Now in its third year, Screenplay appears to be gathering momentum and saw audiences in the town over Friday, Saturday and Sunday tip into four figures. Viewer numbers tallied around 500 for rural screenings from Fair Isle to Unst and Shetland Arts director Gwilym Gibbons paid tribute to the star attractions at the “infant” festival, including acclaimed British director Terence Davies and curators Mark Kermode and Linda Ruth Williams.
The charismatic 63-year-old Davies’ discussion sessions were every bit as entertaining as the trio of his films, The Long Day Closes, The House of Mirth and Of Time and City, shown over the weekend. Other highlights included the strikingly powerful Israeli animation Waltz With Bashir and the spectacular Icelandic scenery and haunting music of Heima, not to mention the contribution of local film makers Maddrim Media.
Gibbons said: “The feedback that we’ve had from writers, film directors, actors and our audiences is that it has been a huge success, and the atmosphere and the way people were interacting was really quite special. I think Terence Davies was a star, it was great to have him in Shetland and his Q&A sessions with Mark Kermode were very, very memorable.”
Wordplay, meanwhile, attracted just over 1,000 people and in excess of 170 for educational workshops held outside the town. The book festival began in 2001 and organiser Donald Anderson said this year had been as “rich” and “varied” as he could remember.
Among the attractions on offer were talks and readings from Captain Corelli’s Mandolin author Louis de Bernières, crime writers Stuart MacBride and Ann Cleeves, Stornoway writer Kevin MacNeil and Katie Morag author Mairi Hedderwick. There were also turns from local writers including TS Eliot poetry prize winner Jen Hadfield, poet Gordon Dargie and novelist Tom Morton.
Anderson said: “I think it went very well overall; certainly the feedback from both writers and members of the various audiences would indicate that everybody seems to have had a very good time. We’re particularly pleased about how the festival club [at Islesburgh] worked – it’s the first time we’ve done it this year – and how there was lots of nice crossover between the two festivals. It was really nice to see people engaging with each other.”
He said it was heartening to see so many local writers displaying their work and that the standard had fared well up against that of some prestigious visiting literary talents. “It was very rich because there was such a variety, including the local stuff. Sometimes people think it won’t be so good [because it is local] but the literature scene is particularly strong and that is something which was reflected right the way through.”
Creating a film-going habit, Gibbons said, would undoubtedly take a bit of time – particularly among Shetlanders who have grown up in the post-North Star cinema era. He believes the film festival, ahead of the spring 2011 opening of Mareel, will play a key role in laying the spadework.
“I look forward to the day that people have a choice of films seven days a week, a variety of times rather than having to wait for a particular weekend,” he said.