Onscreen at Offscreen

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March was a busy month for The Creeping Garden, with a volley of screenings across the world, virtually all attended by Tim or me (Jasper), either individually or together. Not even a week after getting back from Plymouth, the two of us were already heading down on the Eurostar to the next very different festival – the quite fantastic Offscreen in Brussels, where the film screened on 8 March in one of the funkiest cinema venues in the known world, the Cinema Nova.

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This was my second time at Offscreen, after a visit 2 years ago to introduce a  series of films from the Japanese studio Nikkatsu. It was just as friendly and relaxed as I remembered it, due to its wonderfully welcoming core of staff, which includes Dirk van Extergem, Wim Castermans, Vanessa Sutour, Micha Pletinckx and Gilles Vrankx among others, and the fine array of incapacitating Belgian beers served up in the Cinema Nova bar.

Much like Brussels itself, the festival is a chilled out affair full of hidden treasures. The programme spread out over a period of just over three weeks (4-27 March) is large enough to contain enough rare treats to please everyone, but intelligently organised so that everything links up and adds context to everything else.

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The Creeping Garden itself was apparently the inspiration behind the ‘Botanicals’ strand of films about killer plants, with airings of The Day of the Triffids (1962), Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) and Little Shop of Horrors (both 1960 and 1986 versions) alongside little-known obscurities such as 1000 Rosen (1994) by Dutch director Theo Boermans and one of our own personal faves, Matango: Attack of the Mushroom People (1962). Best of all, the Offscreen guys are all real cinema purists, so everything was shown off 35mm wherever possible, or occasionally off 16mm, and the whole venue kitted out with various cinephilic paraphernalia related to the programme, including original posters and a life-size Matango stood at the entrance.

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Mark Hartley’s documentary Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films provided the impetus for a nostalgic second focus on the VHS action-movie fodder churned out by Cannon films during the 1980s and a symposium on ‘Reaganite Cinema’, while Texas Chainsaw Massacre director Tobe Hooper was also in town the same weekend as this year’s Guest of Honour, as was Stephen Thrower, the moderator for his onstage masterclass, and the affable Peter Strickland, presenting his quite astonishingly beautiful latest work Duke of Burgundy.

It was quite an honour to be able to rub shoulders with such wonderful filmmakers. I don’t know if the influences of either director are apparent to outsiders, but certainly both cropped up in conversation fairly regularly while we were making The Creeping Garden. Suffice it to say that thanks to the efforts of its organisers, we certainly felt quite at home at Offscreen.

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