The British Urban Film Festival – August Blog

Who would be a film festival director ey? It was always going to be a chaotic period once the deadline for submissions closed on Sunday July 25 at midnight. It was even extended to 5pm the next day. Add to that filming with Lateef Lovejoy for the festival and the debut of ‘Buff on Tour’ in Cricklewood at 7.30pm the next day also – and the phrase ‘killing hours’ comes to mind, a phrase which embodies the amount of energy being exhausted – and shared in equal measure by this year’s festival sponsors Gabriel Media International – that are being put in to deliver the buffest film event on the calendar. That said, if the events of Monday July 26 were anything to go by then the buffest film event on the calendar may well be one of the very few in years to come after the revelation that the UK Film Council is to be abolished. This very blog was only just reporting last month on the demise of BFM (how long for remains unknown) and the general mood of similar organisations reported both in public and private who seem to be facing an uphill task in delivering to the public. One would assume by default that a film festival like BUFF’s – free to the public and currently without public and corporate funding – would be one of the early casualties in this era of austerity and streamlining, far from it. More of that later but to the main story at hand and the decision made by the culture secretary to disband the UK Film Council, seemingly without warning.

To be fair, BUFF first heard rumours about this just over a year ago when it was refused repeat funding for the British Urban Film Festival (In 2008, BUFF was one of the first beneficiaries of the council’s’ Black Film Exhibition Publicity Fund). Founded in 2000 under a Labour government, the state-sponsored film agency has pumped over 15 million pounds into UK films. In the intervening decade that followed, more than 4.5 billion pounds has been pumped back into the economy, supporting around 100,000 industry jobs with 75% of the money invested in London and the South-East. Within hours of the decision, online petitions to reverse it attracted 15,000 signatures and counting (if it can work for BBC 6 Music – why not?). Needless to say the shadow culture secretary has called the decision short-sighted, ill-considered, counter-productive and devastating. BUFF caught up with actor Wil Johnson who was of the opinion that dependency on handouts and a lack of creative freedom (traits usually associated with the Film Council) were crippling genuine film-makers and their art, both new and establishing. Actor Clint Dyer was talking in a similar vein when BUFF first caught up with him at a preview screening of ‘Sus’ back in April (Sus was co-produced by Clint Dyer).

Justin Marciano at Revolver Entertainment makes the point that without the additional funding support, ‘Kidulthood’ would not have been able to reach out to audiences across the UK as extensively as it did. He goes onto say that the success of that one film meant that the talent involved got the chance to make bigger films and build proper careers, all of which goes back into sustaining the industry. That said, the UKFC has funded films like ‘Nowhere Boy’, directed by Sam Taylor-Wood who had previously never directed a film. Readers of this blog over the past 18 months will have detected a decent amount of coverage being attributed to ‘Kidulthood’ and the almost two-tier industry which exists in the urban bubble – i.e filmmakers who resist the urge to model their films on ‘Kidulthood’ and those who do.

The hiatus which will now exist as a result of the end of this quango will certainly challenge an industry which is already facing challenges on a creative, economic and technological scale. For the last 5 years, it has always been a survival of the fittest as far as BUFF is concerned – those who purport to be truly creative will have their work cut out and only the smartest will prevail. For those who aren’t afraid of help, it seems that the industry may have to welcome corporate sponsorship on an even greater scale than it has done previously – BP could do with a charm offensive…

In amongst all this news was the debut of Buff on Tour. Held on the edge of town at the Heritage Inn in Cricklewood, the first fruits of Buff’s sponsorship came to being with the opportunity to showcase at ‘Film & Cabaret on the Broadway’ – a mixture of short film screenings and ‘live’ performances, anchored by Paulette Harris Germain, bringing the arts to the people of Brent who played host to the first ‘Buff-On Tour.’ For the lucky ones in the audience, there was a chance to see once again previous BUFF shorts including Diane Musafiri’s ‘Brothers’, Jane Thorburn’s ‘The Family Legacy’ and Jason Nwansi’s ‘Pavement Poetry’ with the man himself providing healthy debate after the screenings. At the time of going to press, Buff on Tour is currently screening shorts from last year’s festival at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and will soon be showing more from its’ vast archive across other parts of the capital and beyond. Watch this space as they say…

And so to Wednesday and the Film London Best of Boroughs awards at BAFTA. On the way to the ceremony, actor Rafe Spall was plastered double-page in that evening’s edition of the Evening Standard. For the uninitiated, Rafe is the son of actor Timothy Spall of ‘Auf Weidersen Pet’ fame and countless other TV dramas, films and commercials. One look at Rafe’s year to date and it seems that the apple doesn’t fall very far from the tree as far as our man Rafe is concerned – who can be seen currently in Channel 4’s new Friday night comedy ‘Pete versus life’ – as well as starring as Detective Wilby in ‘Sus’, showing on the opening night of this year’s British Urban Film Festival – the man is everywhere…

Affectionately known as the Bobs, The Film London ‘Best of Boroughs’ awards returned on Wednesday the 28th of July for a third consecutive year to celebrate grassroots film-making talent in London. Anybody looking for further dirt on the axing of the UK Film Council 48 hours previously may have felt shortchanged as it was business as usual at BAFTA where a total of 16 shortlisted films from across the capital went head to head for the coveted Jury and Audience Awards. East London featured prominently in the main shortlist with no less than 6 boroughs represented and it was no surprise when Evan Creevy, director of ‘Shifty’ announced that ‘Physical Education’ by Newham’s Rohan Green duly won the audience award for his 8 minute school bullying drama. Many of the winning films as well as the shortlisted titles have been picked up by several of the capital’s film festivals including the British Urban Film Festival and the London Film Festival – needless to say, the BUFF selection process was made a little bit easier by the success of ‘Physical Education’ having received the film as a festival entry 2 weeks prior. It was an evening of success on many levels for those involved with BUFF and to cap it all off, BUFF somehow managed to get starstruck whilst bumping into Andrea Arnold, director of ‘Fish Tank’, and could only manage for the most part to keep reminding her about her other claim to fame – the ITV kids show ‘No.73’.

The last few days of the month saw an unwelcome hacking of BUFF’s wikipedia page, a radical overhaul of the BUFF website (which will be music to quite a few people’s ears), and a frantic last-minute rush of late submissions (deadline guys!!!) to the British Urban Film Festival including entries from serial auteur filmmaker Wayne Saunders and also from Daily Mirror journalist Jessie Grace Mellor – if only there was time to go into detail the conversations that took place that very evening as the final selection was being finalised and ripped apart for what seemed liked hours upon hours on end… Regrettably (and probably wisely) there isn’t any time (for now anyway). And all of these events, since Sunday August 25th, happened in just 1 week… who would be a film festival director ey?

And so to August and all roads lead to Tottenham which is where the juggernaut that is The British Urban Film Festival 2010 will pitch up from Saturday September 4 at the Bernie Grant Arts Centre, the talking will soon be over… To book for your free ticket to be part of the experience, see the line-up* in full at www.buffenterprises.co.uk

*subject to change

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