Outstanding films and high-profile speakers at Bridport’s From Page To Screen festival

Kate Winslet Ammonite
Kate Winslet as Mary Anning in ‘Ammonite’, one of the six films to be screened at this year’s From Page to Screen Festival

BRIDPORT’S annual From Page to Screen film festival will be held online only this year, featuring a line-up of six outstanding films, including ‘Ammonite’, as well as high-profile speakers. 

The festival was cancelled last year due to the coronavirus pandemic but this year will be held virtually from April 22 to 24.

Organisers intent to return to big-screen film showings at The Electric Palace and Bridport Arts Centre next year, set to be curated by broadcaster Edith Bowman, but streaming this year has enabled them to secure several high-profile speaker events.

These will include a discussion with acclaimed actress Gemma Jones, who plays Mary Anning’s mother Molly in ‘Ammonite’, partially filmed in Lyme Regis in March 2019. 

Nic Jeune, one of the festival’s co-founders, said: “This year From Page To Screen has to be online and though we’ll miss being amid those lively, live audiences in the Bridport Arts Centre and the Electric Palace, a silver-lining is being able to invite brilliant speakers from wherever they are to give the festival the inside story on their films and careers.

“I’m really looking forward to speaking to the wonderful actress Gemma Jones about her six decades of stage and film, including beloved cinematic adaptations like ‘Sense and Sensibility’, and the Bridget Jones and Harry Potter films. 

“In the past year she has continued filming during lockdowns after most recently starring in ‘Ammonite ‘as Mary Anning’s mother – reunited with on-screen daughter Kate Winslet 25 years after they played Jane Austen’s Dashwood family together.”

‘The Mauritanian’

On Thursday, April 22 the festival will open with a screening of ‘The Mauritanian’, based on the memoir ‘Guantánamo Diary’ by Mohamedou Ould Slahi.

The film tells the powerful true story of Slahi’s impassioned fight for freedom after being detained and imprisoned for years without charge in Guantánamo Bay.

Slahi, played by Tahar Rahim, finds allies in lawyer Nancy Hollander (Jodie Foster) and her associate Teri Duncan (Shailene Woodley), who agree to represent him and bring the matter to a trial.

Here they encounter Lt. Colonel Stuart Couch (Benedict Cumberbatch) who heads a steely prosecution team and, as the trial proceeds, new evidence and shocking truths are unveiled.

Contrasting the formality of the court room with scenes of the torture and humiliation that Slahi experienced, director Kevin Macdonald (‘Touching the Void’) creates a drama that demonstrates that the human spirit cannot be locked up.

After the film screening, Edith Bowman will be in conversation with Mohamedou Ould Slahi and and director Kevin Macdonald.

Christopher Hampton CBE of ‘The Father’

‘The Father’

On Friday, April 23 there will be a preview screening of ‘The Father’, based on the play by Florian Zeller.

Anthony (Anthony Hopkins) is 81 and lives defiantly alone, rejecting the carers that his daughter, Anne (Olivia Colman) tries to impose on him, yet finding help is rapidly becoming a necessity for Anne as her life expands in other directions.

Anthony’s sense of reality also seems to be slipping away. How does Anne cope as she feels the loss of her father, while he still lives and breathes before her?

‘The Father’ warmly embraces real-life dilemmas and lovingly reflects upon the human condition. Heart-breaking and uncompromisingly poignant – a movie that nestles in the truth of our own lives.

Sir Christopher Hampton CBE will be joining writer and broadcaster Francine Stock to discuss his incredible career in theatre and film, including his latest BAFTA-winning screenplay for ‘The Father’.

Novelist, critic and cinephile, Francine presents ‘The Film Programme’ on Radio 4 and in 2011 wrote ‘In Glorious Technicolour: A Century In Film and how it has Shaped Us’. She is making a welcome guest return to From Page To Screen after curating the 2012 festival.

Gemma Jones, who plays Mary Anning’s mother Molly in ‘Ammonite’

‘Ammonite’

Period drama ‘Ammonite’, based on the life of Lyme Regis fossil hunter Mary Anning, will be screened on Saturday, April 24.

In 1840s Lyme Regis, Mary Anning (Kate Winslet) lives a solitary, near silent life. With the days of her famed discoveries behind her, she now looks for common fossils to sell to tourists to support herself and her ailing mother.

When a wealthy visitor entrusts Mary with the care of his wife Charlotte Murchison (Saoirse Ronan), she cannot afford to turn his offer down.

Proud and passionate about her work, Mary initially clashes with her unexpected guest, but despite the distance between their social class and personalities, an intense bond begins to develop between them.

As well as the film screening, acclaimed actress Gemma Jones will be in conversation with Nic Jeune, one of the festival’s co-founders. 

Nic has recently returned to his first passion for acting after a long career in film producing.

Gemma has been on stage and screen for nearly 60 years and has appeared in several brilliant adaptations including 1995’s ‘Sense And Sensibility’ as Mrs Dashwood, from 2001 as Bridget Jones’s mother throughout the trilogy, and in 2002 to 2011 she starred as Madam Poppy Pomfrey in the Harry Potter movies.

Her latest release is ‘Ammonite’, in which she plays Mary’s Anning’s mother Molly, and is reunited with on-screen daughter Kate Winslet – 25 years after they appeared in Ang Lee’s superb depiction of Jane Austen’s Dashwood family. 

Ammonite is the second film she has made with director Francis Lee after his 2017 debut feature ‘God’s Own Country’.

‘The Personal History of David Copperfield’

Based on the novel by Charles Dickens, ‘The Personal History of David Copperfield’ will be screened on Thursday, April 22.

A fresh, playful and boldly optimistic take on the perennial Dickens classic. Beloved characters are brought to life by an all-star cast including Dev Patel (David Copperfield), Tilda Swinton (Betsey Trotwood), Hugh Laurie (Mr Dick), Peter Capaldi (Mr Micawber) and Ben Whishaw (Uriah Heep). 

David Copperfield is often regarded as an autobiographical novel, “a very complicated weaving of truth and invention”, with events following Dickens’ own life. Of the books he wrote, it was said to be his favourite.     

‘Beats’

Also on Friday, April 23 will be a screening of ‘Beats’ based on the play by Kieran Hurley.

In 1994 West Lothian, Scotland, two teenage boys risk everything to attend an illegal rave hoping for the best night of their otherwise boring lives.

Sparky and spirited, this is a film about seizing the moment and partying like there’s no tomorrow. But it is also, about how having a best mate can make anything seem possible and expand every horizon.

The title is inspired by the 1994 Criminal Justice Bill which references music sounds wholly or predominantly characterised by the emission of a succession of repetitive beats.

‘Oliver Sacks: His Own Life’

In part, based on the writings of Oliver Sacks – one of the most influential popular neuroscientists of modern times – and directed by Ric Burns, ‘Oliver Sacks: His Own Life’ will be shown on Saturday, April 24.

Sacks often used stories to illustrate and unpick aspects of the human condition. A strong advocate of treating the person and not the disease, he was sometimes said to “story his patients back to health”.

A prolific author, his 1973 book ‘Awakenings’ was adapted for the big screen.

Ric Burns’ film includes highly personal contributions from Sacks’ friends and colleagues and presents a moving portrait of a man taking deep stock of his life with great satisfaction and verve.

Full details of all screenings and events, as well as how to buy tickets, are available at www.frompagetoscreen.info

Woodmead Halls

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