Sunderland Shorts Film Festival
They may be small but the submissions at the Sunderland Shorts Film Festival each year are undoubtedly perfectly formed. And the reputation of the festival continues to grow, the organisers being absolutely swamped with entries for their next five-day event, with 150+ submissions coming under consideration from 15 different countries. Naturally, the north-east is well represented with young and emerging filmmakers from all of the region’s universities making the cut.
The finishing touches are still being put to the final programme, but we’ve had a sneak preview and can reveal that it contains a treasure trove of real gems such as Sundown. Directed by BAFTA nominated Ryan Hendrick and starring Frazer Hines (Doctor Who, Emmerdale) and Caitlin Blackwood (Doctor Who), it’s a story about how a person’s perception of life can change once they accept their own mortality. We go through life fearing death for the longest time; an inherent subconscious thought of a distant certainty. So when we reach a point in our lives when death looms, you can either deny the inevitable or embrace your mortality and begin to live life unafraid of its conclusion. This is a truly beautiful film about getting older and living life in the moment.
Filmed entirely in the chilly environs of the Yorkshire Dales Peregrine’s Hymn (pictured) is a fantasy film that tells the story of four characters fleeing a war and escaping incomprehensible odds. Directed by Joseph Palmer, an emerging filmmaker from Northern Film School, the film broaches subjects such as grief, insecurity and expressions of masculinity.
Chicago’s Shayna Connelly has already graced the festival with one of her films and she’s back again this year with the documentary Every Ghost Has An Orchestra. It concerns itself with paranormal researcher and experimental composer Michael Esposito who is not shy in coming forward with questions about life’s biggies such as: what happens after we die. He straddles the line between spiritual and material and asks the audience to reflect on our purpose, legacy and what our actions say about who we are. Musicians and filmmakers communicate to an audience, but for whom do our ghosts sing…
Regional film company Candle and Bell won through to the final programme with two pieces. Strange Cities are Familiar is an impressionistic film directed by Saeed Taji Farouk about resilience and memory, trauma and regret. It tells the story of a brief moment in the life of a Palestinian father living in London, surrounded by friends but haunted by the images of a traumatic life and the promises he could keep, the responsibilities he failed. Elsewhere, meanwhile, was directed by Andy Berriman and stars Mark Addy (The Full Monty, Game of Thrones) and Molly Windsor (Three Girls, The Runaways). It concerns an unconventional friendship between a woman questioning the path she is on and a man trying to reclaim the family he threw away.
Just about every genre you can think of will be covered at the festival from comedy to documentary, horror to experimental, and it will all take place at venues in Sunderland from 8-11 May. Before then there will be some whet-your-appetite screenings of last year’s winning shorts at the Tyneside Cinema in Newcastle (1 April), the Customs House in South Shields (8 April) and in Teesside (check their website for updates on these particular screenings).Sunderland Shorts Film Festival, 8-11 May. Keep checking their website for programme updates as well as information on venues and ticket details: sunderlandshorts.co.uk