THE bellowing, rotund figure of Waller Jeffs welcomed me to Birmingham Town Hall last week.
Not actually Waller Jeffs, of course, he died a century ago, but instead an able actor.
It was 1902 that Mr Jeffs first put on films in the centre of Birmingham, before then they were the reside of fairgrounds and fairs.
Seeking to recapture the atmosphere of the period, Flatpack Film Festival’s opening night occupied the Town Hall, and introduced a selection of classic films, many of them filmed by Jeffs himself.
The format worked superbly. Musical accompaniment from Birmingham’s answer to Arcade Fire, The Destroyers, made the films come alive with their music.
George Melies famous ‘A Voyage to the Moon’ was just one of eleven short films dusted off for the start of the festival.
More fun was to come though. Organisers 7 Inch Cinema had packed a eclectic plethora of feature films, shorts, documentaries, installations, talks and interactive activities into the five-day event.
It would have been impossible to attend everything so I picked out ‘Jesus Christ Saviour’ the next night at the Electric Cinema.
The film is a documentary that follows an infamous talk that German actor Klaus Kinski gave in Berlin in 1971.
It was meant to be an intellectual exploration of Kinski’s views on the life of Jesus, instead it became a bizarre series of interactions between rowdy hecklers, Kinski, and his supporters.
It was a fascinating insight into the world of a celebrity and Kinski’s attempts to align himself with the youthful counter-culture that was growing ever more discontent with his behaviour.
Kinski was renowned for having an appalling temper, and it constantly flared up as hecklers constantly provoked him. Perversely, at the conclusion you end sympathetic with both him and his detractors. No matter what he did or said, and his vague attempts to identify himself with Jesus, he was shown up by the provocateurs, and his reaction to them, to be what he really was, just another human.
The festival concluded with a late night horror film. However, it was no mindless gore-fest. ‘Let The Right One In’ is a thinking man’s vampire film, focusing on the love story between two of society’s outsiders, a creepy 12-year-old named Eli and a bullied school boy Oskar.
The Swedish film was delicately paced, devoid of the tension building scenes usually associated with Hollywood horror, instead focusing on the unpredictable friendship of the two protagonists.
That’s not to say it wasn’t scary, the young actors, particularly Eli somehow managed to make you feel both empathetic for their cause, and terrified of them.
Just before the main film they showed a Canadian 10 minute short ‘There Are Monsters’. I may not be the best with horror films, but this was a genuinely petrifying experience. Watching it through my fingers, with my girlfriend nails dug into my arm, a couple of scenes had what sounded like the entire audience shriek in terror.
So overall, Flatpack was a wonderful treat for film lovers. Like the furniture you would normally associate with the name it was crammed to the brim with its contents.
7 Inch Cinema continue to put on events throughout the rest of the year, so keep an eye on the website www.7inch.org for similar square-eyed activities.