Interview with Festival Director Dr. James Rowlins (Brighton Rocks Film Festival)

Brighton Rocks International Film Festival (BRIFF) was established in 2017 by a group of filmmakers, academics and creatives who love cinema and live in Brighton. The first annual screening event was held in May 2018, followed by an awards ceremony presided over by local actor Patrick Bergin. In addition to screening events throughout the year, we are preparing our second festival in June 2019.

1) What is your Film Festival succeeding at doing for filmmakers?

Connecting fearless, like-minded creatives and giving them a platform to promote and celebrate their work.

2) What would you expect to experience if you attend your upcoming festival?

Buzz. Excitement in the discovery that there people out there, just like you. To kick things off, there will be workshops for filmmakers, followed by screenings of winning films. There will be an awards ceremony with statutory afterparty.

3) What are the qualifications for the selected films?

Our selection embraces films that embody the Brighton ethos – a state of mind, an attitude, a spirit that dares to be itself. Above all the filmmaker should impart a vision and express something personal of him/herself.

4) Do you think that some films really don’t get a fair shake from film festivals? And if so, why?

Sadly yes. Festivals are often afraid of going out on a limb to support films that don’t yet have the big laurels. We pledge to look first and foremost at the film, not a long list of stickers.

5) What motivates you and your team to do this festival?

To do better. Experiencing the festival circuit from the other side, as a filmmaker, we’ve seen flaws aplenty – poor communication, bad organisation, etc., not to mention all those that you can’t be sure if they are bona fide. There are some good ones too, of course, but we want to be smarter than the average bear.

6) How has your FilmFreeway submission process been?

“Gorgeousness and gorgeosity made flesh, wonder of wonders, like silvery wine flowing in a spaceship” (A Clockwork Orange). So pretty good.

7) Where do you see the festival by 2023?

This will be our 5th anniversary. We hope to have made good on our pledge to become one of the UK’s main festivals for indie and underground cinema. We will host big screening events – across the city and beyond. We will be collaborating with likeminded international festivals.

8) What film have you seen the most times in your life?

Godard’s A bout de souffle (Breathless), as I wrote a doctoral thesis on it. Next would be Hitchcock’s Vertigo.

9) In one sentence, what makes a great film?

“In one word, emotion!,” to quote Samuel Fuller in Pierrot le fou.

10) How is the film scene in your city?

Brighton offers an amazing range of settings that have been used to great effect in classic films such as Quadrophenia (1979) and our namesake, Brighton Rocks (1947). Scores of talented writers and actors live in Brighton and there is a frenetic arts scene. The city often appears in television series, but it has to be said that Brighton doesn’t always punch above its weight in terms of being a prime location for feature films. One of Brighton Rocks’ missions is to raise awareness of the merits of Brighton as a place to make movies.

brighton rocks.jpg


James Rowlins left his native England for Paris, France, to study French cinema. His passion for visual culture subsequently took him to Los Angeles, where he earned a doctorate at the University of Southern California while learning the ropes of filmmaking. He has published articles on the French New Wave and film noir. After serving as Head of Film Studies at the Singapore University of Technology and Design, he now dedicates himself to the full-time running of Brighton Rocks Film Festival.


2 thoughts on “Interview with Festival Director Dr. James Rowlins (Brighton Rocks Film Festival)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s