BIFF – (Birkenhead International Film Festival) from Convenience Gallery, hosted by The Williamson Art Gallery & Museum
Having only recently enjoyed the New Light Prize Exhibition at the Williamson Art Gallery in Birkenhead, there was another feast for the eyes in the same gallery – this time a night of short films from the BIFF. It was the 4th year of the Festival but my first time. The scale of their ambition for Birkenhead made me smile and got me over the river again. I may have been a latecomer to the BIFF’s appeal, but there was clearly already a large and loyal following – the event had quickly sold out and the team had to start a waiting list.
As co-founder of Convenience Gallery, Andy Shaw, says, they’ve come a long way: “We’ve had quite a journey to get to this point. We just decided to go for it with the title. There’s a Berlin Festival, why not Birkenhead? For something that started as a dream amongst friends, to selling out a 150 capacity venue … and it’s all done in our free time”.
This year there were over 50 entries from different countries, which the team and their ‘screeners’ whittled down to 13 for the night’s programme. These lived up to the BIFF’s international title, being from Australia, Italy, Spain, Germany, France and the UK.
Convenience Gallery run the BIFF alongside independent festival producers and curators, Ben Loveland and David Harrison. Ben’s talents extended to playing the Steinway grand piano as we all made our way into the ‘cinema’. He was also the compere, introducing the films and explaining the theme for this year – World Building and the different ways film can do this: “It’s quite an abstract concept but it boils down to two things – place and people”. David was handling the techno side of it all and also animated the cuts between the four sections of films.
A highlight of the evening was a panel discussion with four of the featured filmmakers, led by Louisa Mackleston, Founder of Northern Fortress Films in Bradford. It was fascinating and entertaining to hear what inspires and motivates them; there were several references to memories, their own as well as those held in the landscape.
Ollie Cameron’s film, ‘The Ridgeway’, for example, dealt with childhood memories and also what home means to different people. Fanny Cerdan talked of how her film, ‘Night Journeys’, had been triggered by the death of her brother and her memories of him. Simone Einfalt used Super 8 film in ‘Blue Hour’, which evokes memories for anyone of a certain age of home movies. Kieran Shayle made us all laugh with the story of how his 2-minute film, ‘When It Rains’ came out of a monumental hangover and the desperation of not wanting the whole day to have been as wasted as he was.
The programme promised we would be “transported to different worlds” and so we were. During the breaks, there was even an opportunity for a glimpse into a future world with Scenegraph Studios’ who were showcasing their latest VR headset. There was quite a queue to try it out, as I’m sure there will be for the next BIFF.
The BIFF was held at The Williamson Art Gallery & Museum on 21 October 2023. For information and how to submit a film, contact Convenience Gallery.