Celluloid Wings

Aviation Film Festival

Ayr Gaiety Theatre
1 - 8 September 2013

Since cinema and aviation were born at the same time, there is a wealth of material on flying and flight, in the form of both feature films and documentaries. In fact the original concept for Prestwick World Festival of Flight was as an aviation film festival based at the Gaiety Theatre with related events.

The majority of the screenings, four a day, were to take place in the Gaiety Studio, with an Opening and Closing Gala in a larger venue, ideally the Odeon, Ayr. But the charges at the Odeon were ridiculously high, so it was decided to convert the Gaiety’s main auditorium into a cinema for the Galas. And since it was not possible to run shows in the studio and auditorium simultaneously, the Festival decided to hold the entire film festival in the auditorium, which worked well.

The Opening Film Gala on Sunday 1 September was preceded by a well-attended Civic Reception in the Council’s splendid County Chambers, from which guests could walk to the Gaiety. There they were welcomed by the local air cadets, collecting for RAFA’s annual Wings Appeal.

The opening short was the first film ever to feature an aircraft, Mack Sennett’s A Dash Through the Clouds (1912), and it was followed by Wings (1927), the first film to win an Academy Award (later renamed an Oscar) for Best Picture, starring Clara Bow and a very young Gary Cooper. Both are silent films, originally screened with improvised piano accompaniment, and the Festival engaged Jane Gardner, from Portobello, Edinburgh, who specialises in accompanying silent films. A Dash Through the Clouds lasts eight minutes, while Wings runs for 141, so she played two-and-a-half hours of new piano music for them, with a colleague on percussion. The screening was immensely successful: half the audience had tears in their eyes at the end.

Over the next five days Celluloid Wings showed an eclectic mix of UK, European, North American and Asian films, as well as episodes from TV series. The films ranged from the beautiful Dutch film Farewell, the history of the first round-the-world trip in an airship, and the stunning Polish animation Paths of Hate, to the recent George Clooney vehicle, Up in the Air, and the Bollywood musical Mausam, half of which was shot in Edinburgh. There was also the UK premiere of Above and Beyond, a Canadian mini-series filmed in Gander, chronicling the creation of the Atlantic Ferry Service between Gander and Prestwick in World War Two.

TV included an episode from the dramatisation of Derek Robinson’s novel A Piece of Cake and another from Prestwick’s very own comedy series, The High Life, written by Alan Cumming and Forbes Masson.

In addition to screenings there were question-and-answer sessions with Ditteke Mensink, director of Farewell, with Tristan Loraine, director of Spitfire Sisters and Shady Lady, with Steve Hatton, director of Into the Wind, and with Derek Robinson, writer of Piece of Cake – who travelled from Amsterdam, London, Nottingham and Bristol respectively. And although John Marzano, aerial photographer for the Harry Potter films and Amelia, had to postpone at the last moment, Colin Prescot, who choreographed the James Bond sequence for the London Olympics, came in his place.

The Festival closed with a charity showing of The Dam Busters to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the RAF attack on the three dams on the Ruhr.

Red carpet at the Gaiety (by courtesy of Tamara.)

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Film Festival Opening Gala

A Dash Throught the Clouds (1912) - 8 mins
The very first movie ever made about flying.    Josephine rescues her boyfriend from an angry mob with Slim and his aircraft.  Directed by Mack Sennett, with Mabel Normand as Josephine.

Wings (1927)
- 141 mins
The first film to win a Best Picture Oscar, Wings follows the rivalry between two WWI fighter pilots for the love of Clara Bow, and launched the career of Gary Cooper, who is seen in a minor role. It also won an Oscar for Engineering Effects, featuring Thomas Morse MB-3s and Curtiss PW-8s. The director, William A. Wellman, and writer, John Monk Saunders, had both served as pilots during WWI.
Both films to be shown with live piano accompaniment.


Strategic Air Command (1955) - 112 mins
James Stewart, (in real life a US Air Force general who flew B-52 missions over Vietnam) plays a professional baseball player who is recalled to active service during the Cold War, flying B-36s, to the despair of his wife, played by June Allyson. It includes dramatic aerial photography of the B-36, and features the veteran stunt pilot Paul Mantz, later to lose his life making another film with Stewart - Flight of the Phoenix. Stewart knew Prestwick Airport well during WWII: he was a B-24 squadron commander completing 20 missions.

George Kerevan on Stewart's war.


John Marzano Nite
Meet the man who shot the Bond and Harry Potter films... from the air.  If you’ve seen Skyfall, Quantum of Solace or any recent Bond film; or scifi like Tomb Raider, Prometheus and World War Z; or Harry Potters like The Prisoner of Azkaban; or action movies like A Good Day to Die and King Arthur; or old fashioned romances like Notting Hill – then you have seen the aerial camera work of John Marzano.  With 100 films to his credit, John has the most spectacular movie credits of any camera man in the UK, or even America. Hear him talk about aerial filming and get the inside info on some of the great movies.


The Red Tent (1969) - 121 mins
Sean Connery as you’ve never seen him. This little-known Italian/ Russian collaboration was made at the height of the Cold War and tells the true story of the tragic 1928 Arctic airship expedition commanded by Umberto Nobile. Starring Peter Finch as Nobile, Sean Connery as Roald Amundsen, and Claudia Cardinale as the love interest. Music by Enrico Morricone..


Flying the Secret Sky (2008) - 74 mins
British premiere. Documentary story of RAF Ferry Command, which delivered planes to Prestwick in WWII. Features extraordinary interviews with the American and Canadian volunteers who flew them. Look out for Kirk Kerkorian, who used the money he earned from flying to Prestwick to create a business empire that included Las Vegas casinos, MGM Studio and Chrysler Motors.


Up in the Air(2009) - 105 mins
The bittersweet tale of a life spent collecting air miles. George Clooney plays the urbane Ryan Bingham, who travels incessantly, firing people for a living. Threatened with grounding because of new procedures within the company, he makes a final tour with a young colleague, but love and job satisfaction both elude him. Directed by Jason Reitman and nominated for six Oscars.


The High Life(1994-95) 2 x 30 mins
Prestwick’s own TV comedy series, written by and starring the wickedly talented Alan Cumming, with Forbes Masson as a pint-size Casanova and Siobhan Redmond as the dominatrix Shona Spurtle. Welcome to Air Scotia, and the most useless cabin crew ever to push a drinks trolley.

Hells Angeks

Hell's Angels (1930) - 127 mins
Howard Hughes’ iconic American war film about WWI fighter pilots which also launched the career of the ‘blond bombshell’ Jean Harlow. Hughes, an expert pilot, directed using ‘the biggest private air force in the world’. Pioneering aerial cinematographer Elmer Dyer captured the actual aerial scenes flown by a team of real World War I aces. See how they did it before computer animation!


Les Chevaliers du Ciel (2005) - 102 mins
Based on the cult French comic strip Tanguy et Laverdure co-written by Albert Uderzo – also half of the Asterix team – this action movie opens at the Farnborough Air Show, where a demo Mirage 2000 is stolen by terrorists. It culminates in an attempt to shoot down a tanker over Paris on Bastille Day, which is foiled by our brave heroes. The director was Gerard Pires, who received full co-operation from the French Air Force, so that the spectacular flight sequences were mainly filmed from the air.


The Little Prince (1974) - 88 mins
Based on the magical 1943 story by the French writer and pioneering aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupery. This musical version was directed by Stanley Donen, who made Singing in the Rain. Score and lyrics are by  Frederick Loewe and Alan Jay Lerner, who gave us Brigadoon and My Fair Lady. The story is about a pilot stranded in the desert who meets a prince from a far-away planet. It stars Richard Kiley, with a rare appearance of Bob Fosse as the Snake, and Gene Wilder as the Fox.


Above and Beyond (2006) - 171 mins
UK gala premiere. Canadian mini-series filmed on location in Gander, telling the story of the creation of the Atlantic Ferry Service to Prestwick during WWII. Staring Richard E. Grant as Don Bennett, the flying ace who proved the experts wrong and made the Atlantic safe to fly.



Amelia (2009) - 111 mins
Part of our Women in Aviation strand. This biopic of Amelia Earhart, the legendary aviatrix who made history in 1932 by becoming the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic, and disappeared in 1937 when she was trying to circumnavigate the world. With Hilary Swank as Amelia and Richard Gere and Ewan McGregor as her love interests.


Paths of Hate (2010)   + Student Showcase
Short-listed for an Academy Award, Damian Nenow’s animated film is about two fighter pilots engaged in an endless dogfight as they strive for mastery of the skies. A truly spectacular piece of animation from the Polish studio Platige, Paths of Hate is the closest you will come to experiencing what aerial combat feels like. Followed by a showcase of short films made by students from the University of the West of Scotland.


Wings of their own (2004) - 83 mins.and  Talk on Women in Aviation
British Premiere and part of our Women and Aviation strand. Inspirational American documentary encompassing interviews with over 200 women pilots, examining why they fly, how they achieved their dream, their stunts and stories.  Directed by Mary Scott. To be followed by a live discussion panel with a number of British aviatrix who tell what it is like for women in aviation in Britain.


The Red Baron (2008) - 120 mins
German biopic directed by Nicolai Mullerschon about the famous WWI fighter pilot Manfred von Richtofen, known as ‘The Red Baron’, it was filmed entirely in English. The most expensive film in German movie history, the attention to period detail received high praise, along with the spectacular computer-animated dogfight sequences. Cast includes Joseph Fiennes. See it as a modern companion piece to Howard Hughes’ Hell’s Angels.


Spitfire Sisters (2010) - 60 mins
Part of our Woman in Aviation strand, this is the story of the remarkable women who ferried military planes between airfields, factories and maintenance units for the Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA) in WWII. Now in their 90's, they tell us tales of love, laughter and loss, and prove themselves to be the unsung heroes of the Second World War.

Shady Lady

Shady Lady12) - 87 mins and Tristan Loraine in conversation
British premiere. Epic story of a B-24 Liberator called 'Shady Lady', which flew the longest bomber mission of WWII, from Darwin, Australia, to attack the Japanese oil refineries in Borneo. 'Shady Lady' survived tropical thunderstorms and enemy anti-aircraft fire, and eventually crashed-landed in a saltpan in the remotest part of Northern Australia. But help from local Aborigines plus a massive rescue mission saw 'Shady Lady' fly again. Director Tristan Loraine will take part in a question and answer session and show footage from his new feature film, A Dark Reflection.


Farewell (2009) - 90 mins and Q&A with the Director, Ditteke Mensink
British premier and part of our Women in Aviation strand. The true story of the only female passenger on the first passenger flight around the world, British journalist Grace Marguerite Lethbridge, flying in a luxurious Zeppelin airship.  Directed by award-winning Dutch filmmaker Ditteke Mensink, Farewell uses spectacular archive footage shot on the actual journey. But it also reveals a deep secret – during the flight Grace meets an old lover and rekindles the relationship.


Mausam (2011) - 167 mins
Spectacular Bollywood story of an Indian fighter pilot who falls in love with a beautiful Kashmiri girl, the first part of this romance takes place in Scotland, where our heroine is working for the Edinburgh Fringe and her lover is on pilot training at Leuchars! Separated by religion and war, will our lovers ever get together?. Mausam is directed by Pankaj Kapoor with Shahid and Sonam Kapoor in the lead roles.


Into the Wind(2012) - 72 mins
A touching tribute to the heroes of Bomber Command, Steven Hatton’s feature-length documentary captures the wartime experiences of 50 WWII veterans in their own words. It is a record of friendships gained and lost, the proximity of death, a shared passion for flying and the moral implications of war. Director Steven Hatton will be present for a question and answer session.


Piece of Cake (1988) - 52 mins and Q&A with writer Derek Robinson
An episode from the popular six-part TV series depicting the life in an RAF fighter squadron during the Phoney War and the Battle of Britain. A cut above most TV aviation drama, Piece of Cake features amazing flying sequences. The series was based on the 1983 novel by Derek Robinson, who will be present at the screening and take questions afterwards. Robinson will also be discussing the novel at our Aviation Books and Comics Festival at Prestwick Airport on Saturday 7 September.  


Film festival Closing Gala
The Dam Busters (1955) - 124 mins
Closing Gala celebrating the 70th anniversary of the famous raid. With Richard Todd as Guy Gibson and Michael Redgrave as the inventor of the bouncing bomb, Barnes Wallis. Enjoy it as it was meant to be seen - on the big screen. . Note: part of the ticket price goes to the RAF Association and the RAF Benevolent Fund.




Tea Time


1st September




Opening Gala


8 mins

141 mins
Tickets £10.00

2nd September

Hilary Swank
Richard Gere
111 mins

James Stewart

George Kerevan on Stewart’s war


Polish cartoon
20 mins


Meet the man who shot the Bond and Harry Potter films…from the air!

3rd September

Sean Connery
Italy/ Russia
121 mins

83 mins

talk on women in aviation

120 mins


74 min


4th September


George Clooney
105 mins

87 mins

Tristan Loraine
in conversation



2 x 30 mins

5th September

Howard Hughes’


Jean Harlow
127 mins


90 mins

Ditteke Mensink
Q. & A.

Gallic Top Gun
102 mins

Bollywood flies!

Shahid Kapoor and
Sonam Kapoor
167 mins

(NB: finishes midnight)

6th September


Stanley Donen musical
88 mins


72 mins

Steve Hatton
Q. & A.

TV Night


52 mins

Q. & A. with writer
Derek Robinson

  UK Premier


171 mins

6th September


Festival Party
At exciting venue!!

7th September






RAFA benefit for 70th anniversary

124 mins

Filmed hello from Michael Anderson, director
Tickets £10.00