We were lucky enough to be featured in Backstage in April.

Backstage were one of our supporters for the first ever World Cinema Film Festival. Here is the interview with our CEO Joelle Mae David:

Or you can find it below:

On June 16, the first-ever World Cinema Film Fest will take place in East London (Barking and Dagenham, to be exact). As an immensely diverse borough where 137 different languages are spoken, it’s no surprise that the goal of the festival is to showcase short films and documentaries from around the world—especially at this time in history.

With inclusion and diversity top of mind, Joelle Mae David, festival director and CEO and founder of Bluebird Pictures, talked to Backstage about what she looks for in submissions, why British film is particularly unique, and the revitilisation of the arts community in the borough.

Tell us a little about World Cinema Film Fest.
The World Cinema Film Fest is a celebration of community and inclusion through something we all know and love: film. Film as a visual art is something that is completely universal.

In our little melting pot in the East London borough of Barking and Dagenham, an amazing 137 different languages are spoken. I wanted this to be celebrated by screening a selection of short films from around the world that reflects the diverse community in the area: three short films/documentaries from Ghana, India, and Poland, plus two other films. Because this area is undergoing a massive revitilisation in the creative arts with purpose-built artist studios and the new Dagenham Film studios, I wanted to make the festival international but with a strong community feel as well. That’s why we are giving away two awards: one for a film/documentary/animation submitted by a B&D resident and one for [asubmissionn from the rest of the world]. This is something I hope to become a staple of the festival as we hold it every year.

Why was World Cinema Film Festival started/founded? What year is the festival in?
This is our first year and I don’t think it comes at a better time with inclusion and equality at the forefront of the industry’s agenda, worldwide.

What’s the main goal of the festival?
To highlight different artistic voices from new filmmakers around the world by giving them a platform to showcase their work, connect with industry professionals, and access equal opportunities in the industry. It is especially important for Barking and Dagenham residents to get involved with the changing landscape of film and TV in the area.

Why East London? Why do you feel it’s important to bring this community together?
East London is such a thriving place for people from all walks of life. The capital is home to people from many different religious and cultural backgrounds, and this should be embraced. Anyone can create a short film or documentary—on their phones or with friends—and it is important to use filmmaking as a tool to bring people from the area together to share common ideas, interests, or visions and get them connecting in ways they never thought possible. East London is a prime example of this happening already in many respects, as it is such a melting pot. We want to increase this further by giving people a creative outlet to form meaningful relationships and collaborations so communities can work together for a common outcome.

The festival also offers classes and workshops throughout the year as part of its programming. Why do you feel it’s important to educate filmmakers in addition to showcasing their work?
Lots of people have ideas for films but quite often don’t know where to start or what it entails. These workshops are designed to highlight the different components of filmmaking. I have also taught workshops on creating a movie on your phone and simple editing using different apps and free desktop software. It’s about making the industry as accessible as possible and not excluding anybody who may not be able to afford long courses or degrees. That’s why we try to bring top professionals to Barking and Dagenham for low cost or free at our events and training.

What’s one thing you wish people knew/that most people don’t know about festivals like this?
That there is always a chance to win the top prize; it doesn’t matter how many people you think are submitting, don’t be put off. There are often several judges who will look for different things—all art is subjective.

What do you look for in submissions? What makes one stand out from another?
We are looking [for] unique stories. The concept is, “what does culture mean to you?” This can be very broad so we are looking for people to get creative with it.

Any hallmarks of British short films? Documentaries?
What I love most about British short films and documentaries is the unique voices of the filmmakers. These stories are told through so many different lenses and are less mainstream, less trying to conform to what they think people want to see or what will make them money. It’s all about being creative and exploring the art.

What advice would you give someone who is just starting out in the industry?
To stay focused, think of ways you can get your content out without the backing of a major production company or lots of money. Social media and video platforms are a great way to manage your own projects. And your project should always have a positive core or do something that makes a difference. Every story you tell will relate to someone, somewhere—good or bad—fantasy or real-life…tap into that.

Interesting in submitting a project to the World Cinema Film Fest? The general deadline is April 30 and the late deadline is June 10 (this is also the date winners will be notified). The festival itself will be held on June 16 at the Broadway Theatre in Barking. 

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