From Norwood to Hollywood? Showtime for local filmmakers

West Norwood filmmakers had their work celebrated at a Local Short Film Showcase at Picturehouse cinema yesterday.

The event was part of the West Norwood Free Film Festival that opened on April 6 and has been running annually since 2017.

Film submissions were requested from secondary school pupils and known filmmakers in the area, meaning many of those shown were based locally, including two film fragments from 69-year-old West Norwood-born Michael Kemp.

West Norwood Identity Crisis and Return Journey were originally part of a short cine-film, inspired by Michael’s return to West Norwood after two years living in Essex, which was aired in 1973 at Nettleford Hall, the site of today’s Picturehouse cinema.

“I found it very odd, dreamlike, almost like a facsimile of the place I grew up in,” he said.

Ronald A. Yeatman’s Suburban Weekend is based on 1940s’ footage of the area and was aired while Brixton musician Ross Stansfield played a live accompanying piano piece.

Viewers recognised many sights that remain today such as Horns Tavern and St Luke’s Church.

BIG FUTURES: Filmmakers Verity Drew Firth and Alfie Sajir

Verity Drew Firth, 13, has family links to the suburb and has been filmmaking since the age of 11.

The first of her two films shown, Loading Life, was a vibrant look at the effect of virtual reality on a teenage boy.

Her second film, Tunnel Life, was co-produced with the film’s star Alfie Sajir, 22. This was a serious yet uplifting look at a young person grappling with mental health issues.

She said: “It’s very important to celebrate filmmaking in the area and in London, to get people’s films shown and for those people to have the experience to see it on a big screen.”

The showcasing of local filmmakers is a new addition to the volunteer-run festival and made possible by a collaboration with Picturehouse and the monthly street market, FEAST.

Festival co-coordinator Lawrence Brookes, 46, said: “It was a really good response and I’m encouraged by the younger generation getting out there with cameras and making films.”

ENCOURAGED: Festival co-ordinator Lawrence Brookes

The festival runs until April 27 with films playing in sites across the suburb including Otter Cafe, The Clockworks Museum and The Portico Gallery.

Lawrence added: “From the beginning when we broached locations to host screenings they were really happy to be involved if they had the space for us.

“We see ourselves as a community cinema which I hope is how West Norwood see us as well.”

A range of films including Ladybird, When Harry Met Sally and Cold War will be screened during the festival.

“We like to show a wide range of films and genres and a mixture of recent movies as well as classics so that there’s something for everyone,” said Lawrence.

For the first time there will be an outdoor screening with Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse showing at the Health and Leisure Centre on April 27.

A full listing of films at this year’s West Norwood Free Film Festival can be found at

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