The 20th Belfast Film Festival launched yesterday to a packed audience full of programmers, sponsors and filmmakers in the Black Box, Belfast.

Our festival director, Michele Devlin, said a few words on the impact Belfast Film Festival has had on Belfast;

“So what have we been doing for the past 20 years? We’ve brought people together to celebrate the creativity, politics, learning and joy that film can bring. We’ve witnessed with great pride the growth of the indigenous filmmaking sector.”

Richard Williams, Chief Executive of Northern Ireland Screen, commented that “in a time of quite a lot of concern and crisis around the globe it’s great to come into a dark and buzzy and enthusiastic room full of enthusiasts for film and screen. It’s incredible”. 

Richard also talked of the lengthy relationship between Northern Ireland Screen and Belfast Film Festival; “we love that that relationship…exists without us having to push it or encourage it. It’s just there because it should be”.

Colum Eastwood, director of our Closing Night Film, Black Medicinetook to the stage to reminisce about the first time he screened a film at the Belfast Film Festival; “It’s a real pleasure to be playing at the Belfast Film Festival. The first short I ever made played in the shorts section about 10 years ago”. 

Finally, our programmer Stephen Hackett, who has managed to avoid making a speech for 10 years, gave one of the best speeches in the history of Belfast Film Festival speeches;

“Every year people ask me what the theme of this years festival is. For 10 years I’ve been asked this question… this tired, weary inevitable question.

I fob them off and say the theme is mauve, it’s beige, its nature versus science, it’s about the crisis of late capitalism, it’s about liminal space… the list goes on.

Just last week Mary Lindsay, the marketing manager of the festival asked me this question. I was livid. Seething. I told Mary to piss off, and we’re still not speaking. Needless to say the messaging and communications for the festival are in a bad way.

There is no theme, we don’t do themes at Belfast Film Festival.

It’s just a random set of films signifying nothing…

People search for meaning in their lives, they construct and desire shape and form, This is why we shop and go to church. It’s important to extrapolate meaning from the chaos and madness of existence, isn’t it?

Werner Herzog said ‘I believe the common denominator of the universe is not harmony; but chaos, hostility and murder’.

But then Michael Bay said ‘This world is so screwed up as it is, we’ve all got to relax a bit more’.

So whose side are you on? 

I’m with Michael Bay.

With this in mind and feeling the immense pressure and desire to conform and develop a theme, I’ve narrowed the thing down to only 15 themes. That’s 15 themes. Bare in mind, in a good year, London Film Festival can only mange 6. Belfast Film Festival will have 15 themes. 

So in an act of post rationalisation we have the following themes for BFF20:

Alienation, Toffee, abuse of power, incorrect use of soap, protecting the powerful, sibling rivalry, the tragedy of losing ones hammer, small town mindsets, geriatric criminality, workers rights, object fallacy, Bovine Respiratory Disease, love, bureaucracy and semantics.”

Thanks to Birra Moretti and all our sponsors for making the 20th Belfast Film Festival possible.