London Comedy Film Festival at the Ritzy – lighten up “the most miserable week of the year”

Nosotros los Nobles - new Mexican comedy
Nosotros los Nobles – new Mexican comedy

The London Comedy Film Festival (LOCO) rocks up at the Ritzy this week. Katrin Magnussen catches up with LOCO’s co-founder, Denise Hicks to get the lowdown on a four-day event that aims to brighten up a bleak month.

“I love Buster Keaton and I would marry him today if he were alive!” says Denise. A huge smile spreads across her face as she stirs her cup of tea at BFI Southbank’s café. “The Cameraman’ was the first film that made me fall in love with Buster and his dry sense of humour.”

Denise’s love for Buster and comedy films helped launch the non-profit foundation LOCO. Initially started off as a “nice little film project” by Denise and her friend Jonathan Wakeham, the festival now boasts US film director Jerry  Zucker (‘Naked Gun’, Airport!’ ) as patron and shows at over 20 venues across London.  The duo wanted to help showcase films that otherwise often slip through the net.

“Unless they have Jennifer Aniston in them, it’s really hard for comedies to break through” she explains. “And that’s why we are here – to support the little guys who need the recognition.”

Now in its third year, the festival has quadrupled in size since 2013. There is myriad on offer; world premieres (‘Benny & Jolene’), UK premieres (‘Les Coquillettes’), old classics (eg. 35th anniversary of ‘The Life of Brian’), a Day of Satire, comedy career courses and exhibitions.

Denise is adamant that audiences have to decide for themselves what is funny. “We are not here to tell people what’s funny because that’s highly subjective. But we can suggest that this is a well made comedy. Then it’s up to the public to tell us whether or not they think it’s funny.”

With such a wide spectre of events available, a comedy fan would find it akin to being let loose in a sweet shop.

Los Inadaptados
Los Inadaptados – new Mexican comedy

“It’s so hard to choose one favourite – it’s like choosing a favourite child!” laughs Denise again and opens the hefty LOCO programme to show just how much there is. She is clearly bursting at the seams with excitement and pride.

“I am really excited about the hot, new Mexican comedies we will show at the Ritzy. One of them, ‘Nosotros Los Nobles’ was the biggest grossing film of all time in Mexico.”  She underlines that Mexico currently is “THE place for hot new comedy – there are a lot of directors coming out of there who are now creating a buzz in Latin American cinema.”

Language is no barrier to laughter, reckons Denise: “The best comedies, no matter the language, deal with universal truths that we can all relate to, such as relationships and sibling rivalry.” She adds with conviction: “Comedy brings people together across generations and it bridges divides. Only five comedies have ever won a Best Picture Oscar – that’s crazy!”

This is a topic close to her heart and she adds, “Comedies are seen as less valid and easier to make than more serious films. But the best comedies are the ones that tackle serious issues.”

Perhaps due to the lack of recognition from the wider industry then, there is less rivalry and more camaraderie within the comedy industry. Denise believes that in comedy, there is a sense of community not seen within other genres; directors tend to want to learn from each others instead of competing as they most often have very distinctive styles.

One key element that the founding duo hopes to add to the festival is a famous comedy name that could help open doors and spearhead the festival in the future. Denise gets excited, “Armando Iannucci is fantastic and personifies British comedy. Any of the Monty Python guys would be great too! ” They are also looking for sponsors to help take the ‘Face of Satire’ on a nationwide tour.

Living in North London, Denise was initially not overly familiar with Brixton.  However, since screening LOCO films at the Ritzy, she inevitably succumbed to its charms.

“I knew there was a really strong community in Brixton, but I had not really got the flavour of it till I spent some time here.  It’s inspired me to do even more here next year!”

The London Comedy Film Festival 2014 is on from 23-26 January. For what’s on at the Ritzy click here.