On the 15th and 16th August, we saw the first South Coast Film Festival take place in Hastings Old Town. It’s an independent celebration and examination that will run annually – this year it was at the brilliant Electric Palace, socially-distanced and Covid-safe, despite the necessary seating restrictions that requires.

The Festival organisers Paul Saunders and David Wurawa say: “Our mission is to help create a platform for our filmmakers to be seen, but more importantly, get them the industry exposure to help sustain their craft for many years to come. The SCFF is extremely excited to present its showcase, and hopes to become one of the most important Independent film festivals in the UK. The SCFF Awards will provide space for independent film-makers to create and display their stories without commercial pressure, in order to discover and celebrate extraordinary films and develop independent film-making.”

Many of the weekend’s films were stand-out amazing, particularly the contenders for the International Film award, including two dramatic shorts from Iran. Each was expertly crafted from beginning to end, and could have been expanded to feature length (though still functioned perfectly as shorts). Another especially memorable entry was the documentary, Age is a Bingo Number, which followed a bingo-centred social club in Newcastle, and the many touching nuances of its largely Italian-British membership.

Other films shone out because of their ingenuity. Best Newcomer, Silhouette was filmed entirely on a Huawei smartphone by the director and sole actor, Ben Dillaway, yet still showed remarkable cinematography and a now very familiar sense of isolation. The protagonist sits in his car, in the quiet dark, arguing with his own conscience, or self, dressed like James Bond in the back seat. The only other person involved in the production was Ben’s mum, who filmed a small section at his direction. Evidently social distancing doesn’t have to mean the end of film. 

Paul Saunders seems to be the ideal organiser for this kind of festival. A film-maker himself, he showed an energy, optimism and understanding that was instantly endearing and inspiring. Anyone could easily approach him to discuss the world of independent film and how best to navigate through it – definitely the right man to be guiding a festival that wants to support and showcase upcoming makers. 

Check the website: www.southcoastfilmfestival.com

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