Mar 152022
New 3 screen cinema boasts ‘Costing the Earth’ Fest over March Weekend. With thanks to Suzanne Kelly.

A trio of critically acclaimed films are to unspool on the big screen at Montrose’s new community run £3.5m cinema later this weekend, as the town boasts its first ever film festival with live Q&As.

The festival kicks off with a tenth anniversary screening of the multi-award-winning documentary ‘You’ve Been Trumped’ on Friday March 18.

Aberdeenshire residents who stood up to Donald Trump’s bullying over his luxury golf resort plans will join director Anthony Baxter (pictured) for audience questions after the film.
Also at the ‘Costing the Earth’ screening will be Aberdeenshire Councillor Martin Ford – the politician whose casting vote derailed Mr Trump’s golf resort the first time around – and artist David McCue whose paintings of key characters caught up in the drama, won praise from around the world.
The £10 ticket price includes a drink with the director and other guests in the cinema’s new community room – from 6.45pm, with the film starting at 7.30pm.
On Saturday March 19 the event, which is part of Scotland’s climate festival, continues with a special screening of BAFTA winning Bill Forsyth’s iconic Local Hero’ in Montrose at 7.30pm.
The film, which stars the legendary actor Burt Lancaster, is about an American oil company representative sent to the fictional village of Ferness on the west coast of Scotland to purchase the town and surrounding property for his company.  A Q&A following the film, will also include special guests.
Finally, on Sunday March 20 at 3.30pm, ‘A Dangerous Game’ will screen – the 2014 follow up to You’ve Been Trumped.  Residents from Aberdeenshire will again join for a Q&A following the screening, with the £10 ticket price also including tea and cake.
Filmmaker and Montrose Playhouse Patron Anthony Baxter added:
“It’s wonderful for Montrose to be hosting our first ever film festival.  And it’s an honour to be welcoming residents of the Menie Estate who stood up to Trump to our town – 10 years after the release of You’ve Been Trumped.
“All of these films, in their own way, highlight the cost to the planet, if we allow money and power to override environmental concerns.”
Tickets can be booked online for all the screenings at this link.
Nov 112019

By Suzanne Kelly.

Aberdeen Voice first interviewed actor Declan Michael Laird in June 2012, when he was a determined, optimistic 18-year-old trying to break in Hollywood.

Quite a few films, commercials and experiences have gone under the bridge since then. This catch-up seemed quite overdue.

“I believe that if things are meant to be, they’ll be” he said at the time – while putting in the hard work to make what he wanted to happen a reality.

Glaswegian Declan started out as a rising footballer, playing for Greenock Morton FC on a youth contract; football runs in the family. His brother Stefan is Aberdeen Football Club’s Academy Head and owns his own coaching company, SJL Coaching.

A combination of circumstances, accident, curiosity, luck, and mostly talent led Declan off the pitch and in front of the camera.

“It was all amazingly sudden,” Declan explained in an earlier Aberdeen Voice interview of his first brushes with acting,

“I went to the first filming and decided this was what I wanted to do – the cameras, the actors, being on set was amazing.  Football, which had been my aim for 10 years, suddenly fell to the back.  I did a few short films back home with independent filmmakers.” 

Determination and drive saw him attend the prestigious Stella Adler school on a full scholarship (the previous person on a full ride to the famous school was Robert DeNiro).

Fast forward to our present talk, which comes on the heels of the film ‘Hot Air’ debuting on Amazon Prime Video.

Hot Air is the latest from the inimitable, incisive Steve Coogan. Laird has a supporting role in the film, also starring Neve Campbell and Taylor Russell.

Before I knew Declan was in this film, it had my attention.

Coogan plays a far-right wing, bitter, manipulative, cynical shock jock à la Bill O’Reilly: a man who plays his perpetually furious, far-right wing listeners like a violin, creating ratings from fomenting their anger.

He has some great lines indicting the kind of journalism that is now poisoning American minds in particular (a disease spread by the likes of Breitbart and Kate Hopkins).

As someone who was on the O’Reilly Factor show some years back, I wanted to see if the dirty tricks, psychological games and ruthlessness would be captured.

They were.

Coogan’s radio talk show host is emotionally wounded and the cuts have festered over time. The Dei ex Machina appearance of his niece (Taylor Russell), child of his damaged, addicted sister provides a way to see how he wound up so twisted.

He gets some killer lines (‘How do you sleep at night?’ Is answered by him with ‘On a mattress stuffed with cash and the broken dreams of Hillary Clinton’), climaxing in his soliloquy damning politics and far-right media near the end.

This movie has a lot to say, and I like how it does it.

Declan does an impressive turn in this supporting role

It was great to see Neve Campbell as the love interest. You can see in her face her conflicting emotions – fondness, perhaps love for the rather unlovable DJ, and turmoil when he gets things so wrong at different times.

If you remember Trump’s preposterous recent pronouncement that instead of a wall we should have a moat, he may have picked that up from this film 

But there is humour, not least supplied by Declan’s character – a trustafarian young Russian man who lives in Coogan’s ultra-exclusive Manhattan apartment building who takes Taylor Russell out clubbing, to Coogan’s chagrin.

Declan does an impressive turn in this supporting role, from his accent, his movements from his hands through his fingertips.

I asked how he got his accent honed.

“I was always the guy doing impressions and mimicking people growing up – it came naturally to me. I did study dialect at Stella Adler as well; there were two years of accent training.”

“I asked the director ‘Do you want me to play it straight or do you want caricature?’ and he said ‘Well, we’re going to put you in an Adidas tracksuit with a thick gold chain.’ – so that told me all I needed to know.”

He was surprised to see Taylor Russell as a fellow actor on the project – he had met her before.

“It was the craziest thing – I met Taylor about three years earlier. We got introduced by a friend of a friend. Then she was in Lost in Space for Netflix.”

He saw her name on the scripts and that meeting came back to him.

“It’s funny how it’s such a small world.”

Ms Russell is in the acclaimed Waves, and has just had a 2020 breakthrough actor nomination for her work on the film in the Gotham Awards.

I didn’t ask Declan the predictable ‘So what was Steve Coogan really like?’ question, but I did ask what it was like to work with him. To many, Coogan is Alan Partridge; to others like me, Alan Partridge is a small part of Coogan’s work.

Declan said:

“He was kind of a quiet person, very polite. He thought I was Russian. When he asked me where I was from and I answered ‘Glasgow’, we got talking more. He was a great person to talk to and had lots of good advice.”

It was a bit odd how Declan landed the role – it was via one Skype call. He had done a reading of one scene with only one read through, and no input came back from the director – which can be very good or it can mean they’re not remotely interested.

“Forty-five minutes later my agent called and said I got it.”

“It was funny… I went to see it in a theatre with my girlfriend and this couple looked at me, and the man did a double-take. I heard him say afterwards to his partner, nodding in m y direction, ‘That’s the guy who was in the film!’ And she said ‘Don’t be ridiculous!’

“I laughed.”

Declan tells me about his girlfriend – they met in New York; she went to NYU and plans to direct and did casting for Netflix. I ask him if he has any interest in directing.

“Directing doesn’t interest me. I look at acting, writing, producing, and she talks about shots, cinematography, lightning.”

What’s next seems to be more acting and some producing.

“Zak Kadison has taken me under his wing,” Declan says of the producing side.

Acting-wise, he will be appearing in Green Fever next year.

Green Fever is a tale of a marijuana farm in California at a time of transition, directed by Gerard Roxburgh, written by Danny Acosta and Paul Telfer.

It is based on true events, but as Declan puts it

“My role is the only real fiction in it; I play a younger brother of a farm owner. The focus is on politics around the time weed was made legal. It’s an action/thriller/heist film.”

I cheekily ask whether the cast are taking the method acting approach to the project; Declan laughs and replies:

“There was a strong talk from the director to everyone about not smoking!”

A Scottish coincidence arises in the film’s crew;

“Gerard’s (the director’s) family come from down the road from my family in Greenock, and Telfor’s roots are in from Paisley.”

By this time, we’d talked politics, Trump (inevitably), earthquakes, San Francisco, football and more, and before I talked him hoarse, we wound up the call.

It is wonderful in such a time of upheaval and problems, and frisson between generations to see someone like Declan whose mature and hard-working beyond his years getting closer to the nearly impossible dream of Hollywood stardom.

If anyone can get there though, it’s him. I can’t wait to see where he’ll be in a further nine years.

Mar 312017

With thanks to Jessica Murphy, Senior Account Executive, Citrus:Mix.

His subversive images are daubed on walls around the world and his name is synonymous with intrigue and activism.
Anonymous British street artist Banksy creates art with an irreverent wit and hard hitting message, gaining his notoriety through a range of urban interventions.

He is the subject of Saving Banksy, a documentary that explores attempts to preserve and profit from street artists’ work.

The UK premiere of the film, directed by Colin Day with narration by Paul Polycarpou, will be held as part of the Nuart Aberdeen festival, giving a rare and revealing look at the secretive world of street art and graffiti and its new-found value and worth in the traditional art world.

Featuring some of the world’s top street artists, including Jasmin Siddiqui of Herakut who will be taking part in Nuart, it poses the question ‘What would you do if you woke up one morning and found a million dollar Banksy spray-painted on the side of your building?’

The premiere, which is being held on Saturday April 15 from 4pm at the Belmont Filmhouse in Aberdeen, will be preceded by the short documentary Eloquent Vandals, which tells the story of how Stavanger – a small city on the West Coast of Norway – gained a global reputation for street art.

Nuart Aberdeen has been brought to the Granite City by Aberdeen Inspired and Aberdeen City Council and is supported by Burness Paull LLP.
Street artists Fintan Magee, Nipper, Add Fuel, M-City, Alice Pasquini, Jaune, Isaac Cordal, Martin Whatson, Herakut, Julien de Casabianca and Robert Montgomery will take part in the inaugural Nuart event from April 14 to 16, which is the first of its kind in the UK.

Colin Farquhar, Belmont Filmhouse Cinema Manager, said:

“We are delighted to be hosting the UK premiere of Saving Banksy in Aberdeen. Banksy is a cultural phenomenon and we are sure the showing will be popular.

“This is a great opportunity for the public to immerse themselves in all things street art, taking in the film and enjoying the thought provoking works that artists will bring to Aberdeen during Nuart.”

Adrian Watson, chief executive of Aberdeen Inspired, said it was a privilege to showcase Saving Banksy at the festival.

He added:

“Banksy symbolises the debate that goes on around street art and this film is a brilliant platform for discussion. We want to get people talking about art and bring it to a new audience in the city and are hugely looking forward to the premiere.”

James Finucane, General Manager, Nuart Festival, said:

“Saving Banksy has received widespread critical acclaim – from The New York Times to the LA Times – since its release in the US earlier this year. It’s a great coup for Aberdeen and a fascinating insight into current debates about street art practice and the traditional art establishment’s efforts to remove the ‘street’ from ‘street art’.

“As a new international platform for street art, Nuart Aberdeen aims to not only present the most interesting and relevant artist of our time, but to also stimulate debate about what art is, and more importantly, who it is for. We hope that the film will encourage people to reflect on why it is street artists do what they do as well as inspire others to follow in their footsteps.”

Other events being held at the Belmont Filmhouse during Nuart Aberdeen include BSA Film Friday Live on Friday April 14 (hosted by the founders of influential Street Art blog Brooklyn Street Art), a screening of the cult US ‘outsider’ art movie Beautiful Losers on Sunday April 16, artist talks hosted by Evan Pricco (Managing Editor of Juxtapoz Magazine), and panel debates featuring an array of local, national and international guests such as Aberdeen historian Dr. Fiona-Jane Brown and Pedro Soares Neves from Lisbon Street & Urban Creativity.

Aberdeen Inspired is the banner under which the Aberdeen BID (Business Improvement District) operates. It is a business-led initiative within the city centre in which levy payers within the BID zone contribute.

Proceeds are used to fund projects designed to improve the business district and driving footfall to the zone.

More information on the work of Aberdeen Inspired is available at

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Jun 022016

knowing_not_knowing_post_imageWith thanks to John Morrison.

Peacock Visual Arts proudly presents knowing not knowing, an exhibition of prints and sculptural works by artist Jamie Davidson.

Drawing on a three month period of research in Japan this body of new work develops visual themes explored in Jamie’s previous solo show.

The installation of prints and sculpture reflect a simplicity of form and sensitivity to material seen in the traditional architecture and craftsmanship throughout Japan.

This is particularly evident in the construction of their temples and gardens where boundaries between interior and exterior gently give way to each other. Here in the shadow between the two spaces, a crossing over, or passing through subtly evokes our own sense of being in the world.

Starting with a simple shape and by allowing the sculptural work to develop at the same time as the print series knowing not knowing recalls, in abstract form, many aspects of Jamie’s experiences whilst in Japan.

About the artist:

A Graduate of Moray School of Art, Jamie Davidson previously trained and worked as a carpenter. Inspired by the natural and built environment, Jamie’s sculptural works are also informed by his many years of experience with traditional materials. In 2013, Jamie won the Saltire Society International Travel Bursary for visual arts, which funded a research trip to Japan in 2014.

Date: 17 June 2016 – 30 July 2016
Opening: Thurs 16 June 2016, 6-8pm
Venue: Peacock Visual Arts

May 162016

Sea [is still] Around Us 01 higher res

The Sea [is still] Around Us.

With thanks to John Morrison.

As director of The Obituary Project, a compendium of experimental salvage ethnography that transforms a daily form of narrative, Hope Tucker reframes the passing of sites, people, communities, rituals, cultural markers, and ways of being.

Peacock Visual Arts presents selections from The Obituary Project this Wednesday, 18 May 2016, 6.30pm.

She has documented shuttered bread factories, fallen witness trees, and disappearing civil rights era landmarks; animated cyanotypes of downwinders and old instructions for making fishing nets by hand; recorded mobile phone footage of the last public phone booths in Finland; written the entire text of a video out of paper clips, a Norwegian symbol of nonviolent resistance; and retraced the path of protest that closed the only nuclear power plant in Austria.

Screening programme:

Missing in the Severe Clear
USA, 2001 / 4 minutes/ sound
‘Severe clear’ is aviation slang for clear, crisp, blue skies with boundless visibility.

Vermont says goodbye to Solzhenitsyn
USA, 2012/ 4 minutes/ surveillance video/ Russian with English titles
The Russian writer spent twenty years in exile in a remote American village. This pixelation, part one of a
diptych, was shot on the anniversary of his death.

Lolo Ferrari
USA, 2001 / 2 minutes/ corrupted sound file
An obituary whittles one’s social contribution down to its barest form.

Puhelinkoppi (1882-2007)
Finland, 2010/ 8 minutes/ mobile video/ Finnish with English titles
Marking a shift in the functioning of private and public space, after existing as a sidewalk staple for over a
century, the phone booth in Finland is now extinct. A Nokia camera phone documents the passing.

UK, 2005 / 5 minutes/ sound
A songwriter’s identity remains as obscure as his motives for penning a popular American holiday standard.

Bessie Cohen, Survivor of the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Fire
USA, 2000 / 3 minutes/ sound
The last ninety years of a complex life become eclipsed by an escape from a burning building.

Big Star
USA, 2003 / 3 minutes/ sound
The map-maker grew up down the street from where the car hit the tree and rode many a Big Star cart.

Handful of Dust
USA, 2013/ 9 minutes/ mono recording from 1953
Prussian blue can be used to render images and counteract radiation poisoning.

Vi holder sammen/ We hold together
Norway, 2011 / 4 minutes/ Norwegian with English titles
A typeface formed by hand from paper clips spells out an imperfect construction of a national history as it
visualizes a period of nonviolent resistance.

The Sea [is still] Around Us
USA, 2012/ 4 minutes/ sound
Rachel Carson is dead, but the sea is still around us…this small lake is a sad reminder of what is taking
place all over the land, from carelessness, shortsightedness, and arrogance. It is our pool of shame in this,
’our particular instant of time.’ E.B. White, 1964

About the artist

Hope Tucker transforms what we know as a daily form of terse, text-driven, populist narrative through The Obituary Project, a compendium of moving image that gives new life to the antiquated documentary practice of salvage ethnography.

She has animated cyanotypes of downwinders and instructions for making fishing nets by hand; photographed shuttered bread factories, fallen witness trees, and decaying civil rights era landmarks; recorded mobile phone footage of the last public phone booths of Finland; written the text of a video out of paper clips, a Norwegian symbol of solidarity and nonviolent resistance; and retraced the path of protest that closed the only nuclear power plant in Austria.

Works from the project have screened in festivals, museums, and galleries including 21er Haus, Vienna; Ann Arbor Film Festival; Cairo Video Festival; European Media Art Festival, Osnabrück; Images Festival, Toronto; International Film Festival, Rotterdam; Museo Nazionale del Cinema, Torino; New York Film Festival; Punto de Vista, Pamplona; Vox Populi, Philadelphia; Wexner Center for the Arts, Ohio; Whitechapel Gallery, London; Zagreb Dox.

* Downwinders refers to the individuals and communities in the intermountain area between the Cascade and Rocky Mountain ranges who are exposed to radioactive contamination or nuclear fallout from atmospheric or underground nuclear weapons testing, and nuclear accidents.

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Jan 212016

Boxing drama Creed continues the Rocky series as its seventh instalment, both a sequel and spinoff.  Aberdeen Voice’s Andrew Watson was there the day of its UK release.


Michael B. Jordan plays ‘juvenile tearaway’, Adonis Johnson.

There were maybe just over a dozen people at Cineworld at Queens Links during the Friday midmorning showing; which would be about right, given it was a weekday and many would’ve been
It borrows a lot from the preceding films in the series, but the repetition is slightly more artistic symmetry than aping years gone by and merely being lazy. It’s not entirely a masterpiece, though.

Adonis Johnson (Michael B. Jordan) is a tearaway in juvenile hall, who happens to be the lovechild of deceased boxing legend, one of Rocky Balboa’s fiercest rivals and closest friends, Apollo Creed.

Creed’s widow takes him under her wing, and the boy becomes a man that feels as if something in his life is missing.

Partly inspired by his father’s success in the ring, he goes to seek out Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) as the trainer to propel him into the boxing limelight and title glory.

Antagonist-wise there’s real-life boxer and Liverpudlian Tony Bellew, who serves as Creed’s English opposition, Ricky Conlan.

Between training montages and the like, Tessa Thompson serves as Creed’s love interest, Bianca.

There aren’t many of the original characters reprised in this film, and many maybe crestfallen than it’s not just Adrian who isn’t on the go anymore.

Positives of the film include the soundtrack, though much of it in that sense are reprises from previous films. There’s no denying, however, that chill as you hear the tolling of the bell; that the real training has begun. Or the pounding of the drums as he races up that stairwell.

Negatives, though, centre around Adonis. For someone who’s meant to be the blood of Apollo, he appears to have little of the charisma which gave his father such stage presence. To be out acted by a full-time boxer in Bellew, who plays a good villain in the piece, is daresay not very flattering.

Something else, which has carried on from Rocky Balboa, is the believability of the film. Now, this isn’t concerning the much derided fight scenes of the first five in the series. That aspect has definitely caught up with the times, and is far more based in realism than it used to be.

This more concerns how protagonist and antagonist weigh in against eachother. In Rocky Balboa, Rocky squares up to a comparatively rake-like Mason Dixon and so doesn’t look to be in the same weight division.

The same applies when muscular Adonis faces off with Ricky Conlan, though funnily enough the latter is indeed, as in the film, a light heavyweight in real life. Perhaps they elected for how good an actor was for the part, than any issues that may arise concerning body presentation.

All in all, it manages to come to a reasonable enough conclusion to encourage the viewer to stick around for the rumoured parts two and three of a spinoff trilogy. The parallels between this first Creed film and the original Rocky debut are definitely by design, and not accident.

Dec 172015

The American epic space opera Star Wars began again with its seventh instalment, The Force Awakens. Aberdeen Voice’s Andrew Watson was there the day of its general release.

vuepicsqThere were maybe just over a dozen people at Vue on Shiprow during the Thursday midmorning showing; which would be about right, given there were midnight and crack of dawn showings preceding it.
Generally speaking, with films of this nature, and magnitude, it can go one of two ways. This being faithful to the originals; or overcompensating lack of good storytelling with supreme focus upon special effects, fight sequences and otherworldly landscapes.

This however, seems to straddle the two. It’s not mind blowing; yet not too bad, either.

Basically, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) has gone missing, and the Resistance (what used to be the Rebel Alliance) are seeking him out for help against the odious First Order (what used to be the Galactic Empire). The latter has all but one of the fragments of data detailing his location, and the good guys have that one last piece of vital information.

So far, so good. This is the kind of solid underdog tale that the series has so successfully relied upon since its debut in 1977.

Though the best of the original characters are reprised with the same actors and actresses as before; the two or three main protagonists of the film aren’t so long in the tooth.

You’ve got Daisy Ridley as Rey, who’s basically this generation’s Luke Skywalker in the female form. She’s a scavenger and quite self-sufficient. There’s also rogue Stormtrooper Finn (John Boyega) who’s integral to the Resistance standing a chance of defeating the First Order.

On top of all that, Oscar Isaac plays ace pilot Poe Dameron with all the attributes of a non-greying Han Solo. Everyone else in the film more or less plays a supporting role to these three, including Harrison Ford (the aforementioned Han Solo) and Carrie Fisher (General Leia Organa).

Antagonist wise, there’s the triumvirate of Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) and General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson). This could also be read as the Darth Vader, Emperor Palpatine and Governor Tarkin equivalent of the film.

Come the end of the film, there are a couple of surprises. There’s yet another father and son divide, and someone of stellar importance to the series dies. The former might anger people. The latter, however, could definitely be very contentious among Star Wars fans.

All in all, it manages to come to a reasonable enough conclusion to stand by itself without the remaining two sequels. On the other hand, enough happens and enough is left unresolved to urge the viewer to watch the next instalment.

Nov 122015
A young musician plays an instrument made from recycled garbage, in Landfill Harmonic.

A young musician plays an instrument made from recycled garbage, in Landfill Harmonic.

With thanks to Barbara Holligan.

Take One Action! will open its first ever Aberdeen Film Festival on Fri 13 November with an exclusive screening of Landfill Harmonic, the inspiring story of a youth orchestra from the slums of Paraguay whose choice of instrument – recycled garbage – blazes with hope.
The festival will close with The Price We Pay, Harold Crooks’ acclaimed new documentary about international tax avoidance, it was announced today.

Landfill Harmonic, which won the audience award at Take One Action’s film festival in Edinburgh and Glasgow this September, follows the journey of the Recycled Orchestra of Cateura, a youth music group from the slums of Paraguay who build classical instruments out of garbage from the giant landfill site that towers over their homes – a story that captured the world’s imagination and featured in Time magazine and on Fox News.

The Take One Action! Film Festival sees thousands of Scots each year experiencing cinema with a difference, actively engaging with filmmakers, activists, politicians, journalists, and other audience members to explore new ways to create a fairer, more sustainable world – and to take action themselves.

Other festival highlights include a preview of The Divide, based on Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson’s bestselling book about social inequality, The Spirit Level and The Price We Pay, which has won rave reviews in Canada.

The Price We Pay examines the dark history and shocking present-­day reality of big business tax avoidance, which has seen multinational companies depriving governments of trillions of dollars in tax revenues by harbouring profits in offshore havens – originally created by London bankers in the 1950s. As well as tackling big issues, the festival tells fascinating human stories from across the world.

Stories of Our Lives is a series of moving vignettes about LGBTI people from Kenya, while Casablanca Calling introduces us to the women leading a spiritual revolution in Morocco by becoming Muslim leaders in a country where 60% of women have never been to school – part of a national response to a series of suicide bombings in 2003.

Festival screenings will take place at Belmont Filmhouse.

A special, free screening of Ivory Tower, an examination of the rising cost of higher education will be presented at the University of Aberdeen on Thursday 12 November. Every screening at the festival is accompanied by discussions with campaigners, artists and activists. Guests include representatives from Big Noise Torry (Sistema Scotland), Aberdeen Climate Action and SHMU Radio. Audience members are encouraged to get involved in the issues raised by the films.

“We want people to feel empowered to help make the world a fairer, more sustainable place by taking practical action alongside others in Scotland,” says festival director Tamara Van Strijthem.

“This programme was put together with the direct involvement and support of a great group of Aberdeen residents. We also want to encourage audiences in Aberdeenshire and beyond to organise their own Take One Action film seasons in their own communities.”

Tickets can be booked in advance via Belmont Filmhouse (01224 343 500) Some of the films are available to view in advance of the festival. For information, and to request interviews and images, please contact Tamara Van Strijthem, Executive Director on 07876 612 334 or

You can watch trailers for festival films on our YouTube channel.


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Nov 062015

The found footage supernatural horror series Paranormal Activity has now reached its sixth and final instalment. Aberdeen Voice’s Andrew Watson reviews The Ghost Dimension, more or less a sequel to Paranormal Activity 3.

ParanormalactivityNot many people came for the Tuesday midmorning showing at Union Square’s Cineworld, the film having being released almost a fortnight ago. It perhaps serves to prove that this franchise has run its course. Though not hackneyed in the sense it shows cupboard doors flapping of their own free will, it’s largely predictable.

Having said that, the you-know-it-is-coming moments frighten because you can never totally anticipate that split second they’ll make you jolt; though that’s the case for just about every horror film, good or bad.

Plus points, however, include when the besieged protagonists explore the nature of the demonic presence they seek to be rid of.

The plot itself generally revolves around father Ryan Fleege (Chris Murray), wife Emily (Brit Shaw) and daughter Leila (Ivy George). Ryan’s brother Mike (Dan Gill) joins the family for Christmas after breaking up with his girlfriend.

Suspicions regarding the house are roused when family friend Skyler (Olivia Taylor Dudley) comes on the go. She’s somewhat of a Feng Shui expert and her comment upon its ‘energies’ validate what soon takes hold.

Whilst preparing the house for the festivities they find a box of tapes they’ve never seen before. Out of curiosity, brothers Ryan and Mike view some of them not realising that they’re family videos belonging to the previous family that lived there.

In fact, the current house is built upon the site of that very family’s house, which burnt down. The footage, which is not only weird and potentially satanic, references the current householders despite being recorded years ago; describing them in great detail.

The main debate with this is whether this girl with her eyes closed in the video is picturing the future, or is in fact viewing these viewers in some sort of spiritual plain within the present. Being honest, it seems a tad reminiscent of the girl coming out of the screen of the television in The Ring.

Leila starts acting up, though it begins innocently as what they think is her talking to an imaginary friend. It turns out that this imaginary friend seeks the young girl in a bid to take a physical form.

Things escalate to the point where they call in Father Todd (Michael Krawic), a priest. Despite being bitten by Leila during a fit of rage, he doesn’t think that she’s possessed.  He therefore elects for a cleansing, and not an exorcism.

Concern had already grown for Leila, and they’d placed a camcorder in her room in a bid to get a handle on what’s going on. During another very active night, Leila is seen via this surveillance walking through a passageway that has appeared in a crack above the headboard of her bed.

Perhaps this is the same spiritual plain within the present in those family videos, ‘the ghost dimension’.

One thing you cannot knock these films for is a lack of unhappy, and in turn conceivably realistic, endings. No psychics battling spirits of the netherworld, at least not this time round. Just feeble, mortal men and women clinging onto life; logic and reason leaving them as panic overtakes them.

Oct 292015

Spy thriller Spectre is Daniel Craig’s fourth outing as James Bond. It’s not as good as the previous Skyfall, though even that wasn’t particularly remarkable. Aberdeen Voice’s Andrew Watson watched the most expensive Bond movie yet in its second day in cinemas.

vuepicThere were just over a dozen people at Vue on Aberdeen’s Shiprow during the Tuesday morning showing, which was probably good given that most people were at work at that time of day.
Casting-wise the composition of its starring actors is interesting. Much time was spent placing the voice of main antagonist Ernst Stavro Blofeld.

Indeed Christoph Waltz is best known by many as Jamie Foxx’s sidekick in Django Unchained

He’s very soft spoken like Bond’s previous adversary, Skyfall’s Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem).

Anyway, the film primarily revolves around Bond and his main love interest Dr Madeleine Swann, played by Léa Seydoux. She’s the daughter of a man with serious links to a shadowy organisation called Spectre.

Basically Bond starts the film following the death wish of M (Judie Dench). Her assignment from beyond the grave lands him in some serious trouble. It turns out that new management at MI6 wants to steamroll the ‘00’ project, and 007’s transgression justifying this process.

He goes rogue anyway, and tracks down Swann’s father. Upon revealing his daughter’s location, someone to help Bond in M’s search for answers, he urges him to protect her before killing himself.

This is amidst the new setup of the British intelligence services, soon to turn global, warring with the old guard like the current M (Ralph Fiennes). The latter is, of course, in favour of the ‘00’ project.

When Bond seems certain to die, inextricable links are made between himself and Blofeld. The revelation concerning Bond’s childhood almost makes enduring some of the film’s less watchable moments worthwhile just for this alone. Of course, looking back it was Bond’s upbringing that made Skyfall intriguing.

However, barely a couple minutes of key dialogue within a film clocking almost two and a half hours is a lot to ask. Highbrow types maybe wouldn’t have the patience.

The fascinating detail revealed is seemingly the one of few things of substance revealed in the duration; the rest just cars, combat and explosions. The whole “Bond, James Bond” routine early on in the film in this particular outing is meant to be brooding and sexy, but just comes off as corny.

Yes, despite how more serious Bond has become in the Craig-era there are, thankfully you suppose, some lights moments; the third ‘c’, comedy.

Overall it’s typical of most Bond films that have preceded it: spy thriller slightly more intelligent than your average exploding action film. Shaking, but not too stirring.