Deaffest, the UK’s only Deaf-led Film and Television Festival which celebrates the talents of Deaf filmmakers and media artists, took place at Light House in Wolverhampton last weekend from 28-30 November. The tenth festival to be held in Wolverhampton since 1998, the event attracts films directed and produced by Deaf filmmakers from all around the world which are showcased to Deaf and hearing audiences.
This year’s festival also incorporated a conference – Opening Doors to New Channels – which looked at how Deaf filmmakers can successfully pitch for their own short or feature film and planning for the future of a new Deaf TV channel and opportunities opening up on the internet. A special slot was dedicated to Young Deaf filmmakers in order to showcase their films and nurture their talents. The Saturday night gala event was hosted by Miss Deaf World 2008 Rosanna Mazzocchio, and featured exclusive premiere screenings. The festival saw attendances of over 1500 with a diverse mix of Deaf and hearing filmmakers, media practitioners, industry organisations, students and the general public from across the UK and overseas.
Filmmaker William Mager, whose film Stilletto was shown at the Saturday night Gala said, “Deaffest is one of the only events in the UK where Deaf filmmakers can show their work on the big screen, and get the feedback and respect of their peers. It can be a very rewarding experience. I think it’s really important for Deaf people to be able to show what they can do, and for them to be given an opportunity to tell the stories that they want to tell. These stories can be about anything at all – whether it’s Deaf culture, or everyday life, or the surreal.
Above all, what Deaffest does so well is give Deaf people a voice on screen.” Earlier this year the festival was awarded funding from the UK Film Council Festival Fund for its development over the next three years in recognition of how important the festival, with the aim for it to be the pre-eminent annual festival in the UK celebrating world-wide Deaf media production and showcasing it to both Deaf and hearing audiences. Filmmaker Louis Neethling whose film Horatio was screened emphasizes the cultural and creative significance of the festival: “I think Deaffest is important to both the UK and International Deaf community because we are inspiring new Deaf filmmakers, producers, animators, writers to make new Deaf films. This is the only way we will raise the bar.”
News for Deaffest 2009: Next year you will see the return of the Film Awards Gala, a competition for Deaf filmmakers.
The Film Awards Gala was last held at Deaffest 2007 and proved to be a sell out success and 2009’s Gala promises to be even bigger and better. It’s an opportunity for Deaf filmakers from all over the world to submit a film in various award categories, featuring special guests and live entertainment.
Deaffest is supported through Screen WM’s Investment Fund with funds from The National Lottery through the UK Film Council, and through the UK Film Council Festival Fund. It is also supported by Light House, Wolverhampton City Council, Zebra-Uno and University of Wolverhampton, AC2.com Productions Ltd and Walt Disney Studio Motion Pictures UK. The festival was sponsored by Skillset, the Sector Skills Council for Creative Media.