Sunderland Shorts – 2018 Award Winners

There were some big winners among the short films on show at Sunderland Shorts this year.

This year’s festival was a truly global affair – featuring short films from the US, Canada, France, Germany, Sweden and Lebanon, as well as some filmed closer to home. From a pre-event showcase celebrating films by young and emerging filmmakers on Wednesday 2 May at The Peacock to scare-packed horror screenings at Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens, the event has attracted hundreds of film fans and kept them on the edge of their seat.

The awards ceremony and final screenings of the award winners took place on Saturday 5th May, at The Looking Glass in Sunniside. With the exception of our Audience Favourite Awards, winners of the Sunderland Shorts 2018 honours have been picked by our volunteer panel of key regional industry figures. Details on the jury can be found here. It’s a cliché to say it was impossible to pick winners, but so many of the submissions were worthy of recognition and could have claimed the top prizes.

The Sunderland Shorts team would like to thank everyone who submitted and attended the film festival, our army of volunteers who ensured it ran smoothly, and all those across the city who have helped make the festival an amazing success once again. And congratulations to all the winners – you did an incredible job.

Sunderland Shorts 2018 WINNERS -

Best Drama:
Space Girls 
Dir: Carys Watford 
During a sleepover, four space obsessed 9-year-old girls embark on a secret mission in their cardboard rocket ‘Space Girls’ is a film that celebrates the power of the imagination, the importance of STEM education & girl power. It is family-friendly, appropriate for children of all ages & is a film to inspire young kids to see science & space as fun & exciting!


Best Comedy:
Rag Dolls
Dir: Justin & Kristin Schaack
Playtime turns into uncontrolled shenanigans when a child discovers rag dolls in an antique chest. Her imagination runs wild, but for the dolls’ real-life doppelgängers, self-control is out of their hands.


Best Documentary:
Dir:  Faye Carr-Wilson
Short documentary dealing with issues of disability and female empowerment through the subject Venus Dimilo, a female drag performer.


Best Art/Experimental:
Dir:  Keelan Crawford
A short film dealing with loss, following an old man who travels into his dreams and collects memories of his life in the shape of photographs


Best Thriller:
Dir: Jack Levy
A film about the dangers of peer pressure and mob mentality.  John and Rebecca attend a gig in town only to find that the act, Nick, has some incredibly committed fans. As the crowd grow ever more animated, John and Rebecca find themselves going to great lengths to prove their devotion to the charismatic singer.


Best Sci Fi/Horror:
Dir: Varun Raman and Tom Hancock


Audience Favourites:
A Place For Everything
Dir: Barnaby Boulton
A fantasy short film about a man on a quest to find his lost stapler; how far would you go to recover something you love?


Ghost Beats
Dir: Brent Barson
A ghost story about exclusion and acceptance, and the power of music and dance.


Space Girls 
Dir: Carys Watford 
During a sleepover, four space obsessed 9-year-old girls embark on a secret mission in their cardboard rocket ‘Space Girls’ is a film that celebrates the power of the imagination, the importance of STEM education & girl power. It is family-friendly, appropriate for children of all ages & is a film to inspire young kids to see science & space as fun & exciting!


Young and Emerging Stand Out Films:
The Sycamore Gap
Dir: Lucy Rose Wilson-Green
A short film following the romantic affair of two women in 1841. Mina works in Blackwood House and finds herself entering an affair with Lady Clara. Clara’s Husband, becomes aware of the affair forcing both women to face some harsh truths. Mina is torn between logic and emotion.


Dir: Ruby Blake
Enjoyable and unusual documentary about the community in Skinningrove on the East Yorkshire coast.  A tiny community they come together each year to build a spectacular and unusual Bonfire Night display.


N.E.P.K – North East Parkour
Dir:  Robert Kilburn
This short documentary provides a snapshot of the North East Parkour community.


Special Recognition Award:
A Dog’s Best Friend
Dir: Hannah Rollins


Special Jury Mentions:
Dir: George Cowie and Tom Huntingford
An uplifting and touching portrait of life on a community Dial-A-Ride service in South Wales.


A Place For Everything
Dir: Barnaby Boulton
A fantasy short film about a man on a quest to find his lost stapler; how far would you go to recover something you love?



5 Favourite Films: Hannah Matterson, Volunteer Coordinator

Hello, my name is Hannah and my taste in film is dubious at best…

When the Sunderland Shorts team decided we would each write a blog post like this, it seemed like a good idea. I’d be able to tell you all about my role within the festival team and what my favourite films are. Then I realised what my favourite films are and was awash with anxiety about how I’d be judged because of it. But do you know what? I don’t care- I’m Hannah and I have an ‘eclectic’ taste in film (and I’m proud of it!)

Before we go into the good stuff, here are the basics. I work for the MAC Trust in Sunderland and together with my colleague Kristian (you’ll have seen him post on here) we are donated to the film festival as part of the core team. I’ve been with the festival since the beginning and was very enthusiastic about getting it up and running. I am by no means a film buff, but I really do love the arts and have seen just how much they can have an effect on the lives of people. Sunderland needs festivals and events like Sunderland Shorts, to build audiences and interest in cultural activity. Think about how good you feel after you come out of the cinema having seen a good film on a Friday night- I want everyone to have that feeling all of the time. I am the volunteer coordinator for the festival, bringing together and managing our small army of helpers along with recruiting film reviewers, programming community film screenings and just about anything else that needs doing. I’d love for you to read this and think “Hannah seems nice enough to work with, I’ll volunteer”, but I’m pretty concerned it’s going to have the opposite effect. Do get in touch if you want to join our team though!

Now, 5 of my favourite films. I have left out obvious favourites because I assume that we’re all Star Wars/ Indiana Jones/ Toy Story fans, right?

1. ET (My absolute favourite)

At the first Sunderland Shorts Film Festival, we held an after-party towards the end of the festival for all the team, volunteers and filmmakers in a local pub. A gin and tonic (or 3) later and I somehow found myself telling other members of the team about my favourite film and the weird things it does to me. ET is fantastic. It’s been a firm family favourite in our house ever since I can remember. When I was younger I felt a real connection to Gertie (Drew Barrymore), believing that the way she reacts and grows to love ET is exactly what I would have been like, I still do. It is a heart-warming film with just as many laughs as there is suspense and moments of sadness. How can you not feel like you need a friend like ET when he gets drunk, plays tea parties, and wants to learn form you through mutual respect and admiration? There will never be another film that I love and dread watching all in one, because, as my team found out on that night, I cry every time I watch it. And the only way I can stop that, it by eating digestive biscuits. I don’t know why, I don’t know what happened in my life for that to be the case, it just is. But I am more than happy to consume all of those calories, to be sucked into the relationship between Elliot and ET over and over again, to discover the true meaning of friendship and to wish that one day, I’d find my own ET.



2. Untouchable

Based on the true story of Philippe Pozzo di Borgo and his French-Algerian care giver Abdel Sellou, Olivier Nackache and Eric Toledano depict an unlikely companionship in this French film between an extremely wealthy paraplegic man and his live-in carer, who is from the ghettos of the city. Philippe finds Driss’ attitude totally refreshing, after years of living in his body that barely works and plain but pleasant carers. Driss is different. He is embroiled in gang culture. He likes disco music. He is sexy. Above all, he really cares and Philippe knows this. Through Driss, Philippe can experience the world again and Driss knows that he can live a better life than the one he currently does. To watch this film and know that it is based on a true story is just incredible. I think I love it so much because it is fun. It tackles some difficult issues (disability, class, gang culture) in a way that makes you feel at ease with it all. The performances are stunning and there are moments of pure joy and others of complete frustration. Life, ey?  If anything, this film represents people at their best- making do with what we have (or don’t) and doing our best for those we really care about. Please watch this instead of ‘The Notebook’ and stuff when you’re feeling a bit rubbish, I promise you it’s a much better option.


3. Sleeping With the Enemy

Julia Roberts is great, isn’t she? I first saw this film maybe 10 years ago after my mam suggested we watched it together. I don’t usually trust my mam on films- not that there’s anything wrong with a Hugh Grant rom com, but I like something with a bit of suspense or grit to it most of the time. Well, I apologise right now mother, because you were right. There’s a scene in this where Laura (Julia Roberts) is in the bath and it makes me jump EVERY SINGLE TIME. I’ve seen it about 30+ times now. This story of a controlling husband and a wife’s journey to escape his hold is full of creepy, eerie, and disconcerting twists right until the very end. It puts me on edge and gets the adrenaline pumping. You’ll never look at how you arrange your tins in the cupboard the same way again.


4. The Muppets Christmas Carol

Controversial to throw a Christmas film in here? Probably. There are a lot of worthy films that could have been in this 5 for the fascinating, thrilling and beautiful storylines, the cinematic quality and award winning performances. That’s just it though- this is the best acting you will ever see from Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy! They way Kermit plays Bob Cratchit, the loyal employee of Ebenezer Scrooge is second to none. His doting wife (Miss Piggy) the perfect mother, both just wanting to make their Christmas a special time for the rest of the family. Sometimes, I think film adaptations of books lack the pleasure you get from actually reading the book, but The Muppets Christmas Carol absolutely transforms a Dickens’ classic into something we can all enjoy. I’m not claiming it’s Michael Caine’s moment of glory, particularly with that singing towards the end, but it’s stood the test of time as a festive favourite and you can’t ask for more than that.


5. The Artist

This French film won every award going when it was released in 2011 and rightly so. The black and white silent film was the perfect marriage of hope and misfortune for its lead characters, Peppy Miller and George Valentin. Even the dog, Uggie, delivered a perfectly timed performance. In a time where the big blockbuster is all about action and special effects, this film reminded me of why I love film so much. It took everything away but the music and the image and that was the most special effect of all. I also fell a little bit in love with Peppy as a character, so much so that I once went to a music festival that had a fancy dress day where you had to dress as a character from a movie, and I went as her. In hiking boots, not tap shoes I’m afraid. Photographic evidence supplied, as George would say, “With Pleasure”.


5 Favourite Films: Kristian Foreman, Programming Director

Hello internet people, my name is Kristian and I’m part of the programming team at Sunderland Shorts. This is the second in the series of blog posts from the festival team about our favourite films. I hope you enjoy my recommendations!

As a film festival programmer, I think the most important thing to possess is an appreciation of film. It is essential to hone that appreciation and hone your ways of trying to express that to other people. So as a bit of an introduction to myself, I thought I’d write about my top 5 favourite films and the reasons I enjoy them. The internet loves a good list, right? I believe you can tell a lot about a person through their favourite films. Hopefully my enthusiasm and passion for cinema will be communicated in these short reviews.

So here lies – in no particular order – the most formative, resonating, and thought provoking movies I have seen (or at least what came to my mind when I was asked to write this):

The Apartment (Dir: Billy Wilder, 1960)


Whenever I talk about my favourite movies with my friends, Billy Wilder’s The Apartment always comes up. It is such a bittersweet, heartfelt, and clever comedy about real people. Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine star as two essentially good souls trapped in a tangle of office politics. Even though the plot is slightly predictable, it is a deeply involving dramatic romance with some great dialogue and three-dimensional characters.

In-spite living in a time where fantastical, multi-million dollar Hollywood blockbusters are coming out every week, I always prefer seeing plausible characters on screen who are just trying their best to make their way through life with all its struggles. This is not to suggest I don’t also enjoy big blockbusters, I mean who doesn’t love living vicariously through the eyes of a Spiderman swinging from building to building in New York?! I am just a big fan of movies that take very small situations and make them feel more epic. I like movie experiences that tend to oscillate between comedy and drama, and The Apartment does that to perfection.

Hannah and Her Sisters (Dir: Woody Allen, 1986)


Woody Allen changed my life and is undoubtedly my favourite filmmaker. Like The Apartment, the way he seamlessly drifts between frivolity and pathos appeals to my taste.

At the youthful age of 17 I had no idea who Woody Allen was, only that I heard his name crop up in radio interviews of comedians and writers I admired. One afternoon as I was aimlessly wandering through a second hand DVD store I passively picked up a copy of Annie Hall for 79p. Later that night, with limited expectations, I popped it in the DVD player – and it genuinely transformed my cinema experience forever.

Woody Allen was the first person I saw who combined humour with big ideas. I’d never seen anything like that before. He was silly and funny whilst still talking about something legitimate. To a 17 year old angsty, romantic Sixth Form student who had just discovered reading philosophy and questioning whether the table was really there or just a sensory illusion (I still have no idea), it filled a perfect cinematic hole in my life. I immediately became a mega fan and began working my way through his interminable oeuvre. It was fantastic (even the not so great ones).

“I’m not afraid of death; I just don’t want to be there when it happens.

So I feel I have to include a Woody Allen film in this list. It is hard to pick a definitive one, but I always seem to go back to and re-watch Hannah and Her Sisters. This seems to be his most literate movie, and as an English Literature graduate it resonates with me. It is filled with universal themes such as fear of death, desire for love, transient lust, and hesitant decision making.

Boyhood (Dir: Richard Linklater, 2014)


Richard Linklater’s epically constructed masterpiece Boyhood. It is nearly 3 hours long. There is almost no plot. But I loved every minute of it. It was absolutely fantastic. Again, it is very similar in tone to the other films I’ve mentioned in the list. A sort of domestic comedy-drama, but very, very truthful, and brilliant performances again.

It is just a story of a kid living his life between the ages of 6 and 18. And that is it. No crazy plot twists. No mad adventures. No kooky characters. It is not building towards any sort of plot twist or cathartic ending. It’s just about a group of people aging, with significant and insignificant things happening in their life. Like Linklater’s well-crafted Before trilogy, it is filled with smart, but natural dialogue.

The actors playing the young children at the beginning of the film are the same actors playing those characters as adolescents and young adults. Which makes it all the more special because you really get to know these characters and feel a connection to them. I am a sucker for teenage coming-of-age stories. Movies like Stand By Me, Almost Famous and The Breakfast Club invariably have my eyes glued and my emotions on the edge of a precipice.

I went to see Boyhood on the last day it was playing in the UK at the cinema. It was a matinée showing at there was only four people in the movie theatre, including me and my friend. After about 90 minutes in, the other two people in the room said ‘Why is nothing happening!?’ and walked out of the screening. Although rather distracting, I quite liked this moment as it practically mirrored a line from the movie during a scene when the mother character is talking to her son about being disappointed with how her life has turned out:

“I just thought there would be more than this…

Boyhood is a refreshing escape from the monotony of real life, to the monotony on a big screen. However Linklater somehow manages to make those everyday moments feel magical and special.

The Truman Show (Dir: Peter Weir, 1998)


How prophetic this film was. Jim Carrey gives a remarkable performance as a man learning that his entire life in an idyllic coastal village has been the subject of a live, 24-hour-a-day womb-to-tomb television drama. The premise of this movie is both reasonable and ludicrous, with a sublime execution. It is as endearing as it is provocative.

The bigger themes of media manipulation, authenticity, reality TV and the American Dream it tackles are just as relevant now (if not more so) than they were when the film was first released theatrically back in 1997. 

The colour of the film is perfect, the pace of the editing is exemplary, and there is an attention to detail that you rarely see in a film. I’ve seen this film many, many times and each time I watch I notice something new and interesting.

The Darjeeling Limited (Dir: Wes Anderson, 2007)


Amazing soundtrack, beautiful locations and a great cast. Wes Anderson is another favourite filmmaker of mine. His unique and quirky directing style is always refreshing to my eyeballs and I believe The Darjeeling Limited is one of his most underrated films.

Themes of brotherhood, travel and spirituality are something I ponder over a lot. Being a person who dabbles around in spirituality, watching this movie is always a comfort to me. The characters set out on a spiritual journey and find closure at the end in India. The ride along the way to this enlightenment is hilarious and fun, in only the way that Wes Anderson can show. The rich colours of southeast Asia combined with the wonderfully aesthetic talent of Anderson makes the entire experience a pleasure to watch.

There is an extraordinary amount of incident and observation perfectly squeezed into a mere 90 minutes. The brothers bicker, fight, reminisce, and accuse each other of trivial things. Very relatable family moments.


Hope you enjoyed reading about my opinion on films. If you live in the North East and are remotely interested in film then I encourage you to find out more about Sunderland Shorts: Film Festival at and come along in 2017. Also, if you haven’t seen our new promotional video you can check it out here.


Kristian Foreman, Programming Director

5 Favourite Films: Anne Tye, Festival Director

Hello, I’m Anne and I have the dubious honour of writing the first in our next series of blogs, written by each member of the festival team, as a way of getting to know us.

I work for Sunderland City Council and my role is to deliver business support and development projects to the city’s creative businesses.  I’ve also managed the logistics for getting Sunderland creative businesses and their work to Washington DC as part of the Sunderland /DC Friendship Agreement, to take part in exhibitions and exchanges there, mostly related to glass and ceramics.  And that’s how Sunderland Shorts started …

In 2013, Jon  Gann of DC Shorts and I hatched a plan to start a film festival in Sunderland to be a platform for filmmakers and related talents in the city, and we applied to the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities for some funding to support Jon to travel to Sunderland in 2015 to get us started.

I worry that being Festival Director implies that I’m a film expert but I’m not, although I do know a bit about running creative businesses. That said, I’ve always appreciated what a great film can do, whether it provides a bit of escapism, thought provoking subject matter, laughter or tears, and I have a very eclectic taste and a long memory.  I could go on about watching Abbot and Costello films with my Dad and Fred Astaire / Frank Sinatra / Gene Kelly movies with my Mam,  Jason Bourne or James Bond – the list could be endless.

So, here you go, in no particular order, 5 of my ‘can watch anytime’ films:

The Ladykillers 1955 Dir.Alexander Mackendrick, Studio Canal

Cast: Danny Green, Peter Sellers,  Cecil Parker, Herbert Lom, Katy Johnson, Alec Guinness


Mrs Wilberforce (Katie Johnson), an elderly widow living in an ancient, lop-sided house close to St Pancras station, likes to report suspicious behaviour to the police. Unaware of this habit, the charming but dastardly Professor Marcus (played by Alec Guinness with additional teeth and looking remarkably like  Alistair Sim) rents rooms in her house for himself and his gang of thieves.  Posing as a string quartet, the gang commit a bank robbery but let something slip in front of Mrs Wilberforce while trying to get away and her suspicions are roused.  The crooks agree they need to kill her off but in an effort to double-cross each other they manage to kill each other off instead.  In the meantime Mrs Wilberforce goes to the police, but has her reputation preceded her?

The last of the Ealing Comedies, this is an incredibly charming film with comedy, tension and intrigue in equal measure.  The Alec Guinness and Herbert Lom characters are particularly sinister while Katie Johnson gradually reveals that the genteel and seemingly unsuspecting elderly lady hides a wily, steely core.  The film captures the smoke, grime and darkness of post WWII London which adds to the menace but there are also light touches such as a cameo by Frankie Howerd as a hapless barrow-boy.  It doesn’t matter how many times you see it, you see something new every time.

Charade 1963 Dir. Stanley Donan, Universal Pictures U.S.A. 

Cast: Audrey Hepburn, Cary Grant, Walter Matthau, James Coburn, George Kennedy, Ned Glass


Regina Lampert (Audrey Hepburn) returns to Paris, after a holiday in the Alps, to find her home stripped of furnishings and her husband murdered. Peter Joshua (Cary Grant) whom she met in the Alps, offers to help her solve the mystery.   Her husband had hidden 250,000 dollars, stolen from the US Government along with four accomplices who pursue Reggie to find their “share” of the take. Peter Joshua, along with Walter Matthau as CIA agent Hamilton Bartholomew, are the only people she can trust, or can she?

Like The Ladykillers, Charade manages to mix mystery, suspense and villainy with light touches of comedy, but with added romance and an original score by Henry Mancini.  Then there’s the wonderful elegant Audrey Hepburn wearing Givenchy, set against a Parisian backdrop . What’s not to love?

Jackie Brown 1997, Dir. Quentin Tarantino , Miramax PIctures

Cast: Pam Grier, Robert de Niro, Samuel L Jackson, Bridget Fonda, Robert Foster, Michael Keaton, Chris Tucker, Michael Bowen.


When flight attendant Jackie Brown (Pam Grier) gets caught smuggling cash for arms dealer Ordell Robbie (Samuel L Jackson), along with a small amount of cocaine, agents Ray Nicolette (Michael Keaton and Mark Dargus (Michael Bowen) see an opportunity. They persuade her to help them bring down Ordell in exchange for avoiding jail time. She doesn’t agree immediately, is charged and put in custody pending bail.

Ordell instructs bail bondsman Max Cherry (Robert Foster) to pay her bail and release her from jail and there’s immediately a clear attraction. Jackie knows Ordell will try to kill her and steals Max’s gun from the glove-box – she’s ready when Ordell turns up and sends him packing.   She’s going to end up either dead or in jail and she decides to double cross both the agents and Ordell in a bid to keep the money … helped by Max who has fallen in love with her.

I’m a Tarantino fan, and this choice could easily have been Pulp Fiction or Inglorious Basterds.  I love his dialogue and there’s a line in Jackie Brown, when she’s facing down Ordell, that comes into my head far too often!  It’s a very tense film with some shocks and surprises and you really can’t predict anything. Samuel L Jackson’s Ordell is cool, charming and dangerous  but de Niro’s character, Louis, is alongside most of the time and he’s just too quiet, too acquiescent, until he’s finally challenged.

The soundtrack is fabulous, starting and ending with Bobby Womack’s Across 110th Street, along with the Delfonics, Randy Crawford, The Brothers Johnson, Johnny Cash and more.

Bellville Rendezvous 2003, Dir. Sylvain Chomet


Madame Souza is trainer to her grandson and cyclist, Champion.  During a mountainous leg of the Tour de France, Champion goes missing. He has been kidnapped along with two other competitors by villains who want to use their cycling skills and stamina for a gambling scam. Along with Champion’s overweight and faithful dog Bruno, Madame Souza sets out to find Champion, intrepidly crossing the ocean in a pedalo to the town of Belleville. With no money, Madame Souza and Bruno are befriended by three eccentric elderly women, who were once a famous jazz trio, Les Triplettes de Belleville. The triplets help Madame Souza and Bruno in their quest to find and rescue Champion.

This is one of the most delightful films I’ve ever seen – it’s eccentric, chaotic and a bit odd (catching frogs with grenades to make frog soup) but it’s a brilliantly warm, moving story about a Gran’s dedication to her boy. The artwork is beautifully detailed and sometimes hilariously exaggerated, especially the cyclists with overly massive calves and thighs. The music of the triplets is very much in 30’s Jazz style but it’s so fast and light it just makes me smile.  Need to watch this more often !

True Romance 1993, Dir Tony Scott.

Cast: Patricia Arquette, Christian Slater, Brad Pitt, Gary Oldman, Christopher Walken, Val Kilmer, Dennis Hopper, James Gandolfini, Michael Rapaport, Bronson Pichot, Samuel L Jackson.


Written by Quentin Tarrantino and Roger Avery

Clarence (Christian Slater) and prostitute Alabama (Patricia Arquette) fall in love and marry.  While breaking the news to Alabama’s pimp, Clarence kills him and grabs what he thinks is a suitcase of Alabama’s clothes.  But it’s full of cocaine belonging to the mob. The two hit the road for California hoping to sell the cocaine, but the mob is soon chasing them.

This is a classic road movie and you’re never in doubt about the intense love between Clarence and Alabama and the extremes they go to to protect each other.  As you might expect with Tarantino as co-writer, it is blood-soakingly violent, with sharp, sometimes hilarious dialogue and scene stealing cameos. I think it’s a beautiful film, thanks  to the direction of Tony Scott.  An ear-worm of a theme tune too, by Hans Zimmer.

My Experience Volunteering with Sunderland Shorts

With preparations for the third Sunderland Shorts Film Festival now underway, it’s clear that the event has proved to be a great success and an important addition to the cultural scene in Sunderland as the city bids to be UK City of Culture 2021.

My own involvement with the event began when I responded to an advert requesting volunteers to help out at the inaugural festival in July 2015 – being new to the area and myself a filmmaker, I jumped at the opportunity to get involved and meet like-minded people who shared my interest in film and culture. The prospect of an international short film festival being held in the city was also an exciting one.

Arriving at Sunderland Minster for the launch event, I was greeted by a friendly festival team who immediately made me feel welcome, and I was extremely impressed by the quality of films being screened, ranging from light-hearted comedies and animations suitable for children to dramas and films with much darker adult themes.

My experience at the first festival was such a positive one that I put myself forward as a volunteer reviewer, which involves watching and reviewing a selection of the films submitted by filmmakers from all over the world for inclusion in the festival. The diversity of genres and subject matter, reflected in the final programming for both the 2015 and 2016 festivals, ensured that this was an entertaining and stimulating experience, and seeing films that I had reviewed being screened at the 2016 festival was very satisfying.

13592198_1723657987906115_4798011597117694563_nVolunteering with Sunderland Shorts has been hugely rewarding, which is why I returned this year and continue to volunteer as a reviewer. The link with DC Shorts Film Festival in America, as well as the visiting filmmakers from all over the world and the inclusion of foreign language films, all add an exciting international element to the festival, resulting in a rich and engaging experience.

I’m convinced that the festival will continue to gain momentum and has a bright future ahead of it, becoming a key event in the city’s cultural calendar, and I would encourage anyone with an interest in film and arts to consider volunteering as a reviewer or to help out at some of the events. With work on Sunderland’s bid to be UK City of Culture 2021 now in progress, this is a particularly exciting time to get involved with Sunderland Shorts and a great way of supporting culture in the city.

- Sarah Winslett

Become a Reviewer

With Sunderland Shorts: Film Festival entering its 3rd year, we’re looking forward to seeing our Film Freeway site filling up with new and exciting short films, all hoping to be screened at next year’s festival. Regular submissions have now opened and we’re expecting hundreds of films to be submitted to us over the next couple of months from all around the world and covering every genre imaginable. We’ve seen it all here!

But how do we whittle those films down to the final 50 or so that will be screened in the festival itself? Of course we have our programming team who are responsible for putting together the screenings and making sure the flow of them is just right, and they have the final word on all the films that we screen. These guys are not alone though! We are very lucky to have, what can only be described as, a small army of volunteer reviewers as part of our team.  

c0082-mp4-07_53_01_49-still002Reviewers are assigned several films at a time to watch, casting a critical eye over every film that is submitted to us. With the help of a trusty reviewer’s guide and support from the core team, each film is watched by at least three of our reviewers and marked on various criteria such as the storyline, production quality and overall rating. This stage is also the opportunity for reviewers to make any constructive comments about the film. It is not possible for us to screen every film that is submitted to the festival, but we are dedicated to giving valuable feedback to filmmakers who don’t quite make the cut. You won’t find things like ‘OMG best film EVER!!!’ as part of these comments or ‘This was rubbish’, but you will find comments based on plots, characters and overall quality.

So it’s pretty easy really. You don’t need to have any qualification other than an interest in film and let’s face it, who doesn’t enjoy a Friday night in with some popcorn and a good thriller/comedy/drama… ?

c0077-mp4-07_51_58_02-still001Is it a big commitment? No. Well. Not really. We appreciate all the help we get when it comes to reviewing the submissions as sometimes we find ourselves swimming in a sea of shorts, but we understand that not everyone will have the time to watch 50 short films that are anything between 3-20 minutes long! All we ask is that you do what you can and let us know how you’re getting on. We know some of our reviewers almost binge watch their allocation, whereas others prefer to fit one in on their lunch breaks over the course of a week or two. It’s totally up to you! We want our festival to be catered to our audience, so it’s important we have a wide range of people volunteering to be reviewers. We’ve got people of all shapes and sizes as part of the team!

Once all the ratings are in, we pick the films with the highest marks to go into the festival competition. That’s when the responsibility is handed back over to our programming team.

So if you fancy yourself as a bit of a film buff and can spare some of your time to help Sunderland Shorts: Film Festival 2017 be the best one yet, then why not sign up to become a reviewer today!

Email the team at or visit the website for more details