Telling it like it is
Jill Green, new artistic director of Aldeburgh DocFest
I meet Jill Green, over breakfast, at the East Coast Café in Aldeburgh – and the first thing I notice is her immaculate French manicure. Must have cost a fortune.
“They’re stuck on! £7.99 from Boots,” she laughs. I think how appropriate that the new artistic director of Aldeburgh Documentary Film Festival tells it exactly like it is. Already a festival trustee, Jill is CEO of Eleventh Hour Films, the production company responsible for major TV successes like Foyle’s War, Collision, and the recent Safe House. She is also on the board of Chichester Festival.
‘Diana’s energy and professionalism have been an inspiration and like her, I’m passionate about documentaries’
Jill knew it would be a huge task to take overfrom Diana Quick, whose seven-year stint as director of DocFest, brought world-class talent to Aldeburgh.
“Diana’s energy and professionalism have been an inspiration and like her, I’m passionate about documentaries. I’ve been attending this festival, as an excited punter, for the last 5 years.”
As part of her preparation, she visited the Sheffield Documentary Festival recently. “I watched everything and I worked out my own strategy for Aldeburgh. Some festivals are relentlessly dark, but I wanted to include fun, as well as thought-provoking, subjects. I am most pleased at bringing Asif Kapadia, Oscar winning director of Amy, Senna and a new film on Maradona, to Aldeburgh to receive the Outstanding Contribution to Documentary Award. He is truly remarkable and he will be interviewed on his work.”
The 23rd DocFest takes place over the weekend November 3-5. Jill has assembled a wonderful diversity of subjects and content. The Workers Cup is a modern slavery story, as a group of foreign workers are lured to Qatar, believing they will become footballers – and decide to form their own team. Daughters of the Curved Moon – a UK Premiere - exposes the traditional role of women, against the breathtaking backdrop of the Himalayas. There’s tragedy and insight in City of Ghosts – which chronicles the dangers for journalists under ISIS (a panel discussion includes Nick Robinson and Jeremy Bowen), The Gatekeepers features revealing interviews with former heads of the Israeli secret service – and war photographer Don McCullin talks candidly about his career. But there is fun and laughter, as Happy goes in search of happiness, and entertainment with Alan Yentob’s colourful documentary, Musicals!, on the Jewish influence in American musicals.
“After which, Alan Yentob is in conversation with novelist and screenwriter Anthony Horowitz – my husband,” Jill reveals. They have had a home in Orford for the last 18
years, where she tries to relax. “My husband says the phone is my lifeblood, but I actually hate the telephone and much prefer email or texts, especially as I’m often working at the ‘fringes’ of the day – very, very early or unsociably late.” Their sons, Nicholas, 29, and Cassian, 27, have inherited their parents’ communication and creative genes and formed a marketing company together, ‘a start-up business for start-ups’ called The Clerkenwell Brothers. Jill can’t hide her pride and pleasure in their success. “Their offices are above my offices and I love seeing how they operate and work together.”
Jill sums up her hopes for the DocFest by saying that she wanted, above all, to find great stories, some of which would suit younger audiences, 20somethings, like her sons, and she’s thought carefully about where to place each film.
“For instance, at 7 pm Saturday November 4, we have a crazy, stunning film called Brimstone & Treacle, about a chaotic pyrotechnic festival in a Mexican town, that make their own fireworks. It’s competitive and the exhibits are dangerous. The cinematographer risked his life filming there. It lasts just over an hour, so there’s still time to head for the Bonfire Night party afterwards.” The festival opens with Steps, a punchy, uplifting story of young AfricanAmerican women, edging into womanhood, in the unrest and racism of Baltimore. Given a place in college, they form a step dance team. Tottenham MP David Lammy will attend this screening.
“To close the festival, I wanted a film with a community feeling, so I chose Pecking Order, a heartwarming and hilarious look at a Poultry Club – ‘chicken fanciers’ – competition in New Zealand.” Already, I’m laughing. I shake Jill’s beautifully manicured hand and wish her luck. But I think she’s already nailed it.
The Aldeburgh Documentary Festival runs November 3-5 at Aldeburgh Cinema Details and booking www.aldeburghcinema.co.uk Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: 01728 454 884 Box Office: 10am-1pm Monday-Friday, or call at the cinema.
‘It’s competitive and the exhibits are dangerous’
A STILL FROM PECKING ORDER, a New Zealand film about a Poultry Club competition