Leeds Young Film Festival Wows All Ages

Last month, Leeds Young Film Festival (LYFF) returned throughout Leeds, with a series of screenings and film-related experiences taking place across Leeds Town Hall, Carriageworks Theatre and Hyde Park Picture House. Now in its 17th year, LYFF is a great initiative aiming to introduce the magic of cinema to children, and this year’s iteration amazed and surprised children, teenagers and parents in equal measure.

LYFF is part of Leeds International Film Festival, which takes place every November and celebrates its 30th edition later this year. However, Chris Fell, director of Leeds International Film Festival, decided that it was better to give different dates to LYFF so that it could “attract its own audience”. Danny Leigh, from The Guardian, affirmed that Leeds Young Film Festival is “the perfect place for young people to fall in love with film”.

This year, LYFF focused on animation workshops in which children and parents could learn how flipbooks, 3D Virtual Reality, stop motion, digital effects and more come together. According to Debbie Maturi, Director of LYFF: “The most important thing about LYFF is to give all young people in the region the chance to experience the power of cinema, with a programme of the best new and classic films from around the world. In 2016 there were films from 24 different countries”.

Carriageworks Theatre was home to a range of screenings and animation workshops; I volunteered in the Flipbooks session helping artist, model maker and designer Ralph Shephard, who taught kids the basics of animated books and the ways to create your own flipbook through drawing. Afterwards, with stop motion software, we were able to convert the flipbooks into short movies – much to the excitement of the children (and their parents), who were able to see their drawings come to life.

Carriageworks also saw other workshops, including stop motion, LEGO animation, digital effects for film, Minecraft, Cartoon Storytelling and Voice Acting, teach young people the basics of a range of filmmaking techniques through the guidance of specialized professionals such as animator Paul Couvela and director, writer and voice actress Sarah Ann Kennedy. It wasn’t all educational, though, and animated films like Finding Nemo and Frozen Sing-a-long were also shown in Carriageworks, adding to other screenings at the Hyde Park Picture House, among them Song of the Sea, The Prophet, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince and He Named Me Malala.

Leeds Town Hall served as a more grandiose setting for the likes of Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Parts 1 & 2. It was also in this venue where the biggest event was organized: Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory. Following a screening, those in attendance were invited to meet the “real” Willy Wonka and his Oompa Loompas, who needed help to fix some of the machinery at work in the chocolate factory. At night, adults were able to watch one of the best movies of our time – The Shawshank Redemption – in a Leeds Town Hall transformed into the Shawshank State Penitentiary. These experiences were organized by LYFF together with Sneaky Experience.

The “Golden Owl Awards” closed the festival, with a unique twist: the jury members who get to decide the winners are children and teenagers. The Younger Jury Award (with jury members aged 7 to 11) was given to Zip & Zap and the Marble Gang while the Older Jury Award (aged 12 to 15) was given to Landfill Harmonic.

LYFF is an interesting, entertaining and fun initiative for children. As Debbie Maturi says, “film offers young people a unique, enriching experience and a window onto the world that they won’t find anywhere else”. LYFF is a great opportunity to introduce children to one of the most beautiful and complete arts of all times: cinema. Children and parents alike would be remiss to miss next year’s edition of the festival.

Silvia Mariscal

Image courtesy of Leeds Young Film Festival

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