Cinema For All conference and Film Society of the Year Awards 2016
One of the film societies at this year's Cinema For All conference described the Film Society of the Year awards as the Oscars of community cinema, and that's how they feel. The Awards are just one part of a weekend packed with screenings, panels, networking and celebration. As 2016 is Cinema For All's 70th anniversary, the weekend was all the more special.
With a bursary from Film Hub SWWM, I and one other member of Lost In Film were able to attend the annual conference in Sheffield. The train journey from Bodmin gave us plenty of time to plan what to do over the weekend, and reflect about everything we'd seen and heard on the way home.
Sadly our train didn't arrive in time on Friday night to attend the screening of Ghost Dog but we were able to go for drinks at Fusion Cafe, see some familiar faces and introduce ourselves to some new ones.
On Saturday we arrived bright and early for registration and settled down for the introductions and Keynote speech by Kim Bruun from the Association of Danish Film Clubs for Children. Kim is clearly devoted to bringing cinema to a young audience, and it was a surprise to hear how few adult film clubs exist in Denmark. Like so many of us they face similar challenges of funding and volunteers, but Kim is determined to “make some noise” to demand the attention and appreciation his organisation deserves.
Lucy and I decided to split up to cover as much as of the conference as possible between us. I attended the screening of Neruda about the Chilean poet followed by a discussion, while Lucy attended the panel on Energisers, those individuals who drive an organisation. Neruda was beautiful and fascinating but not a film I would include in our programme, although other film societies were immediately keen to screen it. Lucy found the panel on Energisers very practical and informative.
After lunch I attend the Champions panel while Lucy watched Life Animated about an autistic boy who has found a way to express himself through Disney films. The film got a very positive audience score of over 80% and Lucy suggested we should consider screening it. In Champions it was interesting to hear from Julia Vickers from Bracknell, Amanda Randall from St Ives and Michael Pearce from Cinema Nation, three champions with different approaches and different challenges. Topics such as the activism, how programming is inherently political and the public record of film societies were discussed.
Almost straight away we were into the Awards, with Lost In Film nominated in the Best Single Event category. Deborah Parker hosted the ceremony, and we also heard from David Taylor from MPLC, former Guardian reviewer and Cinema For All president Derek Malcolm (who has some wicked anecdotes), and Film Now's Danny Leigh who gamely helped present the awards. Majella Griffin presented significant cash awards from Filmbankmedia, then for each award category the nominations were read out and the winners announced by Danny Leigh. We were very excited when Best Single Event came round. Sadly we didn't win, that honour went to Girl Gang of Sheffield, but it was thrilling to see a picture of our committee on the big screen and hear Lost In Film read out in the list of nominees.
Although there were many inspiring film societies and individuals, the best part of the evening was when Marjorie Ainsworth came onto stage to accept the Roebuck Cup for her lifelong contribution to Manchester and Salford Film Society. Marjorie is 94 and has been involved with the film society since she was 17. She received a standing ovation and there were several people with tears in their eyes. Marjorie said that being involved with a film society helps you keep in touch with the zeitgeist and prevents a “mouldy old age” - she is certainly testament to that.
After the ceremony it was time to go back to the Showroom for drinks and dancing. We received our framed Commendation and goody bag, and had a photo taken with Danny Leigh.
The next morning we just had time to attend the Originators panel before catching our train home. The panel was focussed on Scotland and it was interesting to learn about ventures both new (Grow your Own cinema and the cinema in libraries scheme) and old (the Edinburgh Film Guild now in its 87th year.) Most relevant to Lost In Film was the social enterprise set up to help communities screen films in rural Dumfries and Galloway. After a few bumps along the way (which we can all relate to) the venture is now established and bringing cinema to people who have no other way to access film on the big screen.
In between all these activities we chatted to countless film societies and people from the Cinema For All team. Lucy and I came back buzzing with ideas, and we immediately arranged to meet our committee to discuss them. We will definitely encourage other committee members to attend the conference next year.
Running a film society with small audience numbers in a relatively remote area can feel lonely and isolated; by meeting other film societies and having our work recognised in the awards we felt part of something much bigger and that our efforts are appreciated and recognised more widely.
Kathryn Smith, Lost In Film, Lostwithiel Cornwall