Film festival returns to Purbeck for silver anniversary

After a year away, the longest running rural film festival in the UK – the Purbeck Film Festival – is back for its silver anniversary with gala openings at The Mowlem in Swanage and The Rex in Wareham.

Cinema lovers have the pick of 66 films at 26 venues across Purbeck and beyond, over ten days from Friday 22nd October 2021 – as well as special guest speaker events.


The aim of the festival, as always, is to show a variety of films that a rural area does not easily have access to, like foreign language, independent and classic films.

The Rex cinema in Wareham
The Rex
Film posters outside The Mowlem

Gala nights are being held simultaneously at The Rex in Wareham and The Mowlem in Swanage

Scaled back

There are not as many venues this year because organisers deliberately scaled back plans to ensure ‘people feel safe’ in a post-Covid world.

It’s been a difficult time for film across the board. Cinema attendance generally is down 50 percent – unless it’s James Bond – and smaller events and venues have struggled.

Andrea Etherington, centre
Purbeck Film Festival

Andrea Etherington, festival chair (centre), at a previous year’s event with Dame Janet Suzman and Christopher Miles

“Longest running”

Andrea Etherington, chair of the film festival, said:

“It’s great to be back because a lot of film festivals have gone to the wall. The average lifespan for a film festival is two years and this is our 25th festival.

“We are very proud that we are the longest running rural film festival in the country.”

Durlston Castle - a Purbeck Film Festival venue

Durlston Castle – one of the festival venues

“Wide range”

The National Trust has stopped any large events at its venues, meaning outdoor screenings at Corfe Castle and Studland Beach have been dropped from the programme.

But there are four films at Durlston Country Park in the Fine Foundation Gallery along with a free exhibition about the festival, running from Saturday 16th October until Thursday 28th October 2021.

Durlston Country Park’s Shannon Dugdale said:

“I’m always very excited about the Purbeck Film Festival here at Durlston. The wide range of film genre and themes is always well received. I can’t think of a better location than Durlston’s Fine Foundation Gallery.”

Knoll House hotel is one of the Purbeck Film Festival venues
Knoll House hotel

Knoll House hotel is another festival film venue

“The Mowlem back into the fold”

And The Mowlem in Swanage is back as a venue after a lapse of many years.

Andrea Etherington said:

“For the first time in twenty years we have got The Mowlem back into the fold which we’re very pleased about. It’s a great venue in a really good location with views across Swanage Bay for visitors.”

Other venues include Harmans Cross village hall, the Isle of Purbeck golf club, Lytchett Matravers village hall, Knoll House Hotel at Studland, the Etches Collection museum in Kimmeridge and the Swanage water tower.

Wildland – the gala film at The Mowlem in Swanage

Gala events

The gala film in Swanage at The Mowlem to launch the event is the Danish ‘Wildland’, described as a slow burning ‘scandi noir’ crime drama from a female perspective.

Audiences at the simultaneous gala event at The Rex in Wareham will be treated to ‘And Then We Danced’, a Georgian ‘coming of age’ film about dancers competing for a place in the National Ballet.

And Then We Danced

And Then We Danced – festival gala film at The Rex in Wareham

Dame Harriet Walter

Lisa Nicholson, a former Royal Ballet dancer, is one of the guest speakers during the festival. She will introduce a documentary about Ukranian dancer Sergei Polunin at the Rex Cinema on Tuesday 26th October.

Actress Dame Harriet Walter will be at the Rex Cinema on Saturday 30th October at 8pm to introduce her latest film ‘Herself’, followed by a Q&A about the screening.

Dame Harriet Walter
Purbeck Film festival

Dame Harriet Walter introduces her latest film Herself

Filmed locally

Her film credits include Sense and Sensibility, Atonement, The Young Victoria, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Rocketman and Ridley Scott’s The Last Duel.

Director Mark Griffin, who made ‘Lawrence After Arabia’, filmed at locations across Purbeck, will be answering questions at the Mowlem Theatre in Swanage on Saturday 23rd October 2021.

Mark Griffin
Gryffyn Productions Ltd

Mark Griffin whose film Lawrence After Arabia was filmed locally

Talk by screenwriter

Olivia Hetreed, screenwriter of ‘Girl with a Pearl Earring’, will be speaking at Studland Village Hall also on Saturday 23rd October.

The director of the film ‘Maudie’, Aisling Walsh, will introduce the film and hold a question and answer session on Wednesday 27th October at 8.30pm at the Mowlem Theatre in Swanage.

Olivia Hetreed
Purbeck Fil Festival

Screenwriter Olivia Hetreed talks about Girl With A Pearl Earring

Short film competition

The annual short film competition – showcasing many up-and-coming film directors from around the world, takes place at The Mowlem on Friday 29th October 2021.

The first ever festival was held in 1996 and the last one in 2019 was considered by many to be the best.

Film posters outside The Mowlem

Started in 1996, the festival is celebrating its silver anniversary

“We’re finally back”

The Purbeck Film Festival is run by volunteers and received the maximum £10,000 grant from the British Film Institute.

Andrea said:

“It’s a really exciting line up and we’re hoping people will come out and support the festival now we’re finally back.”

See the film guide

More details can be found on the Purbeck Film Festival website

Purbeck Film Festival posters

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