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Liz Porter and Colin Hambrook review Oska Bright 2011 - the international film festival of short films by people with a learning disability, which took place in Brighton's Corn Exchange from 22-24 November 2011

movie still of a group of young people

Horoscope Crazy by Luc Eisenbarth and LAE Productions, won this years' Best Special FX Award

Colin Hambrook caught two screenings at the jam-packed Oska Bright Film Festival this year. He talks about some of his favorites

It is great to see that Oska Bright is continuing to have an impact during these times of austerity, when cut-backs are making it harder for learning disabled people to get out and about. Oska Bright is an international brand, recognised for the quality of the films and their often refreshing approach to film-making. It is amazing what can be produced on little or no budget. Oska Bright demonstrates the resourcefulness of learning disabled film-makers in knowing what makes a good story, and how to best improvise in telling it in the best way possible.

The key to their success has been twofold. Firstly you see the kinds of film you wouldn't find in mainstream film-making. Secondly, 'Oska Bright On the Road' have developed a democratic approach that has inspired learning disabled film-makers around the world through their film-making workshops. They have hit on a model which has made having your film shown at an Oska Bright event, a sought after and prestigious thing to do. This year the presence of screenings of films from Canada and Australia was a testament to how respected Oska Bright's work is, at a global level.

One of my favorites at this years' 'Films from Everywhere' screenings was Arty Party's 'Let me In'. A surreal story of what can happen when someone comes to your door, the film had some memorable moments such as when an unwelcome policeman interrupts a woman busy ironing a stack of clothes in her living room. There is a lovely touch when he ends up being part of the ironing and gets folded up and laid out on the pile, ready to be put away.

Individuals relationship with authority is a theme which runs through Oska Bright films. This year there were two dramas that stood out as everyday stories of the kind of discrimination that learning disabled people face. Both 'Best Interest' by JUMPcuts and 'Swimming Pool' by Mind the Gap were about how lack of understanding leads to intolerance. I especially liked 'Best Interest' - a cleverly edited film about a learning disabled couple who are kept apart by their families and the authorities who run the services they attend. The story of love blossoming in the face of unreasoning opposition was deftly told and superbly acted, with some touching moments of rebellion.

Some more films from everywhere

By Colin Hambrook

photo of a yound man looking very confused

Still from SYMOs 'Dr Why and the Caves of Death'

Going to War over a Banana Truck - described in the programme as an animation about how silly war is - makes an oddly insightful comment on East-West politics. The rhetoric between sides is represented by a game of tennis between the Statue of Liberty and Osama bin Laden. Tennis balls are flying around the world in a game of love and hate to great consternation and the accidental start of a world war.

Shoot Your Mouth Off have won awards at Oska Bright in the past. This years' 'Doctor Why and the Caves of Death' was a hilarious lampoon of the ever popular BBC sci-fi series, in which the doctor's famous sonic screwdriver gets a variety of uses including the removal of unsightly facial spots. There were some hilarious special effects when the doctor and his assistant Wendra get to descend into the caves.

All in all, the screenings and the award ceremony were greatly enjoyable, well attended events. It was good to see two of Brighton's Greens - Councillor Bill Randall and MP Caroline Lucas presenting awards. Local paper, the Argus, were there also, although I wondered at the lack of wider coverage, particularly from the BBC and the Guardian who have both featured Oska Bright in the past.

The Picture This and 104 Films, screenings...

By Liz Porter

photo of a man dressed in a sparkly costume

Matthew Hellett, learning disabled film maker and drag artist 'Mrs Sparkle'

The quality of films from the 'Picture This' international film festival was excellent. Some of the films captured my attention, reflecting many different barriers and attitudes universally experienced by Disabled people in the wider context. Many of us can identify with some of the experiences that people with learning disabilities, have and it was great that this is being recognised in Oska Bright.

Key films for me in this screening were: 'Every Day a new Challenge' from Hungary, a silent film with the simple storyline of an old disabled woman trying to cross the road and being totally ignored (something I've experienced on many occasions), no matter how much she tries to catch their attention. It is a group of other disabled people who ultimately find a way to work together to assist her.

The Australian film 'Yoke', a film about a 15 year old girl with Downs Syndrome called Lorna, whoes sexuality is beginning to awaken and whoes Mum is doing everything to prevent her from exploring her own desires. Was definitely my favourite, perhaps a bit dark but had such atmosphere and yearning. When Lorna steals a sex book from the local mobilie libary, her mum makes her take it back, but this does not deter Lorna who finds other ways to unlock her innerself.  This was a brilliant - a Jane Campian style, film that spoke volumes.   

I understand from speaking with the 'Picture This' team, that similar to Oska Bright, they also have a 'jury' of people including disabled people who look through the selection and offer recommendations on which films they would like to see in the festival. The Film director does have ultimate choice, but clearly disabled people are involved in the process.

One area that is difficult for 'Picture This' to explore is the role of 'creative access'. There are very few ASL interpreters in Canada which makes it incredibly difficult to explore this angle. likewise even fewer audio describers. All films at Oska Bright are captioned. I did feel that the films in this section could have benefited from some level of creative access. I wondered whether you could even have explored an element of live AD particularly with films such as 'Every Day a New Challenge' and 'Love is Blind' Live AD might well heighten the comic elemnts within such films.

I do wonder why people aren't exploring audio description more creativly or adding in BSL as a matter of part of the production process. It seems creative access is still seen as an 'add on', perhaps it's difficult to justify given the low numbers of visually impaired and Deaf people who attend these festivals. But I believe in challenging persceptions, I can come along to these festivals and just accept what I experience, but I can't help thinking there's more to explore.

I was disappointed that creative access hadn't been included in Justin Edgar's new film 'The Conference'. A film developed in partnership with The Actor's Centre, depicting the plight of Deaf and Disabled performers. Of course relevant, but depressingly similar to the experiences many of us were privy to 25 years ago. I coudn't help wishing they'd explored a different topic, or come at the subject from a different angle.

After the screening on Wednesday night Oska Bright led a Q&A session about how to get more learning disabled people into film. People expressed the need to collaborate, work together, be open to sharing ideas knowledge and experience. It was great to see Julie McNamara and Caglar Kimyoncu there, who had been so involved in the London Disability Film festivals of a few years ago and now developing a festival in Vancouver.

Oska Bright create a friendly and welcoming atmosphere and the gaps between screening allow space for networking and it was great to meet people I hadn't seen for ages such as Andy Kee. I look forward to the next one. The new home in the Brighton Dome worked well. I can only hope that the cuts don't jeopordise these projects even further than they already have. Audiences seemed fairly good, but I wonder how many people weren't able to get there, due to recent changes.

Oska Bright 2011 Award Winners

photo of a yound man looking out of a car window

Paul makes the mistake of telling his brother about his girlfriend in 'Best Interests'

Most Original Film Award 
Cafe Chat, NMIT Work Education Centre Students, Preston Australia

Uscreen Award for Best Young Film Maker 
Movie Makers by Surf Club Movie Makers, London

Best Special FX 
Horoscope Crazy by Luc Eisenbarth and LAE Productions, Brighton

Best Animation 
From The Nature's Eye Of Things From The Nature’s Eye Of Things by Tanice Mc Minis, Alberta Canada

Best Film in Festival . . .  
Best Interest by JUMPcuts, Somerset

Festival Favourite 
A Reason To Stay by Eldar Yusupov, Israel

Bursary Award 1 
Horoscope Crazy by Luc Eisenbarth and LAE Productions

Bursary Award 2 
Snowman, L.C.D.C Media Group