The Harvest Short Film Competition is a biannual event curated by Lower Hewood Farm and the arts and environmental charity Common Ground. An open call to all filmmakers from around the world, living and working in both rural and urban landscapes, the festival themes are farming, food and land.
The films were judged by Robert Macfarlane (author of The Wild Places, The Old Ways and Landmarks), Hope Dixon Leach (director of The Levelling) and Robin Baker (Head Curator of the BFI National Film Archive). The winners were announced on October 21 during the Harvest Film Festival at Lower Hewood Farm, where all shortlisted competition entries were showcased before starting a tour to other venues – in schools, cinemas, village halls, festival tents across the UK.
During the award ceremony at Lower Hewood Farm, the BAFTA award-winning writer and director Hope Dickson Leach (The Levelling) made the following speech before announcing the winners:
“It has been a total delight to be present here at this wonderful celebration of film and farming. I’d like to offer a final thank you to Alexa and Adrian for inviting me to be part of this special festival. I’m sure you all join me in thanking them for this incredible gathering.
It has been a complete privilege to watch the films in this programme. Stories from around the world that show how we nurture and tend, how we create and harvest. As a jury we were so impressed with the many and various creative approaches to telling these stories.
Underlying all of these approaches there was the thread of time.There were endings, beginnings, reflections on times gone by and commentaries on times that we live in. Cinema’s relationship with time is one of the things that defines it as the distinct art form it is. It compresses and elongates moments. It not only describes stories that happen within times, but we experience them in a set time – the running time of the film – during which we are transported to another time. As such the film is a time machine, taking us out of the time where we exist, into the realm of memories and dreams.
What is striking about these films in this shortlist is that the times these describe all happen with the overwhelming backdrop of nature. The natural world reminds us of the persistence of time. Seasons repeat themselves, the trees grow older, and our human experiences shrink in comparison. Objects become useless, they are discarded but continue to gather rain. Parents die but the fields must still be ploughed. The tide comes in and out, bringing more seaweed to be gathered anew.
The time I spent watching these films brought me to this space, these buildings, these smells, before I arrived here. And now we are here, together and I have the wonderful job of announcing the winners of the Harvest short film competition 2017. It was truly very, very difficult making these decisions, and I can only congratulate you all for the vision you displayed, the work you did and the talent you have shared.”
In 3rd Place – ANOTHER APRIL directed by Julia Giles
The personal essay film has brought us some of cinema’s finest works, including the great Agnes Varda’s The Gleaners and I. Another April is beautifully built, a gorgeous example of a filmmaker harvesting her own specific story to present us with something universal, as all the best cinema does.
In 2nd Place – TROUGH NO. 42 directed by Joe Spray
There are some films that are impossible to describe and this is one of them. It uses all the tools of cinema to tell the story of an inanimate, fixed object over the course of a day. Exquisite editing creates a compelling ‘narrative’ that is bewitching and ultimately profoundly moving. Robin added: I love the way in which the director gives an unlovely object both meaning and character. It feels like a silent witness to the rhythms of the world around it.
FIRST PLACE WAR AND CHEESE directed by Ben Garfield
Surprising and striking, this is an extraordinary story well told. It brilliantly balances politics and humour – so much richness bursting out of such a smartly concise film. We all agreed this film is a truly worthy winner, and hope that Sainsbury’s will be stocking Russian Parmesan soon.
In addition, Robin Baker from the BFI has said he is more than happy to acquire the 3 winners for the BFI National Archive – which is a wonderful achievement for the filmmakers, and a great testament to what Alexa has done with the Harvest Festival.