University of Aberdeen: Audiences spy Bond franchise alumni at Dark Nights Film Festival

Movie fans were left stirred – not shaken – after veterans of the James Bond franchise shared their industry experience, insight and stories as Dark Nights, Aberdeen’s new film festival, got underway.

Legendary British editor John Grover, award-winning cinematographer Phil Meheux and screen icon Martine Beswick were in the Granite city to talk about the 007 universe and more as part of the two-day mini festival created by the University of Aberdeen.

The sold-out ‘Shaken Not Stirred – Bond: Past, Present & Future’ brought around 70 people to King’s College Conference Centre ahead of a Q&A with the film stalwarts whose prolific careers encompass both the behind the scenes and on-camera sides of the industry.

Jamaica-born Beswick, whose roles include ‘From Russia With Love’ and ‘Thunderball’ as well as ‘One Million Years B.C.’ and Oliver Stone’s directorial debut ‘Seizure’, shared her memories of working with Sean Connery and her thoughts on the strength and power that came with being a ‘Bond girl’, describing the overall Bond experience as being “like a family”.

Grover, whose resume includes ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ as well as such classic Bond films as ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’, ‘Octopussy’, ‘The Living Daylights’ and ‘Licence to Kill’ recalled what is was like living and working around film sets, as well as what he thinks is needed to make a memorable Bond theme song and title sequence.

Meanwhile ‘GoldenEye’ and ‘Casino Royale’ cinematographer Meheux, whose wider work includes ‘The Saint’ and ‘The Core’, recalled working with Pierce Brosnan, Daniel Craig’s screentest for the infamous role and his memories of some of the franchises biggest stunts.

Dark Nights continues on Saturday, March 5 with a full programme of events including a panel discussion on Driving Diversity in the Arts. Join the conversation looking at how encourage inclusion in the film industry in a free to attend session at 11am with guests Alexandra Maria Colta from the 50/50 Women Direct, Scottish Documentary Institute; Dr Clive Nwonka, lecturer in Film, Culture and Society at University College London; and Ica Headlam, founder of community interest group ‘We Are Here Scotland’.

It was a terrific start to our brand new UNI-Versal series and it was wonderful for the University to be able to host this sort of community event again after two long years.”
Professor Peter Edwards, Vice-Principal of Regional Engagement and Regional Recovery
This will be followed at 12.45pm by a presentation by Borders-born director Naomi Holwill on her new documentary ‘Images of Apartheid’ that remembers the recently unearthed Black action films of the apartheid era in South Africa and reflects on what this means for aspiring South African filmmakers and fans today.

Edinburgh-based author Jonathan Melville will also be present to answer audience questions after a showing of Highlander at 3pm, with a focus on his epic book that covers the entire production history of the Celtic sci-fi smash-hit.

The festival closes with a special screening of the seminal 1979 horror film ‘Zombie Flesh Eaters’ at King’s College from 8pm, followed by a Q&A with its star, Scottish actor Ian McCulloch.

Professor Peter Edwards, Vice-Principal of Regional Engagement and Regional Recovery at the University, said: “We were delighted to welcome both our special guests and members of the public to the Old Aberdeen campus for the inaugural Dark Nights Film Festival. It was a terrific start to our brand new UNI-Versal series and it was wonderful for the University to be able to host this sort of community event again after two long years.

“Each multi-artform festival within UNI-Versal seeks to provide exactly this sort of shared experience across the year, while promoting Aberdeen, Scotland, and its stories. Working with our partner organisations, our aim is to encourage students, staff, locals and visitors from far and wide to enjoy coming together in our historic campus to celebrate creativity, diversity and to experience Aberdeen in a meaningful way.”

The UNI-Versal series continues on May 27-28 with the Festival of New Ideas, a unique profile of Scotland’s most innovative and cutting-edge research, ideas and inventions. The second mini festival, it will focus on themes such as environment and biodiversity, data and AI and energy transition, bringing together the region’s brightest minds to showcase some of the global research that’s currently taking place in the North-east of Scotland.

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