The festival was slow to start, but the effort of its organisers and the work it celebrated showed great promise and diversity.
By Edwin Miles
Fal Film Fest is a celebration of student films and a networking programme for filmmakers in the south west of England. On the 11th November the first ever event took place at Falmouth University, home to undergraduate and festival founder, Chris Chalton. Packs of students piled into the small, sweaty corridors outside the cinema, relentlessly waiting, despite the technical difficulties that held back proceedings. A testimony to the persistence of the organisers, and to those who waited.
The criteria: any film counts. Short films as long as 1-5, 5-10, and 10-15 minutes were accepted. Experimental films, narrative films, documentaries, and music videos of varied genres made up the 58 entries, and cast and crew all showed their faces. There wasn’t a film that didn’t matter. It was refreshing to see a music video nominated for ‘Best Cinematography’, alongside a foreign language and an experimental narrative film. An example of the festival’s willingness to share unconventional and diverse work.
The festival is open to the idea of running three times an academic year and last Friday saw the first of the trilogy of festivals for 2016/17, the next likely to be around Easter. Chris Chalton opens by saying, “I want this to get people together, make friends, and make life connections”. And already the festival changes tone from a small festival celebrating student work to something with a little more importance.
Before Fal Film Fest there was Pixelate Film Festival, another student led film platform, an annual event hosted at The Poly in Falmouth. In 2015 Pixelate dissolved and left a gap for a festival in the southwest. So the announcement of Fal Film Fest came along at just the right time. It does a favour for all the people who make short films, and gives the opportunity for others to see their work.
It proceeds more like an award ceremony, with eleven awards up for grabs, the winners decided by a panel of judges headed by Chris Morris, BAFTA-winning documentary maker and director of Film and Television at Falmouth University. Short abstracts from each nomination are shown and from a blue card envelope the winner is announced; Chris Chalton aptly explains the low budget of the festival, a conscious nod to its infancy. The winner receives their glass award, has professional photographs taken, and the film is watched. Ethan Roberts, director of the documentary 25sqm (2016), won ‘Best Directing’, and Cambio a Sfavore (2016), a foreign language short, won ‘Best Film’ – a couple of the winners during the evening. Evidence of another break from the formal award ceremony tradition – it’s a shame the Oscars do not follow suit by acknowledging good directing for documentaries, or quality in films other than in the English language.
What seemed from its conception more like a pet project prompted a minor burst of creativity and diversity, forming a platform for young filmmakers to get involved in their own unique community. That being said, the winning acceptance speeches were left at a bare minimum, being but a humble handshake and a photo.