How perfect a location to start a Saturday of enjoying films than at the Strands Arts Centre in Belfast, the oldest cinema in Northern Ireland.

And even more perfect to start with an interview and screenings with Roy and Noel Spence, twin brothers who have been making movies since the 1950s, whose love and dedication to cinema has not only established them as an unstoppable filmmaking force of nature, but inspired them to build their own cinemas, The Tudor and The Excelsior, fitted out with the most beautiful fixtures from cinemas long gone but not forgotten by the brothers or indeed the eager audience gathered in the Strand to hear their conversation with broadcaster Joe Lindsay and to watch a retrospective of the work spanning 7 decades.

Roy and Noel were also given a lifetime achievement award by Belfast Film Festival’s Kevin Jackson, a fine accolade for the most prolific and inspiring filmmakers in the history of NI Cinema.

Digital Film Archive day continued in the Strand Arts Centre later that evening with Vincent Kinnaird holding a wonderful 8mm and 16mm night, projecting work from local filmmakers and other cult and classic sources.

Across town at the QFT, the legacy of the likes of the Spence’s was displayed in the Short Film Festival competition, as 15 films in the shortlist screened throughout the day with filmmakers and audience from around Ireland coming together to see a varied selection of subjects, themes and narratives come alive on the big screen. Of course it may seem unfair to judge one film above the rest, particularly as this years selection was so strong, but the judging panel chose Dear Eibhlin by Laura Conlon due to its quite simply stunning cinematography, imagery, score and sound mix. A special commendation award went to 17-year-old filmmaker Sean Treacy from Dublin for his film The Least I Can Do, tackling the contemporary theme of toxic masculinity in an informed, mature and relevant manner. Special thanks to Sarah Edge, Aislinn Clarke and Joe Lindsay for judging the short film competition this year.

A special screening of Village Films “Mandrake” took place at the Odeon in Victoria Square, attended by cast and crew and lovers of the horror genre. A wonderfully dark and murky story about probation officer, Cathy Madden (Deirdre Mullins) who is tasked with rehabilitating a notorious and terrifying killer ‘Bloody’ Mary Laidlaw (Derbhle Crotty) back into society following a two-decade sentence. Stand out performances and cinematography. This is one not to be missed!

Starring Deirdre Mullins and Derbhle Crotty alongside Paul Kennedy, Seamus O’Hara, Nigel O ‘Neill, Ian Beattie, Roisin Gallagher and star of Kenneth Branagh’s Belfast, Jude Hill!

The Shapes Between Us, a film about NI’s dance music scene from the early 80s through to 1995, saw the Black Box filled with those of us old enough to remember the rave scene that united a generation and rebelled against a country divided by sectarianism and conflict. Maybe ‘remember’ isn’t exactly the right word haha.

DJ/Producer Phil Kieran, Stuart Sloan and Sara Gunn-Smith presented their film as a work-in-progress, with a promise of more to come. Archive, interview and music was deftly, creatively assembled and the atmosphere it created with the audience was a reminder of why the scene was so important, with a lot of familiar faces from those dancefloors guldering and slagging each other across the room as the memories came flooding back. Many YEEEEEEEEEOs were heard.

And what better way to end the night than with a DJ set from Phil Kieran. There would have been some sore heads, and indeed hip/knee/ankle joints on Sunday morning.

Click on the photos above to view all our weekend events.