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Birmingham in the film spotlight again

STAR LINE UP: Chucky Venn (left) with BIFF founder Dean Alexander and Wil Johnson

MOVE OVER London! Birmingham is about to become the capital of the black movie world – at least for seven action-packed days at the end of October when the city hosts the seventh annual Black International Film Festival (BIFF).

Up to 100 celebrities from TV soaps, films and music are expected to attend the highpoint of BIFF’s week – the Movie Video & Screen Awards (MViSAs) on Saturday, November 2 at the International Convention Centre.

The stellar line-up for the evening will include several household names like Rudolph Walker, David Harewood, Wil Johnson and Jimmy Akingbola.

This year’s event, which starts on October 27, is being hosted by former EastEnders hunk Chucky Venn, who played Ray Dixon before leaving the series in May, and award-winning actor Lorna Laidlaw, who currently plays well known receptionist Mrs Tembe in the BBC daytime soap Doctors.

Dean Alexander, the founder and director of BIFF, said: “Each year we make every effort to keep the festival as exciting and interesting as possible. Apart from screening some of the best independent films we host a number of other events which include network evenings, workshops, seminars and showcases.

“Last year saw the best-ever attendance of the BERI conference – the Business of Entertainment and Related Industries - which is a female focused event set out to provide professional advice on running a successful business. This year we will be relaunching our film and entertainment seminar.”

The MViSAs night will see the traditional glass awards replaced with solid brass awards, plated in 18-karat gold in the shape of a theatrical mask affixed to a film strip. They have been created by Simon Hayes, of JHF Castings Ltd, based in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter.

Alexander explained: “The new-look awards signify the festival moving in a new direction with more emphasis on developing our guild of black screen professionals, which we launched last year.”

This was endorsed by Chucky Venn, who said: “The guild is highly pertinent for black actors. We have made a huge contribution over the years to the film and television industries but we don’t always get the recognition we deserve. If we have to create our own arena in order to do this, then so be it.”

It’s a subject close to Venn’s heart as he has already set up his own drama academy known as Star-Reach to develop the next generation of performers.

Since leaving EastEnders he’s also been working on his own production for later this year called Method of Love, along with a film called Leave to Return, which is about a Nigerian citizen trying to remain in the UK.

This year’s BIFF, which has the support of Film Birmingham, has also partnered with Nollywood Movies, the 24-hour Nigerian movie channel. Nigerian superstar Omotola Jalade Ekeinde is also set to attend the MViSAs and will pick up an achievement award for the major role she has played in helping to promote African cinema.

Universal Records artist and South Africa’s queen of soul Nomfusi, who is one of the stars of the new Nelson Mandela movie Long Walk to Freedom, is slated to perform at the MViSAs.

Every year organisers are keen to recruit volunteers to help in various parts of the week, which in turn benefits those eager to forge careers in the film and TV industries.

For further details visit: www.biffestival.co.uk. Ticket hotline 08432 899 251

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