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Bermuda International Film Festival: Playing the Hits---and Shorts

Photo of John Anderson By John Anderson | Thompson on Hollywood April 14, 2013 at 6:39AM

Relatively speaking, if the New York Film Festival were the Bermuda International Film Festival, about 2 million people would be crowding into Lincoln Center every autumn.
Bermuda International Film Festival
Bermuda International Film Festival

Relatively speaking, if the New York Film Festival were the Bermuda International Film Festival, about 2 million people would be crowding into Lincoln Center every autumn.

But the two fests really do have other more real-world things in common, like a combination of curatorial flair and all-star-game philosophy: With population of only 64,000, and no year-round arthouse on the island, BIFF serves a hungry little audience with what amounts to a menu of (the last year’s) greatest hits, which otherwise wouldn’t get here. Like “Amour,” “Rust and Bone,” “The Law in These Parts,” “West of Memphis,” “Beyond the Hills,” and the sensational (in every sense) “The Act of Killing,” which doesn’t even open stateside for another six weeks.

“We kind of go for the best of the year,” said festival administrator Andrew Stoneham, “and then find some early gems that haven’t reached a wider audience.”

But BIFF’s long suit is shorts. An Oscar-qualifying festival, it got 500 submissions this year. It programmed 30. As someone who has juried about 50 hours of shorts in the last two months, this writer can say safely the quality is rather high

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert
Queen Victoria and Prince Albert

“The shorts are a totally different animal,” Stoneham agreed.

The bad rap on shorts is that they’d have been features if they hadn’t been underfed as infants (with money), and that’s a libelous thing to say about an art form with its own needs and aesthetics. However … 

One of the Bermuda standouts really was conceived as a bigger project, and may eventually be: “Victoria Meets,” stars the veteran British actress Saskia Wickam (currently appearing in the YA Brit-soap “Hollyoaks”) as her country’s longest-reigning monarch, queen of the United Kingdom of Britain and Ireland, empress of India, the last ruling Brit out of the House of Hanover and grandmother of 42 (including Kaiser Wilhelm II). In real life, Wickham is the furthest thing from anyone’s grandmother, but the performance is spot-on, as those people might say.

“The idea,” said director Robert Bierman, who’s also Wickham’s husband, “was to create a portrait of Victoria, a woman whom no one really knows, after the death of her husband, Prince Albert, when her grief was so fierce she just withdrew from public life. In ‘Victoria Meets’  the prime minister, William Gladstone, comes to see her and it’s about how artfully he tries to draw her out of her mourning and resume her duties.” Gladstone is played by Oliver Ford Davies, whom fanboys will know as Sio Bibble in “Star Wars” episodes I, II and III.

Bierman, with a long list of BBC credits as well as “Vampire’s Kiss" and “Keep the Aspidistra Flying,” said that when scheduling permits, he fully intends to take his short and make it a feature. They might not be able to call it “The Queen,” but from every indication, it could do for his wife what that other little movie did for Helen Mirren.

This article is related to: Festivals, Shorts, Short Film, Shorts

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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.