Q&A with the curator behind the Oska Bright Film Festival

This week, the Oska Bright Film Festival offers its audience a list of exciting events, and we get curious about the behind-the-scenes. The festival focuses on films made by or about people with disabilities, this way shedding more light on this part of the film industry. Its lead programmer, Matthew Hellett, shares his insights into the development of Oska Bright.

What was your personal path to a film career?

During a chat with my support worker, I mentioned I wanted to do something creative, so I decided to make a film. Cooking With Matthew, which I made in 2006, was my very fest film. I entered this into Oska Bright, and it won an award! After that, I was approached by Oska Bright, and they asked me if I’d join the team, the rest is history. I’ve made a few films since then and would like to make more.

My programming career started in 2017 when I was one of the first learning-disabled people to be on the prestigious mentoring scheme, Guiding Lights. I was paired with Emma Smart from BFI Flare, and she encouraged me to explore my creative instinct. I wanted to give a platform to people like me, learning-disabled people from the LGBTQIA+ community.

How would you describe the growth of the festival? Comparing its beginning in 2004 to where it stands now, what significant changes have you noticed?

We have grown in size and impact, from a one-day festival mainly for the community to a 7-day international festival. This year we’re working with 22 partners across the UK to screen work, alongside 7 days of film across Brighton and Sussex. At first, it was just the learning-disabled community coming; now it’s everyone! These stories are for everyone and stand alongside any other films. We’re now BAFTA and BIFA accredited, so we’re really making change happen in the sector.

As a curator with a specific niche, how do you conduct your research? What are your go-to resources?

We go to a lot of other festivals; we love to see what other people are doing. I love SQUIFF and Encounters. I also reach out to my friend and colleague, Mattie Kennedy, to see what they’ve watched recently. Mattie was a filmmaker we featured in the festival and we’ve been friends ever since.

In between festivals, we tour the UK and the world, this gives us the opportunity to meet with filmmakers, and see their work.

Do you ever like to include controversial representation of disability in your programmes for the sake of sparking a discussion?

Absolutely! We love wild, weird, sexy, controversial films. There’s a film this year that features three people in a bathroom with a tin of baked beans…

What are the biggest festival highlights to expect this year?

Our Wild Women strand, which showcases wild and weird stories by female-identifying filmmakers from across the globe, the launch of our Easy Write template in partnership with TAPE and Final Draft, and our opening night, featuring This Is Going To Be Big, a feature-length documentary from Australia. There is so much to see over the 7 days!


The Oska Bright ‘24 is showing over a hundred films during the week of 11-17 March. It is attracting diverse audiences that believe in the festival’s mission to see the programme in Brighton, just an easy train ride away from London.