276-2141387-affiche-24e-festival-dinard-copie“I knew next to nothing about Dinard, and also it’s just me and the producer here and she didn’t really tell me anything.” It’s a warm October day in the French village of Dinard, and Chloe Pirrie, star of the acclaimed Brit-flick Shell is talking with me about her experiences of the town’s festival of British film.” “It’s much more chilled out, and schedules are much less rigid”, she continues, “and general conveying of people from one place to another is much less rigid than I’ve ever experienced before”

And she’s not alone. The festival has an incredibly relaxed atmosphere, where any sense of formality is subverted by a combination of small-town friendliness and free-flowing drink. In the most pleasant way possible, it’s utterly bizarre. As Spike Island writer, Chris Coghill puts it, “Technically we’re supposed to be in competition with each other, but everybody’s just getting on really nicely and hanging out.”

The Festival, which has been running in the Brittany coastal resort since 1990, aims to introduce the cream of the crop of British movies to an audience of French cinephiles. Over that period it’s provided a European launching platform for movies as diverse as Shallow Grave and Billy Elliott, and this year includes awards favourite The Selfish Giant, period drama Summer in February and forthcoming comedy Hello Carter.

For Pirrie, this is the final leg of a festival tour that has taken in San Sebastian, Turin and last year’s London Film Festival. And as the movie’s not in competition, her time in Dinard is fairly relaxed. When I asked her what she’d been up to she talked of walking by the sea, and buying postcards, as well as introducing the film to the audience before the screening, “One of them I managed to do in French, which I’m very proud of,” she reveals.

Festival du Film de DinardThat interaction with the audience is a key part of the festival’s appeal. While Cannes is full of VIP areas and velvet ropes, Dinard – well, Dinard simply isn’t. If you hold a ticket for a screening there’s a good chance you’ll be sat alongside the person you’re watching up on screen. Meanwhile, the closest you’ll get to a private party is a small section of a local nightclub set aside for festival pass holders.

“Everyone’s on the same level, there’s no ‘us’ and ‘them’,” explains Spike Island director Mat Whitecross, “there’s no VIP bit, everyone’s just hanging out, and as soon as you come out the theatre today, all the people are being swarmed.”

For those unused to that level of public interaction, like Spike Island and The Selfish Giant actor, Elliott Tittensor, it can be a strange experience, “It’s weird. I’m not used to it. Because everyone’s French it doesn’t seem real. It’s like I’m not getting the compliments because I can’t understand what they’re saying. They’re probably coming up to me, expressing how much they didn’t like my performance in it, and I’m like, ‘merci, merci’.”

Festival du Film de DinardOf course, there is also the competitive element of the festival, and this year the big winner was The Selfish Giant which took home three awards, including the festival’s main prize, the Golden Hitchcock, while Spike Island’s Chris Coghill took home the prize for best screenplay. Which for Coghill, who is also a contender for ‘Nicest Man in the Film Industry’, was only the second best part of his festival.

“Obviously the most important thing is that I met Eric Cantona.” He explains, “My opening gambit when I spoke to him last night was, ‘I’m sorry to interrupt, but I’ve just got to say that I’m a massive Manchester United fan’. And he went, ‘I am a Spike Island fan’. I can go home now. That’ll do. It was lovely. He said that he really enjoyed the film.”