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A long way from Cannes;Film and media studies;Features amp; Arts

Film students not invited to the Riviera should look nearer home, reports Laura Westgate.

The trouble with film festivals is that they are often the preserve of the rich, famous and well connected. The humble film student has as much chance of getting into Cannes, say, as being picked to play the love interest in the next Hugh Grant extravaganza. It could happen, but it's unlikely.

There are admirable exceptions. National Schools Film Week, for example, involves almost 300 cinemas and more than 200,000 students in an annual filmfest. Two other festivals are also now well established, with strong youth connections.

The Brief Encounters Short Film Festival, at the Watershed Media Centre in Bristol from November 19 to 26, celebrates an often overlooked film genre.

Festival manager Louise Jennings says: "Short films are an art form in their own right, and are important for encouraging new film-making talent. Students can learn a lot by making short films as they have too little time to develop characters. So a deeper focus is needed."

Brief Encounters will show programmes of new British short films and a selection from elsewhere in the world, with a special focus on the Nordic film industries. There is also a retrospective of influential animators, and, in a separate programme, a chance to see some of the best work being produced by universities and film schools.

The education programme features talks covering music for film and the business of film-making and will be suitable for students of 16 and over.

Across the Irish Sea, Cinemagic, one of the biggest international film festivals for young people, takes place in Belfast from December 2 to 12.It is in its 10th year.

Richard Gaston, event promotion officer, says: "The ethos behind the festival is to promote the educational value of film, especially as children are so tuned into the moving image by television, video games and CD-Roms. The event is aimed at schools covering a broad range of ages."

Many of the films are aimed at children or young people, such as Exhuming Mr Rice, a Canadian film in which a 12-year-old boy comes to terms with the death of his friend, Mr Rice, played by David Bowie.

Feature films, cartoons and comic short films will play alongside a selection of "kids' shorts", seven short animated films based on classic children's books and designed to encourage children's reading.

The organisers, keen to encourage young people's involvement in the film business, are running several competitions. Among these are the Young Film Critic of the Year, which is open to two age groups - 10 to 14-year-olds and 15 to 19-year-olds; and the Young Film-maker of the Year, which is open to anyone under 25.

Media students can also attend a careers forum, where a panel of experts, including producers, directors, engineers and (we are promised) a celebrity, will be on hand to tell it like it is and dispense advice.

There are also workshops and masterclasses for students and teachers on subjects ranging from Hitchcock's directing techniques to production design.

For more information on BriefEncounters, tel: 0117 925 3845.For Cinemagic, tel: 01232 230606.

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