Welcome to the 2009 Heart of England International Film Festival

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Enjoy a nostalgic trip back to this very special event.

Tamworth: Where cinematic Rivers flow

HELLO and the very warmest of Tamworth welcomes to an event that literally would have been just a Hollywood scriptwriter’s dream less than a year ago.

The 2009 Heart of England International Film Festival is set to take the UK movie-making business by storm – and be the biggest event of its kind this year.

Take a bow as ‘Tinseltown’ is coming to Tamworth from June 8-13 and it’s not a Star Wars mirage but for REAL – in reel time.

The stars are coming out to play for an event that will see movies of every genre screened for FREE from one minute to 100 at the town’s Casa bar (formerly the Palace cinema and for years the town’s only picture house) and the historic Globe Inn next door.

As US comedienne Joan Rivers – for many a rich man’s Ruby Wax – put it so beautifully earlier this month “being in the public eye makes the world your home town.”

And Joan, who will be seen in Larry Grossman’s debut film The Hipsters at OUR FESTIVAL, must have been referring to the Tamworth event making its premiere bow in the cinematic circle of life.

For one incredible week the world will be gazing up Lower Gungate as Tamworth hits a spotlight usually reserved for the likes of the legendary Cannes.

More than 200 film-makers from 31 different countries – across the continents from Cambodia through Croatia to Costa Rica – have submitted their blood, sweat and tears in a bid to be among the 24 who step up to collect their Heartys at the festival’s glittering Gala Awards banquet on Friday June 12 at Tamworth’s Castle Hotel.

The final day of the festival will be staged on historic Bosworth Battlefield and then the scene will move to the ODEON cinema, Tamworth, for a WORLD charity film premiere of Andrew Silver’s Radio Cape Cod, with ex-EastEnders star Tamzin Outhwaite.

The red carpet, last seen for the Queen at the opening of Ankerside, will be rolled out again – and charity in the shape of St Giles Hospice and NSPCC will be the winners.

As Britain frets about a recession with no end in sight and official figures from the Office for National Statistics reveal that almost one million FEWER Americans, Russians and foreigners visited Britain in the first three months of 2009, this festival is set to break the mould.

French pacesetter Cannes felt la crise (the credit crunch) last month with sparkling rosé replacing champers and official coiffeur Jacques Dessange taking only 15 hairdressers to the event instead of 20 – poor darling.

As the proud new owner of this festival, with a link-up to the worldwide network of movie-making submissions across Asia, Africa and the Americas from Binda Singh and his House of Amritsa, I believe we are set to bring a hat-trick of hoorahs to a region which prides itself on ingenuity, enterprise and plain, old-fashioned hard work.

For Tamworth, its people and budding Dickie and Dora Attenboroughs, this ground-breaking 2009 event offers:

  • Cultural exchange – Hollywood-genre filmmakers mixing with the local movie-making talent
  • Raising the tourism profile of the area to an international stage
  • An economic boom to the district which cannot be over-emphasised

Tamworth at NightAs Tamworth steadies itself for this INTERNATIONAL event, the town’s civic and business partners have shown their total commitment to staging the festival.

Our main sponsors – Aucott Holdings – are part and parcel of the very fabric of this great, expanding community, having helped build Ventura Park.

They, along with the likes of Asda, jewellers SP Green, the Taroni family and the Peninsula restaurant have backed this inaugural project 110 per cent.

Sue Arnold and her commercial team at Haselour House Media, websites A Town Called Tamworth and BestofTamworth have offered invaluable support as have our screenings venues Casa, Globe Inn and Bosworth Battlefield; media partners Tamworth Herald and Touch Radio and festival week home base and gala hosts, the Castle Hotel.

The list is endless, the Odeon cinema, Tamworth, Hollywood director Andrew Silver and the management of Ankerside shopping centre.

Like an acceptance speech, I wonder who I have left out.

Above all, I would like to thank Tamworth Borough Council – economic development boss James Roberts, Elanor Thompson and Sian Cricketts in person – for their unflinching efforts in enabling this event to blossom. For someone who spent the best part of his life in the Midlands, it gives me immense pleasure to see Tamworth hosting this movie-making experience – and thanks must also go to the movie suppliers, film-makers, writers and directors for making it happen and for those who will be crossing the oceans to attend the event.

All the world’s a stage and Tamworth has found itself perched on the global cinematic apron.

When the credits roll on Monday – it will be Lights, Camera and plenty of Action as this ancient and noble town reaches for the stars.



Tamworth making movie history

TAMWORTH – more than 1,000 years ago the unofficial Saxon capital of Britain – is ready to claim a new crown as the movie festival CAPITAL of the UK.

For the town’s Heart of England International Film Festival may not be Cannes yet – but even the glitterati set had to start somewhere.

And with more international movies being shown here than any other event in Britain this year, then Tamworth is heading for the big time from the small indie screen.

For one moment, let’s make a leap of faith across the English channel from the celeb fest world of Cannes to here in Tamworth – a town steeped in history, famous for the police force founder Sir Robert Peel and Thomas Guy, the man who built Guy’s hospital in London – but not until he’d erected our ancient town hall and the almshouses in Lower Gungate.

Well, Tamworth IS about to be put itself on the map in a world cinematic sense as the credits roll on great names from Hollywood in screening arenas far removed from the studio settings of Universal, Dreamworks, MGM or 20th Century Fox.

At the moment the town’s only claim to fame is Crust movie creator and music-based video genius Mark Locke.

So how is this new era possible?

This festival has a simple formula for bringing all independent movie life to a town backdrop – in FREE dawn-to-dusk viewing.

Film lovers in Tamworth and the neighbouring region won’t have to pay a single penny to see the greatest movie show on earth.

“The nicest thing about all this is the people of Tamworth will be able to pop into town and watch their movie heroes – for nothing,” said festival executive director Nick Hudson.

More than three quarters of the films submitted to the festival come from America and 90 per cent will be viewed for the first time as world premieres in this historic slice of middle England.

For this festival will has an A-list feel and will feature Oscar-winning actress Marcia Gay Harden, who won best supporting actress for her role in Pollock in 2000, is making her directorial debut in the film Home.

Another Academy winner - Timothy Hutton who holds the title of the youngest ever best supporting actor Oscar winner in Robert Redford’s first role as director in Ordinary People – is starring in the new film Broken Hill, directed by none other than Chris Wyatt who produced Napoleon Dynamite, consider the one of the best independent movies of all time.

A third Oscar bravo – the current best actress holder Kate Winslet - will be seen by festivalgoers in the first non-cinematic public screening of the code-breaking Enigma film, which is the story about Tamworth seaman Colin Grazier, in the town at the Castle Hotel on the evening of Wednesday June 10.

Our cover picture shows Kiefer Sutherland. The Golden Globe winner is on our festival nominations shortlist – starring in Susan Morgan Cooper’s new documentary An Unlikely Weapon, which also has cameo roles for Rod Steiger, Tracey Ullman and ex US president Bill Clinton.

Scriptwriter JF Lawton should need no introduction as he brings his English premiere of Jackson, starring Steve Guttenberg, to the Heart of England festival.

Some of the producer’s other credits include Under Siege and The Hunted – but he will always be remembered for taking a film called 3000 to the Sundance Festival – and seeing it turned into Pretty Woman to become Disney’s biggest grossing action movie of all-time, catapulting Julia Roberts to galatic stardom.

A superheroes theme is also running through the festival’s cast list of stars.

We’ve the father of Superman (John Schneider who played Johnathan Kent in the small screen version Smallville) in Justin Golding’s new movie The Gods Of Circumstance and the REAL son of Superman (Matt Reeve the 29-year-old offspring of the late Superman actor Christopher Reeve, who has written and directed a surfing documentary Over The Water with musical collaboration by George Harrison’s son Dhani.

Still on the superhero theme. The film My Horizon has 007 star Pierce Brosnan’s 25-year-old son, Sean in it along with another Golden Globe winner Nick Nolte and his son Brawley.

That’s four stars’ sons in a brace of movies for the festival – a global cinematic first for the Tamworth festival.

“It’s the only festival to bring new movies from the sons of old stars,” added Hudson

The ‘Oscars’ night – the festival is presenting Heartys at its gala awards banquet on the Friday night – will see another superhero in Midlands actor Jeremy Bulloch.

The star of three Bond movies, as Q’s assistant, and bounty hunter Boba Fett in the Star Wars trilogy will be one of the special guests presenting one of 24 awards – with best film, documentary, feature film, young film maker and Tamworth Tinseltown Award up for grabs.

Tamzin OuthwaiteThe festival’s charity film premiere Radio Cape Cod stars Tamzin Outhwaite – no stranger to British TV audiences as star of EastEnders, Hotel Babylon and Red Cap.

As the Saturday festival finale approaches, organisers are hopeful of a sell-out.

Other associated activities in the week include workshops by film directors Justin Golding, Indira Somani and Michael Bergmann (whose first film starred Harrison’ Ford’s partner Calista Flockhart) at local schools and the Costa Coffee shop in George Street, Tamworth.

Tamworth’s film-makers, who have their own special night on the Wednesday, will be able to rub shoulders with their LA-based peers.

This festival has its roots in the Hollywood dream team of Amritsa - dedicated to helping unearth the next generation of video and film makers.

“Through film production and distribution, we want to create an era with a new world view and surely this can only broaden and enrich each human experience,” said Amritsa boss Binda Singh.

He started his festival ‘supply chain’ empire in 2006 with the Swansea Bay event – the area rich in screen heritage through the likes of Richard Burton, Sir Anthony Hopkins, Catherine Zeta Jones, Russell T Davies and critically-acclaimed Brian Clough bio pic The Damned United movie star Michael Sheen. He saw no better place for such an event than his home city of Swansea.

From humble beginnings, the south Wales-based festival has developed and grown.

The Swansea event now boasts a star-studded celebrity line-up in terms of endorsement. Zeta Jones is now its patron, Victor Spinetti is founding patron and Sheen (who also played Tony Blair in Helen Mirren’s The Queen) its vice-president.

The Swansea festival has more than 25 categories and each has its own ‘Tinny’ award.

Its success has also given birth to similar festivals in other countries, also launched by Singh.

America (Los Angeles), Egypt (Cairo), South Africa (Peter Maritzburg), Thailand (Patang), Ireland (Galway) has now spawned our very own Heart of England International.

New festival executive director Nick Hudson believes anything Cannes can do, Tamworth can certainly do better.

“Tamworth’s historic past is awesome but thanks to town expansion in the 1970s and 1980s, it also has an exciting future which the whole planet will now to hear about through this festival,” he said.

“I want the event – inextricably linked to the region - to boldy go where they’ve never gone before.”

“Tamworth has a big heart – ranked alongside the engine room and capital of British endeavour in Birmingham,” he added.

“Now I want to see it remembered as the cinematic capital of the UK – and who knows to movie infinity and beyond.”


Festival Diary - Your At A Glance Guide - June 8-13, 2009

Monday June 8

  • The Aucott Holdings-sponsored Heart of England International Film Festival gets underway with screening from 10am-5pm each day(Monday-Friday) at the Casa bar and The Globe, Lower Gungate .

It’s a return to the days of the silver screen for the former Palace picture house - an ideal venue with a full-size cinema screen - PLUS the Globe public house next door has a separate hospitality room.

The Globe is one of Tamworth’s oldest pubs, dating back to Victorian times, which today houses an eclectic mix from the young to the pensioner brigade who lunch their every day.

Remember ALL the weekday screenings have FREE entry.

  • In the evening there will be a launch party at Tamworth Castle, hosted by Tamworth Borough Council.

Tuesday June 9

  • Screening starts again at 10am in the two screening venues.
  • Festival director Nick Hudson’s Alternative Town Tour of historic Tamworth for film-makers, festival guests and townsfolk kicks off from Tamworth’s old Town Hall at 1pm

Wednesday June 10

  • Screening starts again at 10am in the two screening venues.
  • Justin Golding, whose latest film submission to the festival The Gods of Circumstance is a movie starring actor John Schneider - ex Dukes of Hazard (Bo Duke) and Smallville (Jonathan Kent, father of Superman Clarke Kent) - to do Scripts & Screenwriting workshop at Costa Coffee shop in George Street, Tamworth, from 12noon-4pm while American 9/11 TV anchorwoman Indira Somani will host a workshop at Wilnecote High School.
  • The town is getting its own Tinseltown Tamworth Night when local film-makers who have submitted their entries to the festival get the chance to show their wares. It’s free-to-view for movie lovers and being staged at Tamworth’s Castle Hotel in two screening arenas from 7pm.

Thursday June 11

  •  Screening starts again at 10am in the two screening venues.
  • Justin Golding to do Directing and Acting Workshop at Costa Coffee shop in George Street, Tamworth on from 12noon-4pm with a group from Wilnecote High School.
  • HeartBeat House Media, in conjunction with the town’s 140-year-old newspaper the Tamworth Herald, is bringing the story of Tamworth’s most famous World War II hero to festival week.

The Enigma film, starring Kate Winslet and based on local seaman Colin Grazier’s epic de-coding drama, will be shown in a FREE screening at the Castle Hotel from 7pm.

For book lovers – former Herald deputy editor Phil Shanahan will have plenty of copies of his best-seller The Real Enigma Heroes on offer during the event.

Friday June 12

  • Screening starts again at 10am in the two screening venues.
  •  Star Wars bounty Hunter Boba Fett (actor Jeremy Bulloch) will be among special guests at the glittering Gala Awards and banquet in the evening at Castle Hotel, Tamworth, with an Oscar-style Hearty for 24 categories of the festival including Best Film (presented by Aucott Holdings) and a special Tamworth Tinsletown Award (presented by Tamworth Borough Council) for the best movie either made by someone from, or who works or lives in, the town.

All the festival gongs will be presented by the award category sponsors on the night.

BBC 2 broadcaster Jim Lee will host the awards evening.

The festival has also been backed by MGM sponsors Asda, Tamworth and SP Green jewellers, Birmingham; Paramount sponsors the Taroni family; the Peninsular restaurant, Fazeley and PAST Ltd.

Saturday June 13

  •  Special one-day screening at Bosworth Battlefield visitor centre in the Heritage Room and in a special marquee on the field from 10am-5pm for the last of the films and sometime during this day it is hoped to break the UK’s 2009 record for biggest number of movies screened in a week.
  •  Festival finale of charity premiere screening of award-winning director Andrew Silver’s love story Radio Cape Cod, starring Tamzin Outhwaite, Tamzin Merchant and OT Fagbenle at the ODEON Cinema from 6.30pm with an optional black tie theme where all monies will go to good causes split between the ODEON’s national charity NSPCC and Tamworth Mayor’s charity, St Giles Hospice. Touch Radio will host the evening.
  • Tickets for Friday’s and Saturday’s events can still be obtained from the Tourist Information Centre, Market Street; the Odeon cinema, Tamworth and the festival shop in Ankerside.



Town goes OT-T for charity premiere

TAMWORTH rolled out the red carpet for a UK charity film premiere of a film starring EastEnders favourite Tamzin Outhwaite.

The first showing in Britain of Radio Cape Cod, which also starred The Tudors actress Tamzin Merchant, proved a winner for local charities St Giles Hospice and NSPCC.

The Odeon cinema showed the film in Screen 6 on Saturday night – as the final act of the town’s 2009 Heart of England International Film Festival.

Writer and director Andrew Silver came from Boston for the event and the movie’s male lead – OT Fagbenle – joined in the event and sat in row 17 to see himself star in the movie.

“I thoroughly enjoyed myself,” said OT who stayed at the Castle Hotel over the weekend.

Festival director Nick Hudson said: “Tamworth was given royal treatment for this film. It will be almost unheard of for the star of a film to sit in the cinema for its premiere – and watch it right the way through.”

OT, honoured by the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in the '100 faces of RADA' along with Sir Anthony Hopkins and Sir John Gielgud, was greeted with critical acclaim for his performance in Trevor Nunn's Tony Award–winning world premiere of Porgy and Bess The Musical.

Representatives from the two charities – along with Tamworth mayor Gerry Pinner - were present for the screening and monies are still being collected from the event.



Charity night of the stars in festival finale

Tamzin Outhwaite the star of Radio Cape CodCHARITY will be the winner as the festival climaxes with the premiere of a beautiful, powerful, and touching movie that makes you feel good about life and love.

Award-winning director Andrew Silver’s quaint romance Radio Cape Cod - set within the cosmetic confines of New England’s blissful boundaries – is certain to press all the right buttons as a festival finale.

The town will have the chance to soak up the glitzy atmosphere of a Hollywood-style movie premiere event at screen 6 of Tamworth’s Odeon cinema on Saturday, June 13.

And Tamworth mayor’s charity St Giles Hospice, along with the cinema’s NSPCC, will benefit from ALL the monies raised from ticket sales and events on the night which starts as the guests arrive on the ‘red carpet’ from 6.30pm.

Ex-EastEnders, Hotel Babylon and Red Cap star Tamzin Outhwaite is cast alongside Pride and Prejudice and Tudors starlet Tamzin Merchant in a mother-and-daughter role of touching sensivity, which is the fulcrum of this uplifting story.

This “must see” movie for all mothers, brides-to-be, and anyone who has ever been in love – already up for five film festival awards – revolves around three couples over a five-day period in a seaside community.

The main character Jill Waters (Tamzin Outhwaite) plays a radio show host – smitten by handsome graduate Sunday Umanankwe.

The male lead – critically-acclaimed actor Olatunde ‘OT’ Fagbenle – will join director Silver at the event and mingle with the premiere guests before and after the event, which will be hosted by Touch Radio and sponsored by festival owners HeartBeat House Media and the BestOfTamworth website.

Silver, whose usage of his academic background in natural ecology is key to the film’s major symbolic effectiveness, accentuates the conception of the ocean as a cleansing experience for his character studies of undefined love.

Critics call the result an “enriching, methodical and visually arresting experience”. Radio Cape Cod is an unconventional narrative in that it correlates its amorous themes with the nuances of nature and scientific curiosities.

It has an infectious charm for its embracing of love and life set against the undeniable beauty of Woods Hole, Massachusetts - the environmental centre of the Cape’s naturalistic allure.

Emphatically, screenwriter/co-star Marta Rainer oversees a disciplined and involving script that is drenched in genuine sentimentality and intelligence.

Andrew Silver - Director of Radio Cape CodSilver began his foray into film as a theatre arts and film analysis teacher at Brandeis University in 1968, later earning his doctorate from Harvard.

His film career began with Next Door (adapted from a story by Kurt Vonnegut), and The Murderer - continuing with documentaries and Return (adapted from a book by Donald Harington),

His last film was Profiles in Aspiration (about women in sport in seven different countries)


Michael’s in the top director’s ‘chair’


Nick, Bonnie, Alyson, Jim

AWARD-WINNING director Michael Bergmann added the most unlikeliest notch on his global film festival belt this week – the top Tammie.


The Montreal favourite, famous for spotting new talents like Calista Flopckhart and re-igniting the flames of established actors such as Man from U.N.C.L.E. Robert Vaughn, took the Best in Festival at Tamworth’s inaugural Heart of England International event for his movie Tied To A Chair.


Let’s keep those credits rolling in town

TAMWORTH’S brush with the movies last week will not fade like a Hollywood cowboy riding OFF into the sunset – it’s set to gallop back bigger and better in 2010.

And Heart of England International Film Festival boss Nick Hudson has already booked next year’s event – and told the Herald about turning the town’s celluloid dreams into solid reality for the future.

Following the huge success of the 2009 event – when 200 films were screened in the town from film-makers representing 31 different countries – Hudson does not intend to waste one second in preparing for 2010.

And determined not to clash with the June 2010 World Cup, the festival will run next year from Sunday May 16 to Saturday May 22.

“The festival base will again be the Castle Hotel which did a magnificent job at such short notice this year,” said festival director Hudson.

And he’s already looking at using the hotel for most of the screenings – with films being shown at NIGHT as well as in the day.

“I accept if there was one disappointment for the Tamworth public this year, then it would be that many people were unable to attend because they were at work during the day,” he said.

“Next year I’m starting on a Sunday and looking at 10am-10pm screenings with possibly a marathon screening event to kick off the festival from 10am on the Sunday right through to 10pm on the Monday.

“That would be some special kind of launch for next year’s event.”

He is also in negotiations with the Odeon cinema to show some of the international moviemakers’ films from this year at the Tamworth picture house for FREE over the next 12 months.

“There will be plenty of people who missed seeing some sensational films – whether they were four minutes long or full feature length,” he added.


The Odeon will be the setting for another charity screening on Saturday May 22 next year – and this time it will be the Best In Festival film which will be shown.

“I’m determined that Tamworth will remain the cinematic centre of the universe for at least one week again next year – and who knows what may happen after that,” he added.

New Tory council leader Bruce Boughton has already committed the local authority to back the 2010 event.

“We definitely want the film festival to remain in Tamworth for 2010 and for many years to come,” he said.