Postcard from Sundance

Dark Horse director Louise Osmond on visiting Sundance for the first time, where her film premiered to critical acclaim and won the Audience Award for World Cinema Documentary.

Dark Horse: winner of the Audience Awards for World Documentary at Sundance

Dark Horse: winner of the Audience Awards for World Documentary at Sundance

Sundance has such a romance attached to it – the original indie festival – and I’m glad to say it genuinely lives up to its reputation. There is some madness out there – a swanky crowd who gather on the main street of Park City and swarm over celebrities like Chris Pine (we saw the swarm snaking down the road but not the man inside.)

But most of it is people who love film watching everything they can and a very warm atmosphere that gets film teams together in brunches and lunches and events that remind you why you love the job you do.

The producer, Judith Dawson and editor, Joby Gee were out there too and, nervous as cats, we waited for the premiere. Joby had one of his trademark fantastic/horrible shirts on – brown and blue dancing horses in 100% vintage rayon. Laughing at him proved oddly calming.  Coming out here, I’d thought – worried – a lot about whether American audiences would take to the story. In Park City, listening in the dark to every sigh or cough it seemed like they did but at a screening in Salt Lake City the next day it was louder and easier to read. They did seem to take to it and better still what they loved most about our fantastic characters – Jan and Brian, Howard and the others – was their spirit of defiance.

People will sometimes tell you America is a classless society but that news hasn’t reached Utah. Taking on the elite sport of kings with a horse bred on a slagheap allotment seemed to resonate very strongly with them. One man said: ‘Good to see people who aren’t respected getting the respect they deserve.’  Can’t argue with that.

Read more about Dark Horse: The Incredible True Story of Dream Alliance



Gearing up for the Glasgow Film Festival 2015

23 Jan, 2015 Posted in: Festivals, Glasgow

The Glasgow Film Festival programme is announced and features Film4-backed films Second Coming and Catch Me Daddy plus much, much more, from 18th February to 1st March

It’s almost time once more for the Glasgow Film Festival, and once again, its programmers have put together a cracking selection of films, including a few Film4 favourites. We’re delighted to have backed Debbie Tucker Green’s drama Second Coming, which receives its Scottish premiere at the festival. Starring Nadine Marshall and Idris Elba, it follows a tight family unit navigating their way through life in the aftermath of an unexplained pregnancy.

Second Coming

Second Coming

Also on a Film4 note, Daniel Wolfe’s Catch Me Daddy will play the festival, following its world premiere at Cannes in 2014. This dark, blisteringly tense thriller about a girl on the run stars award-winning newcomer Sameena Jabeen Ahmed and will be released in UK cinemas on February 27th.

Catch Me Daddy

Catch Me Daddy

Elsewhere, the festival explores Glasgow’s history on film in the Cinema City strand, looking at the way films like Under The Skin have made the most of the city as a location, while fans of classic cinema can revel in the glorious existence of an Ingrid Bergman retrospective.

Personally, I’m really looking forward to finally catching Carol Morley’s follow up to Dreams Of A Life, acclaimed teen hysteria drama The Falling. You can watch the trailer here:

The Glasgow Film Festival runs from 18th February to the 1st March. Click here to download and browse the complete programme.


Dark Horse: The Incredible True Story of Dream Alliance

As Louise Osmond’s inspirational documentary about an unlikely group of friends who breed themselves a racehorse is about to premiere at Sundance 2015, Catherine Bray catches up with the director for a quick chat about her inspiration for the film and hopes for Sundance 2015.

Dark Horse: The Incredible True Story of Dream Alliance

Dark Horse: The Incredible True Story of Dream Alliance

Apparently, Dark Horse came out of a desire on Louise Osmond’s part to make “the Rocky of horse documentaries.” It’s quite the pitch, and that’s exactly what she’s achieved. Dark Horse is the rags to riches tale of Dream Alliance, a horse from humble origins that goes on to gallop his way to success on some of the UK’s top racing tracks. The team who backed him weren’t wealthy playboys or landed gentry, but a syndicate from a down-on-its-luck Welsh village who decided to have a bash at succeeding in the so-called “sport of kings.”

Almost unbelievably, they made it. Louise credits much of the mad-cap project’s success to one woman: Jan Vokes is the fearless founder of the syndicate and the woman who first decided to breed a racehorse on a rubbish heap. “Jan is fearless really. In her lovely quiet way, she’s really inspirational. She has that attitude of ‘nope, I’m not going to let my circumstances or anyone else define me and my life.’”

Although the icy mountains of Salt Lake City, Utah, might seem like a bit of a contrast with the lush green Welsh valleys, Louise hopes Sundance audiences will relate to the film. “It’s interesting, our American publicist saw it and he really got it. We hope it’s universal enough that US audiences will see the situation, the place, the context, the village, the valley, and be able to relate it to their own country, place, state. There are a lot of places in US, after the economic crash, facing the same issues as those South Wales villages. And everyone speaks really clearly so hopefully the accents won’t be a problem!”

I can’t wait to hear how the film connects with US audiences at its premiere tomorrow (23rd January) and am also looking forward to interviewing Louise and the rest of her team in more depth closer to the film’s UK release via Picturehouses in April 2015 – watch this space.

Film4 at Berlin International Film Festival

15 Jan, 2015 Productions Posted in: Berlin, Festivals

Two Film4 films have been selected to screen at this year’s Berlin International Film Festival. Both films feature in the competition programme.

45 Years

45 Years

From the director of Weekend, writer-director Andrew Haigh’s 45 Years stars Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay as a couple whose seemingly contented lives are thrown into question when a letter from a past lover arrives in the post.

Dane DeHaan in Life

Dane DeHaan in Life

Anton Corbijn’s Life stars Dane DeHaan as James Dean and Robert Pattinson as Dennis Stock, the Magnum photographer commissioned to photograph the actor for LIFE Magazine in 1955.

Both films will receive their World Premieres at the festival.

The festival runs from 5th February to 14th February.

’71 and 20,000 Days On Earth, which featured in the 2014 festival, have both since received British Independent Film Awards and BAFTA nominations amongst a number of other accolades.


45 Years (Dir. Andrew Haigh)

The film follows Kate Mercer (Charlotte Rampling) in the five days leading up to her forty-fifth wedding anniversary. Party plans are going well, until a letter arrives for her husband (Tom Courtenay) informing him that the body of his first love has been found frozen in the icy glaciers of the Swiss Alps. As their anniversary celebrations grow closer, they delve further into their past, leaving their future in question.

Life (Dir. Anton Corbijn)

Life is inspired by the true story of a friendship that developed between Magnum photographer Dennis Stock (Robert Pattinson) and actor James Dean (Dane DeHaan) when Stock was commissioned to photograph the actor for LIFE magazine in 1955. Stock was 26 and old before his time, when into his buttoned-down world came fledgling star James Dean, a free spirit who would change popular culture from suits to jeans and from matinee idols to teenage heartthrobs. The assignment, which took the pair on a photographic journey across the US, from LA to New York and on to Indiana would change Stock’s life and provide the world with some of the most iconic images of the age.

Film4 at Sundance Film Festival

09 Dec, 2014 Productions Posted in: Festivals, Sundance

The selections for this year’s Sundance Film Festival have been revealed. Three Film4-backed films will feature at the festival, including two World Premieres.

John Maclean’s Slow West, starring Michael Fassbender and Kodi Smit-McPhee, features in the World Cinema Dramatic Competition.

Louise Osmond’s Dark Horse will feature in the World Cinema Documentary Competition.

Both films will receive their World Premieres at the festival.

Also featuring in the festival’s Spotlight selection is Yann Demange’s ’71, which last night won the Best Director award at the British Independent Film Awards.

The festival runs from 22nd January to 1st February in Park City, Salt Lake City, Ogden, and Sundance, Utah.

Slow West Dir. John Maclean


A western set in frontier America at the end of the 19th Century, Slow West utilises Colorado’s dramatic landscape as a setting for the unlikely crossing of Silas Selleck (Michael Fassbender), a wild and dangerous drifter, with guileless adolescent, Jay (Jodi Smit-McPhee). Here, in the dense and feral forests of the American West, where confrontation with a stranger would normally mean a duel to the death, Silas, instead of killing Jay, offers to protect him in exchange for cash. Jay has come to America to be reunited with the love of his life, Rose, a fugitive from their native Scotland. Silas’ true motivation, however, is as enigmatic as Jay’s is true-hearted. It is on his journey with this unlikely saviour, fraught with peril, betrayal and violence, that Jay is forced to question Silas’ loyalty towards him, as he realises all too late that America takes no pity on the innocent.

Dark Horse Dir. Louise Osmond


Dark Horse tells the larger than life true story of how a barmaid in a former mining village in South Wales bred a racehorse on her allotment that went on to become a champion. Jan had successfully bred dogs and birds and believed she could do the same with a different animal – though she knew nothing about racing and had never been on a horse. Convincing a handful of locals to part with ten pound a week for her scheme, she found a thoroughbred mare with a terrible racing record for £300, a stallion past his best, put them together and – against all the odds – bred a winner. It’s an audacious tale of luck and chance and beating the odds; a story of how a gaggle of working class folk from the Welsh Valleys took on the racing elite, broke through class and financial barriers, and brought hope and pride back to their depressed community. Dark Horse is an inspirational, emotional story with as many heart-stopping moments as any ‘jump’ race; it’s a story about dreams coming true.

‘71 Dir. Yann Demange

71 jack o connell

A young British soldier is accidentally abandoned by his unit following a terrifying riot on the streets of Belfast in 1971. Unable to tell friend from foe, the raw recruit must survive the night alone and find his way to safety through a disorienting, alien and deadly landscape.