Oscar winning director Danny Boyle and Hollywood actor Ray Winstone have both spoken out against a proposed 50 per cent cut to the Foyle Film Festival and the Nerve Centre’s film education programmes.
Danny Boyle, known for films such as ‘Slumdog Millionaire’, ‘Sunshine’, ‘28 Days Later’ and ‘Trainspotting’, spoke fondly of his memories of attending the Foyle Film Festival over the last 27 years.
“‘Trainspotting’ had its first ever public screening at the Foyle Film Festival in Derry 18 years ago and throughout those years film has played an important role in the transformation of the city. Once the subject of heart-rending tragedies, Derry is now the shining host for cinema from around the world and for the promotion of local talent in the film industry.”
Popular actor Ray Winstone, famous for his ‘hard man’ roles in Martin Scorsese’s ‘The Departed’, ‘Nil by Mouth’, ‘Scum’ and ‘Great Expectations’, has also backed the Nerve Centre’s campaign against the cuts.
“I cannot over-emphasise the importance of festivals in general, and the Foyle Film Festival in particular, in providing a platform for independent films dealing with subjects outside of mainstream cinema,” he said.
“I had the huge honour of launching the Foyle Film Festival in 2012 with ‘Ashes’, the first time the film had been shown on the big screen. Without the Foyle Film Festival, ‘Ashes’ would not have received that platform or the exposure thereafter.
“I also appreciated the opportunity to connect with the audience in a post-screening discussion, and was delighted to be able to pass on my own experiences working in the film industry. For someone who has come from a working class background, it was very rewarding to be given the opportunity to hopefully inspire others in the same position to strive to achieve their dreams and ambitions.”
The Foyle Film Festival is the only film festival in the North of Ireland and one of a small number worldwide to be recognised by the Oscars. The honour means that films that win at Foyle Film Festival can go on to win at the Academy Awards. Past Oscar winners to have qualified at Foyle include Terry George for ‘The Shore’ (2012) and Martin McDonagh for ‘Six Shooter’ (2006).
Last year’s winner of Best Irish Short Film at Foyle Film Festival, ‘SLR’, recently made it on to the shortlist for best live-action short for the 2015 Academy Awards.
SLR’s director Stephen Fingleton, who was born in Derry and raised in Enniskillen, said the cuts to the Foyle Film Festival would have a “devastating” impact to how the arts are viewed here.
“The proposed cuts would have a devastating impact on many important educational, training and cultural schemes that are essential to supporting the creative industries.
“My short film SLR screened at the Foyle Film Festival and as a result has been shortlisted for an Oscar. It would never have achieved this without Foyle’s support,” he said.
The Nerve Centre’s work in the area of creative learning and film education impacted on over 30,000 last year, including teachers, youth leaders and young people, 80 per cent of whom are from disadvantaged communities in the North of Ireland.
Fingleton added: “When I was growing up I had nowhere to train and was forced to move to England to study – without the Nerve Centre, young people will have to leave the country to study or worse will never be inspired to pursue a career in the arts.
“The arts generate a huge amount of revenue through bringing in investment – do we really want Northern Irish people simply making the catering and carrying the cameras for foreign crews, or do we want them leading productions and bringing investment that would never have come here in the first place?,” he said.
The Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure (DCAL) has asked Northern Ireland Screen to prepare for cuts to its budget next year from £1.9m to £1m.
The proposed cuts will also affect Northern Ireland’s Creative Learning Centres, as well as Cinemagic, Belfast Film Festival, the Queen’s Film Theatre, and CultureTECH.
The Nerve Centre have started a campaign against the cuts and are asking the public and users of their services to send objections via www.nervecentre.org or direct to DCAL on firstname.lastname@example.org