madeira film festival moviescope

Madeira Film Festival – movieScope

Madeira Film Festival

There are well in excess of 4000 film festivals in the world, catering for all cinematic tastes and diversions, as well as locales, with London being one of the most intense. Not a week passes without at least one film festival dedicated to specialist genres or catering for the huge multicultural diaspora that inhabit the metropolis. While the city offers something for every film afficianado, sometimes you want to escape to somewhere more relaxing, free from the distractions of everyday urban living.

With so many film festivals available to choose from internationally, the idea of taking a film festival holiday seems like a very smart idea. Some of the world’s leading (and exotic) vacation destinations hold film festivals. Fancy the souks of Morrocco? Why not take in the Marrakesh Film Festival? If Greece takes your fancy, Thessaloniki holds two festivals a year. Further afield, Hawaii has festivals on several of its islands, or maybe the Caribbean delights of the Bahamas are for you. If islands in the sun are your preferred destination, then Madeira, off the Atlantic coast of North Africa is definitely worth a look, and the island’s relatively new festival, which just completed its third edition, has a programme curated to complement the island’s natural splendour.

As befits a place with a subtropical climate and Latino culture, the festival is not packed with a hectic schedule of multiple screenings. The films are shown at the stunning Teatro Municipal, with screenings beginning at the very civilised hour of two in the afternoon, with the last screening at nine o’clock in the evening. All films shown at the festival have a nature/environmental theme, but are far from being a series of documentaries preaching an impending apocalypse.

This year’s opening night film was the Estonian comedy Mushrooming, about a hapless politician who becomes lost in a forest with his wife whilst looking for mushrooms. At the other end of the dramatic spectrum was Thomas Vinterberg’s The Hunt. There were visual poems, such as Kiss the Water by Eric Steel (The Bridge), and controversial films such as Blackfish and Fuck for Forest. This diversity was also applied to the shorts programming, which included a dedicated animation strand.

As with any good film festival, there were workshops with visiting filmmakers, held at the luxurious Reid’s Palace Hotel, covering important topics such as Get Your Film Seen, run by Andy Heathcote and Heike Batchelier (of Moo Man fame), to Scriptwriting with Lisa Scott Gordon. Every afternoon there were free filmmaker discussions covering topics such as The Landscape as Character, and the music industry. These were accompanied by free tastings of the seemingly ever-present Madeira wine.

The festival also put on some social events, held at the luxurious Reid’s Palace Hotel. On Thursday night was a performance by Nashville band Escondido, followed by a fashion show from the island’s top designer Patrícia Pinto. The proceeds of evening went to local children’s charity Gil Foundation, of which the festival is a key supporter. The closing night of the festival was celebrated with a lavish dinner and a Scottish ceilidh, with musicians Lori Watson and Fiona Black performing, again with proceeds going to the charity. The festival does not award prizes to the films, instead it gives The Laurissilva Ambassador Award to festival delegates and attending filmmakers.

One of the remits of the festival, apart from raising awareness of the Laurassilva Forest, is to expand the cinematic horizons of the local population by running filmmaking workshops with local schools, which resulted in the completion of two films, one about the local surfing community and the other about a little-known legend from the island.

For filmmakers, the island has a lot more to offer than simply a place to show a film. It has a lot to offer as a filming location. From the sub-tropical coastal regions, to mountainous cliffs, to stark forests and snow-covered plains of its highest mountains, combined with the ancient architecture of its long history, it has something for all genres. It is not hard to imagine episodes of Game of Thrones being set here. Apart from the main island, Madeira has two smaller islands a short boat or helicopter ride away offering further scenic diversity, including deserts. As a major tourism spot it offers top-level hotel accommodation, from five-star colonial opulence of Reid’s Palace (a worthy location in its own right), to a range of modern luxury hotels from chains such as Pestana. There is an excellent modern infrastructure that includes stable, high-speed Internet, with free wi-fi widely available; excellent mobile coverage, even on the highest regions; recently upgraded roads that make travel throughout the island fast and easy; good airline connections from Europe and US; and while Portuguese is the local tongue, almost everyone speaks English. Anyone looking to use the island for a movie or photographic location should contact the local locations management team at Firecrest Independent (

If you are looking to combine a holiday in the sun with a rich and varied film festival programme, or for a little-seen shooting location, then Madeira is definitely the place to go.



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