including the footage, but also noted that he had seen an edited version of Cannibal Holocaust released in parts of Europe and felt that the film was missing something integral with it omitted. It’s something I’ll touch on further alongside my own viewpoint when I review the film, but I was pleased to hear the still-contentious issue approached with intelligence and maturity by not only Deodato, but also his LIFF interviewer and the audience at the Picture House.

Cannibal Holocaust itself was an experience I will certainly never forget, having never seen the film before in any form. Many modern horror films, right up to the most recent releases, owe a lot to Deodato’s style and boundary-pushing content. The night was rounded off with a documentary about the making and release of the film, The Long Road Back From Hell - only around forty-five minutes in length, but as Cannibal Holocaust itself didn’t finish until around 1.50am, and with a full day of film-watching planned for the following day, like many of my fellow Picture House patrons I decided to call it a night, a diverse quartet of films under my belt from my first day in Leeds.

The 27th Leeds International Film Festival (LIFF) takes place from the 6th-21st November at cinemas around the city, including Hyde Park Picture House and Leeds Town Hall. Tickets and more information are available via the official LIFF website.

By Ben Broadribb. Ben is a regular contributor to Film Intel, having previously written at Some Like It Hot Fuzz. He is normally seen in the wild wearing t-shirts containing obscure film references. He is a geek, often unashamedly so. He's also on and Twitter.

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