Sunday, 5 April 2009

Belfast Film Festival :: Prods and Pom Poms & Festival Round Up

Well its been a long, rather enjoyable, week. I had originally planned to catch two films yesterday however I thought I would give 50 Dead Men Walking a miss on the account of protests about it outside the cinema. So, in a somewhat sombre end to the festival where I have witnessed some truely extraordinary films, the last film I watched was unique in many different ways, clocking in at only 55 minutes long and a documentary (a local one no less) , ladies and gentlemen, no shit I bring you...

Prods and Pom-Poms



For the entire time I was at this festival this was my first and only time in the BFF's own studio cinema, which was absolutely wonderful and a venue I would love to watch a movie in again in the future. So yes, Prods and Pom-Poms, having read about this I was expecting the worst, and considering my luck with local film this week, from the disappointment of Drifting to the down right distaste for Cherrybomb, and not even managing to get to see 50 Dead Men Walking, I honestly wasn't expecting much from a documentary about a millbag cheerleading squad from one of Belfast's less well off areas. However its takes a big man to admit when I was proved very wrong. For those who aren't aware of this Prods and Pom-Poms delves into Belfast’s infamous Sandy Row, an area traditionally associated with hard-line paramilitaries and loyalist thugs. However this film tells the real life tale of the area's own cheerleading squad, the Sandy Row Falcons as they prepare their routines and for the Scottish Cheerleading Championships against some of the UK's best. Which is all fair enough, I have seen stranger documentaries in stranger settings, but what this film offers us is something a little bit more real than the likes of Bowling for Columbine, Grizzly Man etc actually having the ability to put a proud smile on this critic's face from beginning to end.


Gillian Reid 2009.

Though living only minutes drive away from this area of Belfast and frequent the area on the account my family GP is stationed there, this film raised points that I had not considered before. For those who don't live here; Belfast is a city currently regenerating, full of life, arts, culture, redevelopment yet this small community seems to feel its being left behind, with all the hotels, new apartments and redevelopments going on around it, the Sandy Row is still an example of Belfast's past. Trying to break the mould is one woman who offers the girls of the area something different to aspire to than being mothers by the age of 18, in the most bizarre and strangest of circumstances Prods and Pom-Poms is probably the most honest, heart-warming and endearing film about Belfast I have watched in sometime. Their experience minimal makes some of the dance routines hilarious and verging on cringe worthy but the film makers Ben Jones and Paul Hutchinson never set out to ridicule or take the piss out of these girls, letting these people carry the film themselves. On the topic of the film makers they do a tremendous job filming this movie, providing beautiful bleak interlude scenes with a wonderful ambient soundtrack that makes the movie as tasteful as it is honest. From scenes such as one of the young girl's son playfully dancing along with the routines, to the squad embarking into their own unknown and cheerleading at Belfast's St Patrick's Day parade, which some girls niavely question it's purpose when it isn't "their religion", Prods and Pom-Poms is without a doubt a local story for our city's times and gives a more eye opening and accurate portrayal of Belfast than anything I am likely to see for the rest of the year. Shocked? I sure as hell am.

3.5/5

Well that's that for another year. On the whole The 9th Belfast Film Festival was a huge success in my honest opinion, after copious amounts of red wine, wine gums and pop corn here is the blog's quick high's and low's of this week's events...

Film Of The Festival...
Was a hard choice between three utterly fantastic films in the form of Gigantic, Synecdoche New York and Let The Right One In however my choice of the week was possibly Charlie Kauffman's directorial debut in Synecdoche New York. Not everyone will enjoy it, however what it offered was something epic and original with an array of cast that had quality oozing out of their finger tips. A classic.

High points...
Gigantic, Let The Right One In, Sword Of The Stranger, Tokyo!, Synecdoche New York, Free Jamison's Whiskey, Wine Gums, Gill's Gigantic and Prods and Pom-Pom's artwork, John Goodman's performance in Gigantic, BFF's volunteers and staff for offering the city an excellent and diverse array of films.


Low points*...
CherryBomb, Festival clashes (really would've loved to have got to see Hunchback of Notre Dame in St Anne's Cathedral), protests against 50 Dead Men Walking, Ditching.

*Know it may come across that I'm anti local cinema, I am completely the opposite. Just didn't feel CherryBomb was an enjoyable or accurate tale of youth in Belfast. In regards to Ditching, it could have been the most wonderful film ever to come from Northern Ireland but for a film with such a high concept it needed the budget to match the maker's ambitions and unfortunately it didn't. Terry Gilliam if you are reading, pick that movie up and re-make it!!

Overall, great festival! Roll on next year's. Next week it's back to regular reviews. Been a pleasure and thanks for reading my coverage of the Belfast Film Festival.

2 comments:

Alan in Belfast said...

Caught the same showing of Prods and Pom Poms ... and agree with much of what you said.

Maybe I'll bump into you at next year's festival.

Anonymous said...

its called DITCHING...DITCHING!!!