Making waves: The Ilkley Film Festival

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
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One year on from its launch, Ilkley Film Festival is making waves. Film Critic Tony Earnshaw explores the programme.

Expanded from three days to five and already boasting an enviable reputation, Ilkley Film Festival is still only in its second year.

The town has embraced director Martin Pilkington and his vision and the event sits seamlessly alongside the established and long-lived Ilkley Literature Festival.

Edition number two begins on February 18 and runs until February 22 at three sites. It’s another impressive line-up of previews, Oscar favourites and live music-and-film events.

For 2015 Pilkington has introduced a travelling cinema – a bus based at Ilkley Lido. It will host screenings in addition to traditional venues such as the King’s Hall and Ilkley Playhouse.

Acclaimed and Oscar-nominated fare includes the Stephen Hawking biopic The Theory of Everything, with Eddie Redmayne nominated as Best Actor, and Alan Turing drama The Imitation Game with a rival Best Actor performance from Benedict Cumberbatch. There will also be a chance to catch Mr Turner, the Mike Leigh/Timothy Spall epic that was overlooked by the Academy.

Among the previews are A Little Chaos, the story of the woman who designed the landscape around the Palace of Versailles. A glorious costume epic it is only the second film to be directed by Alan Rickman and it has already picked up a serious head of steam. Rickman also features as Louis XIV with Kate Winslet as architect Sabine De Barra. The festival’s programme is eclectic and intriguing. Michael Mann’s cyber thriller Blackhat, featuring Chris Hemsworth, plays alongside Cake, starring Jennifer Aniston as a smart-mouthed member of a self-help group obsessed by the suicide of a fellow participant. And there is the Wachowskis’ latest sci-fi extravaganza Jupiter Ascending.

Sally Hawkins, Rafe Spall and Asa Butterfield star in X + Y, the tale of an autistic young maths prodigy. And Catch Me Daddy, a thrill ride from former music promo director Daniel Wolfe about a young Pakistani girl on the run from her own family, comes to Yorkshire after winning acclaim at festivals from Cannes to London.

Guests include actor Celyn Jones, who features as Dylan Thomas alongside Elijah Wood in Set Fire to the Stars, and director Elaine Constantine, who battled for years to see the fruition of her dream project Northern Soul. Both Jones and Constantine will take part in on-stage Q&A sessions. Also present will be director, writer and actor Harry Macqueen whose film Hinterland receives a preview.

Arguably the biggest draw of the festival will be a preview of The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel with a returning star-studded ensemble that not only includes Maggie Smith and Ilkley Film Festival patron Judi Dench but also Richard Gere. One can realistically expect a sell-out. The core of the festival is represented by a trio of live events. 2015 offers Brighton-based indie rockers British Sea Power performing to Robert Flaherty’s 1934 Man of Aran, Asian Dub Foundation accompanying La Haine on the 20th anniversary of its release and Summer Camp partnering with Beyond Clueless – the story of teen movies – with a live soundtrack. And there is a Yorkshire element, too. The Railway Children, shot at Oakworth in 1970, is to be screened for its 45th anniversary. And Testament of Youth, an adaptation of Vera Brittain’s First World War memoir by Harrogate-born director James Kent, also receives a screening.