Behind the scenes at Leeds International Film Festival 2017

Holly Radford tells Arts what it’s like working at one of Leeds’ biggest and most exciting creative events.

The Leeds Independent Film Festival is a celebration of all things film, allowing for new and undiscovered artists to make their debut as well as old, well loved classics to return to the screen. Throughout two weeks in November, Leeds transforms into a city of Film in around 90 venues such as Hyde Park Picture House the Everyman, Headrow House and Leeds Town Hall adding to the creative buzz of this vibrant city. I was lucky enough to take part as a volunteer throughout this time and I feel it is important to share my experience to inspire others to take part and grow this community even more.

As my time volunteering drew to a close, I felt somewhat saddened at the prospect that I’d have to wait another year to do it again. Being part of the festival community is something I truly recommend to anyone who loves film. Over the two weeks, I took on the role of a Venue Assistant, in which I had a number of roles for example checking and ripping tickets, giving out voting cards and adding to the atmosphere of the festival itself. My favourite role was being in charge of the Albert room in the Town Hall where you have to switch on the lights with a key you stick into the wall – the novelty did not seem to wear off. Although I was only given six shifts, I highly suggest this for students who wants to go to the festival but the tight student budget won’t allow it. By volunteering, you receive free entry into all the films you work as well as a free pass to five other films of your choice which you can bring along family and friends to providing its not a busy slot.

The films I worked were of varying decades, genres and styles from Carnival Messiah (the Leeds based stage adaptation of Jesus’ life), Tabu (a silent 1931 film with live piano music performance) and The Breadwinner (an animated adaptation of the effect of Taliban regime in Afghanistan). My favourite film was Brimstone and Glory filmed in Tultepec, a town in south-central Mexico, famous annual National Pyrotechnics Festival in which fireworks strapped to paper mache bulls fill the streets. Directed by Viktor Jakovleski, it’s cinematography was so beautifully shot and the provided and unique insight into the lives of the people and their traditions. This film presented the whole event to be one of respect and pride of religion rather than an excuse to get drunk and potentially injured in the process which most people associate it with.

The festival itself is such a laid back environment in which I was able to meet other people like me, who genuinely love film. These weren’t just university students either, many people commit to do this every year from every age range, so whether it’s after lectures or a long day at the office, people travel miles to help out. This makes it a really friendly place to be and everyone genuinely wants to be there.

Although I love cinema, generally I find it hard to stay awake and find myself sometimes dozing off, yet I can honestly say all of the films had my full attention. I’d without a doubt recommend this to anyone who adores film and cares about bringing a more diverse and cultured cinema scene to  the city and can’t wait to apply again next year.

Holly Radford

(Image courtesy of Holly Radford)