Film school in South Belfast ‘must be reopened’

Film school South Belfast must be reopened for film students, the National Film Board said on Monday, as the number of film students at its Belfast facility increased by almost half in the past two years. 

The National Film School, a private, non-profit educational institution, operated out of the south Belfast premises of the National Cinema Museum, located in the city’s Old Town. 

On Thursday, the NFB announced that it had received an application from South Belfast City Council seeking to reopen the NFS for students and staff. 

This application was submitted in the context of the South Belfast Film and Television School’s closure in February 2018, and the board said it was “concerned” about the impact the closure has had on the local film community.

The NFB’s chief executive, Roberta Macpherson, said: “We are disappointed that NFS is not being able to reopen for students or staff.”

Our primary concern is the safety and wellbeing of students and their families.

“The safety and welfare of staff are paramount and must be paramount to our continued ability to provide the world-class educational and training opportunities that have become a cornerstone of our cultural community.”

We will be supporting our staff in their decision to make a choice to return to school or not.”NFS is a non-for-profit institution and we are not asking anyone to leave.” 

‘This is a sad day’South Belfast City Councillor Peter Kelly said he was “very disappointed” by the NFF’s decision. 

“It is a shame that the NFA [National Film Board] is leaving, and that is a very sad day,” he said.

“This is not the first time we have heard that NFA has a very negative view of film, and they have to be reminded of that. 

It is very important to be able to continue to teach people about film, because they are our most valued export, and we cannot afford to lose that.”

It’s really unfortunate that there has been a reduction in the number and number of students in the NFP [Northern Ireland Film and Production Board] over the last couple of years, and I think it’s a shame. 

We are a community that really has been trying to get this film programme back on track, and there’s no doubt it’s going to take some time to get back on course.” 

He said that there had been a rise in the rate of students coming to NFS, with around a third of the students in South Ballybofey coming from schools in Belfast and the South West. 

But Mr Kelly said that the increase in students was not sustainable, adding: “The people coming in are coming from areas that are not particularly well-funded.”

I’m really concerned about the health of our students and I really worry about the students and the families that are going to be impacted.” 

The NFA’s decision to close the NAFS has not been welcomed by the city council, with Mayor of South Belfast, Martin McGuinness, saying: “This is really unfortunate news and we’re really sorry to hear about it.”

When I heard about it, I was really shocked, I had no idea that there was any kind of closure. 

I’ve been to a lot of the film festivals and I’ve seen the impact it has had. 

There are schools that have been closing down, and it’s not that they don’t want to reopen, but there is not enough money in the local budget to keep them going.” 

However, Mr McGuinness said that he had spoken to the director of the NFI who had said that they had “no plans” to reopen any schools. 

Mr McGuinness also said that while he was concerned about a lack of funding for schools, he believed the NFU would continue to fund film schools in Northern Ireland. 

He added: “I do think that the council has the responsibility to try and do that.

I do think it is really important that we have some funding for film schools, and so I think that is something that I’m going to have a discussion with the council about, and hopefully we can get a resolution to that.

“We have no plans to shut down any of the schools.” 

The council’s acting Mayor, Michael McDaid, said that his office would be contacting the NFEB about the closure, with the NfavB saying it would also be contacting all schools.