Late October we sent Festival Formula Ambassador, Johnny Griffith, to Purbeck Film Festival down in Wareham, which ran from 16th till 31st October. Johnny’s role was to experience the shorts section of their programme. Over to Johnny…


Purbeck Shorts is a short film competition in its seventh year and it is part of the Purbeck Film Festival, which has been running for nineteen years strong. To be honest, I agreed to go before I was even sure where Purbeck was. I still don’t know. Luckily my sat nav took me on a meandering drive through some roads that wouldn’t look out of place in a horror movie, and finally into the small market town of Wareham. My sat nav tells me I have arrived in that annoying way that they do. I’m here. I’m at the Rex Cinema.

Walking from the street into the Rex is like taking a step through time – a Charlie Chaplin figure welcomes you into the building. Instantly you are hit by a mysterious charm that lingers in the air. I realise linger is a strange word to use in a positive way – but I couldn’t think of another word so now we are stuck with it. The history of the cinema is proudly displayed all over the walls. Even the box office still has the old money values etched into the metal counter.

I was welcomed by Chairperson Andrea Etherington who offered me a glass of wine straight off the bat; I could tell we were going to get on well. As a writer or filmmaker, there’s an unwritten rule we all have to upkeep: never turn down a drink, free or otherwise. Andrea introduced me to the esteemed panel of judges, many who have worked in various areas of the industry and now are passing on their expertise by lecturing at near by universities. She showed me around the Rex as we sipped wine. She is really passionate and proud of the cinema and the festival – so passionate about it – it made me passionate about it. I found out that The Rex has been run by a team of volunteers since 1987 and without them The Rex wouldn’t have survived. There would be nowhere for the local to experience and share their love of the movies. Apparently it was one of the first cinema’s in the UK to show Tarantino’s ‘Reservoir dogs’. Until recently it still ran two Gaumont Kalee projectors. These were so old and used carbon arc as light, that the spares and carbon rods had to be bought from India, where a lot of rural cinemas still use them today. Another noteworthy fact  – it’s one of the few cinemas where you can take a glass of beer or wine into the cinema with you. Something should be done about this.



Anyway, I digress massively from what I am actually meant to be writing about; Purbeck Shorts. That’s right. Tonight there are twenty one short films for us to watch, many films from UK and European film makers but also films from as far as Iran and Australia. We would watch the films in three sets. Set one: Animation. Sets two and three: Short features with 10 minutes interval in between each. Five awards to be won; Best Animation, Best Short Feature, Best Student film: decided by the judges. And Audience Choice Awards for Animation and Short feature, decided of course by the audience.

The audience from what I could tell were local and proud and slightly older in age than the average demographic films are generally aimed at. I found my seat and found myself chatting with two lovely ladies who offered me some of their toffee popcorn. Of course, I dove right in there. Lovely. They told me that they never miss the Purbeck Shorts. It’s their favourite event of the festival.

Andrea stood at the front and introduced the competition where she explained: the purpose of Purbeck Shorts is not only to encourage young, emerging, and established filmmakers and directors – it is to involve the community in discussion and debate and to provide recognition of short film as an art. This is the kind of event that had to run to a strict schedule because some of the attendees had to catch the last train and they altered their timings to cater for them. Which kind of sums up exactly what type of festival this is. It’s one for the community.

The lights went down. The red curtains opened. Dougal up in the projectors booth started doing his thing, and the show began. Eight out of the nine selected animations were made by student film makers. There was a range of different animating styles and influences. I would say nothing was similar in style or approach as well as a broad mix of themes and topics covered: from a little old lady fighting off aliens as they try to steal her ice-cream in ‘Alien Antics’, to more serious topics such as an old man battling against Alzheimer’s in ‘BAMPA’.

I have to say that the stand out film for me and as it turned out later the audience was ‘The Belief’ by Amir Vahedi of Iran. It followed a pair of soldier’s boots through a war zone – trying to help other Soldiers until they finally end up on display in a museum. The symbolism was so powerful – It really made the audience think: anybody could be in those shoes – and aren’t we so fortunate not to be.

In the interval a flurry of viewers stand at the front – their hands hovering indecisively over the multi coloured baskets, deciding which film receive their paper vote. After all it was a really tough choice.  During the interval I went and hung out with Dougal in the projection booth where he showed me how they used to change reels of 35mm film. I showed him how to take a selfie. So I would say we are about even.


Before we knew it everyone was back in their seats and ready for more Short Features. Again the quality of the films really was outstanding. There were some cracking concepts and the majority of the films were on the darker side of the comedy spectrum.  I was pleased to find that the lovely ladies sat behind me, who let me have another dip in their toffee popcorn, were laughing wildly along with many other Purbeck locals (their sense of humour was as sick as mine). Appearances can be deceiving and I love that.

‘I’ve Just had a dream’ showed two different ways to look at the same situation. One positive and one negative. It was cleverly done. ‘Skin’ was a documentary short about a bold brave girl talking about her life with alopecia. ‘The King is Dead’ was very well made and definitely influenced by ‘Reservoir dogs’ and starred a couple of familiar faces such as Russell Tovey, with a nice twist at the end. ‘Stockholm’ was incredibly interesting showing the life of a young girl who befriends the people her dad kidnaps, the dark visuals mixed with the innocent sound of the girls voiceover worked surprisingly well.


It makes me feel bad to talk about some and not about others as genuinely there was something in every film I liked or thought could be developed into something more than a short. There really was some superb films in this line up. For me I was torn between so many for which film would win my vote. I loved the classic visual comedy of French detective short ‘A Splendid Affair’ and ‘Chinese Treachery’ got the biggest laugh from the audience. I was standing there in a swarm of others with my slip of paper – not really sure which basket would be it’s home. I made a snap decision…

And the results were in.

Audience Award  Animation – The Belief (Iran)
Best Animation – In the Forest (USA)
Best Student film – No added Preservatives (UK)
Audience Award Short Feature – I’ve just had a dream (Spain)
Best Short Feature award – Stockholm (Spain)

The festival finished on time and people managed to make the last train home. Overall I was extremely impressed by the competition, the quality of the films, the glorious venue and the friendly people of Purbeck. I will definitely be going to Purbeck Shorts again next year. I fully recommend it.


Johnny Griffith - November 2015


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