In 1929, medical doctor Friedrich Ritterand and his lover/ patient Dore Strauch left behind their lives in Germany and set up home in an isolated, uninhabited part of the Galapagos Islands (Floreana), hoping to immerse themselves in a piece of untouched paradise. After a spot of unwanted publicity, other settlers start to arrive on Floreana – a young German family, and a glamourous woman calling herself ‘the Baroness’, accompanied by her two lovers. When the Baroness announces her intention to build a hotel and bring tourists to the island, hard-fought plans for a peaceful existence begin to crumble and murder comes to the Galapagos.
A fascinating true story told through photographs, home movies, letters and passed-down family legends. The Galapagos Affair uses voice-overs from Cate Blanchett, Sebastian Koch and Diane Kruger to narrate the mystery of Floreana with pace and intrigue. A deeply fascinating look at humans in nature unable to shed their human nature.
The Galapagos Affair would work well as part of a season of both feature films and documentaries exploring real-life events (Bonnie and Clyde, Rope, In Cold Blood) or real life mysteries (The Imposter, Grizzly Man, West of Memphis).
Words by Jaq Chell
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A review by Elizabeth Costello, Leigh Film Society
I was delighted to win two tickets for this ground-breaking event – a celebration of working class people who have achieved success in the film industry, curated by Cinema For All Patron Danny Leigh.
Coming from a working-class background myself, and running a film society that falls within one of the most deprived communities in the country, I very much wanted to fly the flag and represent our town and our great achievements as an award-winning film society. Alongside this, my daughter Emma lives and works in London in film production and has first-hand experience of how hard it is for people from a working-class background and how having a northern accent can mean working harder to be accepted within this industry.
There were so many panels it was difficult to choose as each one promised to deliver quality discussions.
Keynote Speech – Maxine Peake
Maxine Peake is one of the most famous working class heroes. Maxine is very often political which she feels is important as a public figure if asked to have an opinion. She spoke openly and honestly about her struggles for acceptance and is a strong voice for working class people and all things northern. She recently made a documentary called The Acting Class about the financial struggles of young people affording high end drama schools. Leigh Film Society CIC helped in the making of this film with sponsorship. We felt it was important to support working class drama students across the country and to help get their message across about the difficulties they face, proving there is no greater barrier to socially mobility than money. Danny mentioned Maxine’s new film called Funny Cow about a working-class female comedian on the club circuit, prompting Maxine to say how working-class people use comedy to lighten the load.
How To Make It – Vicky McClure, Jonny Harris and Asif Kapadia
Leigh Film Society had recently screened the Johnny Harris film Jawbone. It’s an outstanding film made with passion and perfectly demonstrates the struggles of working class people. I was really looking forward to listening to Johnny Harris. He didn’t disappoint. His passion for filmmaking and representing the underdog really came through. It turned out to be a great panel, keeping its focus on celebrating working class heroes and not making the privileged or middle-class members of the audience feel under attack. Johnny made some great points about casting agents and how they need to get away from RADA and check out the undiscovered talent at local colleges and drama groups. It is now his mission in life to make this happen. This panel was entertaining, funny and focused on exactly what the event was about.
Woodfall – Actors Rita Tushingham, Tom Courtenay and Joely Richardson, Journalist Paris Lees and Filmmaker Jez Butterworth explore the gritty stories brought to life by Woodfall Films
This turned out to be a lovely session taking the audience on a journey reminiscing through the many films made by Director Tony Richardson. Listening to Rita Rustington talking about the films she’d made with Woodfall and how coming from Liverpool she was a new breed of working class actor.
So many groundbreaking films made in the late 50s and 60s that raised issues about class tensions and at the time were referred to British New Wave. Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1960) is still shown in schools today. Joely Richardson spoke with so much affection for her father’s films and how location was import to him. Rather than using studios he used actual deprived estates keeping his films authentic. I particularly enjoyed Tom Courtney reminiscing about the many comparisons over the years between himself and Albert Finney. These antidotes delighted the audience.
We had a wonderful day together celebrating and recognising the great work and successes of working class people. I cannot praise Danny Leigh enough for putting Clss on the agenda and hosting this event.
Geraldine from Newcastle Community Cinema reports back about attending the Community Cinema Conference and Film Society of the Year Awards.
We attended this year’s Community Cinema Conference following a very tough year that saw Newcastle Community Cinema establish a permanent cinema venue in Newcastle and increase our programming schedule 4 fold. Working as volunteers and more recently as Trustees of the charity, our work load has expanded, putting many extra demands on us, both in terms of our community cinema and our personal lives. Our responsibilities have increased with the new venue and the plans to build new audiences. It has been a learning curve trying to strike a balance financially and in terms of our capacity as a group to deliver a diverse programme of film exhibition. We have continued to build audiences and develop new ones, whilst striving to remain sustainable. We are grateful to Film Hub Northern Ireland for the opportunities that their funding has afforded us.
In spite of the challenges we have faced we are still going strong. As a group of individuals who have full time occupations we have learned many ways to keep ourselves motivated, not burn ourselves out and maintain our interest and passion for what we do. It has become very important to us to participate in the annual UK-wide Community Cinema Conference and Film Society of the Year Awards. This year we were the only group representing community cinema in Northern Ireland. We have made many partnerships and take the opportunity to network and exchange ideas or learn of new developments in the collective movement of community cinema. We receive a very warm welcome and we hope that we contribute to the event. We are very proactive in the workshops and networking events.
The Community Cinema Conference is a rare opportunity for us to get together and indulge in our love of film as a group. We can see first-hand how Cinema For All is developing and how their strategy to increase and sustain the industry can be applied to our own organisation. We are learning all the time and we believe that NCC can provide feedback to them in terms of their strategic development and planning. This year we were nominated in two categories and were delighted to win Best Marketing and Publicity across the UK and receive a distinction in Best Programming. The awards provide an opportunity for us to take a look at what we continue to achieve and this is very motivating.
We have learned to take care of ourselves and NCC by working hard but knowing when we need to give ourselves a boost and remind ourselves that we are all good friends, have a lot in common and share interests. We ensure that we use the Community Cinema Conference to keep our interest fresh and reconnect with our counterparts from across the UK and beyond. We would like to see more representation from Northern Ireland film societies and community cinemas at this event. It is a celebration of the voluntary work that we all do as film exhibitors. It is motivational and energising. It is great fun and vital to us. We fly the flag for Northern Ireland and are proud to do so.