Attending the Grant de Sousa Film Festival was like leaping back in time to the days I spent working in a video store – evoking memories of excitement over the arrival of a collection of John Hughes and Sergio Leone films; rushing to press pause on Fight Club every time a child stepped into the store and, most importantly, steadily making our way through the entire collection of films on the cult shelf.
Cinema Nouveau held a competition last year wherein the winning participant would be able “to stage a personalised film festival for a day, by correctly identifying some quirky clues that featured in a range of iconic films.” Grant was the winner and the “personalised film festival” involved selecting five films of his choice to screen at Cinema Noveau in April this year.
Along with Grant and other die-hard film fans, I committed to the entire festival – which meant staying indoors, in the dark, for the whole day. Despite consuming copious amounts of coffee, watching five films in a row is quite an arduous task. Grant based his choices on a decision to keep the festival diverse, by covering as many genres as possible. The day started with a comedy by John Hughes, Weird Science. He called this film “my most selfish choice”, stemming out of nostalgic enjoyment for the influential films’ of the director and writer who was so prominent in the 80s and early 90s, when Grant was growing up, honing his love for film.
Keeping the tone light for the second film, Grant delved into the world of adventure opting for Indiana Jones, his rhetoric being “how could you not have a Spielberg/Lucas film?” He chose the first Jones’ film, Raiders of the Lost Ark, citing it as “my favourite and the most memorable”. With the rolling boulder; evil, Nazi monkey and eerie closing shot, who would argue? Admittedly aspects of the film have aged, but it is still hugely entertaining and indicative of the filmmakers’ genius – and the young children in the audience, probably watching it for the first time, clearly enjoyed it as well.
Refuelling on coffee was a necessity for the screening of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, the longest film of the bunch. Representing the Western, Grant summed up the legendary film by stating that “there’s not much more to say than it’s the greatest Western of all time and I’ve never seen it on the big screen”. This was one of the highlights of The Grant de Sousa Film Festival for me personally. Having been too young (or not born) to watch any of these films at the cinema, the festival was, yet again, an opportunity to go back in time.
The fourth film was from David Fincher, one of Grant’s favourite directors who he says “hasn’t let me down once”. Fight Club is not easy to define, but for the purpose of the festival served as the Drama of the day. This is one of the last films I remember carrying an age restriction of 18 at the cinema and being underage at the time of its release, I was turned away from watching it, much to my chagrin. Now, 14 years later, I was given the opportunity to watch Project Mayhem explode on the big screen.
The Grant de Sousa Film Festival ended with Dark City, Grant’s “favourite science fiction of all time. A cult classic that The Matrix stole a lot of its ideas from; and cinematically, a piece of art.” A few hiccoughs in the beginning resulted in the festival running late, which meant that the breaks between films were never more than ten minutes. Stumbling out of the cinema, I felt like a zombie. Having spent all day inside, I was convinced that I was probably a shade paler too; but encapsulating a mood of nostalgia and sentiment as it did, the Ster-Kinekor slogan, cheesy and stale as it may be, still rings true: that it’s “always better on the big screen”.