5 October 2017

The 14th annual screening of new films by members of the Abingdon Film Unit took place in the Amey Theatre on Saturday 30 September and reflected a bumper year in terms of the range of projects undertaken by the Unit and its alumni. 

Eleven new films were shown in the course of the evening. The first two reflected an interest in the local community. Get Your Baldrics by Tristan Mann Powter and Jonathan Ferry was a touching portrait of the Traditional Abingdon Morris Men, while Thirsty Meeples by Freddie Nicholson and Alfie Marshall captured the delightfully quirky atmosphere and clientele of a board games café in Oxford. These were followed by two films from Larry Bush, a London-based Abingdon Film Academy student who joined us in 2015 as part of an initiative extending the opportunity to work with the AFU’s professional tutors to young people outside Abingdon. Larry presented a strikingly imaginative animation – Relief – alongside a sinister live action film called Wild. James McRae's animation DID featured a triptych screen and hectic soundtrack to evoke the multiple personalities of Dissociative Identity Disorder, while the last film before the interval was a project made by Charlie Landells, Freddie Marshall and Scott Thomson in support of Sobell House, a facility for terminally ill patients based at the Churchill Hospital in Oxford. As Jeremy Taylor, the Unit's co-founder explained, the AFU is keen to forge more links of this kind with local organisations in the year ahead. The first half also saw the return of AFU alumnus and OA Mikey Bicarregui who presented Stairs, an experimental black and white film made in his final year at Durham university. 

The second half included another film rooted in the local community in the form of One Step at a Time, Fraser Scott and Liam Deegan's uplifting account of Abingdon resident Graham Scott's progress from youth team goalie to top Premiership football referee. But the half also saw AFU filmmakers looking beyond their immediate environments for stories that engaged with the wider world. Harry Buchan's SW11 was a strikingly topical look at the anxieties of residents on the Winstanley Estate in Battersea as they face a period of regeneration driven by architects and town planners, while David Bicarregui's Strong and Stable was a hand-drawn animation that tackled Brexit via the unlikely setting of a flower bed and a municipal park bench. The final film of the evening – Joe Bradley's Educating the Heathen – told the epic story of Joe's great, great grandfather Arthur Bonsey and his brave work as missionary in China at the end of the 19th century.

Afterwards, Jeremy Taylor congratulated all the filmmakers and thanked AFU tutors Matt Copson, Colin O'Toole and Duncan Pickstock before the latter presented the Michael Grigsby Young Filmmaker Awards to Harry Buchan and Joe Bradley and spoke about the challenges of making a film as well as the invaluable life skills it can help to develop. All in all, it was an evening to remember, and a credit to the AFU's latest generation of filmmakers.

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