In sight of the sea, and prominent on the promenade, the chubby statue of Alfred Hitchcock is festooned with a flock of French sea gulls.
The renowned UK film director is the "patron saint" of this annual festival of British Cinema, which takes place in Dinard, on Brittany's Emerald Coast. This month the festival entered its 16th year.
It's always a great pleasure to visit Dinard, especially when you are associated with a film. The last time I was there was when Lawless Heart (directors, Tom Hunsinger and Neil Hunter) was selected for competition in 2002.
This year I was back as executive producer of the black comedy Festival, the debut film of director Annie Griffin, which was in competition for 'l'Hitchcock d'Or' - the Golden Hitchcock - which is the festival's main prize.
Birmingham also had a role to play in Dinard - primarily in the elegant guise of the Birmingham born actor, Charles Dance, who this year was honoured with the role of festival president. Charles Dance's debut as director with the Dames Judi Dench and Maggie Smith, Ladies in Lavender, was also being shown.
The festival celebrates UK cinema with premiere screenings of many new films including those yet to secure French distribution. It's a testament to the cinematic commitment of the French that, even in such a small town as Dinard, a festival of this size is mounted every year, attended by UK film producers, directors, actors, writers and their French film equivalents. Each screening is packed with Dinard's film-loving audiences.
In all, 50 films are presented in a number of strands. Sally Potter's post-9/11 cross-cultural romance, Yes, was the opening film. Both the director and the film's lead actor, Simon Abkarian, were present to introduce this timely story of a passionate love affair between an American woman and a Middle Eastern man. The film elegantly confronts contemporary questions of religion, politics and sexuality.
The festival in 2005 also paid homage with career retrospectives to two great film stylists, the directors Nic Roeg and Neil Jordan, who both gave masterclasses. In a cute programming juxtaposition, Nic Roeg's Performance from 1970 starring Mick Jagger was screened the same afternoon as Stephen Woolley's recent Stoned, a chronicle of the death of the Rolling Stones founder-member, Brian Jones. An executive producer of Stoned is Birmingham-based Gary Smith.
To complement the Neil Jordan retrospective (films such as The Crying Game, Michael Collins and Mona Lisa) the director's latest film, Breakfast on Pluto, was also screened. This film, yet to be released in the UK or France, reunites Jordan with the writer Patrick McCabe, whose novel The Butcher Boy he adapted in 1998.
Set in Ireland and England in the mid to late 1970's, Breakfast on Pluto charts the adolescent progress of Patrick Braden, a witty, clever and deceptively tough tranvestite from a tiny Irish village.
A marvellously androgenous performance from Cillian Murphy is supported by a cream of Irish acting talent, most notable of which is Stephen Rea's morose magician. Kitschy love songs of the 70's gives this film a real "sugar baby love" atmosphere.
The festival jury included Full Monty screenwriter Simon Beaufoy and actors Timothy Spall and John Lynch, and was chaired by Regis Wargnier, renowned French director of Indochine.
Apart from Festival, films in competition were Colour Me Kubrick by Brian Cook; Gypo by Jan Dunn; In My Father's Den by Brad McGann; Opal Dream by Peter Cattaneo; and Stoned by Stephen Woolley.
The jury's favourite film, picking up two prizes including the Golden Hitchcock, was In My Father's Den, a UK/New Zealand film of dark secrets uncovered when a wandering son, played by Matthew Mac-Fadyen, returns to his family and boyhood home.
Annie Griffin's film, Festival, also picked up one of Dinard's main prizes - the Best Script Award.
Nestling amongst the UK films in the competition strand was Jan Dunn's Gypo, the first UK film shot under "Dogma" guidelines. Produced in the south of England, the film charts the impact an asylum seeking young woman has on the lives of a local family. Filmed digitally and improvisationally on the south coast, Gypo firmly establishes Margate, after The Last Resort and Tracey Emin's Top Spot, on the UK film map.
The festival concluded with the annual exchange between UK and French producers, when a range of mutual film production matters were discussed, including how regions in the two countries could co-produce together, and the implications of the "cultural test" currently being considered by the Government as part of its review of tax raised financing for UK film.