The Foyle Film Festival held in Derry in November, the most westerly city in the UK, is a relatively small festival with a big welcome, a lively atmosphere and a wide range of interesting activities. For filmmakers, the specific attraction is that Foyle is one of the festivals which is ‘officially sanctioned’ by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences – in other words, being in competition at the Foyle Film Festival means that your film is eligible for nomination for an Oscar. The competitive strand at the festival comprises ‘International Short’, ‘Irish Short’, ‘Animation’ and ‘Documentary’. The ‘long list’ of ten titles for the 2011 ‘International Live Action Short Oscar’ includes four titles that were screened in Derry in 2009/2010.
The full Foyle programme includes international features and documentaries and 2010’s theme was ‘The Magic of the Past’, with screenings of Citizen Kane, the newly restored Metropolis and associated documentaries. Alongside the high profile international films, the Foyle Festival’s strengths derive from its history and its location. Derry has strong cultural links with the Irish Republic (the border is only a few miles away and Derry serves the North of Donegal as well as County Londonderry) and attracts Irish filmmakers. Animation and music are also strengths because of the festival’s home in the Nerve Centre, Derry’s unique moving image and music centre which now comprises two small cinemas and a performance space alongside the production workshops which have helped to train a generation of local filmmakers. In 1998 Dance Lexie, Dance, a Raw Nerve Production was nominated for the Short Film Oscar. Run from the Nerve Centre, the festival uses the two Nerve Centre cinemas, the 100 seat traditional Orchard Hall Cinema and, for the more mainstream films, the Omniplex commercial cinema.
The Foyle Festival also runs an extensive education programme and that’s why I was invited this year. I hadn’t been to the festival for more than ten years and it was good to see the development of the Nerve Centre and of much of Derry City Centre, especially within the old walled city. Derry has been awarded the status of the first UK Capital of Culture for 2013 and that promises a build-up of arts events over the next two years in which the Foyle Film Festival will certainly figure.
I gave a presentation to students on Moving Image Arts courses exploring the film language used by Alfred Hitchcock, Claude Chabrol and Roman Polanski (materials to follow) and then watched the showcase of student productions from 2009/10. Moving Image Arts is an A Level and GCSE qualification that offers something new in a UK context – a focus on film as art with 50% production work in animation or live action. I was very impressed with the quality of work produced by students and I hope to report in detail on the still relatively new qualification offered by CCEA – the Northern Ireland Awards Body – with the Nerve Centre playing a leading role in developing moving image work in schools and colleges registering for the qualification. The work is also fully supported by Northern Ireland Screen which was well represented at the Foyle Film Festival screenings through Bernard McCloskey, Head of Education. See the Press Release from Ingrid Arthurs, Subject Officer for Moving Image Arts at CCEA.
Thanks to Nerve Centre Director Martin Melarkey and everyone else associated with the centre, without whom none of these developments would have been possible. More on Moving Image Arts later this term.