Belfast Film Festival: A Celebration of Local and International Cinema

Belfast Film Festival Opens Today

The Belfast Film Festival opens today with Kenneth Branagh returning to his hometown to screen his family drama, Belfast. The film follows a single street in Belfast during the Troubles.

The programme showcases a range of international work as well as nurturing local filmmakers and offering unique film-watching experiences. Community outreach is also key, with a full-time staff member running filmmaking projects with marginalised communities.

Opening and Closing Films

Programmer Rose Baker has created a festival that is both diverse and inclusive. As well as championing local film through its Irish Shorts competition and NI Independent strand, it has extended solidarity with those in the entertainment industry struck by work related issues with a showcase of mischievous and subversive films titled Kill Your Job Before It Kills You.

In a nod to the recent Writer’s Guild of America strike, BFF will screen a selection of films about screenwriters and host world renowned writer-director John Sayles and producer Maggie Renzi for a talk on their careers followed by a screening of a trio of their finest works.

Opening the festival is Belfast, Kenneth Branagh’s semi-autobiographical drama about growing up in Northern Ireland in the 1960s. The festival closes with Peter Hedges’ pandemic thriller The Same Storm on October 29.

Special Screenings

The festival always does a great job of showcasing the work of our talented local film makers. This year they have commissioned a new work by Prasanna Puwanarajah called Vox Populi which delves into Northern Ireland’s televisual archive to celebrate the macabre and the stranger.

This year BFF is standing in solidarity with the recent Writers Guild of America strike by hosting a talk with world renowned screenwriter John Sayles and producer Maggie Renzi. The pair will also be jointly presented with the Realta award at a special screening of their work.

There is a very strong Northern Ireland flavour to the programme with Ballywalter, featuring Co Down comedian Patrick Kielty in his first feature acting role and Doineann, the Irish language horror from DoubleBand director Aislinn Clarke.

Opening and Closing Talks

The festival has been a key contributor to the cultural and economic development of cinema in Belfast. Alongside the main event, it also runs Docs Ireland international documentary festival and a series of year round inclusive filmmaking projects.

This November, the BFF will open with Andrew Haigh’s surreal romantic drama All of Us Strangers and close with Yorgos Lanthimos’ bawdy feminist Frankenstein riff Poor Things. Both films have stormed the recent festival circuit, generating rave reviews and whispers of Oscar nominations.

The New Cinema strand features bold new films from both Northern Ireland and further afield including William Oldroyd’s scabrous Eileen and Christos Nikou’s dystopian romance Fingernails starring Jessie Buckley and Riz Ahmed. It will also feature a hybrid live music/film archive event bypassing cliched constitutional material.

Site Specific Screenings

Film as an experience is at the heart of the festival – from site specific screenings to moving image art exhibits and Belfast XR, their virtual reality strand. They also host a range of community outreach projects that teach practical writing and filmmaking skills, as well as cultivating an interest in cinema culture among audiences for whom it has traditionally been less accessible.

They’ve pushed this philosophy to the limit by screening films in locations that enhance and intensify the experience of watching them. Past site specific events have included Evil Dead in Ormeau Park, Cool Hand Luke in Crumlin Road Gaol and The Breakfast Club in Christchurch Library, to name a few.

Belfast XR Festival

The Belfast XR Festival is an annual event showcasing the best local and international immersive technology content. Its underlying ethos is to bring virtual and augmented reality to new audiences locally.

The line-up includes the acclaimed film Genesis from directors Maria and Joerg Courtial which condenses 4.7 billion years of evolution into one epic day. Other works include the Irish premiere of No Bears by imprisoned Iranian director Jafar Panahi and the award-winning documentary Laura Poitras’ All The Beauty and The Bloodshed.

The festival also features the first performance of GUTTER a dance theatre piece by ACNI Major Individual Artist 2022 Eileen McClory which delves deep into our hunger for gossip and the world of modern broadcast journalism. For further information visit the festival website.

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Opportunities and Benefits of Serving on a Film Festival Jury

Serving on a Film Festival Jury

Film festivals often invite people with a variety of backgrounds to serve on their jury. This can include local luminaries (like a film critic or university film professor), industry insiders, or even celebrities.

WHO is grateful that renowned personalities from the world of film and culture as well as humanitarian activism accepted to join this year’s jury alongside senior experts.

1. It’s an opportunity to give back

As a filmmaker, jury service is one of the ways you can give back to the community. Film festival juries can bring a wide range of audiences to your work, helping you get exposure that would be otherwise hard to come by. And the relationships you build with other members of the jury can be long-lasting – even after the festival is over, a juror may become a mentor or a collaborator on your next project.

In this exquisite folkloristic stop-motion fantasy, a Russian immigrant teen and her grandmother struggle to find grounding in their new homeland. This deeply affecting film meditates on the importance of maintaining traditions in a rapidly changing world.

2. It’s a chance to network

Film festival juries are made up of local luminaries who have a deep understanding of the region, industry insiders with direct ties to the films being shown (or screened), or even the show’s producers themselves. It’s a great chance to start or maintain a relationship with people in the know who may be able to help you down the road.

It’s also a good idea to attend as many events as possible during the festival, especially the ones that are in your genre or style. This way, you can meet people face to face and get a sense of who they are. Then, when the festival is over, you can reach out to them and build a new connection.

When you do make a new connection, ask them questions about their work. Be careful not to pester them though, it’s better to stay in touch consistently and only reach out when you have something to say.

3. It’s a chance to learn

Film festival juries are often made up of film industry professionals and academics. Getting to sit down and deliberate on films with these individuals is a great way to learn about new perspectives and styles of filmmaking.

For example, this year’s DOC NYC jury includes filmmakers, journalists and students. They will be tasked with reviewing select films playing in competition, as well as picking winners for the Emerging Filmmaker Prize and Building Bridges Prize.

This is a chance for these youth to get to know other young filmmakers in their community and make connections for their future. They’ll also be introduced to the world of independent film and have the opportunity to meet with the filmmakers who created this year’s films.

This year, the GJFF is partnering with a local community organization to select a student film for the Youth Jury Award. The Youth Jury will screen a selection of films (narrative, documentary and shorts), as well as participate in discussion sessions with the filmmakers.

4. It’s a chance to have fun

Juries are a chance to meet and network with people from all over the world who are passionate about film. I’ve heard countless stories of filmmakers forming strong connections with jury members, sometimes even collaborating on future projects!

Jury president Ruben Ostlund struck a defiant note of optimism on the opening day of Cannes, positioning cinema as a “stronghold of community in an increasingly atomised world.” The challenge, he acknowledged, was connecting cinema with a younger, post-pandemic audience that prefers to gorge its entertainment online.

I’ve been a film festival juror several times and each time I find myself in the position of watching challenging films with long runtimes. One day I watched a four-hour documentary on the victims of Japan’s Sennan Asbestos Disaster. It raised many moral issues and some harrowing stories, but you have to clear your mind for the next screening. It’s a mental exercise that builds into perceptual exhaustion, even when it’s not your responsibility to choose a winner.

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