Norwich Film Festival: The Arts Prevails

Picture this: it’s 2009, you’ve left university and you’re having coffee in The Forum with your friend. They show you a short film that they’ve made and you’re amazed by it. They’re struggling to get it into any festivals and there’s nothing in Norfolk. They are disheartened that all their hard work will go to waste because no one will be able to see it. What do you do?   

What Kellen Playford decided to do was independently launch a film festival in Norwich in support of his friend. He joked, “I was kind of a bit arrogant. I thought what this place needs is a festival to take films like my friend’s, put them on the big screen, and then everyone can come and see it.” I was absorbed in the personal story Kellen shared to me at the festival’s launch event at Dragon Hall, amazed by how far he and his growing team had come.   

The festival overall was a blast, and I loved the buzzing atmosphere throughout. Not only did I have the opportunity to interview a director I greatly admired, but I also came across so many other talented filmmakers. That’s the great thing about screening short films – in a short space of time, you can come across a multitude of stories, characters, and genres, leaving the theatre feeling refreshed and inspired. Everything about the festival this year was rich and diverse.

What was great was that I could catch up on the films I missed, or rewatch my favourites, in the comforts of my home with the recently introduced online pass. A particular favourite of mine was Birthday Boy, a story about the struggles of a transgender boy surviving at an all-girls school. Another film I had a soft spot for was Roy, starring David Bradley; the character he played reminded me so much of my Grandad. I coincidentally served Tom Berkeley and Ross White, the directors of Roy, at the café I work at in Norwich! They sang their praises for the city.

A highlight for me was attending the Film Awards at the end of the first week. It was a great chance to casually chat with the filmmakers themselves in a recently opened building at the Norwich University of Arts.

The best East Anglian film award was sponsored by the University of East Anglia and presenting it was Dr Geraint D’Arcy, the head of Media at UEA. He told me, “this is a fantastic opportunity to come and meet everybody from the film community in Norwich, Norfolk and East Anglia. The future of the film festival with us as a department and as a university going forward is really exciting.”

I’ve also loved listening to the Norwich Film Festival podcast, created and hosted by Niamh Brook, who was the Film Editor for Concrete and Venue last year. It’s great that her passion for journalism has continued, she has asked really insightful questions and recognises the beauty of each filmmakers’ work. Hearing their passion to create makes me appreciate their films even more. 

Kellen has done his friend and so many other creators proud by setting up this festival. I can’t wait for next year.

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Laura Patterson

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January 2022
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The University of East Anglia’s official student newspaper. Concrete is in print and online.

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