Sussex is blessed to be home to the Chichester Film Festival. It’s the largest film festival on the south coast and nationally renowned for its exciting programme which includes retrospectives, tributes, premiers, open air screenings, live musical events and Q and A sessions. In 2019, the festival was awarded Event of the Year at the Sussex Life Awards and in 2023 celebrates its 31st year!
This year’s programme promises to deliver all the quality and diversity that lovers of the festival have come to expect and will include a special retrospective on Hugh Bonneville showcasing some of his best work, a retrospective on Australian actress Cate Blanchett, a celebration of the 150th anniversary of Russian composer Sergei Rachmaninoff and a tribute to director Jean-Luc Godard, a pioneer of the 1960s French New Wave film movement.
From humble beginnings
Chichester Film Festival started back in 1992 as a small part of the Festival of Chichester and that year, there were just 29 films in one location. One man has been a driving force behind the emergence of the festival from those humble beginnings, and that man is Creative Director and Programmer, Roger Gibson. But having programmed every edition since 1992, this year will be Roger’s last as he steps back from the role.
We were lucky enough to catch up with Roger recently, to find out a little about how he has created such a phenomenal event, what his highlights have been and what are his recommendations for this year’s event:
“Looking back, that first year, I quickly realised that there was an appetite for a film festival. I’ve taught art and film, and I’ve always loved film but back then, it was very much the Cinderella of the Arts. I knew a festival would be a great way to put film on the map. But there was no great vision or masterplan to develop it (although one journalist did ask if we could turn it into the Cannes of the south east) and I was also conscious we could easily be swallowed up by the rest of Festival of Chichester.
So, we moved the film festival into August and have built up the festival, its reputation and a loyal and supportive audience since then with a combination of stubbornness and hard work. Even when you have an established film festival, you still have to persuade distributors and film makers as to why they should come to us. That means not always accepting no for an answer.
Looking back over the years, some of my highlights have to be some of the many celebrities and filmmakers who we have managed to get to come and the many Q and A sessions and speakers we’ve hosted such as the likes of Alec Guinness, John Lithgow, Kathleen Turner and Steve Coogan. I also know that the festival has had an impact on Chichester and the surrounding area. In fact, I know people have moved to the area because of it.”
If you’re thinking of attending the festival, Roger has a number of recommendations:
“Take a risk. Each year we show a Surprise Film and this has proved really popular, but if you can’t make that, just try something you wouldn’t normally consider and isn’t an obvious choice. The event covers all different aspects of film and we show films that you won’t see anywhere else including films from abroad as well UK premieres, new releases and stuff that isn’t that well known. It’s worth planning ahead and staying for a few days to make the most of it.”
To celebrate Roger’s legacy there will be a series of screenings dedicated to some of his favourite films including Disney’s Fantasia, one of the first films he watched as a young boy, and to Hitchcock’s Humour. Roger will continue in his role as President at Chichester Cinema at New Park.
Chichester Film Festival will run from the 4th to the 27th August and will feature over 130 screenings. for more information visit: www.chichesterfilmfestival.co.uk.
If you are thinking of visiting Chichester FilmFestival, you may also like: