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There was a time when Lichfield was a sleepy little backwater. It’s still got that lovely small-town feel, but on Saturday night international glamour truly arrived, fittingly in a stretch limo.
Because this was the Garrick premiere of Field of Corpses, a professional full-length feature film produced by first year Foundation Degree students in Film and Television Production Technology and Management at South Staffs College based right here in the city.
So under a barrage of flashing cameras its stars alighted at the city’s first ever red carpet event amid the popping of champagne corks. They joined a tuxedo-clad audience at the first night screening of a delightfully gothic moody thriller with an unsettling glimpse into what ancient terrors may lie just behind the city’s beautiful façade.
I’m not quite sure what I was expecting but what I saw was a slick, totally sophisticated first rate full-length feature film that mixed the slick production values of TV’s Midsomer Murders with a truly cinematic sense of film noir. The cleverness of its sinister gothic tale, a sort of infusion of Holy Blood and Holy Grail mixed in with a complex web of personal agendas made The Da Vinci Code look like a script for Sooty.
If at times I was baffled by the mystery this fitted the plot perfectly as each of the characters involved in the story saw only their own small part in it.
Similarly its subtle palette of half tones and dark brooding atmospheres, of early mornings and late nights perfectly matched the tale’s sinister half truths and superstitions.
In my opinion the film could well have stood a longer showing to the general public at the Garrick, the natural venue for home-grown talent – after all, there’s no cinema in Lichfield, and not much on the telly these days. Certainly, the film deserves a wider showing.
Among the cast Catherine Manford was outstanding as feisty archaeologist Danni. Paolo Allen brought a genuine ambivalence to the role of tortured cleric Tony while Gerry Hinks effortlessly evoked the silky treachery of the ecclesiastical back stairs.
The screening was the result of months of hard work by a large dedicated crew of students but special mention must go to Producer Zak Smith and Director Ryan Priddey, while special congratulations go to Director of Photography Rory Barber. These are future stars.
Of course the real plaudits must go to the main man, course tutor (or Programme Manager, Media) Terry Foster who dreamt the whole thing up and was the inspiration and means for it to happen.
As the centrepiece of the city’s first Inspire Film Festival Field of Corpses may well have made history by putting Lichfield on the cinematic map. And how fantastic that these dedicated students don’t have to travel to a metropolitan centre to get this sort of training any more. Bring it on, filmmakers. I’m already looking forward to next year’s event.