INTERVIEW: Sunderland Shorts – Best of the Fest | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Back in February, the sixth annual Sunderland Shorts Film Festival opened up for submissions from filmmakers far and wide, with the hope that 2020 would be their biggest and best event yet. 2020, however, had other ideas. Rather than push the October festival back a whole year and lose the momentum the successful event had built, organisers decided to celebrate the Best of the Fest instead, and have chosen extraordinary films screened from previous years to be shown for free via their Facebook page from Wednesday 7th-Saturday 10th October.

Even in its digital form the festival remains committed to showcasing diverse work from local, national and international talent. Screenings will cover two main themes – young, emerging and student filmmakers and the ‘best of the fest’ made up of entries across the last five years. “We’ve got a bit of everything on offer from comedy and drama to documentary and thrillers.” Says festival coordinator Chris J Allan. “As well as the films, this year we’ve also got an industry panel discussion on writing for film and if people aren’t totally quizzed out after lockdown we have our own film quiz too!”

The ‘greatest hits’ of the festival promises some real cinematic gems, as Chris explains. “Every year we give out various awards as well as taking feedback from our audiences about all the films we show, so we’ve delved into the archives and found some favourites from across the board. Many of the films included have won awards with us previously as well as going on to find acclaim at other festivals across the globe. So it’s a real pleasure to have them as part of this year’s event.”

There is such a vibrant wealth of talent here, both behind and in front of the camera, and it’s absolutely something worth championing

Chris is equally as excited by the festival’s ability to shine a light on local filmmakers. “There is such a vibrant wealth of talent here, both behind and in front of the camera, and it’s absolutely something worth championing. Some of our favourite North East creatives have work represented here; to name a few we’ve got Rob Kilburn of Tyne & Weird with his documentary Broken Window about graffiti culture; Benjamin Bee, who has been named a Screen International Star of Tomorrow, we’re showing his film Mordechai from a few years back; plus we have Lucy Rose and her film Peak, she has been something of a rising star over the last few years and produced some really exciting work, her next short is already shaping up to be something really special.”

While the film industry has suffered at the hands of the pandemic, Chris is generally positive about the industry’s ability to adapt. “Film is an art form which is constantly adapting to the world around it while having the potential to reflect it too, and now with the tools at everyone’s disposal there is more content than ever, but that isn’t a bad thing.” When it comes to the stars of next year’s festival, he’s quietly confident that lockdown may have been a blessing in disguise. “The amount of creativity that has poured out over lockdown has genuinely been impressive – from music videos of isolation raps in people’s front rooms to full horror films set on Zoom – it’s been a real opportunity for absolute first timers and industry professionals alike to challenge themselves in new ways. Undoubtedly next year’s festival will feature a fair amount of lockdown content in the schedule, but the potential for what that could be is very, very hopeful.”

Sunderland Shorts Best of the Fest takes place from Wednesday 7th-Saturday 10th October via their Facebook page

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