St Andrews Film Festival: A review

Emily Lomax reviews the St Andrews Film Festival, run by the St Andrews Filmmakers Society.

Logo by Yu Ching Yau

On Sunday 29 April, the Filmmakers’ Society of St Andrews held their second-semester showcase; a day-long schedule of film screenings, a talk from a short-film industry professional and from an award-winning short film maker, lunch and an awards ceremony.

It was a bit of a tragedy heading to a lecture venue – the Buchanan – on a sunny Sunday, and strange diving into a dark cinema space during the day. Perhaps the event could be compressed somehow, so that it could fit into an evening, even a weekday evening – I don’t think it’d devalue it, but it might drum up more attendees. People can be reluctant to sacrifice their Saturdays.

The Buchanan is big, and the building wasn’t swelling with attendees, so maybe a more intimate venue would have suited it better; although I do know that this was the monumental event of the year for the society, so to have a proper screen to show the films was important. There was a good mix of people attending – students, locals; a range of ages. As a newly established event – and indeed society – I think the net hadn’t been cast very far out, so the people there were those with a real interest in film, or more of a vested interest in these particular films.

The short films themselves were a mixed bag, but there were some gems – Isla was my favourite; very evocative and wryly funny. There were some dramatic atmospheric films, and some more whimsical. Cops Running Up Stairs was very quirky and nicely tongue-in-cheek. It was a good reminder that short film can be and is very well suited to humour. The cinematography of some was remarkably good, and the curation of the programme was well done so that similar atmospheres or approaches weren’t shown back-to-back.

During the lunch-time interval a few food societies were there serving up food; there were crepes, feta and tomato toast, juice and finger food – it was a nice relaxed break where people mingled and could discuss what they’d just watched.

If this event or continued events from the Filmmakers’ Society are able to encourage students and the wider town or Scottish body to get into making films, that’d be a really great thing; they’d be brilliant little projects to work on and a creative outlet. I think it’s a matter of publicity, and creating a sub-culture of short film production in St Andrews.

That ties in with Swiss Internationale Kurzfilmtage Winterthur curator Laura Walde’s talk; she addressed the audience mainly under the assumption that we were keen filmmakers, as opposed to just watchers, and it consisted of advice (pragmatically disheartening advice). She also showed a short film about faking attendance at a film premier; maybe I zoned out while she introduced it, but I didn’t quite understand why she was showing it.

Walid Salhab was a more rousing speaker, and his encouragement was a nice counterbalance to Walde’s industry-realism. He showed a wonderful stop-motion black-and-white silent film of his, and then answered questions on the filming process and on his career (he shared a great story about its beginnings; him filming for hours and hours on a building site).

The second batch of films featured more experimental projects. Highlights were Emilio Elia’s 1999, which later won the audience award, and Boris Bosilkov’s Ashes of Tomorrow, which featured a hyperlapse segment discussed by Salhab. The event then proceeded to the Adamson, where the menu included customised cocktail names inspired by movie titles.

All in all, the first festival organised by the newly-founded Filmmakers’ Society showed promise for the future. If improvements are made in publicity and scheduling, they could potentially join other traditionally large-scale events in St Andrews.


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