Writer and blogger Jemma Strain attended our festival launch. Read all about her festival highlights below!

19thBelfast Film Festival Schedule Launch

There was a palpable excitement in the Black Box on Wednesday the 13th March, and not solely because it was a rare sunny Belfast afternoon, but it was also the launch of the 19thBelfast Film Festival. The atmosphere was thick with celebration, and rightly so, as it was when festival organisers debuted the line up for 10 days of film-packed-fun against a backdrop of stylistically spliced movie clips, and a complementary bottle of Birra Moretti; I had the pleasure of flicking through my festival guide to the backdrop of Kurt Russell escaping LA (or possibly New York), Elle Driver’s venomous glare, and Adam Wests bat-wedgie, amongst many other classics. A festival of this caliber obviously does not fall into place by accident, but instead takes many hours of collaboration, hard work, and dedication to a craft. It was refreshing to be privy to a group of people so clearly excited about their work, and now as it has come into fruition, it’s easy to see why.

The festival is a prime example of yet another transitional element to be proud of in the Northern Irish community; it’s not only a necessary example of diversity; showing 90 features and 80 shorts, from 34 countries, but it also garnered a fantastic selection of top industry professionals to do “In Conversation” evenings; Robert Carlyle, an actor who is as adept at playing Rumplestiltskin, as he is at kicking heads in (re. Trainspotting); Lenny Abrahamson, the Oscar nominated director of Room, and certainly not least; Amir Khan, possibly the biggest name in movies from the Eastern world will be gracing Ireland for the first time specifically to do the festival, quite a coup, and definitely not to be missed!

In regards to the actual festival line up; I’ve not turned down as many corners of a book to mark them since the time I tried to study for exam finals with hours to spare (but that wasn’t nearly as exciting!). The guide is visually pleasing; bright and simplistic in colour with Dawn of the Anthropocene as it’s focus, and as usual, filled with a selection of stellar choices. The launch night will be April 11th, on which A Bump Along the Way will be debuted; this is another accolade for the festival, as not only was this filmed in Derry, but its also a female powerhouse trio of writer (Tess McGowan), director (Shelly Love), and producer (Louise Gallagher); an exciting first for Northern Ireland, and one that garnered a huge round of applause at the guide launch. The closing film will be Brian Welsh’s Beats; a Glaswegian coming of age film, which in typical Glaswegian fashion promises to be anything but typical, as two 15 year old lads in the 1990’s seek a method of waving goodbye to their childhood in the most debaucherous manner possible. Also, in keeping with our brand of Northern Irish humour, there is even ‘The Border and Beyond‘ – a Brexit Day event actually taking place on border on the 29thMarch, there will be buses to the border in order to hear discussions involving writer Pat McCabe (The Butcher Boy, Breakfast on Pluto) presenter Peter Curran (BBC4) and actor Stephen Rea, and watch new short films, all related to Border / Brexit related whether it happens that day or not!

If you’re anything like me, and a bit (full disclosure, a lot) of a cinephile, then the Belfast Film Festival is akin to Christmas; you spend months looking forward to it with anticipation and when it finally arrives, you tear it open the wrapping with childlike enthusiasm. Well, this year’s festival will certainly not disappoint when it comes to the content under the tree; there’s a gift to suit all tastes, from my personal favourite; the Altered States section, to that weird, unexpected gift from a distant relative, in this case, the sublime strangeness of The Shivering Truth. To quote Brian Henry’s opening speech at the launch of the guide “Belfast may not be the most glamourous city in the world, but for ten days we will certainly be the most cinema loving.”

Jemma Strain: https://ruledlines.wordpress.com