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  • Writer's pictureLaurence Boag-Matthews

SFF 2023 DAY 3

We had an early start to the day’s festival programme, with a family screening of Tomm Moore’s Song of the Sea at the Stephen Joseph Theatre. This film brought up a huge number of connections with other films shown throughout the weekend, some more obvious than others! The film pays tribute to the folklore of Ireland through a heartfelt story that follows a family grieving the loss of the mother. The animation style is beautiful and expressive, the magical elements appear as motifs within the landscape and burst out from their hiding places as the film follows the siblings journey home. The folklore as stories passed on from mother to child and the interconnectedness of people’s lives with the natural world in island life brought up themes raised by the Caribbean Stories programme we saw yesterday afternoon. The power of stories and the collective memory is hugely important to the film, and the overall themes of this festival as a whole, approached in diverse ways by the other films shown so far.

This screening was followed by Terenia Edwards’ animation workshop making Thaumatropes, a very early form of animation which creates the illusion of a moving image by blending two images placed back to back together when spun on a string or stick. Children made a range of Thaumatropes from seascapes to spaceships at this busy event which was free to attend. A local children's book author, Edwards puts on a number of workshops and events, you can follow her on Instagram to stay up to date @terenia_edwards_.

After this, we picked up again at the SJT to watch and award the winners of our short film competition. We were treated to a wide variety of Yorkshire-based shorts that explored the festival’s core themes of coast, community and environment in many different ways. The winner and runner up prizes were awarded by Richard and Louise from LOCL Properties, who sponsored the prizes awarded to Eden our winner and Time and Tide our runner up. The judges: BAFTA award winning director Jordan Hogg, film critic Tim Robey, the BFI Academy’s Zoe Naylor, and resident writer of the festival Laurence Boag-Matthews (me), had the difficult task of deciding the winner and runner up. Watching all the films before awarding the prizes was a fantastic experience that allowed us to appreciate the strengths of each film and the way they linked thematically together and with other events from throughout the festival, and the variety of genres and formats made it tough to narrow down to just two choices. The vibrancy and energy of animation came through in Shaun Clark’s Wish You Were Hereand Neil Baker’s Wish I Were There, which brought a nostalgia for the seaside that echoed the screening of Bait and The Tide on Thursday evening . The energy and experimental creativity behind Sam Henderson’s A Punch from the Sun earned it a healthy discussion in the judging chamber (the bar) while Jemima Stubbs’ Your Voice Their Voice’s focus on Rose as a way into the water pollution protest movement allowed her to confront an audience with the perspective of one of the direct recipients of the current state of our world. The selection included more documentary pieces than any other genre, with The Saw Makers, Eden, Moss of Many Layers, Coast, Time and Tide, and Your Voice Their Voice. Time and Tideand The Saw Makers focused on materials and products, the process of saw making and the nearly extinct labour of seacoaling. Moss of Many Layers and Coast explored aspects of nature and the environment, with Moss of Many Layers diving into the history of Bolton Fell peat bog and the conservation work taking place there, while Coast brought beautiful visuals of the Yorkshire coastline and its wildlife that makes up part of a larger ongoing project. The documentation of seacoaling as a dying industry in Time and Tide and the interesting visual choices made in the film were of particular note in our considerations. The winning films brought us two very unique stories, for a further discussion of Eden check out the blog post about day two of the festival, as the film was also included in the Queer Shorts: Liquid Thoughts selection.

The presentation was followed by a drinks reception in partnership with Brass Castle brewery, which provided refreshments and attendees were welcome to mingle. We were lucky to be joined by some of the filmmakers and the judges of the competition, many of whom are local to the Scarborough area so this was a great chance to grow and solidify links within the town’s creative community.

To close out the evening, a range of performers with links to Scarborough were asked to perform live pieces in combination with archival footage from the Yorkshire and NorthEast film archive’s Nature Matters project. A majority of the performances confronted the silence of the archival footage, creating a dialogue with them by riffing on what may have been said in the case of Charles Kirby, or responding to the contrast between the ever presence of technology in our current everyday existence and the lack of this in the past as shown in the archival footage as Charlotte Oliver explored. In the post-show Q&A discussion, performers discussed the processes behind their pieces and how they responded to the commissions set by SFF. Tanya Loretta Dee discussed how as she viewed the film, she felt a ‘frustration at where we are with nature’ and felt a need to find hope within the footage. Importantly, she brought up an ability to see ‘the beauty in the mundane’ through the archival materials, which echoed strongly with the themes present in the Caribbean Stories series shown on Friday, in particular Clavia Aaliyah McClain’s Felt but Never Glimpsed. The archival footage as a record of what came before doesn’t simply show what we’ve lost but also a hope for the future, suggesting possibilities of what we have to regain. The title, ‘Revive’ clearly guided the responses and acted as a major theme throughout. The performers were able to respond optimistically despite the archive seeming to show a view of the area that appears almost alien to us, as one of Charlotte Brooke’s pieces put forward - the radical possibilities of silent black and white footage allows an artist to imagine infinite possibilities of their context, dialogue, colour schemes. Intriguingly, Jon Plant managed to combine his own personal musical archive with the archival material, the archival material inspired him to adapt lyrics from an unreleased song he’d written years previously. His second piece set to beach and flood footage was accompanied by a rendition of The Kinks Sunny Afternoon that amplified the discordance of the song. Charlotte Brooke chose to adapt Pulp’s Common People to accompany footage of swimmers which brought a healthy dose of laughter. The mixture of both humorous and thoughtful performances were very well judged, Brooke’s all out comedy and bouncy piano contrasted with Oliver and Loretta Dee’s poetic environmental warnings, while Kirby managed to walk a tonal line balancing dry humour and seriousness to accompany his industrial themed footage. His quote ‘we quickly outgrew our need to survive’ encapsulates the tongue in cheek nature of his performance.

A varied and busy penultimate day of the festival really put the creativity of the local community on show and provided a programme full of both emerging and established talent.

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