Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Interview with Stephen Hackett (Belfast Film Festival)

The Belfast Film Festival this year celebrates its 14th year and is the most important event on the calendar in Northern Ireland.  I asked Stephen Hackett, the programmer of the festival to answer a few questions:

How many films have been chosen for this year’s event?

SH: 128 Films and events.

Could you say a little about some of the distinct thematic strands that you are promoting this year, especially the Cine Roma events?

SH: The idea of Cine Roma is to present films in locations throughout the city (e.g. using schools and churches) and also to showcase films that deal with socio-political issues. It’s part of a new initiative that we have created, which is to develop outreach work into different communities and social groups in the city. We intend to develop this throughout the year, taking films on the road to locations throughout Northern Ireland.

So within Cineroma we have a number of themes such as 'Spirituality and Film', 'Sense of place'; which examines representation of different communities in documentary film. The 'Addiction' strand of films looks at substance and alcohol abuse with discussions following the screenings.

Have you tried to keep a distinct regional identity with the programme?

SH: Yes - its obvious that we would show locally made films but beyond that we like to programme material that taps into concerns and interests in the community as well as presenting films that examine local socio-political issues.

There are a huge number of venues spread out across the city.  How were they chosen?

SH: Most are based on thematic suitability, i.e. screenings in schools and churches- some are chosen because they have a pub attached!  But it’s also important in Belfast to screen across the city because of its fractured nature.

There are two cinemas, QFT and Moviehouse, which we have worked with for years.  We also use our own beanbag cinema for smaller events.

Could you explain how the awards are chosen each year? What is the history behind the Maysles Brother Doc Award?

SH: Well we have the audience award which is simply a public vote, then The Best Short Film and The Maysles Brothers award were initiated by Cian Smyth here at the festival in 2007.  We had Albert Maysles at the festival that year and we had asked that he offer his family name to the competition - he was very supportive of the idea.

What cooperation do the Northern Ireland Tourist Board and NI Screen provide?

SH: Both provide financial assistance but also help with the marketing of the festival. NI Screen were with us from the start and are very supportive in all aspects of what we do, particularly helping with premieres and tying events into local talent and industry.

Are there any films that you are looking forward to personally?

SH: I like my films to be as bizarre as possible and preferably without a traditional narrative (or any narrative!) I'm looking forward to 'The Distance', 'Thou Gild'st the Even', 'Concrete Night' but also the documentary section too.

The 14th Belfast Film Festival runs from 27th March until the 5th April 2014 – tickets available here

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