Colin Hambrook reviews the latest Oska Bright at The Old Market arts centre in Hove and talks to some of the film festival's steering committee
The Oska Bright film and digital media festival gets bigger and better as time moves on. This October saw the festival's third outing at The Old Market arts centre in Hove, East Sussex. Due to popular demand, the festival was screened over two days, with 113 entries coming from as far afield as Australia. They were whittled down for a screening of 38 films - all between one and 10 minutes long. The quality was better than ever, with a marked increase in the number of films featuring drama, dance for film and animation. There were also less docu-drama films - not that I've anything against docu-drama, but disabled film-makers seem to have grown in confidence to become more creative with their storylines. It would seem that Oska Bright has encouraged them to try out different things as the subject matter of the films relies more on imagination and less on personal stories about day-to-day experience.
Judging the seven award winners must have been a truly difficult task, with production values higher than ever. Some of my personal favourites coincided with the judges' choice, but by no means all. Project Ability from Glasgow won the best animation slot with Country Road Take Me Home. But it was another film from the same group, entitled Why I Hate Art, that made me laugh out loud. The animation is about a RoboCop remake called Robobart, who is programmed to destroy art galleries. The film would complement Doris Salcedo's recently installed crack in the fabric of London's Tate Modern as a statement questioning what is shown in art galleries. Perhaps it illustrates why art galleries should be made to be more relevant to wider sections of the community.
Although there was the usual emphasis on humour to get a message across, there were some significant attempts at serious drama. Kids Today by Year 11 at Brighton's Cedar Centre was an especially convincing story of relentless bullying at school and at home. I thought Celebrity Shotgun, submitted by the one and only Heart n' Soul was a better and funnier take-off of EastEnders than even French and Saunders have managed in the past. The story is an old one. A businessman fancies his secretary and tries to muster the courage to carry out his cheating desires. He follows her to a club, but is too drunk to do anything. The embarrassed secretary takes him home where he gets his come-uppance. In the middle of the film is a hilarious dream sequence in which the boss gets taken to a fantasy island by comedian Frank Carson, no less.
However the winner for best acting was well deserved. The Raven's Tale by The Shystershadows (who won Best Drama in 2005 with My Bloody Valentine), is a beautifully done gothic-horror romance I could watch over and over again. The characters were well-developed to make it believable. Again, it isn't a particularly new story (how many are there under the sun?) but has a modern twist. The jilted bride is sent a message from her lover by the raven, which tells her that the groom is in fact gay.
It was great to see a real media presence this year with Guardian Unlimited who came to interview the cast from The Raven's Tale. I believe both Meridian and the BBC ran features on the festival. As I said two years ago, the festival is more than deserving of air time in one of Channel 4's late-night short film slots.
Award Winners 2007
The following films won the seven awards given out at the ceremony on 16 October:
Oska Bright Bursary Training Award: Park Life by Dance Delight (Lincoln) and Amarillo by Phoenix Centre (Newbury)
Best Animation: Country Road Take Me Home by Project Ability (Glasgow)
Best Documentary: In Our Shoes - Serena by Serena Nordon (Kenilworth)
Best Special Effects and Camera Work: Germ Academy by Work Power (Taunton)
Best Overall Film: I Saw A Girl by Arty Party (Telford)
Best Acting: The Raven's Tale by The Shystershadows (Coventry)
This festival is clearly set for big things. On The Road is already planned to hit Penzance, Dublin, London, Halesworth, Shropshire, Glasgow, Inverness, Belfast, Cardiff, Liverpool, and Bristol (to name a few) over the coming year. For more details please go to www.oskabright.co.uk.
Oska Bright interview
DAO talked to Oska Bright committee members Mathew Hellett, June Hall, Richard West, Andy Key and Stephen Firshman.
How was it putting Oska Bright together this year?
RW: We've had a lot of fun. We've really enjoyed it. It is becoming easier for us to put the festival together as we get more experience. But the big problem is always getting the funding.
What is the message that Oska Bright sends out to the mainstream film industry?
MH: Hopefully it sends out a positive message. It lets them know that we want to be treated equally; that we can make a film just like the next person.
RW: It is important for other film-makers and people involved in film to know that when there is proper access, people with learning difficulties are just as capable of making films.
MH: Personally I enjoy film-making because I love doing something creative that other people can watch and learn from.
AK: What is important is that some of the subjects in the films are things that people with learning difficulties don't normally get involved in. It's important to show that we've got interests in things that make us laugh and cry as much as the next person. The awards celebrate what people can do with a camera, or how they tell a story. I think everyone loves to tell a story.
What is different about Oska Bright this year?
MH: Having the festival running over two days gives people more chance to see the films.
RW: We've done a lot more work on the audio-description this year. We started the audio-description with the aim of giving visually impaired people the same access to the films as everyone else. We all thought that was a really important thing to do.
AK: What is unusual is that we did a masterclass, which was attended by 18 people. We show people how to make films in an accessible way. We give examples of what we mean by script-writing, with all the basic things you need. We break it down into how you need a main character. You then have to think through what they want to do and why they can't do it. Lastly you have to think what the solution to the problem is. Then we show them the film they've made.
MH: We started the masterclass with the aim of helping people to make films. The masterclass shows you how to make a storyboard, how to get permission for music, or even better, how to make music yourself.
AK: The award I've made for the seven winners this year is a clapper-board. It is a real heavyweight. What is nice about it is that we have some important people like Marcia Williams, Head of Diversity at the UK FIlm Council, to present the awards. We've attracted a bigger media presence with the BBC, Meridian, and Guardian Online all featuring the festival.
RW: The Oska Bright award ceremony is just like a Hollywood award ceremony.
What plans do you have for the future?
RW: The festival is going further and further afield within Ireland and the UK. We might be going to Australia and Canada.
AK: We are planning to do a fun, interesting website showing some of the basics from the masterclass. It will consist of things like top tips on how to use a camera. The plan is for it to go online in Easter 2008. So watch this space!
Oska Bright On The Road
14 - 15 Feb 2008
Partnership with Suffolk Artlink
The New Cut, Halesworth, Suffolk
16 February 2008
Partnership with London Disability Arts Forum
8th London International Disability Film Festival
British Film Institute, South Bank, London
26 and 27 March 2008
Partnership with DASh (Disability Arts in Shropshire)
Borderlines Film Festival, Shropshire
17 - 18 April 2008
Partnership with Outside Centre Festival
Wolverhampton West Midlands Disability Arts Film
In partnership with Belfast Film Festival and Cathedral Quarter
Belfast Arts Festival
1 - 2 May 2008
Partnership with Beaumont College
12 - 14 May 2008
Partnership with Project Ability and Glasgow Film Theatre
Glasgow Film Theatre
15 -16 May 2008
Partnership with Eden Court Theatre and Cinema
Eden Court Theatre and Cinema
Bishops Road, Inverness, Scotland, IV3 5SA
Sometime between 1st and 7th June 2008
In partnership with Disability Arts Cymru Cardiff
Venue to be confirmed
1 - 3 September 2008
Partnership with Prism Arts, Cumbria
Tullie House, Carlisle
4 - 5 September 2008
Partnership with North West Disability Arts Forum
Liverpool Dadafest 2008 Liverpool
Autumn 2008 - Date TBC
Partnership with Link Up Arts
Salisbury Arts Centre
Bedwin Street, Salisbury, Wilts
Autumn 2008 - Date TBC
Partnership with Firebird Theatre and Artists First
Bristol and Watershed Cinema
Bristol Watershed Independent Cinema
Partnership with Plymouth Scope
Plymouth Music Zone
If you want Oska Bright to come to your venue, or work with your organisation, please call Mark Richardson at Carousel:
Phone: 01273 234734