INTERVIEW: Sunderland Shorts Film Festival 2021 | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image: Love Spell

At this year’s upcoming Sunderland Shorts Film Festival, the designation of ‘short’ transcends any such derogatory connotations. The festival brings an excitingly diverse array of independent talent to the region and, after the trials and tribulations of last year, it is sure to enrapture its attendees.

Building on the success of their (online only) 2020 iteration, the 2021 event presents a cinematic feast of over 100 films in a wonderfully accessible hybrid format, making armchair attendance possible. However, given the fantastic array of talent that the festival promises, screenings are sure to attract both hardened film buffs and fledgling film fans alike.

The festival has grown and prospered since its inception in 2015, with founder Jon Gann at the helm. Now, under the guidance of coordinator Chris J. Allan, the festival continues to bloom. Allan speaks in glowing terms of this year’s proceedings: “At Sunderland Shorts Film Festival we have remained dedicated to bringing the best in filmmaking to the city, and this year is no exception with one of our strongest line-ups to date. With the benefit of also having an online presence this year, we have an exciting opportunity where we share great films from here in the North East and all around the world, but where we also have more accessible means to view them than ever before, with the potential to reach our widest audiences yet and really shine a spotlight on some incredible filmmaking talent.”

The festival’s reputation for championing filmmaking across boundaries of genre and ability finds full form this year, with Sunderland University generously contributing to cash prizes for student filmmakers, and online masterclasses hosted by local filmmakers Above The Line and The Film Look will give budding filmmakers the chance to learn new skills.

The festival brings an excitingly diverse array of independent talent to the region

Festival highlights abound, include the Oscar-nominated short documentary Feeling Through, and Love Spell, a local teen drama which has already garnered award-winning status. A further standout comes from former University of Sunderland student Rob Kilburn, whose Red Coats – a documentary about the contentious anachronism of fox hunting – is eagerly anticipated. Kilburn’s forays into documentary have gone from strength to strength, showcasing an ability to handle an array of topics with sophistication, delivered through a vibrant visual palette, and this latest work promises to do the same.

Celebrated British artist and pioneering filmmaker John Akomfrah also makes the line-up, as the subject of a documentary produced last year. Akomfrah’s work with the Black Audio Film Collective in the 1980s resounds as some of the most innovative contemporary film work; a prescient mediation on the discourses of race and class that mark the present.

For those that still haven’t been able to manage a sojourn to foreign waters due to recent travel restrictions, the international focus of the festival provides a selection of works sure to satiate the wanderlust of those in attendance, with films from across the globe, including Greece, Australia and the Philippines.

The astonishing breadth and scope of the festival makes it sure to be a highpoint of the North East cultural scene, and a perfect event to keep the blues of the encroaching darker nights at bay. Check out the full list of screenings on their website and make the tough decision about what you’re going see first!

Sunderland Shorts Film Festival takes place from Wednesday 6th-Saturday 9th October, with content online until Thursday 21st October

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