The Fifth Annual Odessa Film Festival – with the British Film industry solidly represented – has rounded out another successful event. The British Council worked with the Festival Organizers to carry off what is arguably this year’s standout event: a screening of Alfred Hitchcock’s “Blackmail” - accompanied by live symphony orchestra - on Odessa’s historic Potemkin Stairs.  We also had a chance to meet with special British guests in Odessa for the event, including Stephen Frears and Peter Webber, lead curator of National Archive of British Film Institute (BFI), and from the British Council Film department, Christine Bardsley.

Stepping away from his accustomed Director’s chair, Peter Webber headed this year’s international programme jury. Not only did he take in dozens of contest films, but he also presented an open-air screening of his  celebrated “Girl with a Pearl Earring” on the Langeron Stairs.  We  asked him what  drew him to Odesa this summer: 

“The smaller festivals, the ones that are growing and trying to reach higher status are the most interesting ones to me. I think they are fresher, they have more energy, they’re not quite so busy, and there’s an enthusiasm. I’ve been enjoying them much more than I would, for example, Cannes. Also it’s really important that cultural events, anything to do with the arts, carry on especially in times of political unrest. These are the things that bring people together and foster understanding – the most important thing in complicated times like these”.

Robin Baker, from BFI, was impressed by the huge audience (upwards of 15,000, yes, 15,000) who turned out to watch Hitchcock’s “Blackmail”. Mr. Baker: “This screening of the Hitchcock restoration was, without a doubt, by far the largest we’ve had to date”.

Check out our video on the open-air screening of “Blackmail”, and get a sense of what it was that so grabbed Odessa’s British contingent.

See also