There is no pussyfooting around it – Film Northants 2013 was the year of the C word. It was not something we ever anticipated but suddenly it was there and suddenly it was something we had to think about.
The film in question – which went on to win the Judges’ Choice award – was the stunning race relations short The Boy With The Thorn In His Side which tackled hatred and immigration head on. Filmmakers Alex Motlhabane and Lewis Levis (AKA The Rest) pulled no punches in their controversial short which was so naturalistic in style some viewers first mistook it for a documentary. The film included a torrid of abusive language, including the infamous c word (albeit in a blink and you’ll miss it moment) and a topical subject matter which responded to the brutal Woolwich killing of Drummer Lee Rigby.
As a committee we felt we had a responsibility to discuss the film, particularly since it attracted one complaint, but we were all in agreement that the film should be put forward to the judges as it did not breach any of the Film Northants entry rules. Indeed as my clean-mouthed 70-year-old mother commented “the film wouldn’t work without the strong language”. At the judging panel there was debate over whether the film was provocative for the sake of it but on balance it was felt that the film was an exceptional showcase of acting, cinematography, narrative and originality. Furthermore the controversial content of the film was to its merit rather than its detriment.
The film was extremely well received at the awards night and attracted the attention of BAFTA nominated filmmaker David Morris who attended the event and spent time talking to The Rest. As a committee we feel proud of this film and stand by our decision to put it forward to the judging panel alongside 40 other impressive entries including Public Vote winner Paper Chase and runner-up The Break Up. Although there was no prize for third place in the public vote this position was taken up by the romantic short Fishing For…
What was particularly interesting this year was the cross-over between the Over 16s and Under 16s films which both contained zombies, gore and competent special effects. The Under 16s category continued to grow and in 2013 attracted 27 entries including the winner the Demon Dinner Lady and runner-up Night of the Living Ted. In total the 15 shortlisted films (nine Under 16s, six Over 16s) attracted more than 4,000 views between them and the Over 16s finalists received 1,636 individual votes from the public. The new website – launched in August – received thousands of unique users and more than 10,000 page views in its launch month.
Overall it was another successful year with a great range of entries and a vibrant awards night. The committee are currently taking stock of the year and looking at feedback. The festival will be in its seventh year in 2014 and there is a feeling that we need to develop the event to avoid becoming stagnant. We are currently floating around various ideas to turn the awards ceremony into a more traditional festival with multiple screenings, talks and activities with tickets on sale to the public. We will be consulting on this in the near future so please watch this space.