Welcome to a new kind of student film festival

The British Student Film Festival awards are on in London tomorrow, a culmination of a monthlong tour of the UK

The camera pans across a forest, its colours washed artfully out, as a rifle shot pierces the calm above two cowering Japanese soldiers. The men, in note-perfect green WW2 combat fatigues crouch and converse in their native tongue, the start of a mournful little war parable.

It could be the lost opening scene to Clint Eastwood's war epic 'Letters from Iwo Jima', or, with its carefully drained palette, a clip from some obscure Murakami adaptation. It's neither; rather, it's a beautifully shot two-minute vignette by a 21-year-old undergraduate film student, called 'King of Life'– made in a day, and put together for £200 all in. It has also been shortlisted for two awards at the first British Student Film Festival.

“I wasn't expecting a lot when I sent it in, to be honest,” admits the director Beaumont Loewenthal, who is in his final year at Buckinghamshire New University. “So to get two nominations means a lot. It's taught me that you don't need a big budget or flashy equipment to make a good film – just a good story and a vision.”

His film, intimate, affecting and above all made with astonishing competence, is just one of a brilliant field of young filmmakers' work nominated for an award at the BSFF ceremony in London at the end of April. It's a diverse selection, spanning genres from animation, through documentary and music video to straight-up melodrama and brooding micro-epics like Loewenthal's effort. Really, the only thing that unites them is the quality, care and attention that has been lavished on them.

Watch the shortlisted films here

The brainchild of Francesca Creed, herself a dangerously recent university graduate at 22, the festival itself is trying to make new space for itself in amongst a small crowd of student film festivals. Instead of setting up in one of the regular UK media hubs like London or Manchester and expecting poor students from the boondocks to make an appearance, Creed's big idea was to let the mountain come to Mohamed, so to speak – she's concocted a film festival roadshow, visiting Newcastle, Bristol, Liverpool and London in its first year, to encourage impoverished artists to submit work and make for much more of a national student festival.

“We couldn't justify having a really talented student filmmaker from Newcastle paying eighty quid to come and see his film in a student bar down south, so we decided to move away the association that student film festivals have with individual towns and universities,” she says.

The resultant roadshow is a massive undertaking: “We've essentially built a pop-up film centre which is visiting empty industrial spaces; we're taking blank canvases and making a cinema installation and exhibition space in each one, hopefully to make for a more bespoke, quirky visual experience.

“You'd have thought that the biggest challenge would have been moving it all, but there are plenty of companies that can do that for very cheap. The real problems have been the little things, like trying to find a fridge we can rent for four weeks...”

There are 18 films shortlisted for the awards across 12 categories, whittled down from 130 entries in total. Every one of these films will be shown at each of the locations, ahead of an awards ceremony in London, judged by genuine filmic luminaries like Sam Taylor-Wood and Rankin.

The itinerant nature of the festival, meanwhile, seems to have done the trick in terms of throwing open the gates to all comers; entrants have emerged from across the UK and Ireland, and it isn't a boys' club. In fact, there have been slightly more entries from women: “I was quite surprised with the number of girls who made zombie movies,” says Francesca. “Some of them have been fabulously executed, and it's not our job to judge the storyline.”

Women, it turns out, are by far the more bloodthirsty filmmakers, if the BSFF shortlist is to be believed: “I was surprised at the amount of violent films that women produced – we do have an awful lot of girls walking into woods – while there are quite a few sensitive, beautiful films shot by boys.”

Another of the festival's aims was to encourage projects from younger directors. There's a separate category for best film from people still at school, and this focus paid off. “While we are definitely heavier on the university end, we have had entrants as young as 14, and there are quite a few sixth formers. The younger ones are surprisingly good; two of our shortlisted students are 16, and they are better filmmakers than many of our older entrants.”

One of these 16-year-olds already has years of shooting movies and uploading them to YouTube. Born in 1995, making him younger than things like Toy Story, Goldeneye and my first experience with the Internet, Ben Walton already has a paid sideline filming weddings and action sports. He wrote the storyboard for 'Engaged', the five-minute piece that won him a nomination for Best Film (School), when he was 15, shooting it for nothing in a day and editing it in twice that, as part of his Media Studies AS.

“I was amazed at the nominations, it really means a lot,” he says. “I had no idea what I was like compared to others. This was my first attempt at a drama, but I've enjoyed the whole experience so much it's changed my mind about what I want to go into.”

The hope is that, if the BSFF takes off, the tour will expand to more parts of the UK, giving more young artists their much-needed exposure.

“My hope is that we can give these fantastic students some real opportunities. Our aim is to challenge the perception that people have of student films, to make people hear the rumblings of all this young talent. We're doing it not just for the love of film, but for the love of British film.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

SThree: Recruitment Consultant (Trainee / Experienced)

£18000 - £27000 per annum + doe OTE £45K: SThree: SThree are always looking fo...

Recruitment Genius: Project Assistant

£18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are a recent psychology graduate ...

Recruitment Genius: Junior / Graduate Graphic Designer

£17000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Largest Independent Motor D...

Ashdown Group: Training Programme Manager - City, London

£40000 - £45000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Training Programme Manag...

Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own