Movie legend comes to town for special screening

Cult film director Ken Russell will again meet the town mayor of Bognor Regis at a special screening of the film which originally brought them together.

Mr Russell will be attending a charity screening of his extravagant masterpiece Tommy at the Hotham Arts Centre in Belmont Street at 4pm on April 27. Among those in the audience will be town councillor John Hayward.

He appears in the 1975 spectacular as an extra along with other residents of Ashley House at the time. John remembers the shoot vividly. Mr Russell’s last words to him as a director were: “Whatever you do, don’t look at the bloody camera!”

To thank the home for providing the extras, Mr Russell gave them a 16mm copy of Tommy. It has never been used and is in its original container.

A collection for Ashley House will be made at the arts centre screening, which has free admission, and Mr Russell will take part in a question and answer session afterwards.

His star-studded film version of The Who’s rock opera Tommy starred Roger Daltrey, Ann-Margret, Oliver Reed, Elton John, Tina Turner, Eric Clapton, and Jack Nicholson. It spent a record 14 weeks at the number one box office spot after it was released in March 1975 and played to full houses for more than a year.

Adapting the rock opera record for the screen, Russell had the composer, Pete Townshend, add some new numbers to fill out the story and changed a key detail in the traumatic murder that Tommy witnesses which leads to the child becoming deaf, dumb and blind.

Tommy becomes a master pinball player and the object of a religious cult.

The charity screening will be the launch of this year’s End of the Pier International Film Festival. Next Friday will also see the festival’s gala night to begin a busy calendar for the event’s fourth year.

This includes the most significant film to be produced in Bognor, Tony Hancock’s The Punch and Judy Man. This will also be shown at the arts centre at 4pm on May 3.

A dark comedy, it features a seaside Punch and Judy man who is driven to distraction by his social climbing wife.

Another featured British film, Wish You Were Here, also contains a scene from Bognor seafront and was mainly filmed in Worthing. It concerns a rebellious teenager growing up after the Second World War who becomes pregnant by a friend of her father.

These classic home-grown works are being offered as part of the general non-competitive programme of the festival and to celebrate Bognor’s hundred year history of film making and exhibitions.

The centenary is being commemorate in an exhibition at the arts centre which plots the course of film making in Bognor from the arrival of pioneer Cecil Hepworth in 1907 to recent films made by Bognor Film Productions.

But these are only a small portion of the 111 works which will be shown during 33 screenings before the festival closes on May 6. Most will take place at the arts centre with a 3 admission fee.

A wide range of genres is being featured. They range from animated shorts, drama shorts and halloween music documentaries to features, music videos and drama shorts. The subjects covered are immense.

Two masterclasses are also taking place on the role of a producer, led by Emma Burge, and the post-production processes.

Entries to the festival have come from around Europe and further afield. A Euro day on May 3 will include films from other festivals from Bognor’s French twin of St Maur des Fosses, KAN in Poland, Concorto in Italy and Spain’s Vallecas Puerta del Cine.

Screenings start at 2pm with the Polish and Spanish programmes followed by the St Maur and Italian offerings from 8pm.

Canadian production company Dreamsgate Pictures has submitted The Other Side from its Montreal base for its global premiere.

This film draws the audience into a world of intrigue and suspicion and leaves them wondering what they believe lies beyond.

Festival founder Bryan Gartside has seen the event grow to take its place among the country’s leading independent film festivals. He said: “The festival has already established itself as one of the more significant film events in the UK festival calendar.

“Aimed primarily at young, low budget and independent film makers the festival is designed to gain as much public and industry exposure for the film makers who participate.”

He also intends to develop a network of independent film festivals throughout the EU and former Eastern Bloc countries.

Sponsors for the 2007 festival include the Bognor Regis Observer and other businesses as well as local government and individuals. The main sponsors are from Russia and Bulgaria.