Belfast film festival celebrates 13 years

Pictures on the walls of Queens Theatre. Photo Elin Larsson

Pictures on the walls of Queens Theatre. Photo Elin Larsson

It started as a local city event. Today, more than 100 films are screened every year and visitors from all over the world are passing by Northern Ireland to attend the 13th annual Belfast Film festival.

By Elin Larsson and Natalija Sako

Belfast, Northern Ireland. The small university theatre in  southeast Belfast is unusually crowded for a weekday night. It is the second day of the Belfast film festival and the Queen’s theater is not the only place where screenings take place tonight. In addition to the over 100 films that will be screened in Belfast city during the 11- day-festival, each night also offers a mix of film discussions, workshops and meetings with actors and directors.

Emmeline Heffernan in front of the art gallery at Queen's Theatre. Photo: Elin Larsson

Emmeline Heffernan in front of the art gallery at Queen’s Theatre. Photo: Elin Larsson

Elaine Sommers to the left next to her husband Bryan Sommers.

Elaine Sommers to the left next to her husband Bryan Sommers. Photo: Elin Larsson

Emmeline Heffernan, 36, is sitting in the theatre’s bar area. Even though she didn’t have a ticket for the film she still wanted to go to the theatre to get a feel for the atmosphere. She has visited the festival several times before but hasn’t booked any tickets this year.

– I am working during all the other films that I wanted to see that’s why I didn’t book anything, but I quite like the selection of films here, it’s a good mix and you get to see films from all over the world, she says.

Just a few steps away from the noisy dance floor sits one of the most frequent film festival visitors. Retired art director Elaine Sommers, 67 has been visiting the festival almost every year since the start in 1995. Even though White Elephant, the movie for the night, didn’t particularly suit her taste she will be back.

One of the screens at Queens Theatre. Photo Natalija Sako

One of the screens at Queens Theatre. Photo Natalija Sako

– The movie tonight was very depressing and we left halfway through. It was not what we expected, we just chose it randomly, but I will come back and see more films later on, she says.

As the festival is celebrating its 13th anniversary, the theme of the year is teenagers, something that Elaine Sommers is not very happy about.

– I think it was an awful selection of films this year, nothing of interest but maybe that’s because they’re aimed at a younger age group.

The festival director Michelle Devlin has a far more optimistic attitude. In the programme for the events she describes what will make the festival special this year.

– We are celebrating becoming a teenager, so attitude, experimentation and adventure are a must.

Kevin Conaghan to the right next to his co-volunteer John Gourley.

Kevin Conaghan to the right next to his co-volunteer John Gourley. Photo Elin Larsson

To make the festival possible over 60 volunteers will be selling tickets as well as do customer service. One of them is Kevin Conaghan, 25. This is his third year as a volunteer and he is proud of the fact that the festival is showing both international as well as locally produced films.

– There’s a buzz around Belfast right now so I think that could be good for the festival. The film industry is growing, there’s a film education here and a lot of films are produced here.