By Marian Cleary
The 4th Oska Bright International Film Festival came to a close on 19 November 2009, with an evening of celebration, partying and the presentation of awards to the winning film-makers.
The Old Market in Hove was the setting as animators, film crews, actors and directors gathered to see who the nine-strong Oska Bright steering committee had voted the top films in six categories. There were also Special Achievement and Special Mention awards.
The process of arriving at the final winning entries was no easy thing with over 200 films submitted this year. These were then long-listed to 114. In committee member Matthew Hellett’s words: ‘There were big debates, disagreeing and agreeing with some categories coming down to just one vote.’
This year the festival become international with entries – and winners – from North America and Eastern Europe. Sarah Watson from the steering committee expressed the shared feeling about this: ‘It’s brilliant.’ Matthew sees Oska Bright possibly getting even bigger which is, ‘quite an exciting prospect.’
The first awards were two Oska Bright Bursary awards. These were won by Save our Sheep by Matthew Eggert from Epping in Surrey and Dinosaurs by Ian Braund from Plymouth, Hampshire.
The Best Documentary award went to 35KM by Vilmos Kerecsendy from Hungary. What stood out for the committee was that ‘It’s great to see how interesting life is for a person with a learning disability in a small village in Hungary.’ In addition, ‘He has a charming, funny personality and this comes across in the film.’
The Best Acting award went to performances in Hope Springs Episode 1 made by Shoot Your Mouth Off Films in Gateshead in the North East of England. Wendy Elsley made the acceptance speech on behalf of all the actors saying, ‘We worked so hard for this film. Everyone should be proud for yourselves.’
This award was presented by Luke Cresswell, founder of STOMP, the internationally acclaimed dance company. When asked what made STOMP decide to help with funding for Oska Bright, he said: ‘It’s the passion of Oska Bright.'
'One of the things we look for in STOMP, it’s not always skill. It’s always ability. The mantra at STOMP is if you can do it to a level, then we can work to that. Oska Bright has that same vision and it’s about passion and everybody gets involved.’
While many films used animation or a mix of real world and animation sequences, the Best Animation Award itself went to The Story of the Beatles by Hughie McIntyre from Glasgow, Scotland.
Presented by Carmel Giblin from another of the festival’s supporters, Sky, she said: ‘Sky is delighted to support such creative talent.’
Best FX went to another international entry – The End of the World According to The Ram from Prague in the Czech Republic. Liz Aggiss from Brighton University did the honours, having, in her own words, ‘decided to dress as a special effect’, making reference to her very shiny top!
The biggest award of the evening for Best Overall Film was won by Young at Heart by Doreen Kay. As one of the hosts, Richard West, said, ‘We’re all young at heart.’ The award was given out by Stephanie Fuller from Arts Council England. She revealed that Richard had promised to take her to Rio.
This demonstrates the banter and ad hoc humour from Richard and his co-host host, Matthew Hellet. Despite the professionalism and fun oozing from the stage, they said afterwards that they hadn’t put in any rehearsals. ‘We did no rehearsals,’ said Matthew. He was backed in this by Richard: ‘None! None at all!’
Richard did not whisk Stephanie away to South America before Doreen had accepted the main award. Doreen later said that winning came as ‘an absolute surprise.’ However, she did win an award last year too! It appears she is not resting on her laurels though, and is aspiring for even more success: ‘I’m searching for better achievement.’
The Special Achievement award went to the Picture This Film Festival in Canada. While many Oska Bright films have been shown at this event, festival director Sheryl Lenthall said: ‘It’s great to meet in person.’
More entertainment was lent to the proceedings before and after the award presentations by DJs from Carousel.
Special Mention went to one of the most delightful films of the evening – Stella Rogers’ Birds of a Feather. This can be seen already on the Oska Bright website (where all the films from this year will be able to be viewed before long).
Stella said: ‘I enjoyed making the film and I hope to make another one pretty soon.’ The ideas are already flowing and Stella revealed that her next film will involve a superhero with the ability to shrink inside a computer. You heard it here first!
A controversial note was sounded by Andrew Holman from Inspired Services. He had come along with Darren Kemp from Our Say Magazine to see what the festival had to offer: ‘The films that we saw this afternoon, the quality was superb in the vast majority of them and you could see the involvement of people with learning disabilities in it. And you could see them being a bit edgy.’
‘One was a sort of spoof taking the piss out of day centres. Nice, as far as it goes but when you’re thinking about mainstream film, there wasn’t swearing in it, nothing there with nudity or sex in it. And if we’re looking at everyday life, then you would think that if there was equality around, we’d be seeing some of that coming through.’ .
That said, Andy Kee, another Oska Bright committee member, summed up the impact of the festival and the process of making films can have: ‘The arts are a truly amazing journey. Oska Bright will develop and so will the people’
One plan which will help the festival grow and reach a wider audience is to gain funding by 2012 for a bus in which to take films and film making workshops around the country. But while Oska Bright has toured to theatres and arts centres, discussions are underway to take the films to less obvious venues such as train stations.
As Matthew Hellett says, this is, ‘to make a really good positive impact on people. Make it national, international and of course all our work will be recognised. Not just from the learning disability community.’
Already, the committee are putting a shout out for films for 2011. The film festival only happens every two years to give time for projects to run and groups to form and work together - sometimes under time constraints - from week to week.
Find out more about Oska Bright, how to get involved and also to see the shortlisted films from this year and past festivals, by visiting www.oskabright.co.uk.
The list of winners in full:
Oska Bright Bursary winners: Save our Sheep by Matthew Eggert, Epping, Surrey and Dinosaurs by Ian Braund from Plymouth, Hampshire.
Best Documentary award: 35KM by Vilmos Kerecsendy from Hungary.
Best Acting award: Hope Springs Episode 1, Shoot Your Mouth Off Films, Gateshead
Best Animation Award: The Story of the Beatles by Hughie McIntyre, Glasgow.
Best FX: The End of the World According to The Ram, Prague, Czech Republic.
Best Overall Film: Young at Heart by Doreen Kay
Special Achievement award: The Picture This Film Festival in Canada.
Special Mention: Stella Rogers’ Birds of a Feather.