WINCHESTER Film Festival celebrates its tenth anniversary of providing a window on world film with contemporary productions.

The first edition took place in 2012 in the cramped basement of the Artcafe in Jewry Street. It screened 15 micro-films by local filmmakers.

Today the festival selects from thousands of short and feature length films from over 60 countries, with a glitzy black tie award ceremony that attracts international filmmakers. The festival has screened more than 15 world premieres, 35 European premieres and 40 UK premieres, many with visiting directors participating in audience Q&As. One such film was Detainment by Irishman Vincent Lambe, the polemic drama based on the real interview transcripts from the James Bulger case in 1993. The film, which some see as humanising the two boy murderers, continues to incite public outrage.

So controversial was the film that on its release in 2018 no cinema or festival in the UK dared screen it. The only exception was Winchester Film Festival which also awarded it the accolade of Best Foreign Short Film. At this premiere, director Vincent Lambe and David James Smith who wrote a seminal book about the case, met one another for the first time at a unique Q&A at the Discovery Centre. Two months later Detainment was nominated for an Oscar, earning Winchester Film Festival the reputation as a brave festival.

Alongside this year’s collection of new dramas, comedies and thrillers, there will be special anniversary screenings of the most eye-opening films from the festival’s ten-year history. The venues include the Theatre Royal and the Planetarium at the Science Centre.

For adventurous souls, there is also a “Z Rated” screening - a rating created by the festival to describe films that test boundaries. For film lovers willing to be surprised, there is also a Mystery Screening where a selection of eye-opening dramas and documentaries are revealed on the night.

“The mission of the festival,” explains festival director John Hayes, “is not only to entertain, but also to provoke debate and reflect the burning issues of our time. This year, however, our focus is on helping welcome people back into the world. With us all having to keep our distance to counter the threat of Covid-19, in a country divided by Brexit and polarised by Black Lives Matter, in a world threatened by global warming and increasingly fragmented by nationalism fuelled by fake news... after all this, offering an arena where we can laugh, gasp and wonder together, no matter what our backgrounds, physical attributes or ideologies, is more important than ever.

“This year’s collection of films promises do just that - delight, excite, provoke and inspire.”

Festival information: