Cinemagic Festival For Young People Begins

Programme for young people continues to make a contribution to film culture, education and training

Cinemagic, Northern Ireland’s international film and television festival for young people, is this year celebrating its 25th birthday. It is a fixture on the cultural calendar that has left a significant impression on many since its inception, and the Cinemagic team has put together an impressive programme for the quarter-century celebrations.

The 11-day event continues to be funded by Northern Ireland Screen, and that organisation’s CEO, Richard Williams, has described it as an important part of the Northern Irish creative landscape. Cinemagic is, Williams asserts, ‘a key component in the efforts to achieve our goal of making a significant contribution to film culture, education and training'.

Those three categories form an obvious core in the festival lineup, and also incidentally, the programme for the Foyle Film Festival, which takes place from November 19 – 23 in venues across Derry~Londonderry and is aimed, primarily, at more mature audiences. November truly is the best time of year for lovers of cinema to be entertained, educated and inspired to learn about the process of film-making for themselves.



The CineFocus film jury is one example of Cinemagic’s attempt to use film for purposes beyond the obvious entertainment value. ‘We find that children relate and young people relate to film so well,’ says Claire Shaw, Cinemagic’s marketing officer.

‘It’s a medium that they are used to. The moving image is something that they can pick up very easily and relate to.’ In the case of the jury then, a panel of young people will watch and judge a number of competing films from around the world, announcing the winner at a showcase on November 28, the festival’s closing night.

‘We’re going all out this year to include as many young people as possible who want to review and critique films,’ adds Shaw. ‘It ties in, so much, to literacy, English language and communication skills… When young people are writing about film, it develops those skills and their thinking skills.’

As ever, the youth audience, and the issues concerning them, have defined the festival's identity in this landmark year. The ‘A Disillusioned Youth’ theme, which plays around Belfast on November 23, brings with it a number of iconic and new pictures touching on innocence lost, from 1963’s Lord of the Flies to the newly released Jack, a hardscrabble tale of childhood abandonment in Berlin.

‘It focuses on lots of different struggles that young people would have in today’s society,’ says Shaw. ‘There’s a huge emphasis from the programming point of view to show films that deal with what young people are experiencing, whether that be difficult issues right through to celebratory things.’

In the former context, Arctic will certainly pick at the worries of those near the older end of the Cinemagic demographic. A gritty Spanish-set family drama, it plays out against the backdrop of the country’s miserable economic downturn. On a lighter note, however, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Wayne’s World and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, each enjoying its 25th birthday, are all due to screen for festival attendees.

Asked about the reasons for Cinemagic’s enduring relevance, Shaw suggests that the answer is rather straightforward. ‘Everybody loves film,' she argues. 'It’s a generational thing. Film really spans all ages. We operate to engage with 12 to 25-year-olds and there is always something for every age group.’

This ethos represents a fairly sensible legacy element of the whole operation: an early connection is established at school level, leading in turn to an ongoing relationship between the festival and the public. The advantage of such engagement is equally clear.

'It’s about developing future cinema-going audiences,' Shaw explains. 'We really hope that young people will grow up and go on to support the film and television industry. It’s such an important aspect of culture.’

The 2014 schedule certainly aims to foster those attitudes. Besides the plethora of noteworthy titles, including the Northern Ireland premiere of Paddington (no mention of complimentary marmalade sandwiches, unfortunately), a number of unique dates immediately catch the eye.

The cool surroundings of Queen’s Film Theatre will host the 10th annual Mark Kermode Film Night on November 22, during which the super-critic will introduce his select feature for this year, A Matter of Life and Death, and discuss it during an audience Q&A.

Meanwhile, on November 27, Grammy award-winning composer David Arnold – boasting no less than five Bond films on his weighty résumé – discusses music for movies with an audience of school students at Odyssey Cinemas before a screening of Made in Dagenham, the recent stage version of which he has also scored.

The BBFC’s annual lecture on film classification (November 21) will likely be more interesting than it sounds, not least because it precedes a showing of Paul Greengrass’s quite brilliant Captain Phillips. The slate is packed and for the next ten days Cinemagic plans to reward its punters handsomely. What should that same public expect from this point on?

‘For the next 25 years it is very much about inspiring young people. That really is out ethos, our aim,’ Shaw concludes. ‘Whether that is coming to a foreign language film for the first time and getting their eyes opened to world cultures or coming along to a workshop in writing or directing, we just want to keep delivering events that will motivate.’

Cinemagic International Film and Television Festival for Young People runs in venues across Belfast until November 28, while, in Derry~Londonderry, the Foyle Film Festival runs in various venues from November 19 – 23.