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Sunday, 26 September 2010

Encounters International Film Festival Kicks Off

Bristol has always been considered a nexus for pulling in from around the world creators of some of the most groundbreaking and astounding works of art, film etc closely followed by a sea of connoisseurs looking for their fix of innovative storytelling, and stunning visuals. Adding to Bristol’s cultural wealth will be the Encounters International Film Festival’s 16th annual event due to be held for six days from 16th – 21st November 2010, and featuring some of the finest filmmaking talent from all over the world. As usual the events will be held at The Arnolfini, @Bristol, Watershed, and The Cube Cinema.



The event is the largest of its kind in the UK, bringing together some of the finest movie making talents in an internationally acclaimed celebration of the art of short filmmaking and animation, submitting their work into the festivals recently re-launched and revamped competitive strands; Animated Encounters and Brief Encounters. As well as screenings of works by future Coppoloas, Scorseses and Lucas’ looking to win the much coveted awards and prizes, there an assortment of guest appearances and workshops to enthral and engage film lovers and makers alike.

The programme for the event was launched on 23rd September 2010 with a promise by its organisers to be the biggest one yet even though admissions to the individual activities and screenings are subject to the venues' capacity limits. The interest generated however could see thousands flocking to Bristol for an opportunity to participate in this incredible event, giving it even more international attention.

Festival Highlights

Highlights for Animation Encounters feature a look at the crossover of graffiti (urban or street) art with animation in a session entitled Canimation. This features an assortment of time lapse recordings of some adventurous graffiti applications. It is also rumoured that the identity of the legendary urban artist Banksy may be revealed in some as yet unseen footage. If graffiti art fails to capture your imagination then you can participate in a stop motion 3D master class or see how Irish animators are mounting up their own collection of awards in a showcase entitled Irish Beauty.

The feature that will no doubt generate the most excitement is the appearance of comedian, actor, composer, and songwriter Tim Minchin in the Desert Island Flicks segment. Fans of Minchin familiar with his poem Storm will be excited to learn that his words have been translated to film which will receive a premier screening at the festival.

Brief Encounters promises events and appearances as equally packed and enthralling as its  counterpart. If you fancy getting your hands dirty why not take part in Unravel: The Longest Hand Painted Film in Britain. Keeping in with the celebrity factor the BAFTA hosted A Brief Encounter with... features Andy Serkis whose motion capture performance as Gollum in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy followed by King Kong has made him a household name although more recently he garnered critical acclaim and a BAFTA nomination for his performance as Ian Dury in the biopic Sex & Drugs & Rock &Roll. You can also listen to Irish director Ken Wardrop talking about his experiences in making the award winning His and Hers.

Let Battle Commence

The festival also  provides the battle ground for a friendly yet hard fought competition to win awards that are internationally recognised and boast respectable cash prizes as well as mentoring and other lucrative opportunities. I was privileged to meet some of the filmmakers whose work will be featured in this year’s event.

Animator William Garratt talked to me about his entry in the DepicT segment of the competition. For those unaware the gauntlet laid down before filmmakers is to produce a film with a running time of no more than 90 seconds. William’s submission is an amusing 2D animated feature entitled Le Tuff Talk in which two old misers hurl insults at one another for no other reason than mutual loathing. Having viewed this on William’s website I can honestly say the result was pleasantly unexpected and entertaining.

William is an animator who during our conversation seemed very much to champion the art of 2D animation in particular the likes of the Warner Brothers cartoons featuring Bugs Bunny and Road Runner et al, which for years has faced stiff competition with the increasing investment in CG and other digital productions. He cites Matt Groening, creator of The Simpsons, as well as our own Nick Park and the madcap bunch at Aardman Animation as his influences, which is evident in much of his work. A view of his other works display a range of creativity humour and resourcefulness given that like many other artists, maintains a full time job leaving his spare time devoted primarily to his family and his real work.


Hailing from Cornwall, Henry Darke however is a very different kind of filmmaker. A graduate from the London Film School he hopes to touch audiences’ emotions with Big Mouth, which has already been selected for screening at the BFI London Film Festival. It tells the story of two friends, both profoundly deaf, whose friendship is tested when one of them leaves for University, leaving the other alone and facing the harsh reality of having to stand up for himself.

Henry expressed confidence that he has created a piece (based in part on a true story) that everyone can relate to, a sort of rite of passage that nearly everybody has experienced at same stage in their lives. Henry gave me the impression in no uncertain terms of being an ambitious filmmaker, citing Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese and Woody Allen as his influences. His aim is to make films in the same vein as these legends, with content which Henry describes as more visceral than cerebral.

Both William and Henry are perfect examples of the quality of work and passion befitting all the competitors taking part in the festival. With high levels of both, audience and juries will certainly have their work cut out for them trying to decide to whom they should bestow their most sought after awards.

Further Reading

Visit the Encounters Film Festival website for more details, and also click here to read my review of two of the entrants submitted for competition.