Can Weymouth be the new Cannes of the film world?

Weymouth high street A boarded up shop in Weymouth high street

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With its boarded-up shops, 99p stores and sticks of rock, Weymouth out of season may not have the sophistication, allure or climate of Cannes.

But 150 film-makers from Europe, and as far afield as South Korea, will descend on the resort as Dorset hosts its first international film festival.

The British International Amateur Film Festival will generate about £100,000 for the town, organisers estimate.

South-west Britain has never previously been chosen to host the 80-year-old event.

Organiser Eric Montague, the southern counties sole representative on the IAC council, was instrumental in bringing the festival to Weymouth.

Mr Montague, from Christchurch, Dorset, described it as a "tremendous coup" for the town, which has also had millions of pounds spent on its infrastructure, including a new relief road, as it prepares to host the sailing events, along with Portland, during the London 2012 Olympics.

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The town has been a little depressed in the public's mind”

End Quote Eric Montague Festival organiser

He said: "It's the first time the festival has come to our region, which covers an area covering Portsmouth, Cornwall, Reading and South Wales."

Earlier this year retail expert Geoff Burch, a commentator and business author, described the town's High Street as "drooped and withered".

But Mr Montague claims the Jurassic coastline, coupled with the infrastructure now in place, makes Weymouth an ideal location for the festival.

He said: "The town has been a little depressed in the public's mind, but the film festival, along with this summer's Olympic events, can help refresh that image of Weymouth."

The festival, being held at the Hotel Rembrandt from Friday to Sunday, will bring up to 300 people to Weymouth, generating about £100,000 for the town, according to Mr Montague.

About 125 films will be screened over the two days in four cinemas housed in the Rembrandt.

Luxury yachts are moored in the port of Cannes Mr Montague would like the UK to have an equivalent of the Cannes Film Festival

The films, chosen from 275 original entries, cover animation, horror, drama, comedy and documentary.

Young film-makers will take centre stage on Saturday afternoon with the Sadness of King George, a film by Year 5 pupils at Beechcroft St Paul's Primary School in Weymouth, among those being shown.

Character actor and director Michael Medwin, who appeared in a number of British classic films including The Duchess (2008) and The Longest Day (1962) and was also responsible for the theatre production of Calendar Girls going worldwide, will be guest of honour at the festival dinner on Saturday night.

Mr Montague added: "Wouldn't it be great if commercial cinema picked up on this and the UK, which is a leading country for media, had an equivalent to the Cannes Film Festival."

A Weymouth & Portland council spokeswoman said: "We are delighted to be able to welcome the British International Amateur Film Festival to Weymouth and Portland.

"The borough council has been working with the organisers to provide them with information about the area and highlighted some of the programmes and the great locations that have been used for filming in the past."

The festival is organised by the IAC - The Film And Video Institute, an umbrella organisation for the British amateur film movement.

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