Growing up Sucks. There’s Something About the Virgin Mary. Hot Lesbian Twins… Even the titles of some of the short films set to screen at Sunderland Shorts this year are pushing my interest levels to ‘Off The Map’. (Incidentally, if you want to find out more about one or two of those titles, then take care when googling them...)
There will be 109 short films on show, over four days and across 12 screenings, with films being submitted from 24 countries from around the world, predominantly from the UK, USA and Canada, but also some from Europe, Scandinavia, South America, the Middle East and the Far East.
Many will be getting their premiere in Sunderland but others, such as Belgium film Once Upon A Dream (pictured), directed by Anthony Nion, have been screened at festivals around the world. (Indeed that particular film has already won a host of awards.)
Directors who have previously shown films at the festival are also returning with their latest works including Will Stewart’s Bearpark, Paul’s Story, a lovely follow up to Bearpark, about unemployment in County Durham.
The festival will also include 20 films made by students and young people in the region, in collaboration with the universities of Sunderland and Northumbria and Custom Reel at The Customs House. Among these will be A Dog’s Best Friend, by 14-year-old Hannah Rollins, and the documentary Pigeongrove, directed by Ruby Blake, about the annual bonfire in the East Yorkshire coastal community of Skinningrove.
I’m particularly looking forward to the Friday late-night showcase of horror movies at Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens, with the organisers really ramping up the creepy atmosphere among the exhibits.
And the Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens is just one of four of the more innovative and unusual venues who are involved this year, which will also include The Peacock, The Fire Station and The Looking Glass.
Festival Director, Anne Tye, said: “We are delighted that so many venues jumped at the chance to host screenings – it is real recognition of the fact Sunderland Shorts has very quickly become a much-valued part of the city’s cultural calendar.
“It is important to us that the people of Sunderland embrace this festival and the important role it plays in our cultural offer, but it is equally vital that we showcase our fantastic city to the many people who arrive here for the festival itself – by scheduling screenings at different locations we are demonstrating the beauty of Sunniside, the lively new social offering at The Peacock and The Looking Glass, our historical past in the Museum and Winter Gardens and our fantastic new arts and culture hub at The Firestation.”
Everything will kick off with a pre-event showcase of the student and young people’s work on Wednesday 2 May, before the professional competition gets underway on the evening of Thursday 3 May.
As mentioned above Friday will be a fright night with some creepy horror films, before the competition draws to a close at The Looking Glass, where the winners will be revealed.
Organiser, Kristian Foreman, said: “This year we are determined to spread Sunderland Shorts across the city and I think the genre-based programme will fit perfectly with these vibrant venues.
“The short films this year are among the best we have ever had and every genre is well represented. However, what is really great to see is the calibre of young local filmmaking talent represented in the competition – it is the strongest young field we have ever had.”
And the leader of Sunderland City Council, Harry Trueman, weighed in with: “Sunderland Shorts is a brilliant addition to the city’s cultural calendar and it’s great to see so many of the city’s great venues supporting it this year. “The friendliness and vibrancy of the festival has always struck a chord with young people – not just in Sunderland, but all over the region – and I’m genuinely delighted to hear it is attracting so much regional filmmaking talent in 2018.”
Why not join Harry in his delight and visit the websites below to view the full programme, and then start planning your visit forthwith.