Fighting Spirit Film Festival at Stratford Picturehouse - Picturehouse Spotlight

Fighting Spirit Film Festival at Stratford Picturehouse

Samantha Buttigieg introduces Fighting Spirit Film Festival, the martial arts festival that kicked off at Stratford Picturehouse on Friday 14 September.

As Marketing Manager of this year’s host venue, I had the opportunity to experience Fighting Spirit Film Festival first hand, in particular, the spirit and motivation behind it. The powerhouse team which make the event tick are all volunteers with an undisputed passion for the marvel of martial arts and movies, and all things in between. The festival does what it says on the tin, with a few roundhouse kicks thrown in.

The woman behind it all, Soo Cole, has been the driving force since it began in 2016. What started out as an idea that stemmed from a conversation, soon flourished into the Fighting Spirit Film Festival. There was an obvious gap in the market: a lack of a platform to launch new talent in the martial arts movies community. The festival launched on Saturday 16 July 2016 for its first strike at success at the Cineworld at London’s O2.

In Soo’s own words, “Through martial arts cinema, we aim to entertain and inspire people, promote martial arts culture, and support those who have chosen it as a career.” This one sentence sums up the festival perfectly!

Fighting Spirit Film Festival
Fighting Spirit Film Festival

One of the highlights is the intricate array of shorts selected to screen as part of the programme. This year the festival received roughly 40 submissions from filmmakers: short movies from near and far, some on brief and some not quite! Filmmakers travelled from all corners, accompanied by friends and family, to show support and see the shorts on the big screen.

The shorts programme began in unusual fashion. Initially, the time slots usually given to adverts were instead used to showcase the work of up-and-coming talent in the martial arts movie scene. It was soon decided, however, that these shorts deserved their own strand within the programme, and the festival never looked back.

A proud moment of this year’s festival was the knowledge that offering a platform for new talent really does work. In 2016, during the first Fighting Spirit Film Festival, director Ross Boyask screened his short film Salvation. This year, Boyask’s feature Vengeance was the closing film, premiering theatrically in the UK. Actors Stu Bennett, Fleur Keith, producer John Adams and director Boyask took part in an exclusive Q&A after the screening. It was a fantastic moment for the festival and the terrific people behind it.

Fighting Spirit Film Festival

This year, the festival opened with the UK premiere of The Debt Collector (now available on Netflix in the UK). Star Scott Adkins (Accident Man, Undisputed, Dr Strange), Louis Mandylor (My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Martial Law), Selina Lo (Boss Level) and director Jesse Johnson (Triple Threat, Accident Man) all attended a special Q&A after the film. Adkins is no newcomer to the festival and attended the festival’s Birmingham event earlier this year. His following don’t just appreciate his martial arts talent, but his ability to interact with fans, from photos to greetings. He may be one of the UK’s biggest action stars, but he’s also incredibly down to earth – it’s no wonder the event sold out three weeks in advance!

Stratford Picturehouse was occupied in true fighting spirit. The festival welcomes all ages and abilities and takes place in a venue that’s fully accessible. Fighting Spirit Film Festival is set to return with Fighting Spirit Film Festival Birmingham in April/May 2019 and the next London festival in September 2019.

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