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Salford Film Festival

Nicola Mostyn on a timely celebration of Salford

Published on November 21st 2007.

Salford Film Festival

If cities were people then Manchester would be the confident, gregarious, attention-seeking type who frequently steals the limelight from the quieter, smaller, childhood friend, Salford.

This is something which Programme Manager Steve Balshaw is hoping that Salford Film Festival, now in its fourth year, can address. “It’s frustrating,” says Balshaw, who worked on Manchester’s short film festival, Kino, before joining the Salford team. “We know that the Salford community often feels like it is being overshadowed. And we just want to redress the balance and say we exist as well and that, in fact, a lot of the things that have been attributed to Manchester are actually from Salford.”

We are asking the question – is the Media City development just going to be a business park or is it the future of media in the North West?

This four day series of events is a celebration of all things Salford, from the residents putting together short films to the cutting-edge premiers of contemporary work, from the local buildings featured on the big screen to the actors connected to the region, such as Ben Kingsley, who have gone on to international acclaim.

“The festival is bigger this year and there’s more happening,” says Balshaw. “Salford has always had a strong community focus. The Festival highlights that, focusing on films which have a local connection or have within them actors who have a strong connection to the region.”

Indeed, the festival is packed with an appealingly varied programme of events. In just 96 hours you can catch the screening of Joy Division: the Documentary (Tue 27, Vue Cinema, M50 3AH), watch a Shelagh Delaney Double Bill (Wed 28, Salford Arts Theatre, M5 4LT), sit back and appreciate the chameleon-like abilities of Ben Kingsley in Ghandi (Sun 25, New Harvest Christian Fellowship, M3 6BY) and Sexy Beast (Wed 28, Salford Arts Theatre, M5 4LT) or catch a series of short films created by up and coming regional talent.

Then there’s the premier of The Tally, an intriguing sounding film, funded by the Coalfield Regeneration Trust, in which a group of kids on their way to a Morris Dancing competition embark upon a Scooby-doo style adventure which puts them violently back in touch with their mining heritage. (Mon 26, The Pie Factory, M50 2EQ). And Pathways: “a day of films dedicated to the work of community filmmakers, and the communities they work with.” (Sun 25, Salford Arts Theatre, M5 4LT)

Added to all that screen action, there is some stage action too, with the return of Stella Grundy’s Nico Icon Play (Fri 23 and Sat 24, Islington Mill, M3 5HW) which charts the life and times of the singer who, unknown to many, lived for a time in Salford and Manchester – a broadening of the remit which suggests Salford Film Festival could expand in many interesting directions in the future.

Happily, the festival also gives people the opportunity to visit some lesser known or previously unexplored venues. After all, what other reason might you have to visit The Pie Factory (the old Freshbake factory) or The New Harvest Christian fellowship (formerly Salford Cinema)?

And, with plenty of films to celebrate the past and present of Salford, a debate at the Digital World Centre will address its future, as the Programme Manager explains: “We are asking the question – is the Media City development just going to be a business park or is it the future of media in the North West? We know the BBC are chomping at the bit to answer the question so that could be quite a lively discussion, bringing the creative community and the wider community together.” (Mon 26, Digital World Centre, M50 3UB)

There seems to be a lot of momentum behind the festival and a lot of enthusiasm for what’s to come. Balshaw agrees: “We’re doing it to provide entertainment and perhaps a little enlightenment. It is very much about celebrating the idea of Salford as a creative city.”

It looks poised to do just that and as Manchester grows ever more prominent, it looks like it is time for the underdog to get the exposure it deserves.

Salford Film Festival, 24-28 November,
www.salfordfilmfestival.org.uk for an up-to-date timetable of events

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