Caught by the River

Harvest Short Film Competition

3rd August 2017

Lower Hewood Farm and Common Ground present the Harvest Short Film Competition, calling all makers of short films about food, farming and land. Alexa de Ferranti writes:

As a farmer and film lover I’m very excited to be organising the second Harvest Short Film Competition, this year in collaboration with Common Ground, neighbours and fellow champions of land and locality. Once again, the film competition shortlist will be screened at Lower Hewood Farm, a small hotbed of organic food production on the frontiers of Dorset, Somerset and Devon (where I happen to live and work), followed by other venues in the Southwest and London. Already going strong with competition entries arriving daily from all over the world, these small gems range from factual to surreal, hand-held to steady-cammed, polemical to dreamy, analytical to speculative. Alongside our wonderful line-up of judges and with Watershed in Bristol and Dorset AONB newly on board, we’re looking forward announcing this year’s winners to film-makers, neighbours and audience members from further afield at the farm on 27th October.

The Harvest Film Festival provides a great opportunity to showcase this talent. Started in 2014 by myself and curator and film-maker Maria Benjamin (now farming full-time in Cumbria), the festival has proven a great complement to the sober joys of rearing livestock and attending to farm infrastructure (polite terms for being up to your knees in mud). Refreshingly intangible and daylight averse, a late autumn film screening event seemed like a no-brainer. An excuse, if excuses were needed, to bring together an audience at the farm to enjoy great films about the relationship between human beings and the land they inhabit, as well as a chance to travel to other places via the visions and perspectives of talented film-makers. Our screening spaces included the lambing shed with straw bale seating, the converted barn, the cosy stable with one whitewashed wall, and the Survival Library in the farmhouse – these corners of the farm have held shifting audiences for over three days of thirty films. This year we may introduce a new screening space inside a pig ark…

When it comes to film, it turns out that food, farming and land are the subjects that keep on giving. The quality and quantity of films we have to choose from is awe-inspiring, some known, many more unheard of – fascinating films on every imaginable theme. Programming gets pleasurably difficult, suggestions pour in from all sides and the Harvest Short Film Competition simply adds to richness of the scene, the sense of foraging into the future, of growing awareness and understanding of the challenges we face as producers, consumers and global inhabitants. As the submissions arrive on my laptop, in the unruly ‘meatspace’ of the farm office, where piles of DEFRA and Soil Association paperwork overshadow the keyboard of my scuffed laptop, the competition creates exhilarating fresh terrain – competitions invite us to define, redefine and hone the parameters of meaning and quality, whether we are judging short films, athletes or jams. The speculation, appraisal and debate that follows, as well as the outcome and celebration of that form and its executors lie at the heart of the Harvest Short Film Competition.

Our judges this year – Robin Baker (Head Curator at the British Film Institute), Hope Dickson Leach (director of The Levelling), Robert Macfarlane, and Colin Greenwood (Radiohead) – will be looking at the competition submissions from the end of August, and we’re hugely grateful for their time and input. It’s reassuring to know that we can call upon these people to help us champion the voices of artists and film-makers addressing this vital subject. And with the support of Watershed Arts Trust in Bristol, helping develop the BFI Film Audience Network, what the judges choose from this year’s entries to the Harvest Film Short Competition will be touring venues around the Southwest and London.

To enter your film or invite the Harvest Short Film Competition to your community, please write to us at or via Common Ground.