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.
Volunteering 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