If you shoot it, we’ll screen it!
In searching for an opening gambit to describe my first Film Devour experience, I was hoping to find a pertinent quote about the importance of expression in difficult and challenging times. The awful truth of existence, however, is that there have never not been difficult times; there is always something that sucks. In this case, that would be cuts to the arts but there’s a flip side to that coin; there’s always something that’s pretty cool. Devour is that pretty cool thing.
Ostensibly a short film festival for local talent, Film Devour is also a brilliant outlet for people (even gauche folk like me) to meet other people who love film or want to get their start in the creative arts. (They really should start a dating version of Film Devour! I’m single right now, how did you know!?)
It’s also something that is very much needed in the less than egalitarian arts sector. It’s difficult as well as being intimidating getting a start in the industry but as Mr Banterflix (Jim McClean) has pointed out previously, the ethos of Devour is “if you shoot it, we’ll screen it”. That’s kind of awesome, no?
Showcasing local talent
Film Devour 22 – screened at one of Belfast’s best venues, the Black Box – offered up a whole cornucopia of talent with 14 short films on display to a packed house. Some had a little bit of money to spend and others didn’t but that doesn’t really matter when the spirit of the night was really about supporting those who have vision and courage enough to put their wares up on screen.
And true to this spirit, it really was a veritable smorgasbord of different styles and genres on offer; Devour 22 had everything from a Star Wars convention set comedy/drama to a Chaplin-esque homage about a man finding companionship in an unorthodox pet after his dog runs away.
There are too many films to cover individually but perhaps the one thing every film had in common, other than the labour and love it took to make them, is a very high level of technical ability. Even the films that had zero to no budget showed a flare and understanding for the essentials of story-telling. Ideas were presented clearly and that in itself is impressive and shows promise for every film-maker at Devour in going forward.
Audience Choice Award
The Runner up for Audience Choice this year was awarded to western revenge thriller Down There By The Train by Andrew McNeill and Thomas Pollock and it was easily one of the more memorable films of the event.
Starkly shot, it didn’t really look like anything else in competition and that’s not just because it’s a western but they employed the noir-ish predilection for dutch angles and desaturated colour palettes. Credit should be given to the directors on this one for even attempting something like this and it was a deserved runner up on the night.
The winner of the Audience Choice award (sponsored by Forbidden Planet Belfast) went to Ida-Maria Olva’s Orchard Road and it told the sweet tale of an unemployed father trying to create a memorable birthday experience for his young son, in lieu of something more expensive and forgettable.
This was a really well told story and served as both a reminder of the difficult economic times the world is in and also the fact that money isn’t everything: Family and simply just being there are what really counts at the end of the day. There were some genuinely lovely and funny moments in Leevi Ikonen’s script and it was a delight to see it win the Audience Choice award.
Directors Choice Award
Directors Choice Award (sponsored by Odeon Cinemas) went to silent comedy Fetch by Debbie McCormack where a man wakes up one morning to find himself in a state of mourning (yeah, sorry, had to) after his dog runs away only to find solace in a reptile.
Fetch was weird, offbeat and very funny in parts and probably got some of the biggest laughs of the night. Again, just to show the diversity of the festival, this was a silent film with only a quirky score to accompany the action.
Silent films might look easy but they are notoriously difficult to get right but Fetch managed to be both funny and touching and there were some brilliant pop culture references to boot.
For me personally, the pick of the night was the documentary Peter Boardman: Violin Maker. It’s an absolute gem of a biopic that details the thoughts of Peter Boardman, an English violin maker who lives just outside Donaghadee, County Down. Not only did it do a great job of picking an interesting subject in Peter Boardman but it had wonderful depth too.
Peter Boardman: Violin Maker doubled up as a meditation on the soullessness of consumerist culture but it was also a lesson for any aspiring artist that obedience and discipline (to paraphrase that German bloke) in the same direction are necessary for a meaningful and worthwhile life. Be true to yourself and persevere is tale as old as time but that lesson never gets old mainly because we need to keep hearing it. I really hope to see more from director David Moody in the not too distant future.
Finally, it would be hugely remiss of me not to mention Devour’s organizer ( Think Liam Neeson meets Brendan Gleeson) Brian Mulholland who puts this whole juggernaut together several times a year. It’s a brilliant, eclectic beast and a great avenue for Northern Irish talent. Film is language and there’s more than one way to use it; Film Devour is the brightest and most ebullient example of that.
When the next Devour comes about, you really should catch it.
Film Devour 23 returns to the Black Box on the 5th July 2017.