I WENT to the moon on Saturday. Just for a few minutes.
It was that kind of day. I couldn’t have lingered if I’d wanted. Paris was calling for an afternoon rendezvous.
Sunday was equally hectic. From Spain to Mexico by mid-afternoon and just time to squeeze in a Polar expedition before supper.
I travelled swiftly through space, time and history thanks to other people’s imaginations.
And when it all stopped, I felt curiously bereft. Monday I came down to earth – and work – with a bump.
The man sitting behind me on Sunday night probably had it about right.
“I’ve taken the week off work and aim to see as many as I can.”
You’ve guessed it, we are talking films here. And be warned. I’m willing to reel on and on.
I’ve always been a film devotee so when a friend dropped in a brochure for Holmfirth Film Festival asking was there anything I wanted to see, I knew I was in trouble.
What would I not want to see? It felt like “Here’s your starter for 10”. There was a challenge coming on.
My absolute must was The Great White Silence, Herbert Ponting’s 1924 documentary about Captain Scott’s doomed race to the Antarctic South Pole. Check my bookcase and next to Shackleton and Thesiger, you’ll find Robert Falcon Scott. No brainer this one then.
And I can make an equal case for peering into The Mexican Suitcase.
In the late Eighties, one of my weekly jobs as a junior reporter was to trawl through Examiner archives and write a few paragraphs from 50 and 25 years ago.
Instead of concentrating on the doings of the great, and also the not so good, of Huddersfield, I found myself being ambushed week in week out by horrifying reports about the Spanish Civil War.
I was bursting with questions about it but this was a tragedy that no-one at home, particularly my grandparents, wanted to talk about. What to me was history fresh off the pages of my own newspaper was all too real in their memories.
So I just had to lift the lid of The Mexican Suitcase to learn more about the Spanish Civil War.
My first festival outing though was a long shot. An irresistible invitation to share Le Voyage Dans La Lune, the cinema’s first science fiction film.
If only NASA had listened. A century ago, French film-maker Georges Melies had the journey timed to perfection. A trip to the moon, sir? Certainly sir.
No there’s no training or special kit. Come as you are. And the travelling time? Fourteen minutes.
Mind, the return trip could be quicker as that’s down to a quick shove off the moon’s rockiest cliff – and a piece of string.
It was glorious stuff. Early on a Saturday afternoon, the Picturedrome in Holmfirth was packed, mainly with families, and off we went.
It was a wizard journey full of character and charm as a group of French astronomers did the impossible and put a rocket through the eye of the moon.
The festival organisers followed that with Martin Scorsese’s enchanting film, Hugo. I was in heaven.
It was a perfect pairing. Scorsese’s obvious passion for the wonders of early cinema and film restoration are used winningly in Hugo which is no more or less than a fable for the power of film to win hearts and change lives.
And the way the movie echoes Melies’ pioneering work in 1902 says much about the ghosts of early film who continue to provide the key to the creativity which is at the heart of all modern film.
You can tell, I was, by now, on a roll.
Nothing could have been more different from the beautifully tinted picture book quality of Scorsese’s film than the next film on my viewing list.
Trisha Ziff’s The Mexican Suitcase is part detective story, part homage to the first modern war photojournalists but also a window on a chapter in the Spanish Civil War which is seldom shared.
Five years ago, three boxes turned up in a cupboard in Mexico. They contained 4,500 negatives long thought lost in the chaos of the Second World War.
Thousands of monochrome images taken by iconic photographers Robert Capa, Gerda Taro and David Seymour propelled us on a journey documenting the brutal reality of what the Spanish people endured during those years and how it changed their history and in many ways, their future.
Here we saw up close the horror of the battlefield, of Spaniards left to fend for themselves in camps on French beaches and of others heading still further into exile though to a far warmer welcome at the hands of the Mexican government.
This film saw generations locked together by memories and mysteries. Some grieving for the lives and country they left behind, others searching for explanations about a generation of their family which simply disappeared.
History might hurt, but you can’t ignore it said one young woman, holding the only photograph she had of her grandfather. It was taken when he was drafted and now she hopes for answers as archaeologists dig at a mass grave.
Film and photographs by another pioneering photographer, this time Herbert Ponting, create an extraordinary atmosphere in The Great White Silence.
Newly restored by the BFI, this remarkable account of Scott’s endeavours in the Antarctic is yet another testament to man’s tenacious grip on the appeal of unknown places.
Today’s TV generation is used to having access to inaccessible places made possible at the push of a button. Think how audiences in the 1920s must have reacted to the awesome sights filmed by Ponting, of whales, penguins and seals in their natural environments. Of monstrous crystal ice-caves, the unending whiteness of fields of pack ice and inevitably, the heart-breaking stoicism of men facing certain death.
Film can take us all on the most incredible journeys into our history and the hearts and mind of others. A trip to the moon? We could be back for lunch!