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Josh Slater-Williams

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A Keanu Reeves film festival promises a most excellent adventure

Matchbox Cineclub’s KeanuCon weekender will chart the cult star’s career from babe to Baba Yaga.

With the third John Wick due in cinemas soon, a new event on the film calendar shines a spotlight on the multifaceted career of its star, Keanu Reeves. Taking place at Glasgow’s CCA, KeanuCon is Europe’s first Keanu Reeves film festival. It comes via Matchbox Cineclub, an independent exhibitor that’s already had success with the actor-focused festival format across two instalments of Cage-a-rama, alongside cult film festival Weird Weekend last year.

John Wick was the turning point for me,” says KeanuCon’s Megan Mitchell of the star’s appeal. “I just really connected with Keanu going on a murderous rampage to avenge a dog.” Matchbox programmer Sean Welsh expresses a similar appreciation of Reeves: “You can sense he’s wholehearted in what he does and that’s resulted in many, many great films. He also has an inherent solitude which I think, paradoxically, draws you in. Very few actors can boast the same mix of rich, long filmography, pop culture presence and a certain self-awareness that’s part of their rapport with the audience.”

Across the weekend, there will be screenings of beloved and overlooked Reeves films, from My Own Private Idaho and Speed to his debut directorial effort, Man of Tai Chi, and acting debut in the 1985 Canadian short One Step Away. The festival will also host the UK premiere of Destination Wedding, in which Reeves stars alongside Winona Ryder, as well as a Bill & Ted double bill with special guests and a post-screening concert.

On wanting to make KeanuCon happen, Mitchell says, “We were programming [Nicolas] Cage’s work, who is definitely a polarising figure in popular culture, and kept coming back to Keanu as a kind of antidote to having to defend Cage all the time. Keanu inspires so much love, particularly from women, which, for me, is important. The interest and passion that fans of Keanu have seems not just ‘thirst’ orientated, although there’s no denying Keanu’s hot, but from an ability to relate to his honest emotional vulnerability.”

Having carried out some audience polling, Matchbox Cineclub had a solid base to work from in terms of a line-up, though it wasn’t a case of simply sticking only to those popular titles. “Similarly to Cage-a-rama,” says Mitchell, “we thought about how to theme the weekend and came up with a ‘from babe to Baba Yaga’ progression to help shape what we’d screen.”

“The interesting thing will be finding the babe in the Baba Yaga, and vice versa,” adds Welsh. “You need to be careful not to compartmentalise your audience. We’ve encouraged an investment for the whole event by mixing the genres across the whole programme, but still carefully scheduling the films. I really resist the concepts of guilty pleasure and ‘so-bad-it’s-good’ cinema. It’s less of an issue with Keanu than Cage, but snark is a sinkhole. There’s an idea with Keanu that he’s wooden and basically an airhead, which we think is demonstrably untrue. Having said that, if anyone wants to take a shot every time he says ‘whoa’, we’re not going to stop them.”

KeanuCon runs 27-28 April at Glasgow’s Centre for Contemporary Arts. For more info visit cca-glasgow.com

Published 23 Apr 2019

Tags: Keanu Reeves Matchbox Cineclub

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