Belfast Film Festival turns eighteen this year and, now as a fully formed adult (sort of), is showing no sign of slowing down but is maturing wonderfully into one of the most broad and diverse festivals around. Ok I'm a Belfast boy so I may be biased, but with 178 films available over ten days, the prevalence of local talent and 20 films which fall under the F-Rating a case can certainly be made.
Big events such as the festival opening night and special guests (this year acclaimed director Ken Loach will receive the festival's Réalta award) are always a draw but where are the other gems to be found?
I've scoured through the pages, thumbed down the pages and attempted to avoid timetable clashes to bring some of my picks for this years festival.
Ex Libris (dir. Frederick Wiseman)
In this, the 42nd documentary by Frederick Wiseman (recipient of an Honorary Oscar in 2016), the legendary filmmaker brings his incisive vision behind the scenes of one of the world’s greatest institutions of learning, capturing the vast programmatic scope of NYC’s library system. The NYPL is blessed with uniformly passionate staff and deeply devoted, appreciative bibliophiles and beneficiaries across its 92 branches. The film reveals a venerable place of welcome, cultural exchange, and intellectual creativity.
“Trump made it a political film because it represents, in my mind, everything he doesn’t believe in or doesn’t understand,” according to Wiseman. “The movie itself is not ideological, but in the current political atmosphere, it becomes that.”
Columbus (dir. Kogonada)
When a renowned architecture scholar falls suddenly ill during a speaking tour, his son Jin (John Cho) finds himself stranded in Columbus, Indiana – a small Midwestern city celebrated for its many significant modernist buildings. Jin strikes up a friendship with Casey (Haley Lu Richardson), a young architecture enthusiast who works at the local library. As their intimacy develops, Jin and Casey explore both the town and their conflicted emotions: Jin’s estranged relationship with his father, and Casey’s reluctance to leave Columbus and her mother.
The Breadwinner (dir. Norma Twomey)
Parvana is an 11-year-old growing up under the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2001. When her father is wrongfully arrested, Parvana cuts off her hair and dresses like a boy in order to support her family. Working alongside her friend Shauzia, Parvana discovers a new world of freedom- and danger.
With undaunted courage, Parvana draws strength from the fantastical stories she invents, as she embarks on a quest to find her father and reunite her family. Equal parts thrilling and enchanting, The Breadwinner is an inspiring and luminously animated tale about the power of stories to sustain hope and carry us through dark times.
A Mother Brings Her Son To Be Shot (dir. Sinead O' Shea)
Filmed over five years, this documentary examines violence committed by groups opposed to the peace process in Northern Ireland.
One night Majella, took her teenage son to be shot in both legs. They all live within the same community in Derry where paramilitary rule is still rife and policing is carried out by the community rather than the government agencies.
How do you bring your son to be shot?
How does a community respond?
When do wars really end?
Director Sinead O'Shea will take part in a Q&A following the screening.
This is only a snippet of what is available at this years festival, I could have made many more picks but you can explore the full programme at the Belfast Film Festival website.
elfast Film Festival runs from 12-21st April 2018.