Villagers get dolled up for film premiere

A scene from the film Tortoise in Love

A poster for the movie

First published in News Herald Series: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter covering Didcot and Wallingford. Call me on 01865 425425

LONDON’s Leicester Square is only a quick coach ride away from Kingston Bagpuize and Southmoor.

But the journey for budget movie Tortoise in Love, from shooting scenes to its premiere on the big screen, has been a mammoth one for the villagers who helped to make it.

It has taken more than three years for the movie to hit the big screen and on Thursday, 700 villagers will join director Guy Browning at the premiere at the Odeon West End in Leicester Square.

The romantic comedy tells the story of gardener Tom, played by Tom Mitchelson, from London, who falls in love with Polish au pair Anya, played by Alice Zawadzki, a former pupil of Larkmead School in Abingdon.

Following the premiere, the £180,000 budget movie will be released in cinemas across the UK on Friday, July 13.

Writer and director Mr Browning, 47, of Southmoor, said: “It’s amazing that 700 people are coming along to the premiere, but they all helped out in some way with the making of film – from financing it to being runners on the set, doing the catering or putting the cast and crew up in their homes.

“Lots of people from the area are actually in the film, even if they are only there as extras. There was intense competition to play the village idiot.

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“People in the village are incredibly excited about the premiere and have been rushing into Debenhams to get their posh frocks for the big night – it’s going to be a real party atmosphere.

“We will be parking a Massey Ferguson tractor outside the cinema to show that the yokels have arrived, and local farmer David Christensen and his wife Cath will step out in their evening finery plus Wellington boots.

“Although three years has felt quite a long time for villagers, it is actually the standard industry time for a film to get from script to screen.”

Mr Browning added: “Seven hundred villagers are going, with 500 on the coaches and 200 making their own way there.

“Then there will another 100 people, including press and sponsors, so the 800-seat cinema will be full.”

The movie was shot in Kingston Bagpuize with residents clubbing together to fund it and providingcostumes, hairstyling and accommodation. The village Women’s Institute did the catering.

The film was shown at the Cannes Film Festival last year and got a good reception.

Wantage MP and Culture Minister Ed Vaizey also appeared in the movie. He said: “Guy Browning, who worked so hard to make his vision a reality, and the hundreds of villagers who made it happen, deserve nothing less than this full-blooded premiere in the world’s greatest film square.”

The film will also be released in cinemas in Australia and New Zealand on July 13.

A six-minute film made by Govind Chandran and his film students at Oxford Brookes University has been taken to this year’s Cannes Film Festival. The movie was made using footage of a 90-minute psychological thriller called Mask of Insanity.

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