We’re just a day away from the start of the first Wicked: International Youth Film Festival and it’s all starting to feel very real. When Festival Director, Rhiannon Wyn Hughes came up with the idea of a new International youth film festival for Wales over a year ago I don’t think any of us thought it would get quite so big, quite so quickly.
In 2014 Rhiannon, based in Denbighshire, joined a network called the Youth Cinema Network. Its members are youth film festivals dotted around Europe that primarily screen short films made by young (under 25) filmmakers. The network may be fledgling but it’s incredibly friendly and collegiate and Rhiannon was invited by many of them to experience and learn about what they do, and how they do it.
It was during these trips that the idea of Wicked was born. It’s a bold undertaking to set up a brand new festival aimed at engaging filmmakers under 25 from Wales and across Europe; to bring them to Rhyl, Prestatyn, Colwyn Bay and showcase their work. These aren’t areas normally associated with film events or the creative industries. Yet Rhiannon put the idea to the festivals, local schools and colleges, and the overall response was one of incredible enthusiasm. The figures tell the story. Wicked:16 will be screening films made by young filmmakers from 19 countries and we’ll be hosting guests in North Wales from 14 countries. It’s a remarkable achievement for a festival in its very first edition.
The majority of the programme has been aimed at those local schools and colleges and includes packages of shorts from young filmmakers across the world, as well as sold out screenings of Roald Dahl films such as James and the Giant Peach, Matilda and Willie Wonka. Our international guests will also be running workshops across the week in Primary and Secondary classrooms and we’re hosting a conference to discuss how, as a collective, we can raise the profile of young filmmakers to audiences around Europe.
Personally, I’m also delighted to have secured two features for our first festival. Ambulance, a documentary about one filmmakers time on the front line with the emergency services in Gaza has stuck with me ever since I saw it in Norway at the Nordic Youth Film Festival back in June. I’ve also never seen a post screening Q+A so busy, an audience so engaged with the subject, and such fierce determination in a room to spread a film’s message. It’s an important piece of work.
Our closing film is Moon Dogs. This coming of age, road movie has done brilliantly in Edinburgh and Galway, and now we’re bringing it to Rhyl! I ’m so pleased we’re screening a film by a Welsh Director which is part financed by Ffilm Cymru Wales. It’s important that we not only give Young Welsh Filmmakers the opportunity to screen their work, but also support the Welsh film industry in general.
We’ll be handing out our awards on Thursday night to the best Welsh and International films in the programme. I hope one day, some of those young Welsh filmmakers in competition make their first features, and return to Wicked to show their work to new audiences.
For further information on Ambulance and Moon Dogs visit http://wicked.wales/#joinus