Festival & Competition Report by Hope Dickson Leach

It has been a total delight to be present here at this wonderful celebration of film and farming. I’d like to offer a final thank you to Alexa and Adrian for inviting me to be part of this special festival. I’m sure you all join me in thanking them for this incredible gathering.

It has been a complete privilege to watch the films in this programme. Stories from around the world that show how we nurture and tend, how we create and harvest. As a jury we were so impressed with the many and various creative approaches to telling these stories.

Underlying all of these approaches there was the thread of time. There were endings, beginnings, reflections on times gone by and commentaries on times that we live in. Cinema’s relationship with time is one of the things that defines it as the distinct art form it is. It compresses and elongates moments. It not only describes stories that happen within times, but we experience them in a set time – the running time of the film – during which we are transported to another time. As such the film is a time machine, taking us out of the time where we exist, into the realm of memories and dreams.

What is striking about these films in this shortlist is that the times these describe all happen with the overwhelming backdrop of nature. The natural world reminds us of the persistence of time. Seasons repeat themselves, the trees grow older, and our human experiences shrink in comparison. Objects become useless, they are discarded but continue to gather rain. Parents die but the fields must still be ploughed. The tide comes in and out, bringing more seaweed to be gathered anew.

The time I spent watching these films brought me to this space, these buildings, these smells, before I arrived here. And now we are here, together and I have the wonderful job of announcing the winners of the Harvest short film competition 2017. It was truly very, very difficult making these decisions, and I can only congratulate you all for the vision you displayed, the work you did and the talent you have shared.

1st Prize – WAR AND CHEESE directed by Ben Garfield
Surprising and striking, this is an extraordinary story well told. It brilliantly balances politics and humour – so much richness bursting out of such a
smartly concise film. We all agreed this film is a truly worthy winner, and hope that Sainsbury’s will be stocking Russian Parmesan soon. In addition, Robin Baker from the BFI has said he is more than happy to acquire the 3 winners for the BFI National Archive – which is a wonderful achievement for the filmmakers, and a great testament to what Alexa has done with the Harvest Festival.

2nd Prize – TROUGH NO. 42 directed by Joe Spray
There are some films that are impossible to describe and this is one of them. It uses all the tools of cinema to tell the story of an inanimate, fixed object over the course of a day. Exquisite editing creates a compelling ‘narrative’ that is bewitching and ultimately profoundly moving. Robin added: I love the way in which the director gives an unlovely object both meaning and character. It feels like a silent witness to the rhythms of the world around it.

3rd Prize – ANOTHER APRIL directed by Julia Giles
The personal essay film has brought us some of cinema’s finest works, including the great Agnes Varda’s The Gleaners and I. Another April is beautifully built, a gorgeous example of a filmmaker harvesting her own specific story to present us with something universal, as all the best cinema does.

Shortlisted Film programme 2017

Untitled (Broniow Song) Alicja Rogalska, 2011 (4m 47s)
A contemporary folk-song on the socio-economic situation of the rural area of Southern Masovia, Poland, known for rich folk music traditions and the highest unemployment in the country.

My Life Simon Whitehead, 2017 (8.31)
Using traditional methods in a modern world.“A short film explaining what I do to provide for my family and the relationship I have with the land and all of its inhabitants. I am one of a few people making a living from rabbits in the UK. I control, write, film, promote rabbit as a game meat and demonstrate my craft at events.”

Trough No. 42 Joe Spray, 2017 (4m 47s)
A day in the life of a disused agricultural object 24.3m north of the M4 motorway. Dripping water, wind, lorries passing, underwater currents; Trough No. 42 taps into these non-human rhythms to create a hypnotic cinematic meditation on place.

Duck Rebecca Moss, 2016 (44s)
In ‘Duck’ I launch a plastic duck into a pond of real ducks.

The Journey Fred Windsor-Clive, 2016 (3m)
In the summer of 2016 the dairy farming industry in the UK was in dire straits. This is a film about just one of the small family run dairy farms forced out of the industry due to low milk prices.

Another April Julia Giles, 2017 (5m 39s)
‘Another April’ is an artist’s video. The narrator takes the viewer on a walk around the fields where she grew up. The camera is held whilst walking – following the eye line of the narrator as she walks.

A Colour Poem For Hyesous’ Herd, 2015 Laura Cooper (5 mins 12s)
When visiting the Mongolian Steppe, I brought with me a range of industrial paint colour chips and invited Hyesous—a local nomadic herdsman—to match the horses in his herd through this limited selection of paint colour. There are over 200 terms in Mongolian language specific to horses’ coat colour; the language has fragmented and evolved so that each member of a large herd of horses can be identified primarily by colour and markings.

Haenyeo Ellie Kyungran Heo, 2013 (11 mins)
There are women divers, called “Haenyeo”, who live in the island of Jeju in South Korea. The sea women wear black rubber suits and glass masks, going deep into the sea to harvest conch, octopus, urchin, abalone and seaweed. The film focuses on one such woman and her daily life with her husband. The work draws attention to the poetic moments the couple share, and emphasises their dai https://vimeo.com/elliekyungranly routine.

War and Cheese Ben Garfield, 2016 (8 mins 30 s) “I heard destiny calling… I was going to be a cheesemaker.” When Oleg Sirota dis- covered his native Russia was banning all Western cheese imports, he quit his IT job in Moscow, sold his house and cars, took out a $100k loan and set about building a cheese factory in the snowy wilderness. “Russian Parmesan” was born.

Ernest Carys Lewis, 2016 (8 mins 7 s) Ernest is a documentary that follows a day in the life of Ernest Lewis, the owner of Lone Farm in Aberarth, Wales. Small family farms across the globe are nearing extinction as a result of the emergence of large commercial farms. Ernest puts a human face on the changing ecological landscape of our time.