INTERVIEW: North East International Film Festival | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image: The First Year

With an admirable ethos of diverse, collaborative and inclusive programming, the North East International Film Festival takes place at venues in Newcastle from Thursday 18th-Sunday 21st November.

Comprised of independent film screenings of both feature and short films, award-winning productions with Q&As with cast and crew, satellite screenings, networking events and free educational workshops and masterclasses, NEIFF more than delivers on its promise to be the place for film fans to discover new work from under-represented groups and communities, as well as encourage and promote the work of independent filmmakers.

When planning the NEIFF it was incredibly important to me to put together a diverse, collaborative and inclusive event and to include as wide a range of submission categories as possible as well as the standard categories.” Says festival director Lisa-Marie Tonelli. “These include more diverse categories aimed at groups or communities that may have been previously under-represented in the industry, such as Most Diverse Work, LGBTQ+, Student Films, North East Films, F-Rated to represent females or female identifying individuals in the industry, Low/No Budget Films and our Visible category which represents disability in all its forms.”

Our mission is to challenge current film exhibition criteria and protocols to ensure accessibility for all

The screening list is far too extensive to go into detail here, but highlights include the opening night screening of Ian McDonald’s The First Year, telling the inside story of Jamie Driscoll’s first 12 months as North of Tyne Mayor; dark comedy Kendra & Beth about the only female employee in the warehouse of a sausage factory; a Mexican biologist confronts his traumas in Son of Monarchs; meta-commentary film Anywhere But Here investigates wanting to go places and see new faces during the pandemic; Tim is a short which sits somewhere between Reservoir Dogs and Only Fools And Horses; short animation Everyone Has My Jacket looks at fashion and gender dysphoria; Tossers focuses on the Tynemouth Outdoor Swimmers; Angel weaves together stories about the unsung heroes and icons in the North East; and Byker Lion shares the story of growing up in Byker, sprinkled with Geordie humour.

Workshops covering subjects including indie virtual production and using game engines in filmmaking will take place at Northumbria University from Monday 15th November, a writers room will encourage creatives to come up with a film idea from nothing and storyline it, plus there will be acting masterclasses.

The festival has already succeeded in many of its goals; it’s one of approximately 80 festivals around the world to adopt the F-Rating, representing females in film, and they’re the first ever film festival to sign up to the BBC 50/50 Equality Project, making a commitment to diversity, as well as the first festival to be awarded the Raising Films Ribbon for their efforts to create an inclusive and adaptable space for audiences as well as their own team.

At NEIFF our goal is to foster diversity, equity, inclusion and safety amongst not only our filmmakers and audience but also our leadership team. We wish to take the lead and set an example for existing and future film festivals. Our mission is to challenge current film exhibition criteria and protocols to ensure accessibility for all.” Lisa-Marie explains. “These goals must be achieved in order to truly encapsulate full representation on screen, behind the scenes and in the workplace. It is important to create an environment in which every individual can identify themselves and their heritage.”

NEIFF takes place at Tyneside Cinema, Everyman Cinema, Culture Lab, The Biscuit Factory, Okana and Northumbria University from Thursday 18th-Sunday 21st November. Visit their website for full listings

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