Today’s guest blog is by Martin Grund from Leeds Young Film Festival who has just returned from Lille’s International Solidarity Festival.
Following on from the PACE project (Partnerships in Arts and Cultural Education) which gave me the opportunity to visit Lille in January 2018 to witness how the arts, and in particular film, was being used in education, it was a great honour to be asked to collaborate on the city’s Solidarity Festival to mark 60 years of partnerships across Europe, including the 50th anniversary of being twinned with Leeds.
Representing Leeds Young Film Festival, I worked together with Dorothée Ulrich from the Goethe Institute in Lille and Nicola Jones, the director of the Golden Sparrow Film Festival in the Germany city of Erfurt (another of Lille’s twin cities), to put together a programme of children’s films for families and schools. As Leeds is known for its Golden Owls and Erfurt for its Golden Sparrow, the programme was given the title ‘Films and Wings’ or ‘Des films et des ailes’ in French.
The films were shown in two independent venues in the city; Gare Saint Sauveur, a converted railway station which is now a multi-arts centre and Cinéma L’Univers, an independent cinema, supported by the council, which works with over 60 cultural organisations to screen films, host exhibitions and run filmmaking workshops.
For the public screenings at Gare Saint Sauveur, we programmed “Paddington” and “The Song of the Sea”, both titles which have been incredibly well received at Leeds Young Film Festival and which are perfect for young families. The German contribution was “A Horse on the Balcony” and “Mountain Miracle”, both films that were successful in the Golden Sparrow Film Festival. The audiences for these films were quite small but those that did attend really enjoyed the screenings and gave positive feedback. The fact that all the films were unknown to the audience and in a foreign language was challenging, but there was a clearly an appetite for films that weren’t normally shown at the cinema and I hope that I will get the chance to develop the programme further.
The screenings at Cinéma L’Univers were for schools and I’m happy to say that all the screenings were fully booked. The Leeds contribution to the programme was again “Song of the Sea” and also “The Secret Garden”, which celebrated its 25th anniversary this year, while the German films were “Not Without Us” and “Mountain Miracle” again. The actor Samuel Giradi who stars in “Mountain Miracle” was also a guest at the screenings. I introduced the films and conducted a Q&A with the audiences afterwards. So many of the children had questions or observations about the films and it was great to see that they had enjoyed the screenings so much and that the films had made such an impression on them. We actually ran out of time at “The Secret Garden” screening because there were so many questions.
The final part of my contribution to the Festival des Solidarités was representing Leeds International Film Festival at a screening of short films organised by Audiovisual Encounters, an organisation which has a well-established relationship with Leeds, including installations at Light Night. This took place at L’Hybride, a not-for-profit arts space which welcomes several organisations to present their films on different themes. This year, the theme was solidarity and migration in Europe. Given the topic, I selected two films that were both powerful documentaries; “Bee My Job: A Story of Bees and Men” about Abdul, a refugee from Senegal who, thanks to an NGO-led project in the Piedmont region of Italy, had found a home and a job as a bee keeper; and “The World is Round so Nobody Can Hide in the Corners – Part II: The Kiss” about an African refugee who visits the Gay Holocaust Memorial in Berlin. Both films were very well received by the audience and were strong additions to the programme.
Once again it has been a pleasure collaborating on cultural activity with organisations in Lille and I hope that there is further opportunity to develop partnerships and build on these foundations. I am already in discussion with Dorothée from the Goethe Institute about a number of German films to consider for the 2019 edition of Leeds Young Film Festival and I plan to discuss ideas with Nicola Jones from Erfurt about collaboration between the Golden Owls and the Golden Sparrow.