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Leicester's extraordinary links to Leonardo da Vinci and Bill Gates inspire DMU film festival


Riddle us this, puzzle fans: What links Leicester to Leonardo da Vinci and Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates?

The answer is the Codex Leicester, an ancient manuscript written around 1510 by da Vinci in mirror code, which was purchased by Earl of Leicester Thomas Coke in 1719 and then bought by Gates for more than $30million in 1994.

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The Codex Leicester has inspired puzzles and treasure hunters ever since – as well as De Montfort University Leicester (DMU)’s Film Studies students, who have curated a film festival around it.

A group of second-year students are presenting their specially-themed Codex Film Festival at Leicester’s Phoenix Cinema and venues around the city from Saturday March 26 until Sunday 3 April, screening classics like The Matrix and Indiana Jones, as well as newer hits like Knives Out.

Laraine Porter, senior film lecturer at DMU, said: “I am a Leicester person born and bred and I had never heard of the Codex Leicester until my student Miranda suggested it, and I think it is a great theme for their festival.

“There has been so much hard work and thought which has gone into this from all of the students involved. I’m particularly excited to see the screening of Night at the Museum at the New Walk Museum, and also international films such as Corpus Christi and ones representing the LGBTQ+ community like The Imitation Game.”

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Outside the City

Students and lecturers voted on their favourite theme from a number of ideas presented to them, and once the votes were in they worked together to make sure they had a variety of relevant films to showcase.

Student Miranda Loveridge-Graham entered the winning theme. “My passions in life are film, history and solving mysteries, so when this opportunity came up on my course, I knew exactly what theme I wanted to do,” she said.

“The Codex Leicester is not only a piece of history that is linked directly to the city, but also the writings of a genius who in himself brings mystery and intrigue. This helped shape the four strands of the festival - mystery solvers, truth seekers, code breakers and treasure hunters.”

The festival kicks off with a special event at The Guildhall Museum on Saturday 26 March, featuring a screening of Outside The City, a documentary about the monks at Mount Saint Bernard Abbey in Leicestershire starting a Trappist brewery to support their way of life.

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First-years Ciaran Shea and Lou Hunt filming with Laura Nuvoloni, Curator of Manuscripts and Early Printed Books at Holkham Hall Library

The evening includes an introductory talk with the documentary’s director Nick Hamer, as well as a talk by local historian Jess Jenkins on Leicester's very own Codex Leicestrensis, the Greek minuscule manuscript of the New Testament dating back to the 15th century.

Attendees will also get to watch the trailer for a new short documentary filmed by DMU’s students at Coke's ancestral home, Holkham Hall in Norfolk, telling the story of the Codex Leicester.

Miranda said: “We collaborated to produce this film which will showcase the history of the Codex Leicester, so that everyone is aware of the city’s link to this inspirational piece of history.”

Full details of the films, times and screenings for the Codex Film Festival, are on the Leicester Phoenix Cinema website.

Follow the Codex Film Festival on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook

Posted on Tuesday 22nd March 2022

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