UFOs, gnome catchers and more at this year’s Croydon Film Festival

One of the documentaries features Caris Boxing club for the homeless. Pic: Blair Macdonald & Oliver Clark

One of the documentaries features Caris Boxing club for the the homeless. Pic: Blair Macdonald and Oliver Clark

A UFO spotter, a 66-year-old newspaper vendor and a bumbling gnome catcher, are all set to become film stars this weekend.

The third annual Croydon International Film Festival, opening at Matthews Yard this Saturday, will show documentaries and animations covering a mix of quirky true stories and more serious subjects.

The free festival will show short films with a factual theme from South Korea, Italy, Australia, Germany and more and will also include Q and As with some of the filmmakers.

Donna Lipowitz, the festival’s director and curator, said that despite the theme the focus is on being “fun and entertaining”. She said: “You learn more by being entertained by something than by being brought down. Filmmakers have the power to inspire you and lift you up – they can get a message across in a positive way.”

Some of the highlights this year include Synchronicities by Australian filmmaker Samuel Hutchinson (see teaser below), Across the Light by US filmmaker Hui Chi Chuang, and Caris Boxing: Jason Rock by UK filmmakers Oliver Clark and Blair Macdonald.

Prizes are awarded at the end of the festival for Best Documentary, Runner-Up Documentary, Best Animation and Runner-Up Animation.

Hailing from Australia, Lipowitz is a filmmaker herself and started the festival as a way to showcase a documentary she had made with artist Ben Bridges. At just seven minutes long, they decided they needed other films to play alongside it, and Croydon IFF was born.

“We never intended it to be a long term thing, but it was so popular,” Lipowitz said. “We’ve already got so many people that are interested in coming – we’re going to be struggling. Every year we need extra seats.”

Matthews Yard, off Surrey Street, seats approximately 70 people. As the festival usually fills up very quickly, the venue have suggested arriving early to avoid disappointment.

This popularity is what has kept the festival going, despite Lipowitz often having to put her own money into the venture. “If people weren’t so responsive and it wasn’t so packed out every year, I wouldn’t do it,” she said.

The festival is completely independent, receiving no outside funding, and is run by a small team of volunteers. That’s the way Lipowitz wants to keep it. “With the time I have spare, keeping it small is the way I’ve been able to keep it successful,” she said.

Lipowitz is also keen to stay at Matthews Yard, which has been the venue for the festival from the start. “Croydon is a fantastic community – everyone’s kind of connected, it’s a really lovely place,” she said.

“I’m not from Croydon, but Ben had a lot of connections with artists in the area. I’m really glad we ended up there; it’s a completely different feeling. Most of the audience are local people from Croydon, and that’s what I’m most proud of.”

The Croydon International Film Festival opens Saturday November 28.

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