Now halfway through its six-day run, much has already taken place at the Encounters Short Film and Animation Festival, with much more to come. Highlights today include an in-conversation with legendary producer Jeremy Thomas and an open-air 16mm cinema on the Christmas Steps.
Over the weekend, there will be a vintage mobile cinema (right) parked outside M Shed, the Bristol premiere of Bristol-set feature film Flying Blind, and screenings of the award-winning shorts, among numerous cinematic riches.
The 18th annual appearance in Bristol of Encounters has been brought forward two months, with one of the aims so that delegates are able to experience more of what the city has to offer.
This year’s Encounters is being documented by a group of keen young things via www.insideencounters.tumblr.com, which is well worth a visit for a broad range of multimedia content and a glimpse into the inner workings of the festival.
I can only recount what I have encountered over the festival’s first 72 hours, barely scratching the surface of an event which is as much for professional filmmakers making connections and learning new tricks, as it is for film lovers experiencing some of the world’s brightest new and up-coming talent on the big screen.
Following a welcoming reception hosted by festival funders Creative England on Tuesday evening, day one saw Best of South West, a showcase of some of the best local short filmmaking talent, which will also be screened on Saturday at 1pm in the Watershed.
From the two-hour programme, my favourite was the animation The History of an Orange, directed by Emma Lazenby with a soundtrack by the brilliant Three Cane Whale, about a car and all its owners and scrapes, but told backwards through time.
Wednesday saw a trip to a pop-up cine sauna (left) at the Parlour Showrooms on College Green. With beautiful attention to detail, and no nudity required, it is showing a selection of work from Finland, including very aptly a documentary about saunas, and the Moomins.
Finland was also the focus in the bitterly cold Big Top @ Creative Common on Thursday night. Thank goodness for wood-fired pizzas and beer.
First there was a documentary filmed at the Midnight Sun Festival which takes place in a small village beyond the Arctic Circle with 24-hour sunlight. Following that, cross-dressing Finnish zombies Cleaning Women played an incredible live soundtrack to pioneering 1924 sci-fi film Aelita Queen of Mars, followed by a set of their own on their instruments made out of everything from coat hangers to a washing machine.
Over at the Arnolfini, Wednesday night saw a rare outing of Aardman’s leading talents Nick Park, Peter Lord and David Sproxton, with the trio in-conversation with Francine Stock from Radio Four’s The Film Show, revealing their inspirations, tricks of the trade and looks to the future. Don’t expect another 3D film from the studio anytime soon.
The Arnolfini is where the animation strand of the festival takes place, and it was in the very room where the conversation took place that in 1908 a now world famous plasticine inventor and his canine companion were shown to a public audience for the first time at the Bristol Animation Festival, the forerunner to what is now Encounters.
When he managed to get a word in edgeways during Sproxton’s pauses for breath, Lord, director of Aardman’s most recent feature film, The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists, described what animation means to him.
“It just is the most amazing experience,” he said. “You go through a process which is repetitive, but at the end of it all, you have something living that has never lived before. That’s amazing, that’s fantastic. It’s god-like. It’s a lovely feeling.”
Find full festival details at