Outreach can mean many different things.
In a world where public discourse is being increasingly squeezed into binary opposites - yes, no, for, against - the need to see - beneath the surface, around the corner - is becoming ever more important. One of the great joys of cinema is that it helps us do exactly that whilst at the same time entertaining and enthralling us.
Harrogate Film Society (HFS) is proud to be a longstanding part of the cinema landscape in Harrogate, working together with the other providers in the town to offer a wide range of cinematic experiences to the local community.
In 2017 HFS was part of the team which conceived and ran the first Harrogate Film Festival.
In looking at Harrogate's range of cultural facilities and offerings including the world-renown crime-writing festival, we had been struck by the absence of a film festival. Under the leadership of a local commercial filmmaker and film enthusiast, Adam Chandler, a number of individuals and organisations came together to build the first Festival.
As part of that Festival, HFS hosted a screening of Brian De Palma's 1983 classic Scarface as a pop-up screening in a local bar, branded as 'Flash Film'. In subsequent years, HFS has continued to support the Festival with Flash Film pop-ups- for example Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs in 2018 and in 2019 a double bill from the 1994 archive comprising Tarantino's Pulp Fiction and Oliver Stone's Natural Born Killers. After all of these screenings we have hosted discussions to explore the issues raised by the filmmakers. This 'after event' discussion format was initially piloted at our regular screenings; launched in the 2015 season as Film Club. Both at the Festivals and at regular screenings, the success of Film Club has demonstrated the local appetite not just to watch engaging and challenging films but to participate in the broader social and cultural debates that swirl around these films and filmmaking in general.
As the Film Festival has grown in popularity- a four day event in 2017 and a ten day event in 2020- so too have the ambitions of the Film Society. In 2019, we hosted award-winning documentary filmmaker Mark Cousins for a screening of and discussion about his film The Eyes of Orson Wells.
For the 2020 Festival we worked with the Harrogate Advertiser's Graham Chalmers in helping bring celebrated music documentary filmmaker Tony Palmer to Harrogate. He appeared at the Cold Bath brewery Clubhouse where an hour long Q&A was followed by a rare screening of his 1977 Beatles documentary - Mighty Good.
Additionally, the Society Committee took the opportunity to work with a local film company, Growler Films, to sponsor five young local filmmakers to contribute to a documentary film about the Tony Palmer event. That 90 minute documentary is now in post-production with a release planned for 2021. In the meantime, the producers have made available a few short clips from an interview with Tony conducted in September 2020. You can read more and watch the clips here.
Jim Morrison, no less, reminded us that 'the future's uncertain . . . ' an aphorism writ large in the wake of the covid pandemic that gripped the UK soon after the end of the 2020 Harrogate Film Festival.
While HFS is responding to the changes and planning a resumption of regular screenings, the constraints ushered in by the pandemic have also prompted us to think more carefully about our online offering. In addition to a range of content that will be made made available through the Online Platform we are now running an extended festival competition for feature films called HFS Festival Features.
HFS Festival Features offers a range of regular film screenings of features from around the world. Audience members will have the opportunity to vote on each of these films and we plan to host big-screen presentations of the most popular films during the 2021 Harrogate Film Festival.