Event review: opening night at the South Norwood and Thornton Heath Free Film Festival


By - Wednesday 29th October, 2014

Bernadette Fallon takes her seat for north Croydon’s free film festival


The curtain rises on the second SNATH Free Film Festival.
Photo author’s own.

It’s opening night at the South Norwood and Thornton Heath Free Film Festival, and why show one film if you can offer three? In fact, why limit it to film at all? The launch event at South Norwood’s Stanley Halls describes itself as a ‘music night’ and, in addition to showing three films, is also hosting two live music acts.

The main auditorium at Stanley Halls has brushed up well for the festival, those swishy red velvet curtains on the stage lending a touch of old world glamour. Okay, so South Norwood is hardly Cannes but there’s a cocktail list on display at the bar and you could almost imagine Bette Davis rocking up in her furs…

But tonight’s programme is more cutting edge than old school, with a feature-length dubstep documentary called Bassweight (watch the trailer here), a UK Rap Battle documentary and – okay, a bit of nostalgia this one – a live concert film of ska and reggae star Desmond Dekker in London. And the live acts are new, young and raw; acoustic singer-songwriter Little Liar with her guitar, and hip hoppers ODF.

Right, I’ll admit it – the words ‘dubstep,’ ‘rap’ and ‘hip hop’ do not greatly inspire me. In fact, I could be vaguely heard to mutter the words ‘oh dear God, no’, when I discovered what I was letting myself in for. But the whole point of documentary film-making should be to inform and inspire, right?

The Croydon arts scene is full of people who are passionate about what they are doing

And so, as a complete non-convert to the worlds being depicted on the screen, I was surely the best candidate for educating. I’m not a dubstepper, a rapper or a ska fan but I did start to look forward to finding out more about them. And to seeing what sort of crowd the event would attract.

Which was – interestingly – everyone from skateboarders to pensioners. It’s a shame there weren’t a few more of them, but the hall was full enough to surely make the organizers feel their time had been worth it. Because everyone working on the festival is a volunteer, under the management of festival founder Roney Henderson, who took on the job of setting it up after finishing a film course and wanting to get involved in the business. And everyone I talked to on the night was passionate about their involvement, and determined to make this an annual event.

Reggae star Desmond Dekker.
Photo author’s own.

Passion pretty much sums up the entire evening. From dubstep insiders Skream, Benga and Kode 9 talking about the origins of the genre, to the four young rappers live on stage, passion was belted out right there in front of us. Because it doesn’t matter if your interests stretch to hip hop or stamp collecting – passion, enthusiasm for your subject and a desire to share your passion with others makes for compelling company.

I now know that rappers battle it out in wars of words in front of live audiences to be crowned the ultimate wordsmiths, and that champions achieve cult status. I know that live acoustic music is alive and well in south London and that I definitely want to see Little Liar – aka Maya Yianni – play another gig. And I know that the arts scene around Croydon, South Norwood and Thornton Heath is full of people who are passionate about what they are doing and that, hopefully, the South Norwood and Thornton Health Free Film Festival will become a firm fixture on our annual arts calendar.

The festival continues until Friday 31st October – see the full programme here.


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Bernadette Fallon

Bernadette Fallon

Bernadette has been a journalist since the age of 7 when she devised, designed and launched ‘Fallon’s News’ – much to her family’s delight. Brought up in Ireland, she was born in Addiscombe where she now lives, though it took her several decades to find it again. She works as a journalist and broadcaster. Follow her at Twitter.com/bernibee

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