by Philip Raby – creative director

The 2019 film festival had one of the best programmes I can remember being involved in over nearly 30 years. Every night, there were so many films that I wanted to see, and never enough time to see them all.

The opening screenings of The Report, Rocks and The Personal History of David Copperfield were particularly strong, with an impressive diversity of subject matter and audience appeal; while the closing night of Jojo Rabbit was a perfect combination of crowd-pleaser with a difference, which will leave people talking about it afterwards.

In between those two bookends, there was a wonderful smorgasbord of options, with some fantastic documentaries – Children Of Snowland, Honeyland, and Shooting The Mafia (all F-Rated) among other highlights that all the people I spoke to loved.

One of the strongest strands were the numerous excellent French films; I thought Portrait of a Lady on Fire was just about perfect, while La Belle Epoque was even better (and funnier) than I had hoped for. Add in Alice and the documentary about Alice Guy-Blache and you have about as varied a look at French cinema as you could imagine.

It was wonderful to be able to use all the venues in Bath, with screenings at both The Little and the Odeon, and a significant number of slots at The Rondo (which we have not been to use for a couple of years). Along with Komedia and Chapel Arts (and Christ Church as a one off), it feels as though we cover a wide spectrum of locations, with a variety of ambience and audience experience.

Being part of the organization of the festival means that I have a different experience from the film enthusiasts who come to the screenings. But I also have a sense for how much they love what we do, when I stand outside the screen after a film, and people spontaneously come up to me and say how much they have enjoyed what they’ve just seen. As cinemas are forced to show fewer and fewer films and more and more of the same, our job becomes even more important in offering a range of differing views of the world; and films from all around the world, such as The Chambermaid.

It’s also rewarding to be part of a living organism that operates at such an impressive level of efficiency over the 11 day period, managing to screen so many films in such a short time, over such a range of places with barely a hiccup.

We also had an impressive line up of guests, both in person (and where necessary) by Skype, which is one of the elements of the festival that audiences enjoy the most. I was unable to be present after Children of Snowland – I was conducting a fascinating discussion with the production designer for Calm With Horses – but the fact that we had not only the director of the film, but also one of the young Nepalese people who featured in the film, felt like a blessing and a stroke of luck, since he could speak about the experience of what we had just watched with an unequalled level of first hand knowledge and insight.

Each year, the festival approaches, arrives, and then has suddenly been and gone in a swirl of dust, all over in the blink of an eye; and it’s another year till we are on screen again. It’s such a rewarding experience, made more so by the fact that it occupies such a small fraction of the whole year.

2020 is now our destination, with a 30th anniversary to look forward to. We will once again have an extraordinary lineup of stunning, original and never-to-be-seen-otherwise movies. See you there.