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By Jack Silverwood
Derbyshire’s High Peak has been a hub for the filmmaking community for a long time, and this month saw the area establish its very first film festival. High Peak Independent Film Festival, which ran from July 20th-23rd, brought together a whole community to appreciate and award talented local and international filmmakers.
Festival organiser Nicole Pott told us, “I’m a filmmaker myself, so I wanted to make a festival that I’d like to go to.”
46 shorts were screened at the event, as well as four feature films that explored a variety of different genres and subject matters.
Highlights from the Friday screening included The Prime Location, directed by David Buchanan: an interesting short that tells the story of someone following his dream with the help of some antagonistic joggers. The film incorporated still photography to give an interesting story-book style in some of its sequences, which often added to the comedy of the lead actors’ narration. According to Buchanan, the style of the film was inspired by old French cinema, in which this technique was used quite frequently.
Hannah Pike’s film Hit & Run, winner of the Best Director Award, was another standout. Hannah’s short film followed an alcoholic meeting with a prostitute, and the two connecting through their own life experiences. Hit & Run is a funny and enduring film, helped very much by the excellent performances and direction. Pike mentioned during her Q&A after the screening, that the story was based on the life of a member of her family and that making the film meant a lot to her personally.
Saturday brought us the Best Student Film winner: Stalemate, written and directed by Kieran Stringfellow. Stalemate is a tightly directed comedy about a family at Christmas time and their disastrous attempt to play a board game together. The film is hilarious thanks to its tight focus and great performances; not a moment feels wasted or misused throughout the film’s duration.
Saturday brought a Film Festival Street Party, organised by the New Mills Festival. Organiser Lyn Bannister spoke to us about the hard work that made the event happen. She said, “You have to do all sorts of legal stuff – we have a big team doing this for the festival. It’s gone really good, nice crowd.”
Sunday was the final day of the festival and the films on display remained interesting and compelling. A stand-out was the short film Infinite, directed by Connor O’Hara. The story revolves around a group of friends, one of whom is terminally ill. He has asked his closest friends to bring together pieces of his life to be burnt and cast into the atmosphere, to keep his memory alive. The story is everything you want in a short film: not overly long, tightly focused and excellently directed. The lead performances were also a highlight of the whole festival.
Another highlight, on Sunday, was the winner of Best of the North: The Worst Football Team, directed by Steven Jay, a short comedy following a terrible team and their coach looking for a magical way to improve their game in the countryside of High Peak. The filmmakers clearly understand comedy, as they use the low budget to their advantage, the dodgy makeup and effects adding to the hilarity as the team proceed on their quest to find a magical mermaid. The performances are all on point to make the audience laugh and the direction is just unpredictable enough to keep the audience on their toes ready for the next comedy moment.
The feature films screened at the festival were also varied. Among them were some documentaries, including Still Loved by Debbie Howard: a film exploring the complexity and reality for families dealing with the loss of babies. The film is very open and uncompromising and was the recipient of Sunday night’s Best Documentary Award.
A stand out of the narrative feature films was She, The Sergent Matacho, which received the Best Actress Award for Fabiana Medina as well as the Best Feature Film Award. Directed by William Gonzalez, the film details the horrific violence in the 1948 Columbian partisan conflicts between liberals and conservatives. A brutal and beautiful film, it left the audience feeling disturbed as it recounted the trauma and atrocity of the period.
The festival ended with an award ceremony hosted by Andy Powell, and music performed by George Pelham and Emilie Lee. Awards were then presented to the filmmakers.
Overall, particularly with it being the event’s first year, the High Peak Independent Film Festival was a great success. Bringing together films and filmmakers into the area and showcasing some incredible talent is no easy job, but the festival’s organisers pulled it off perfectly, with all proceeds helping support the local arts theatre. When asked about the future of the Festival, Nicole Pott said, “Next year, the aim will be to push with the press. To get more people to come.”
Plans for next year’s festival are already underway. For more information, visit the festival’s Facebook page.
Best Original Screenplay – ‘New Neighbors’
Best Short Film – ‘Little Chicken’ Dir Nicholas Legendre
Best Feature Film – She, The Sergent Matachio’ Dir William Gonzalez
Best Director – Hannah Pike ‘Hit & Run’
Best Actor– Farid Zarrinbal ‘Sanctuary’
Best Actress – Fabiana Medina ‘She, The Sergent Matachio’
Best Cinematographer – ‘The Forest at Night’ Leonard Adrien
Best Score – ‘Nobody Dies Here’ Dir Simon Panay
Best Student Film– ‘Stalemate’ Dir Kieran Stringfellow
Best Documentary – ‘Still Loved’ Dir Debbie Howard
Young Filmmaker Award – Holly Jacobson
Best of the North – ‘The Worst Football Team’ Dir Steven Jay
High Peak Festival Special Award – High Peak Film Cuts Club