Nestled atop a cliff facing the Atlantic Ocean, the Madeira Micro International Film Festival takes place in a cinema nearly a century old in a sleepy village surrounded by a jagged, forest landscape. For four days in mid-December each year, around 150 film aficionados descend upon this picturesque setting for an intimate film festival that aims to present the best new films yet to be released in cinemas.
With no more than two films per day, the festival founder and programmer, Michael Rosen, is confident he’s picked the most compelling films to lure people away from the charms of the village’s pebble beach and wild sea into the cinema for the evening. It’s not just the minimalistic, streamlined programme that differentiates this festival from all the others. The distinct concept of this festival is to combine stunning films with an equally stunning location and, at the same time, offer attendees an unparalleled sense of freedom to explore and relax in the daytime, before the first film begins in the early evening. The unique programme format is divided by a two hour window for dinner, with a film before and after followed by drinks. Although winter may be well under way in Berlin and London, in Madeira the skies are blue and the sun makes spectacular appearances throughout the winter season, so it was pleasantly surprising to get away with wearing shorts on a few occasions.
The film programme this year leant towards suspense, supernatural and horror genres, aptly fitting the dramatic rocky backdrop provided by the island. Peter Strickland’s dark melodrama The Duke of Burgundy (2014) was a real highlight, depicting a complex lesbian relationship between an amateur butterfly expert and her younger, salacious lover who insists on elaborate slave-master sex games. Cinematographer, Nic Knowland, achieves dreamy, saturated visuals for the action, whilst the two lead actresses, Sidse Babett Kundsen and Chiara D’Anna, deliver memorable, nuanced performances.
Rocks in My Pockets (2014) by Latvian artist, animator and filmmaker Signe Baumane, was the most challenging and provoking film of the festival – quite rightly voted for as Best Film of the festival by the jury. The film is based on true events involving the women of Baumane’s family and their battles with madness. A deeply moving yet often darkly funny investigation into the determining factors of depression and madness, Baumane’s animated film stood out as a very personal and creative work.
This festival may well be one of the most of intimate, picturesque boutique festivals in the world and we’re already looking forward to next year’s festival.
Read our Industry Profile of festival founder and director, Michael Rosen, here.