Village film festival attracts more than 250 entries

WHERE I AM NOW A film by partially-sighted artist Michael Lawrence

A FILM festival in Rusthall at the weekend attracted more than 250 short-film festival entries from 47 different countries.

Organised by the Rusthall Community Cinema (RCC), the Rusthall Film Festival (October 15-16), grew out of a short-film project and attracted movie makers from around the world to enter the event, which was live-streamed across the globe.

RCC sponsored the workshops and festival prizes – £100 for Festival Favourite, £25 for Category Winner and £10 for those shorts selected for screening.

The festival included a special session on Sunday showcasing Iranian and Afghan films under the banner ‘A Quiet Revolution: Exploring Contemporary Iranian cinema’.

Among the films shown at the festival in Rusthall was Michael Lawrence’s ‘Where Am I Now’, based on his drawings and illustrations for the 2021 community play ‘Happy Highways’, about World War II refugees welcomed to Rusthall.

He told the Times: “When I first heard that an international film festival of non-commercial movies was to be inaugurated by the Rusthall Community Cinema, I was greatly inspired to support the venture.”

Battling against an unexpected deterioration in his sight since the beginning of the year, the local artist was unable to use timeline editing software to create his film.

However, he persisted, and with the use of iMovie’s trailer-making templates, he compiled a series of his drawings and illustrations into a one-and-a-half-minute video, which was selected for screening on the Saturday of the festival.

“The video is not a movie and is only 1 1/2 minutes long, so I was greatly surprised and delighted when I was informed it had been chosen for inclusion in the festival weekend,” he said.

Recognition at the festival was also a major coup for Peter Gilbert, whose ‘Groombridge 1933: Views from the Stationmaster’s House’ film was ‘commended’ by judges.

He explained: “The film was actually completed many years ago and the original 80-year-old, 16mm material – with a soundtrack on cassette tape – was first shown at our own railway film evening in 2001.

“I have been involved with many amateur film festivals and must admit that I did not realise that Rusthall was appealing to such worldwide professional entries.

“So it does mean a lot that our efforts have been recognised.”



PETER Gilbert’s film is the end-result of a decades-long project of preservation, compilation, creation and editing.

He has been a member of the Spa Valley Railway since 1985 when the line was closed and has been filming its progress ever since.

His film festival submission includes 16mm cinefilm footage donated in 2000 by Grace Williams, who lived at the stationmaster’s house as a young girl when her father Walter Tapsell held the role.

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