DUMBING down is pushing passion and excitement out of the movies – and Hollywood is to blame.
Former Python and now controversial director Terry Gilliam made the claim in an outspoken attack on the money men at the heart of the Western movie industry while in Leeds for the city’s 19th international film festival.
‘We live in a time where Hollywood dominates so much that the audience is just being dumbed down every day and it takes festivals like this to reintroduce potential audiences with the kinds of experiences that they don’t get anymore,’ said Gilliam.
‘The major distributors are just pushing through product. There’s no passion and no excitement. There’s only fear and nervousness and caution. And thank God for these festivals because culturally we’re dying.’
Although the sentiments were widely welcomed, to many filmgoers they seemed ironic as Buena Vista, distributors of Gilliam’s latest offering – The Brothers Grimm – had allegedly prevented cult horror writer and film critic Kim Newman from conducting a Q&A session with him after the festival screening.
The Disney Corporation firm allegedly took umbrage when Newman was too critical of the film after earlier press screenings.
Despite this, the Festival was again acclaimed a success. The 500-plus hours of screenings at 16 different venues included low-budget dramas, documentaries, horror and the Hollywood blockbusters attacked by Gilliam.
The historic as well as the contemporary was featured too – with local and international references.
French inventor Louis Le Prince was honoured. The French-born inventor is now regarded by film historians has having shot the world’s first two recorded motion pictures in Leeds in 1888.
The official festival trailer used footage from one while the festival programme carried an image of Le Prince’s camera on its cover.
The retrospective dedicated to Italian director Francesco Rosi – featuring works including The Challenge, Salvatore Giuliano and Lucky Luciano – was the most comprehensive ever compiled.
And, for the festival finale, filmgoers were treated to a restored print of the historic I am Cuba, the 1960s collaboration between Castro’s island and the USSR which transcended its propaganda origins to influence, amongst others, director Martin Scorcese.
Leeds’ only surviving independent cinema – the Hyde Park Picture House – made its mark too – with Night of the Dead V, its fifth festival all-night horror screening being another nine-hour marathon sell-out.
Afterwards, festival director Chris Fell said the organising team had been motivated by ‘a passion for cinema and for new film-making’.
‘Hopefully,’ he added, ‘we’ll inspire people to see more films than those that just come to the local multiplex.’