The Ramsgate Film Festival kicks off with stars including actress Brenda Blethyn

Isle actor Jez Anderson and homegrown star Brenda Blethyn

There was a palpable buzz at the Granville Cinema in Ramsgate as the crowd arrived for the opening gala screening of the first Ramsgate International Film & TV Festival.

Guests from the arts and entertainment industries included festival patron and judge Brenda Blethyn, Project Motorhouse’s Janet Fielding, filmmakers Jan Dunn and Stephen Frost, composer Simon Boswell and the artist LG White, as well as Dee Anderson (who will give a talk on growing up with Thunderbirds) and producer Joan Lane (The King’s Speech), Looping the Loop and POW!Thanet.

The local community was represented by town promoter Rebekah Smith, Rob Kenyon from Thanet District Council, Ramsgate Mayor Trevor Shonk and Ralph ‘Mr Ramsgate’ Hoult, as well as Labour candidates Karen Constantine and Raushan Ara.

The guests mingled in the theatre bar, and enjoyed drinks provided by Waitrose and canapes from Archive Homestore and Kitchen, the Ramsgate Tandoori and more.

Sylvie Bolioli, director, officially opened the festival with a speech explaining how she fell in love with Ramsgate at first sight, inspired by its beauty and architecture to set up the RIFTVF, and thanked the community for their generosity and support.

Sylvie and Brenda

She commented on the international flavour of the festival, with films submitted from all over Europe as well as the USA, Bermuda and Australia. There’s a slight irony that it took a French woman to set up a film festival in this very English town… but Ramsgate can only be grateful to have a spotlight thrown on it, and with the two large grants coming to the town, hope to see more development and growth.

Then it was time for the opening feature, Leave Now, an independent film written and directed by Stephen Frost and filmed entirely in East Kent. The story is of a grieving widow Rose (Sylvie Bolioli) revisiting the town where she first met her husband.

The film captures the beauty of the Thanet coastline with lingering, languorous shots. Locals will recognise locations everywhere from the Granville Cinema to Pegwell Bay, with scenes shot in the harbour, parks and beaches. The film is not without faults – the story meanders a bit, the pacing is uneven, and the mystery subplot is less than convincing. There are a few too many tight close ups which give it a made-for-tv feeling (and there is the slight question mark as to why Rose would be dealing directly with the electricians in a holiday let, rather than contacting the lettings company). Nonetheless the film is a extremely convincing portrait of grief and a lovely homage to this little corner of the world.

After the feature there was a Q&A session with producer Tracy Russell, writer director Stephen Frost, and actors Sylvie Bolioli and Jerry ‘Jez’ Anderson, followed by the ceremonial cutting of the anchor-shaped cake, provided by Una Bellingham.

The festival continues all weekend, with talks, screenings, a VR demonstration and more. For details and to book see www.ramsgateitvfest.org

By Michelle Thomas

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