THERE is nowhere quite like it in the country. Newcastle’s Star and Shadow Cinema is a venue for music, theatre, dance, art, storytelling, and indoor markets run wholly by volunteers.
But behind the bar (where you can get a bargain cuppa) and through the cinema is a door leading to a darkroom and workshop where the same people who look after the building are also making films.
Now, for the first time since Star and Shadow came into being six years ago, the cinema will host a festival night showcasing work from its own in-house studio.
Director and producer Adrin Neatrour says: “The Star and Shadow is a nurturing environment and a hub for making films. There have always been film-makers here who have an ethos of co-operating, sharing skills and supporting each other. This has gathered momentum over time and people who want to make films are attracted here. We might be money poor but we are resource rich.”
The Down Home Short Film Festival tomorrow night features recent films by directors who are pushing the boundaries in different ways.
Dystopolis is directed by Dan Wallder, who also runs script-writing courses at Star and Shadow. The film is a visionary drama about two men travelling through a devastated landscape and was made in co-operation with homeless people.
Project Film Noir by Arto Polus is a stylish spoof which subverts the classic Hollywood genre and features gun-toting gangsters on bicycles.
Every Trick in the Book is directed by Mat Fleming in collaboration with Deborah Bower and Harriet Plewis. Mat is committed to 16mm and 8mm film, and this film is a loving recreation of special effects described in the 1936 cinematography manual Trick Effects with the Cine Camera.
The shortest offering is an experimental 16mm film Far from the things we know best by director Christo Wallers.
Adrin says: “The film festival is a celebration of the Star and Shadow’s collaborative ethos and these films are an important part of what we do here. The cinema is also a resource centre for technical expertise, help and advice. If something goes wrong there is usually someone who can help.”
Adrin’s own film, Machines Once Used ... Now Lie Neglected, is a documentary shot at the former Steetley Magnesite Works in Hartlepool.
He says: “It’s the story of a plant which, when I filmed, was in ruins but now has vanished. I used old prints, archive films, maps and recordings of ex-workers to bring the plant back to life. It was an industrial hell but also a place of collective pride for the workforce. The film is an industrial parable.”
In addition to holding special events, Star and Shadow, a community interest company, shows inventive, art house and experimental films as cheaply as possible.
Adrin says: “As far as I know this is unique in the UK. There are places which are run collectively but none have the range and extent of the Star and Shadow. It is an all-encompassing venue. There is no management here, it is like a doughnut ... it’s got an empty centre.”
Down Home Short Film Festival is tomorrow at 7.30pm. The Star and Shadow is at the top of Stepney Bank, Byker, see www.starandshadow.org.uk