The most enjoyable 11 days of my life

[Image shows Oli standing in for the 2015 IMDb Award winner, accepting award from Col Needham, CEO of IMDb]

I can trace my experience with Bath Film Festival back to an exact moment in October 2014. Sat in a Film and Screen Studies lecture as a fresher, listening to someone not much older than myself talking about the festival and their role as a volunteer, I was instantly hooked. Fast forward to December 2015, and I have just finished an often intense, sometimes stressful, but above all, constantly enjoyable 11 days volunteering as the Runner for Bath Film Festival 2015.

This year’s festival ran from the 3rd to the 13th of December, with 41 screenings across the 11 days. These varied from preview screenings of films such as High-Rise, Room, and Trumbo, to foreign language Bath-debuts including Güeros and Dukhtar, and everything in between. My role in the festival was largely helping to set up each of the events, but also included stewarding at the screenings, and writing Film Notes. These mini essays are handed to audience members at each film, and give background information to enhance their experience, without spoiling the films’ plots. My first real experience in writing with a brief and for a deadline, this was (as I am told all the best things are) both challenging and deeply rewarding, and is absolutely something that I would recommend to any aspiring writers.

One of my personal highlights from BFF 2015 was Grandma, a comedy with heart from Paul Weitz, director of About a Boy and American Pie. The film stars Lily Tomlin as Elle, the titular Grandma, who embarks on a fundraising mission to help her Granddaughter Sage (Julia Garner) pay for an abortion. The film’s short but sweet runtime of 79 minutes sees the pair perform an almost ‘This is Your Life’-style visit to various characters from Elle’s illustrious past. As the Bath Film Festival brochure says, the film “embraces the trials of getting older, the difficulties of being younger and the ways in which women can connect across generations.” Grandma had a limited release in cinemas in December 2015, but keep an eye out for when it is released on DVD later this year.

Another of my favourite films from this year’s festival was Tangerine. Shot entirely on the iPhone 5s, it will undoubtedly be referenced in Film Studies essays for years to come as an example of the belief that in our increasingly digital world, anyone can make a feature length film, without the need for expensive equipment. The film itself follows transgender sex worker Sin-Dee (Kitana Kiki Rodriguez) who, on her Christmas Eve release from a 28-day prison sentence, finds that her boyfriend and pimp Chester (James Ransone) has been cheating on her. Accompanied by best friend Alexandra (Mya Taylor), Sin-Dee sets off across Hollywood to hunt down the woman, and make Chester pay for what he has done. Another poignant, deeply human comedy, Tangerine finds a beautiful balance between laugh-out-loud humour, and a respectful, but deeply personal exploration of an underrepresented group of people. If there is one transgender film to see this year, Tangerine is it (sorry, The Danish Girl).

The 2015 Festival continued to highlight the often-overlooked work of women in the film industry through the F-Rating, established by festival Executive Director Holly Tarquini and her team for BFF in 2014. The F-Rating (Feminist Rating) is awarded to any film that 1) is directed by a woman, 2) is written by a woman, and/or 3) features significant women on screen in their own right. 40% of the films at this year’s festival received the F-Rating, which is rapidly picking up steam amongst not only film festivals, but also a variety of arts fields, including literary festivals, music events, and comedy shows. The rating has gained attention worldwide over the past year, and it is both exciting and humbling to know that it originated in Bath.

After my eleven days working with the film festival, my advice to anyone reading this is as follows: find something you love, and find any way you can to get involved. Sure, you are (probably) a student. You have lots of studying to do (or so you tell your parents). You might have a part time job. But if the film festival has taught me one thing, it’s that, in the cheesiest way possible, the time is now. If, back in my first year film lecture on that (presumably) cold October day in 2014, I had been told that in just over one year’s time I would be helping to organise a film festival, I would undoubtedly be terrified. It is entirely down to the wonderful people at Bath Film Festival that I have not only done just this, but have also (without even a hint of exaggeration) enjoyed every single second. Applying to volunteer at the festival was absolutely the best decision I have made. It has helped me to decide on what I want to do after University, it has introduced me to so many amazing people, and it has been the most enjoyable eleven days of my life. I am so excited to help again in the future.