The last festival goes out on a high

15th Aldeburgh Documentary Festival - November 20-22 2009. Those who attended all four sessions of Aldeburgh Cinema's 15th Documentary Festival were treated to a feast of intellectual stimulation spiced with humour, the whole illustrated by a pleasingly wide variety of film clips.

15th Aldeburgh Documentary Festival - November 20-22 2009.

Those who attended all four sessions of Aldeburgh Cinema's 15th Documentary Festival were treated to a feast of intellectual stimulation spiced with humour, the whole illustrated by a pleasingly wide variety of film clips.

Craig Brown, introducing his fifteenth and last group of film-makers, produced his usual smoothly civilised performance which nevertheless always manages to get to the nub of the matter.

Paul Greengrass, described by his host as 'the most distinguished documentary film-maker in the world', discussed the background to his work. Bloody Sunday and United 93, made with great care to approximate the actual events in Londonderry and on 9/11 were informative, the emotions palpable. Both films involved actors and 'real' people, the first shot in the melancholy black and white befitting the disastrous events of the day, the second startlingly realistic as the aeroplane was caught in erratic and worrying flight conditions. Though they were not shown in their entirety, the effects were mesmerising.

The vivacious and extremely likeable Sue Bourne followed on. Director of My Street and The Red Lions, she set great store by the trust she establishes with her subjects. Articulate and open in manner, the co-operation of previously unknown neighbours living in her road, and the reaction of customers in Red Lion pubs around England was a tribute to her obvious integrity. Twice she managed to reduce her audience to tears; first when she filmed the funeral of a young man and secondly with her moving, but often joyful film about her mother, an Alzheimer's sufferer.

The final two sessions were more about personality than actual film direction, though they were no less interesting for that. The TV series 'Sissinghurst' brought Adam Nicholson, Sarah Raven and Director Claire Whalley to the stage for a lively and entertaining discussion about the difficulties of donor families, those who give their estates to the National Trust via the government and live with the ensuing tribulation of perpetual tenancy minus any executive authority. Probably some in the audience thought they might learn plenty about the famous garden whereas the film clips centred on some prickly relationships within the Sissinghurst population. The series caused enough grief for both Nicholson and Raven to say that they would not sign up for a repeat performance.

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Lastly, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall captivated everyone with his adventurous attitude to food. Distinctly quirky recipes such as woodlice fritters ('they taste like shrimps'), placenta pate made by the family of a little boy called Indie Mo to celebrate his arrival, and rook pie cooked on a BBQ powered by a pedal bike produced a few shudders and the odd groan. These offerings were succeeded by his hard-hitting but well-balanced campaign film 'Chicken Out', launched to save the birds from the dreadful results of intensive farming. Two hours flew by, unlike some of the chickens who in an apparently painless procedure had their wings clipped.

Tim Rowan-Robinson, the chairman of the cinema's board, thanked Craig Brown for ensuring all the Festival successes over the years. The Cinema's gift of thanks was in a heavy box in the foyer. Mr Brown rather fervently hoped it wasn't a chicken!

Julie Latimer-Jones

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