When France goes Brit-mad: Dinard Film Festival

When France goes Brit-mad: Dinard Film Festival – words Chris Zacharia

For one week in September, the typically French seaside town of Dinard becomes curiously British.

Stroll down the charming boulevard alongside the beach and you’ll spot a black cab. Walk a little further and a red telephone box pops up. A life-size replica of a Queen’s Guard, complete with bearskin hat, completes this British invasion. Oh, and the countless Union Jacks flying proudly against the blue Brittany sky.

 

The Dinard Festival of British Film may not be France’s most prestigious movie destination, but it’s a great place to watch some indie films and rub shoulders with up-and-coming British acting talent.

Unusually, the whole festival is devoted to celebrating British film. You won’t find Scandinavian thrillers or French noir here. Yet the audience is anything but – every screening is punctuated by long queues stretching from the cinema doors to the end of the road. If British film is niche, no one told the Bretons.

Screenings take place throughout the day and into the night, usually during the last week of September, culminating in an awards ceremony preceded by the obligatory red carpet.

Forget Cannes – the location is beautiful. Gazing at the vast bird’s egg blue sky, you can see why so many painters chose to paint in Brittany. There’s a warm, vivid brightness wherever you look. The main film complex, overlooking Dinard’s sandy bay, offers scenic views from its sprawling balcony. And after an afternoon of watching movies, there’s nothing better than to stretch your legs with a walk down the beach.

There’s a good mix of films, too. This year’s edition features black comedy War Against Everyone, heartwarming Irish comedy Sing Street, pregnancy horror story Prevenge, and lighthearted Stephen Fry detective romp The Hippopotamus. Some films are making their international debut here, bringing their casts and directorial team with them.

Getting there is surprisingly easy. Take the train to Portsmouth – ninety minutes from London Waterloo – and then an overnight ferry crossing with Brittany Ferries, directly to St. Malo. After a comfortable sleep on the ferry, it’s a fifteen-minute car ride from St. Malo to Dinard.

This is a town genuinely proud of its cinematic heritage. Now in its 27th year, the festival has become a fixture here in Dinard, attracting film buffs from miles around. Given the famously pristine beaches and impressive cliff-faces, it’s easy to see why the festival makes for a decent holiday or a long weekend.

For the full experience, stay at the Royal Emeraude hotel. Tastefully decorated with intelligent nods to the hotel’s seafront location – proper wooden paneling, Impressionist renditions of the Golden Age of travel, vintage suitcases converted into writing desks – it also opens directly onto the festival’s red carpet. Get a room on the first floor, complete with a Juliet balcony, for a front-row seat to the festivities (on the Saturday night of the festival).

The venues themselves aren’t quite as glitzy, but they have the feel of having been conceived by genuine cinophiles. Dedicated to famous directors, the five cinemas range in size and capacity. Organised by an army of volunteers, the festival has a pleasingly amateurish feel to it, far from the exclusiveness of more prestigious film destinations.

As always with film festivals, the quality is uneven. Many of the movies screened here have been made under the constraint of tight budgets, personal projects of both experienced and budding directors. Sometimes the result is magnificent – many of the films are original and creative – but sometimes things fall flat. Given that some of the films screened here are making their debut and are yet to be reviewed, you’re often gambling on what sounds good.

Yet Sing Street, which sweeps to three awards, is a marvellous film. Set in 1980s Dublin, it tells the story of a group of schoolboys who try to escape the despotism of teachers and parents by emulating their favourite New Wave pop stars in a band. Without descending into twee cliché, Sing Street captures both the grinding reality of inner city school life and the magic of youthful creativity. Even better, it’s a total riot: during the film’s screening in Dinard, the audience are in stitches.

A party on Saturday night signals the closing of the festival. Free of charge for anyone to enter, the party is a great place to meet the people behind the films. With the booze flowing, the party goes on until well after 4am, too. It makes for a resoundingly British end to a British film festival.

When France goes Brit-mad: Dinard Film Festival – words Chris Zacharia

Travel to Brittany with Brittany Ferries 

The Dinard Festival of British Film will return for its 28th edition in September 2017. For a list of this year’s winners, click here

Stay at the Royal Emeraud Hotel in Dinard – prices from £93 per person per night, book here