Review: The Ignite Film Festival is a Blast!

Last weekend, I had the pleasure of visiting The Parade Cinema in Marlborough to review the Ignite Film Festival, an excellent local festival now in its second year. As an active Filmmaker and someone involved with the Film Industry, I relish any opportunity to participate in local filmmaking events and this one did not disappoint! 

The Ignite team showcased over fifty films across five nights from Tuesday 28 June to Saturday 2 July. The final evening concluded with an awards gala. I attended on Friday and Saturday and found myself impressed by the high calibre of the films screened. Of the nine films shown on Friday, eight shorts and a feature, I want to mention a couple which stood out for different reasons. 

One is Hello Sunshine, a documentary profiling an exceptional woman called Roz Pichardo. Roz is a victim of gun crime, domestic violence and great personal tragedy. She has dedicated herself to raising awareness and supporting other victims of gun crime, homelessness, addiction and substance abuse in North Philadelphia. Her story provides a powerful and empathetic portrait of someone who chooses to channel their trauma into helping others, told with respect and sensitivity by its director, Joe Quint. An excellent choice to kickstart the festival’s penultimate night!

Another film that evoked quite a different response from festival-goers was Execution, an experimental drama by Stavit Allweis. I had to mention this one! This centres around a group of disturbed female vigilantes who issue brutal punishment to multiple male sex offenders. The narrative’s surreal arthouse style is counterbalanced by its own brand of wry humour and scenes of raw, visceral violence. Arthouse films are already an acquired taste, but it was the repeated exposure to such extreme torture which proved too much for some viewers and led them to vacate the screening. My criticism does not concern these points, however. 

The story could still produce the same impact and communicate its message if it was only five minutes. Instead, its runtime endures for an agonizing forty-five minutes and verges on becoming vulgar, bloated and pretentious. That said, I commend the judges for including this film. I always prefer to leave a screening itching with points for discussion rather than forgetting about a film as soon as the end credits roll. That’s not to imply that every film has to be controversial or provocative to be memorable. Although judging by the passionate debates that filled the lobby after this screening while I was munching on my hotdog, I think this is a valid point.

A poster for 'Hello Sunshine' (2021), directed by Joe Quint
A poster for 'Hello Sunshine' (2021), directed by Joe Quint
A still from 'Execution' (2020), directed by Stavit Allweis

There are other films I would love to discuss. Though, to save the reader from my further ramblings, I urge people to go and watch the remaining films instead! (These are listed at the end of this review). I will outline some titles here. These include the existential feature thriller The Family by Dan Slater, the brilliant and distressing revenge drama Hollow by Paul Holbrook and the moving character drama Hold Up by Alex Rollins Berg.

Speaking about the organisation and outcome of the festival, there are a few points I wish to raise. First, I am sure anyone will agree what a delightful and accommodating venue the organisers managed to secure. The Coronavirus pandemic has amplified the struggles confronting independent venues and arts organizations, so it is reassuring to see these supporting one other to put on such a memorable occasion. The film selections were varied and engaging and time had clearly been invested in their curation. One thing I missed was physical copies of the screening programmes. I tend to keep hold of these as a memento and use them to read up on each of the films and their creators after the event. Online versions were available to access with a scannable QR code, but I find this more impersonal and distracting during the screenings. I understand this was likely done in the spirit of saving the planet, which is fair enough. 

A point for future improvement concerns the awards section. This would benefit from being streamlined by condensing similar categories and removing certain awards altogether. The main one I recurrently flag at film festivals, not just this one, is the category for ‘First-Time Filmmaker’. This is vague and difficult to regulate. Who qualifies as a first-time filmmaker? Is a first film one made at home with family and friends, at film school, at a professional level, all of the above? This poses an unfair contest between inexperienced filmmakers working on a low-budget and seasoned professionals with decades of industry experience. Still, the nominations and winners for each category were fairly chosen and well-deserved. A full list of the nominations and winners is listed below.

I enjoyed this festival and would encourage anyone with an interest in film to attend future dates! The event delivered on providing a relaxed and welcoming environment for like-minded creators to meet and as I previously noted, the films were consistently high quality. There is always something which is guaranteed to entertain, astonish, shock or inspire different audiences. I offer my sincerest thanks and congratulations to the Ignite team and to all of the staff at The Parade Cinema who helped to make this event happen. Keep up the great work and I’ll look forward to seeing you in 2023!

The Awards Nominations & Winners


Best Production Design:

  • Bygone
  • The Family
  • This Is Zoe
  • Wool

Best Sound Design:

  • Danny Boy
  • Swipe Right
  • The Family
  • The Other One

Best Score:

  • Bygone
  • Page Turner
  • The Family
  • The Other One

Best Post Production:

  • At The Strawberry Stand
  • Hollow
  • Page Turner
  • Return / Revive
  • The Mountain

Best Ensemble Cast:

  • Hollow
  • New Material
  • The Family
  • Wanderland

Best Youth Actor:

  • Darcy Jacobs (Finding Wilson)
  • Holly Hajbok (Wanderland)
  • Parham Khataei (12 O’Clock)

Best Actor:

  • Haylie Jones (Wanderland)
  • Laura Bayston (Hollow)
  • Renwick Palmer (Hold Up)
  • Sophie Hopkins (Nightingale)
  • Toni Elwand (The Family)
  • Tory Devon Smith (The Baldwin Archives) 

Best Screenplay:

  • At The Strawberry Stand
  • Danny Boy
  • Doug Ever After
  • Hold Up
  • Kold
  • The Family

Best Cinematography:

  • Au-delà du Temps
  • Birdwatching
  • Hollow
  • Lah Di Dah
  • Nightingale
  • Page Turner
  • Return / Revive

Best Director:

  • Alex Rollins Berg (Hold Up)
  • Clare Macdonald (The Mountain)
  • Dan Slater (The Family)
  • Paul Holbrook (Hollow)
  • Stavit Allweis (Execution)

Best First-Time Filmmaker:

  • Corey DeMeyers (Danny Boy)
  • Katya Ganfield (Mirror Mirror)
  • Mickey Tetrov (Bygone)
  • Rupert Ratcliffe (Can I Help?)
  • Simone Lahbib (Swipe Right)
  • Stephen Gallacher (This Is Zoe)

Best Student Film:

  • 12 O’Clock
  • Leaving Yesterday
  • The Other One
  • The Soloists

Best Animated Film:

  • On / Off
  • Tethered
  • The Soloists
  • Triskelion

Best Micro Short (Under 3 minutes):

  • Min’s Tale
  • Page Turner
  • Return / Revive

Best VR Experience:

  • Barnstormers
  • Pneumo Hacker
  • Together Apart

Best Experimental Film:

  • Cutstein
  • Execution
  • Mirror Mirror

Best Documentary:

  • Ainsworth
  • Au-delà du Temps
  • Envoy: Shark Cull
  • Hello Sunshine
  • They Said You’d Never Do It

Best Horror:

  • The Fuzzies
  • The Other One
  • Unveiled

Best Comedy:

  • Backseat Driver
  • In The Event Of My Death
  • More Juice
  • New Material

Best Drama:

  • Danny Boy
  • Hollow
  • Kold
  • Nightingale
  • Wanderland
  • West Bottoms

Best Short:

  • At The Strawberry Stand
  • Can I Help?
  • Hello Sunshine
  • Hold Up
  • Hollow

Best Feature:

  • Envoy: Shark Cull
  • Execution
  • Lah Di Dah
  • New Material
  • The Family
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