Friendliness the key to a new film festival that dares to be different

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Hebden Bridge Film Festival

Picture House and Town Hall, Hebden Bridge, March 22-24.

It may be a first effort but the inaugural Hebden Bridge Film Festival which starts on Friday already has the feeling of something that’s been around for years.

And that is down to months of planning by two film makers, festival director Louise Wadley, her partner Jay Rutovitz and a cast of volunteers who believed in their idea.

The upshot is a commendable programme of home grown and international films and an impressive list of industry professionals descending on the town for the three day festival.

The pair also secured the services of one of Britain’s best female actors Maxine Peake as patron and have received immeasurable help from a number of bodies including Screen Yorkshire, Film Hub North, partners Hebden Bridge Picture House and Hebden Bridge Town Hall and Hebden Royd Town Council.

To say it has been warmly received would be an understatement:“We were quite conservative in our projections for the first year,” says Louise, an Australian who settled back in the “beautiful” Calder Valley in 2017. “There is so much enthusiasm for this it really has surpassed all our expectations.”

The festival has chosen “The Other” as its theme.

“We are championing the voices of those who are different, who exist in the margins, outside the mainstream or who remain unheard,” she says. “There are some film festivals that are formal and stiff. We want to be known for our friendliness.”

Opening night, which screens the feature Wild Rose (101 minutes, starring Jessie Buckley, Julie Walters and written by Nicole Taylor) and Time Away, a 15 minutes short, directed by Peake is a sellout, getting the festival off to the perfect start. These are followed by a Q&A with both Peake and Taylor.

“Hebden Bridge is a town that has been resisting the status quo for years and I couldn’t think of a better place to have a film festival,” she said.

The programme features 12 films including previews of Steve Sullivan’s forthcoming film Being Frank: The Chris Sievey Story, followed by a Q&A with Sullivan and Lane 0, a documentary about training potential Olympic swimmers from developing countries which is followed by a Q&A with director Manuel Tera and Alice Dearing, the UK’s World Junior Open Water Swimming champion. Sheila Munyiva, one of the stars of Rafiki , banned in her homeland Kenya for its portrayal of a relationship between two young women is flying in from Africa and will take part in a Q&A on March 24. Also on Sunday is a screening of the award-winning Eighth Grade, an exceptional story and sympathetic portrayal of teen angst which according to Benjamin Lee of The Guardian is “a film that should be a rite of passage for all, no matter the age.”

And before the closing night party at Nelson’s Wine Bar is another extraordinary film The Fight which is directed by Jessica Hynes who will also take part in a Q&A.

lFor full festival details pick up a brochure from either venue or go to hebdenbridgefilmfestival.org