Belfast Film Festival 2016

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As a filmmaker, I have been introduced to the world of film festivals. Initially as a place to find an audience for your film but increasingly to engage and participate in the film community. Attending special film industry events and marketplaces, networking and hearing stories from experts in the field.

Belfast Film Festival 2016 was a little different. This year I wasn’t premiering my first feature film and although supporting a couple of events I wanted to see what was on show. After leafing through the programme a few times there was so much that caught my eye I decided a festival pass was the way to go. Booking something in everyday, even squeezing in multiple screenings at the weekends.

I managed to see 37 films in 10 days, 16 in one night thanks to Film Devour Short Film Festival.

More than 50% were independent films made in Ireland.

Highlights

The closing night film, about a well to do woman without a note in her head, the Irish Premiere of Florence Foster Jenkins is well worth a watch. Meryl Streep and Hugh Grant make a fantastic duo in a story that made me both laugh and cry. Due for cinema release next month.

Having had The Monday Club premiere in the inaugural year of the NI Independents section of Belfast Film Festival I was delighted to see it back this year and what became one of my favourite days of the festival. All involving friends of Film Devour it was great to see cast and crew making the transition to longer films.

We all know the story of Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus but imagine it happened in modern day Belfast with all our humour? A Belfast Nativity was first up; it is now available to check out online.

Fractured City was a more stereotypical Belfast tale of two friends in the post conflict yet still divided society in 1990s. Dealing with drugs, paramilitaries and a corrupt police force. It ticked a lot of ‘the troubles’ boxes so the story was not my thing but it was well made so another example of the great talent we have here.

From the same Director who brought us ‘Coming of age’ Rian Lennons – ‘The Dick’ told the story of the fear some men get when faced with talking to the opposite sex. A funny story with an unexpected twist hopes to do the festival circuit before we see if online to share.

The big hitter in the NI indie section had to be Braxton. The thrilling slasher movie, which reminded me of my love of the Scream films whilst giving me the unusual sense it could be happening in my backyard. Featuring an amazing Belfast cast, including lead actor Shaun Blaney who we had the pleasure of working with on The Monday Club the performances were gripping. Well done to Director Leo McGuigan and Producer Margaret McGoldrick for making such a fantastic film on such a low budget. With possibilities of DVD release and another screening in the summer, make sure you find a way to see it.

Finally on the music end of what I saw. Miles Ahead the free form biopic on the great jazz musician Miles Davis is running at QFT until 5th May and well worth a watch. An unexpected favourite of the #BFF16 was the biggest heavy metal festival in the world Wacken enjoyed in 3D. It had a great vibe, following festivalgoers and enjoying some of the big acts. It was great.

On the last day of the festival I was invited to join the Banterflix Cinecast team for their live podcast event reviewing the festival. My first ever podcast experience it was a lot of fun gathered with fellow filmmakers and movie reviewers to talk about what we had seen and big up the indie scene in NI.

So that was #BFF16 – Exhausted but I had a ball. Well done Belfast Film Festival team… until next year J

Top tips for #BFF17…

  • Get a programme early, red circle what you want to go see and buy the tickets! Popular ones sell out fast.
  • Find a festival buddy, someone who shares a love of film and can hold your hand for the scary ones of laugh along to the funny ones.
  • Treat yourself to a festival pass – then you got to make it worth the money.
  • Be inspired! Open yourself up to experiencing the different stories and emotions.
  • Make a film– with so many indie films on show Belfast is the city to get making. If you have an idea, get people around you and turn it into a reality!

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