a quick report on the first screening of the RISE film festival in London. by Charles Rangeley-Wilson.
It was a well chosen venue, even if it took a while to get to the Vue Leicester Square: this entirely the fault of Sir Michael Caine, who was touring the perimeter of the cordoned-off square flashing his pearlies, but also looking suitably Olympian and non-plussed by the thin line of Heat subscribers repeatedly shouting “Michael” whilst waving cam-corders, mobiles and worryingly pre-considered SLRs in his direction. It occurred to me then, as I battled through this crowd, some of who I suspected engage in this kind of fetishistic top-monkey worship as a hobby, that not everyone is interested in rivers. The crowd was thinner (but still a respectable 150 strong) in the foyer and bar that the Vue had dedicated to this inaugural UK fly fishing film festival, but much more in touch with what matters: flowing wet things and the creatures therein. And boy did they get what they were after.
The film event kicked off with a short conscience-pricking teaser made by WWF – “Rivers on the Edge”: That film’s message is a simple one: we use too much water, and our water infrastructure places not enough value on the environmental cost of the water we use or value on the preservation of the amazing habitats on our doorstep.
For me, this message only went to underline the impact of the two hours of amazing footage of amazing watery habitats the world over which then followed. Not least there was a direct link in that the evening’s main film, a sumptuously shot and epic exploration of Tasmania, opened with excerpts from the journal of James Youl, the man who took our trout out there in 1864 from the rivers which are now so threatened over here. Nick Reygaert called his Tasmanian film The Source because all the brown trout throughout the Antipodes came from this first shipment via Tasmania. Divided into several sections, each about a different aspect of fly fishing in Tasmania, whether the virgin sea trout rivers of the west coast or the countless lakes of the high interior, this film has in the words of one enraptured viewer “raised the bar” for cinematography in fishing films. And indeed the photography was spectacular. Narratively the film used talking heads to describe places, types of fishing or moments then captured in film: in between much music, slow-motion, time-lapse and breath-taking scenery and fish. It was the next best thing to being there. And the sight of one particular U-boat tailing in the frosted margins of a high tarn will be enough, I’m sure, to get quite a number of that audience to do the best thing.
Raising the Ghost was a rougher, but charmingly immersive and fresh film about a group of steelheaders trying to catch steelhead on dry flies in the distant interior of British Columbia. Because it was American it had the yee-haws and high-fives and ordinary writ as legend that a British audience squirms to. But never mind it was a great film anyway. And there were some wonderfully amusing confessional moments to camera: times when the absurd inconsequentiality of not catching fish was laid bare – in a tongue-in-cheek way – as if it was only one degree worse than death. The film also carried a strong conservation message.
Finally a short tease of Nick Reygaert’s next film, one he has been shooting all summer in Iceland and the mainstay of next year’s festival. Meanwhile this year’s tour has will move on to take in Reading, Manchester and Edinburgh. And Nick promises it will back next year and playing in more cities: Cardiff is on his radar for sure, as is Belfast. It would be good also to see a home-grown feature in next year’s show. UK film-makers need to get busy.
All in all I think it is great that this film fest has happened, even if it took a Kiwi to make it so. Well done Nick Reygaert.