Issue 221
May/June 2022

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Jul 3, 2022

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A Saturday night horror movie

FROM DIRECTING nine episodes of the Scotland soap River City, to a premiere of your own movie at Toronto Film Festival, is quite a career trajectory.

Yet for film director Ruth Paxton, who studied at Edinburgh College of Art, it's all part of the process.

Brought up by social worker father and mature art student mother, she used some of the camcorders of her father's when she was younger to experiment with films.

"They were often used to record prisoners in my father's work", she said.

Always a film lover to the point of obsession, their local video shop said they had the highest video rentals of anyone in the area, and she her and her brother admitted to watching Jurassic Park over 30 times.

Her brand-new film, A Banquet, has just come out on digital release and is currently touring UK film festivals. The film is a kind of horror-satire. Written by Justin Bull, starring Sienna Guillory and Lindsay Duncan, it explores teenage body image, depression and eating disorders.

A Banquet is an ambitious film to attempt under any circumstances. Paxton reveals that the nightmarish work of the Scottish artist Ken Currie was a big influence.

"The pitch was kind of Chef's Table meets David Cronenberg," says Paxton of the film's grisly gastronomy.

"It is a slow-burning psychological horror, which, at its core, is about a family dealing with grief," she said. Widowed Holly is mother to two teenage girls and is struggling to maintain the middle-class family lifestyle her two daughters Betsey and Holly are used to.

Betsey is at that hard age about to make the transition from school to university – but she doesn't really know what she wants to do. For Betsey's generation it's becoming more and more difficult to have confidence in the future, let alone invest in one.

"I imagine there will be mothers and daughters who recognize themselves in the women of this film, and I am always interested in finding ways to encapsulate the potency of maternal love.

"I guess the film lets us know that being a mother is hard, and being a teenager is hard, especially in these times. Hopefully, it will invite women not to be so hard on themselves," Paxton said.

Despite the fact that the film has been put in the horror genre, Paxton doesn't see herself as a horror filmmaker, a label she's been tagged with since art college.

"I made a lot of films at art college, but my graduation film, the one that set me on my way, was about a woman who was basically drinking too much, got really f***ed, woke up the next day, had the fear, didn't know what she'd done, and had this kind of mad, abstract experience.

"It was programmed in a lot of horror festivals, and I was like, 'I don't think it's a horror; that's just what happened to me last Saturday!'"

Having grown up in Edinburgh in a family of film lovers she remembers the gilded times when her grandparents attended the Diamonds are Forever premiere at the old Odeon on Clerk Street, when Sean Connery presented someone with a diamond necklace.

A Banquet is now on digital release through streaming services.


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