Aurora Belfast Film Festival

Film screenings in Templemore Baths and Bangor Castle Walled Garden? James Meredith browses the full August programme

With the recent – not to mention uncommon – summer sunshine, it’s fair to say that a trip to the darkened environs of your local multiplex or art house cinema hasn’t been high on the list of ‘things to do' for many this summer. But the Belfast Film Festival’s summer programme, interestingly entitled Aurora, is sure to change that.

The festival, which ran a highly successful 13th annual programme back in April, has organised a series of site-specific screenings taking place throughout August, which should tempt lovers of cinema away from their back garden barbeques and into the city.

Highlights from April’s festival included a screening of Cool Hand Luke at Crumlin Road Gaol, as well as Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead 2 in Ormeau Park. And the BFF looks to add to its reputation for taking film out of the multiplex and into the heart of the city with screenings in Templemore Baths, at St George's Clock and elsewhere.

Running from the end of July to August 31, Aurora kicks off on Saturday, July 27 with a free screening of two classic episodes of Aaron Sorkin’s acclaimed Washington political drama, The West Wing, showing in our very own seat of power, the Great Hall at Parliament Buildings in Stormont.

Originally broadcast from 1999 to 2006, The West Wing won three Golden Globes and 26 Emmy awards. This wonderfully thought-out screening includes the episode ‘Two Cathedrals', regarded by some as the best hour of television ever made.

Elsewhere, cult horror fans are well served with a special screening of Italian maestro Dario Argento’s 1977 masterpiece Suspiria at the Waterfront Hall Studio on Thursday, August 15, with influential Italian prog-rock band Goblin (they also provided the score for George A Romero’s Dawn of the Dead) performing live soundtrack accompaniment.

And the abandoned swimming pool of Templemore Baths is an appropriately spooky location for a special screening of the 2001 cult psychological horror film Session 9, on Thursday, August 1.

Starring David Caruso and Peter Mullan, the film – set in an abandoned mental hospital in Danvers, Massachusetts – focuses on the growing tension within an asbestos removal crew. As they struggle to meet a nearly impossible deadline, the haunted atmosphere of the asylum begins to work on the minds of the men, each of whom harbour a dangerous secret...

From an abandoned swimming pool to a fully immersive experience, BFF has teamed up with Bangor Aurora and Open House Bangor for 'Jaws Swim Club’, on Saturday, August 10 – a screening of Steven Speilberg’s classic 'shark in the water' thriller starring Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss and Robert Shaw at the state of the art, Olympic-sized swimming pool. Remember to bring your swimming togs (shark cage optional).

If your movie tastes run to more lighthearted and humorous fare, then Police Squad! and Naked Gun! Night could be for you. Join host Joe Lindsay on Friday, August 9 at the Black Box on Hill Street for a screening of two classic episodes of the TV adventures of Leslie Nielsen’s Lt. Frank Drebin, followed by the first (and best) in the movie franchise, co-starring Priscilla Presley and her recently stuffed semi-aquatic rodent.

As an added bonus you can stick around for the Blue Oyster Bar Disco. Fancy dress as your favourite police officer is encouraged. There’s even free donuts to get you in the mood.

Comedy fans can also get a lunchtime fix of fun at the BFF Beanbag cinema in Donegal Street, with a series of comedy classics featuring The Marx Brothers, The Three Stooges, Jacques Tati, Peter Sellers and Woody Allen showing throughout the Aurora season.

Another special outdoor screening is director Carol Reed’s classic Belfast noir Odd Man Out on Saturday, August 31 at Custom House Square. Starring James Mason, this tale of a seriously wounded IRA man on the run through the streets of Belfast – who meets a succession of people who either want to help him or turn him over to the authorities – is a true classic.

Featuring iconic Belfast landmarks the Albert Clock, the Harland and Wolff shipyards, and a faithfully recreated set of The Crown Bar, Odd Man Out is one of the finest films set ever produced on these shores, and this special screening under the shadow of the Albert Clock itself will be one of the highlights of the cultural year.

Outside of Belfast there is a screening of Sense and Sensibility, the 1995 adaptation of Jane Austin's classic novel at Bangor Castle Walled Garden. Directed by Ang Lee, the visionary behind last summer's Life of Pi, and starring Emma Thompson, this screening comes replete with champagne and strawberries. A screening for the rom-com crowd if ever there was one.

Perhaps the most exciting site specific screening during Aurora, however, is that of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey 40 feet below sea level at the dry dock at Titanic Quarter in Belfast. The most influential sci-fi film ever made, Kubrick’s 1968 epic is a poetic meditation on the ingenuity and folly of mankind.

If you’ve only ever seen the movie on a television screen, it’s fair to say you haven’t truly experienced it. On a cinema screen it’s magical. One can only guess at how mind-blowing an experience it will be on Friday, August 23 at the first ever public event inside the dry dock.

It is advised that you dress in warm clothing for all outdoor screenings – because let's be honest, it's unlikely that the sun is going to stick around for the duration. But there will be plenty to divert your attention from the evening chill with this wonderful programme of classic films in unlikely places.

View the full Aurora programme, and book tickets, via the Belfast Film Festival website.