Rebel Film Festival comes to Bristol - the mid-term weekend of films, fun, food and drink to break the cycle



By Patrick Sullivan, Film & TV Editor

After five successful events in Plymouth, the festival championing independent, untapped talent with mainstream potential is being hosted in Bristol for the first time on February 23 and 24.

Video courtesy of Rebel Film Festival

Over the weekend, 39 shorts and three feature films will be screened at the 1532 Performing Arts Centre in the grounds of Bristol Grammar School, only a stone’s throw from campus. Entries are submitted from all over the globe and are some of the highest quality independent productions.

Early Bird weekend tickets are currently on sale via the Rebel Film Festival website for £50 or £30 per day - that discounted price ends on February 8. These All-In tickets include 12 drink tokens to exchange for a variety of craft beer or gin and tonics, and food. Alternatively, individual screening tickets can be purchased for £5-8. Epigram readers have a special discount code - at the bottom of this article - to receive 20 per cent off the price of any ticket.

Rebel Film Festival prides itself on combining a social atmosphere of filmmakers and fans with specially selected short or feature films, describing itself as ‘one hell of a weekend for fans of film, food, and booze’. The population of Bristol certainly meets those criteria, as in 2017 it was named a UNESCO City of Film, to go with its burgeoning list of highly regarded independent restaurants and craft breweries.

Photo courtesy of Rebel Film Festival

Hence it is no surprise that festival founders Will Jenkins and Ben Hancock have brought Rebel to our wonderful city after five years in hosting in Plymouth, the town where they met each other while studying Video Production at university. The team have secured some of Bristol’s best craft beer and gin to be available during the weekend, and the All-In ticket includes a pizza buffet on Saturday and a prosecco brunch and street food on Sunday. The hospitality and the chance to mingle with the talented filmmakers themselves makes this a unique weekend break for students to take in the middle of term.

The three feature films showing are South African Spook Hunter (dir. Kathryn MacCorgarry Gray & Daniel Rands), Reaching Distance (dir. David Fairhurst), and Book Week (dir. Heath Davis). South African Spook Hunter opens the weekend and is, unsurprisingly, a comedic parody of the ghost-catching documentary format, and should prove to be the perfect icebreaker for the audience on Saturday morning.

Closing the schedule on Saturday is Reaching Distance, in which a man with a photographic memory follows his sister’s killer on a nightrider bus - a classic thriller premise with a unique setting. The last screening of the weekend on Sunday evening is Book Week, directed by Australian Heath Davis, whose former life as an English teacher clearly plays a part in the formation of the film, a dark comedy about a self-destructive, alcoholic writer stuck in a rut while resorting to working in a school.

Vimeo / Pulse Studio

In between the features is an exciting range of short films, which will surely spark conversation during the screening breaks. Will and Ben both have experiences of festivals with multiple, concurrent screens, and value the joint experience and film appreciation they offer at Rebel Film Festival.

‘We've been to some really big film fests where you kind of feel a bit lost, you end up going to a screening and then leaving until the next film is on. What we really wanted was to meet the filmmakers, to talk about the films with them, and with the rest of the audience. It's a big part of why we created the festival, and we try to cultivate that atmosphere by building our schedule so that everyone is doing the same things at the same time. Of course, we also find that if you pile food and beer into the mix it certainly helps keep everyone around and mingling.’

Photo courtesy of Rebel Film Festival

The aim of the festival is to increase exposure to talented filmmakers who have to break through traditional avenues, potentially through a lack of contacts in the industry. However, it is not the expected arthouse fair of radical subjects or conceptual cinema. Mainstream audiences will find plenty of enjoyment in the curation of Rebel Film Festival and their loyal Plymouth audiences have kept returning knowing they will catch films they would be unlikely to see elsewhere.

‘There's quite often this expectation from cinema fans that short films are somehow amateur or art house fare at best, and it's just not true. The production values on a lot of the films that are submitted to us rival Hollywood films, and sometimes the budgets can too. We are rebels not because we are anti-industry, but because we want to effect positive change on the industry,’ Will explains.

‘We see dozens of incredibly talented filmmakers being passed over because they lack the industry connections, and we just want to see a meritocracy. We love Hollywood film, and these upcoming indie filmmakers are producing entertaining, commercial film. For now we are a platform to an audience, but one day we hope to bridge the gap to industry for them.’


Photo from Book Week (2018, dir. Heath Davis) courtesy of Rebel Film Festival

If you’re a cinephile and excited by the prospect of mingling with a host of film lovers and creatives, local drink in hand, then Bristol Rebel Film Festival could become your new annual friendship group tradition to rival the Ski Trip or Love Saves the Day.

The full festival line-up can be found on their website. Epigram readers can redeem their 20 per cent discount by entering the code ‘EPIGRAM20’ at the official Rebel Film Festival ticket purchasing page.

Featured Image courtesy of Rebel Film Festival

Use the Epigram discount and save on an amazing weekend!

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Patrick Sullivan

Epigram Co-Editor-in-Chief 2019-20. Engineering student turned film critic turned news writer - enjoying the most brilliantly strange route into the media world.