Two high-profile local films will bookend the Belfast Film Festival (May 31-June 10)
While the Belfast Film Festival has always had a remit to provide a platform for local films, it has not necessarily had the material with which to do so.
“A few years ago we would have had difficulty opening and closing the festival with local films, but that is not an issue any more,” says the festival’s programmer Stephen Hackett, who has this year chosen Glenn Leyburn and Lisa Barros D’Sa’s Good Vibrations and Terry George’s Whole Lotta Sole to bookend the festival, which runs May 31-June 10 having moved from its usual April slot to avoid a clash with the city’s Titanic centenary events.
Good Vibrations, the biopic of punk-rock figurehead Terri Hooley, will have its world premiere in the city’s Ulster Hall, which itself played host to a number of punk gigs in the 1970s and was also one of the film’s locations. “So much of the story is about Belfast and the city, it just seems appropriate that it will screen at the festival and in such an iconic space,” says Leyburn.
“It is probably the most important indigenous film to come out of Northern Ireland, because every single part - from the writers, producers, actors, music and story - is from here,” explains the festival’s chair, Brian Henry Martin. “Ten years ago, we could never have dreamed of a film like this coming together.”
The festival will also be showcasing the best of world cinema, including films from countries which have experienced similar conflicts to Northern Ireland, such as Sierra Leone, Palestine and Afghanistan. “We don’t have a big budget but that frees us to go for the more interesting aspects of world cinema,” says Hackett, who likes to screen films in unusual locations around the city. This year the festival will make use of the city’s High Court as part of a ‘Film and the Law’ strand.
Backed by Northern Ireland Screen and Belfast City Council, the upcoming festival also will benefit from $50,000 (£30,000) of British Film Institute audience development funding. Meanwhile, to reflect the growing number of producers and film-makers in Northern Ireland, the festival will be hosting a two-day industry seminar for the second year running.
While Galway Film Fleadh may be known for its industry sessions and Dublin International Film Festival may be on a bigger scale, Belfast is carving out a niche as the festival which likes to present films and culture in its own unique way. “Our festival reflects the character of Belfast. It is contemporary, youthful, edgy and political. All the things the city is,” says Martin.