Graham Greene is primarily known today as the novelist who penned such classics as Brighton Rock and Our Man in Havana. Some readers may also know him as a screenwriter, most famous for the film noir classic The Third Man, which is celebrating the 70th anniversary of its first release this year. Relatively few readers today, however, will be familiar with Greene’s substantial body of work as a film reviewer.
Greene was, however, one of the creators of the film noir genre.
Writing in The Guardian in 2004, Adrian Wootton observed that “Greene spent the first two decades of his working life writing crime and espionage thrillers, novels that were inextricably bound up with the cinema of his time. He was, at various times in his life, a movie-lover, critic and scriptwriter; film is at the heart of his work and his fiction is remarkable for its powerful cinematic qualities, written at a time when the movies were still considered a relatively new and popular art form. ‘When I describe a scene, I capture it with the moving eye of a camera,’ he once said.”
Reaching out to new talents
This year’s Graham Greene International Festival – a landmark 21st in the series, held in Berkhamsted from Thursday 19th to Sunday 22nd September – saw the launch of the Graham Greene Film Review Competition. Giles Clark, Chair of the Graham Greene Birthplace Trust, explains: “The Competition has been created to further enhance Greene’s reputation and widen knowledge of his work. We have chosen to make this a prize specifically for film reviewing because films are a popular medium for the younger generation, some of whom may not know Greene’s work, while among the older generation who may be familiar with his novels, Greene’s superb body of film criticism may be unknown. We hope that the competition will attract many entries from up-and-coming writers as well as more established talents.”
Organised in partnership with The Centre for New Writing at Manchester University, the Graham Greene Film Review Competition offers a cash prize of £500 for the most imaginative, original, and thought-provoking review of a film (documentary or otherwise) with a run time of at least 80 minutes. Full submission details, along with guidelines from the judging panel, are available on the website of the Graham Greene Birthplace Trust (https://grahamgreenebt.org/).
The judging panel for the Graham Greene Film Review Prize – Jo Wilson (second from left), Creina Mansfield and Quentin Falk (chair) –introduced by Press & Marketing Officer Jonathan Steffen (far left).
Photo: Giles Clark
Our Man in Havana
The year 2019 is not just the 70th anniversary of the release of The Third Man: it is also the 60th anniversary of the release of Carol Reed’s film adaptation of Our Man in Havana, 60 years since Fidel Castro’s revolution in Cuba, and 500 years since the founding of the city of Havana itself. In addition, it is the 50th anniversary of the publication of Greene’s comic masterpiece, Travels with my Aunt.
Our Man in Havana thus enjoyed fitting prominence in the Festival programme, with a screening of the film on the evening of 20th September and a talk entitled Our Woman in Havana: Reporting Castro’s Cuba by BBC foreign correspondent Sarah Rainsford on Saturday 21st September.
The Prague Coup
Greene’s continuing appeal in the 21st century was celebrated by another Festival first this year – a talk on the recently published The Prague Coup, a graphic novel by Miles Hyman and Jean-Luc Fromental featuring Greene as its hero. The story begins with a fictional Greene arriving in post-War Vienna to commence work on The Third Man only to be dragged into an intricate plot to unseat the government of Czechoslovakia. This imaginatively conceived and beautifully presented work is testimony to Greene’s enduring appeal as one of the great observers of the geopolitics of the 20th century.
Miles Hyman (left) and Jean-Luc Fromental discuss ‘The Prague Coup’.
Photo: Giles Clark
Politics and the novel
Other contributions in a packed festival included a screening of the 1940 film 21 Days, co-written by Basil Dean and Graham Greene and starring Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier; a discussion between the BBC’s Mark Lawson and Bryony Lavery and Esther Richardson on adapting Brighton Rock for the stage; and an insightful and thought-provoking talk by Sir Vince Cable, Leader of the Liberal Democrats 2017–19 and former Secretary of State for Business. A novelist himself, Sir Vince shared his thoughts on the portrayal of politics in the novel and concluded with his own up-to-the-minute analysis of the state of British politics in the shadow of Brexit.
Thanks to Dr Martyn Sampson
The Graham Greene Birthplace Trust would like to thank Dr Martyn Sampson for delivering another wide-ranging and well-attended Festival, whose theme was Reflections on Greene, and for the extensive contribution he has made to furthering the aims of the Trust in the past three years. Next year’s Festival will be directed by Mike Hill, a former Festival Director himself and also editor of the Trust’s newsletter, A Sort of Newsletter.
Next year’s Graham Greene International Festival will be held in Berkhamsted from Thursday 1st to Sunday 4th October 2020. Tickets, for individual sessions or the entire Festival, will be available next year from the website of the Graham Greene Birthplace Trust (http://grahamgreenebt.org/tickets). People under 21 and holders of a Dacorum Card have free entry to all Festival events apart from the meals. Proof of status will be required on the door.
Photo credit for image at the top of post: Jo Wilson.
Jonathan Steffen is a Trustee of the Graham Greene Birthplace Trust and also the Trust’s Press & Marketing Officer.