Harvest Film Festival explores our relationship with farming, food and land through its curated programme of fiction, documentary and art films. It also encourages communities, in both rural and urban places, to gather and celebrate the season and their locality.
Our relationship with nature and the cycle of the seasons has long been celebrated by communities. Plough Sunday, Michaelmas, Lady Day, Twelfth Night: all were once fixed in the cultural calendar, expressing something about a community’s reliance on nature and its need to celebrate the life-giving land. We are no longer bound by harvest and husbandry to the cycle of the seasons, nor are calendars marked with festivals and celebrations that express this powerful reliance and connection with nature.
Harvest Film Festival first emerged in 2013 at Lower Hewood Farm, an organic smallholding in west Dorset. Alexa de Ferranti, who farms the 45 acres at Lower Hewood, wanted to explore how cultural and agricultural activities could exist side-by-side. Farming is the default activity in rural landscapes. Its demands are very physical and in the 21st century it has become a solitary, lonely life. So how does communal, cultural activity fit in? Could it be an enjoyable way to break up the tough routines of the farm?
With the curator and artist Maria Benjamin, Alexa hosted the first Harvest festival in the barns and outbuildings of Lower Hewood Farm, with local audiences perched on straw bales as they watched films, listened to talks and the ate a harvest supper with produce from nearby farms.
The films screened that night fed more than the imagination. They demonstrated how important it is for any community to get together, simply to celebrate a time and a place.
Films about the land bind people together. Through the many stories about people and their interactions with different landscapes, in both urban and rural places, it is the land itself which emerges as the most powerful character. Harvest Film Festival has become a showcase for the very best local, national and international film-making. It is a celebration of autumn, when the wheel of the year turns to winter, and a good reason for people to get together and celebrate their community and their home ground.