The first Filmstock was an epic 15 day event. The first year welcomed animation legend Ray Harryhausen to the festival and we screen an unseen Abbott & Costello episode, alongside some fantastic short films. One of these, a documentary called ‘Bezdan’ was one of the first films exported from Bosnia since the Balkans conflict, and nearly didn’t make it. As a way of attracting local audiences, the initial retrospective theme was comedy, with everything from Woody Allen and Stanley Kubrick to a Steve Martin double bill and a Spoof Marathon.
Our first real leap. Although homeless due to the temporary closure of the local Arts Centre, and housed in a makeshift venue in the bowels of Luton town hall, the amount of independent screenings was increased hugely, with more filmmakers visiting from all over. The themes for the year were villains, and music films. The closing preview tradition was also started with the first UK Screening of ‘Shrek’. To close out we held a 10th Anniversary screening of ‘The Commitments’ and reunited some cast members, before heading off to a local Irish pub for an all night party that has passed into local legend. We also held our first annual outdoor screening with live music - The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
Onwards and upwards. Back in the local arts centre. We also staged one of our greatest Filmstock events, showing Baz Luhrmann’s ‘Romeo & Juliet’ in a 15th Century church, filled with candles and rose petals. People queued around the block, and stood at the back for a 3 screen emotional extravaganza. The opening preview was the Christopher Nolan film ‘Insomnia’. The theme was Women in film and we also welcomed some fine New York musicians to head up our New York Night, a place very close to our hearts.
The independent strand is growing and growing, showing more films and welcoming more visitors. The season Montage is launched. We welcomed Jim Sheridan to the festival to discuss his favourite films and the programme he curated for us. His interview was a true highlight. Also that year the theme was Easy Riders, Raging Bulls, like the book, and exclusive programme notes were provided by the author Peter Biskind.
No central theme this year, but Montage returned, with a fantastic talk and season provided by Mike Hodges alongside screenings of his films, including a Saturday morning screening of the Saturday morning classic ‘Flash Gordon’. The independent focus has become the central strand of the festival and the festival’s reputation in this area has seen it develop into a talked about event for international filmmakers. But there is also time to squeeze in a short season of the most extreme cinema ever, called ‘Endurance’, and a Bruce Lee night.
This year was all about independent film. The festival screened over 150 shorts, docs and features as it found its niche and meaning. The tradition of opening and closing films was cemented with Undertow to kick things off and an exclusive screening of Batman Begins to close things out. This year also saw the arrival of a now infamous screening. ‘Filmschlock’, a night where the audience can revel in and abuse the worst cinema has to offer, hopefully as an inspiration to make something better.
Montage returned with a season curated by the inimitable Barry Norman. The independent strand became huge. There was a bike ride. Jaws in a swimming pool. We had the Palm D’Or winner to close the festival and for the opening film ‘Thank You For Smoking’, the festival welcomed Director Jason Reitman who is not only a lovely guy, but is a Filmstock alumni from way back in 2001.
We moved to November and the festival exploded. We had more people than ever thanks to that, and our ‘beers of the world’ festival. Film wise our Indie section was as fantastic as ever, with more filmmakers than ever in attendance, we launched a season of Polish cinema, Polskistock and for one night we brought back our ‘Endurance’ strand, and invited people to watch extreme cinema on their backs, on cold hard floor, with the film projected on the ceiling.
More submissions than ever before, shorts, features and docs, the return of 'beers of the world', another massive turnout with the most engaging and animated response to one of our programmes ever. Nicolas Roeg came to close the festival with a talk about his career before a screening of his latest, Puffball. He also took time to join the crowd in witnessing co-director Justin's anniversary exhibition of photos surrounding the seminal film 'Don't Look Now' which ran in the festival bar. Elsewhere there was a tribute to Johnny Weismuller and a series of films dealing with issues of mental health. A glorious rebuke to growing recession cynicism all round.
All set with an amazing festival, Jason Reitman returned an earlier request to screen 'Up In The Air'. He wanted it to open the festival and we didn't think it fair to bump Cold Souls and given the festival's relationship with Jason over the years one of our loyal team members suggested we give it a Filmstock all of its own. So, seeing as we technically went straight to 11 from 9, we squeezed a very special 1 day, 1 film, event in just before Filmstock 11. What a night it was, complete with video introduction from Jason recorded especially for Filmstock. A memorable night.
Could it have ended any better? A decade of work and cinematic celebration came to a close with a special screening of This Is Spinal Tap (the reason the festival went to 11) introduced by the band's manager Ian Faith (Tony Hendra, who flew himself in from New York to be there). As well as amazing opening and closing films, there was an exclusive screening of Julien Temple's 'Oil City Confidential' and two mystery films faced off against each other in the forms of The Informant and 44 Inch Chest. There was the beers of the world, a hog roast, a cake festival, amazing independent films and filmmakers, old friends returning to say goodbye and a celebratory atmosphere unlike anything the directors have have ever known. It was fitting, and special.