Manchester Film Festival’s lively line-up sits alongside an industry programme that aims to enhance the careers of attending UK and international filmmakers.

The Convert

Source: MBK Productions

‘The Convert’

The 10th edition of the UK’s Manchester Film Festival (MFF, March 15-24) is ramping up its industry programme as part of its ambitions to build on a reputation of platforming new talent on both sides of the filmmaking lens.

“We get a huge number of short and feature filmmakers attending the festival, who have come through open submissions,” explains festival director Neil Jeram-Croft. “A lot of what they look for when they come is making more connections within the industry, knowing how to move on to the next stage in their career.”

The Industry Talks programme will be held at 53Two, a theatre located in the historic railway arches under Manchester Central Convention Centre.

Neil Jeram-Croft

Source: Karen Hewitt

Neil Jeram-Croft

Waad Al-Kateab, a 2020 Oscar nominee and Bafta and Bifa winner with documentary For Sama, will attend the festival and take part in an in-­conversation before screening her latest documentary We Dare To Dream. Further highlights include sessions on casting for shorts and independent films with casting directors Jane Anderson and Cameron Culver.

Additionally, screenwriter and script editor Amanda Graham, whose credits include The Amelia Gething Complex, will share tales of navigating the film industry.

Discussing the independent UK film landscape will be Curzon Film’s head of theatrical sales Jamie Mendonca, Bulldog Film Distribution’s head of distribution and acquisitions Philip Hoile, Altitude Film Entertainment’s head of publicity Mark Jones and RRB Films’ head of distribution Gareth Jones.

“The more we can help educate and make those connections and help people figure out their next steps, the more we add value to the filmmakers in the festival and the industry attendees who come along as well,” Jeram-Croft notes.

International collaboration and filmmaking will also be front and centre. The writer/director trio of Karen Anstee, Jürgen Heimüller and Kenneth Scicluna — who are behind fantasy sci-fi drama Edifice 129, a narrative work created by multiple auteurs across Germany, Malta and the UK — and project editor Bella Norman will lead discussions on international collaboration and filmmaking.

The Screen Manchester and Screen Alliance North organisations will showcase their work while screenwriting panels will feature Eleonora Mignoli (Steal Your Heart), Harry Sherriff (Nightmare At The Grand) and actor/writer Lauren-Nicole Mayes.

The festival will open with Lee Tamahori’s The Convert, starring Guy Pearce and Tioreore Ngatai-

Melbourne. Set in 1830s New Zealand, the film world-premiered at Toronto International Film Festival last September, and Manchester hosts its UK premiere.

Rose Glass’s Love Lies Bleeding, starring Kristen Stewart, Katy O’Brian and Ed Harris, is the closing film, fresh from buzzy screenings in Sundance and Berlin.

Best of the fests

In total, MFF is showcasing 47 features from the UK and around the world. They include international festival favourites such as Cannes 2023 titles La Chimera by Italy’s Alice Rohrwacher, About Dry Grasses from Turkish filmmaker Nuri Bilge Ceylan and best international feature Oscar nominee The Teachers’ Lounge, from Germany’s Ilker Catak. MFF has also snagged Cannes Directors’ Fortnight 2023 title The Sweet East by US cinematographer-turned-director Sean Price Williams, starring Ayo Edebiri and Jacob Elordi.

“We are positioned well in the calendar to have the UK premiere or a very high-profile screening and help launch them within the UK,” says Jeram-Croft. “The festival expands the cultural landscape of the city as well as boosting the city’s inter­national profile.”

Newfound gems by UK directors feature strongly. They include the UK premiere of Lena Headey’s feature directorial debut The Trap and the world premieres of Matthew Butler-Hart’s genre title Dagr, David Campion’s tale of drugs hedonism Straight Through Crew and Waheed Iqbal’s family drama Of God’s Men.

A feature jury comprised of Curzon’s Mendonca, Film4 development and production executive Amy O’Hara, Dexerto features editor Tom Percival, Total Film entertainment editor Emily Murray and director Mikey Murray will hand out MFF’s Golden Bee trophy (the worker bee is the emblem of Manchester) across various categories including best film, director and actors. The prizes are awarded to films across the whole programme.

The festival lineup is a mix of open submissions and titles from sales agents and UK distributors. “We have 20 films this year that have come to us through FilmFreeway [the platform through which filmmakers submit their titles to international festivals],” Jeram-Croft says. “We have a six-strong selection committee to make sure the quality across the board is of the highest standard for audiences from all sources.”

Contact: Neil Jeram-Croft, festival director, Manchester Film Festival