On July 12 around 15000 viewers watched Alfred Hitchcock’s Blackmail as part of the open-air programme of the fifth edition of the Odessa International Film Festival. A special screening accompanied by a symphony orchestra took place on the Potemkin Steps, the most resonant film location in the history of the movies.
Before the start Simon Smith, UK Ambassador to Ukraine, Anna Bubnova, Head of Arts of British Council in Ukraine, and Robin Baker, Head curator of National Archive of the British Film Institute, welcomed all spectators with speeches. Robin Baker told the audience that all of Hitchcock's 9 surviving silent films have just been restored by the BFI National Archive. It has been the biggest, most complex and most expensive restoration programme in the history of BFI. These Hitchcock’s restorations played around the world in about 33 countries, but without a doubt the screening in Odessa was the biggest screening so far.
Blackmail was Hitchcock's final silent and first sound film. The sound version was The UK's first sound film and was very successful. But there was one problem - the wonderful Polish actress Anny Ondra in the lead had a strong Polish accent which was not how Hitchcock imagined the character of Alice. Poor Anny Ondra had to mime her lines, while a British actress called Joan Barry had to shout her dialogue from off-camera, so sometimes Anny’s performance seems a little stilted. In the silent version, however, Anny Ondra is much more relaxed and gives one of the great performances of the silent era.
British Council in Ukraine has supported the Odessa International Film Festival for four years and builds creative relations between the UK and Ukraine in the field of arts. This year thanks to British Council a special screening of Alfred Hitchcock Blackmail and a retrospective of Stephen Frears’ films were shown.
See the photos from the screening here.