LONDON'S RIVERSIDE FILM FESTIVAL

A Night at the Oscars Roundup with Daniel Battsek

As one of the finer choices of location to shelter from the rain, last Wednesday Barnes’ Olympic Cinema opened its doors for something of a precursory night at the Oscars; with the room’s lavish feel and the occasional over-gracious umbrella spread around, though, you might be forgiven for confusing the two occasions.

Both the talk and talker of the night was director of Film 4 and renowned film producer, Daniel Battsek, whose back catalogue of credits the evening’s host, Charlotte Bogard Macleod, quite rightly introduced as every cinephile’s wet dream.

After cringing at a confrontation with his own accomplishments, Daniel took his seat against the eerily Lynchian backdrop of Olympic Cinema’s red drapes, shaking off any prior embarrassment once he holds the microphone.

A proud supporter of the festival, Mr Battsek then joined in the applause as Charlotte opens proceedings by proclaiming the event a celebration of Barnes Film Festival, thereby nicely coalescing the admittedly disparate events into one – appreciations of films, regardless of their respective statures.

From here sparked an evening of discussion, with Daniel shedding light on the awards season, articulating every facet from the PR hoo-ha hidden behind the glamour, to his own personal disdain at how the films themselves have become secondary to the showmanship of it all – a true cineaste if ever there was one.

After three trailers of prominent films at this year’s awards are shown (Drive My Car, CODA, The Power of the Dog), and a brief dispelling of the misrepresentative illusion behind the shimmering ‘Apple Original’ tag at the beginning of the CODA trailer, the night tends towards opinion, with Daniel touching on his picks and predictions for who will take home

the trophies. The latter, naturally, falling in line with the bookie’s favourites (Campion, Power of the Dog, Smith, Chastain, Dune), the more interesting titbits come from the personal appreciations, among which are an acknowledgment of Drive My Car as his favourite of the year, and a brief wince-inducing moment for me personally as he turns his praise to an as-yet-unseen highly anticipated film of mine, Joachim Trier’s The Worst Person in the World.

When the time comes for questions, I am able to ask his opinion on whether the Oscars has lost its identity as an awards show, citing the contrast in taking certain awards off-air to retain a populist-entertainment feel whilst seeming on course to pick a film much more popular with critics than casual filmgoers in The Power of the Dog.

His response was largely in agreement that they are in danger of becoming a “muddled” awards show, referencing everchanging hosting preferences as reasons for his notion that “they don’t know what they want to do”. However, a link can be redrawn to our very own Barnes Film Festival through how Mr Battsek’s maintains that, much like BFF and regardless of any such qualms, “what happens on Oscars night almost always goes down in history.”

To bring the evening’s events to a close, he comes full circle with a subtly self-deprecating remark that with such talks, as well as with films in general, “shorter is better” – a vote of confidence indeed for any and all of the submissions in the short film categories in this year’s festival.

Written by Jack Wilson