PUBLISHED 14 FEB 2017
AS a representation of some of the highest calibre short films of the past 12 months, this year's BAFTA shorts offer audiences a feature length selection of short films, encompassing documentary, animation - including puppetry, hand drawn and stop motion - as well as many genres of live action short such as romantic comedy, high tension drama and a unique take on murder mystery. This screening event took place in Southampton Solent University’s Sonar Cinema, a student-led exhibition space and cinema inside the university and so was the perfect venue for a unique opportunity to see short films on the big screen.
A daring opener for the BAFTA Shorts, OVER (Jörn Threlfall 2015) requires a great deal of patience as this reverse-chronological slow burner heavily relies on intrigue. Distanced from the action with long shots, the audience is forced to scour the screen, taking in every detail they can as the mystery is slowly uncovered, unraveling with every backwards jump through time. Ending on a heart-stopping blink-and-miss-it moment, OVER’s reveal is cruel and thought-provoking, displaying the lengths that asylum seekers and immigrants will go to in order to reach what Threlfall describes as a western “El Dorado”.
Winner of the British Short Animation award, EDMOND (Nina Gantz 2015) presents a unique combination of animation techniques, blending fuzzy-fabric stop motion with digitally-imposed facial features, resulting in a creepy aesthetic that matches the equally distressing plot line. A concerning overview of cannibalistic intentions, EDMOND presents us with contemplations of suicide but the surreal aspect of character ultimately outweighs the sadness associated with ending one’s life. As another reverse narrative, EDMOND begins just before killing himself and ends with a horrifically iconic scene in the womb, showcasing where his desire for flesh began.
As the first fictional film made with the UK’s Hasidic population, SAMUEL - 613 (Billy Lumby 2015) provides rare insight into a Jewish, coming-of-age gone wrong narrative. A combination of non-professional actors and fly-on-the-wall camera work creates a documentary style in which we witness Samuel (Theo Barklem-Biggs) rebel against his cultural heritage and fly off the rails, rejecting his family’s identity as he explores life outside of his strict religious household. Surreal and ever-so-slightly unsettling, SAMUEL - 613 acts as a cautionary tale, providing justice for abandoning his family in the form of a flock of vicious parrots.
Minimal but incredibly gripping, OPERATOR (Caroline Bartleet 2015) reveals the emotionally draining work that Emergency Services Operators go through on a daily basis and is a well-deserved winner of the British Short Film Award from BAFTA. The camera work is simple, staying with the operator (Kate Dickie) throughout. The conversation with Gemma (Vicky McClure) and her pleas to survive invoke powerful imagery and intense empathy despite never seeing her anguish. At the end of their call we are left with a moment of silence before moving on to another person in need, demonstrating the stressful loop that regularly occurs in an Emergency Services Dispatch Centre.
Impressively animated, PROLOGUE (Richard Williams 2015) follows four warriors in a battle to the death. With each frame individually hand drawn, it is as if the battle was happening upon a sketchpad. With a minimalist approach to animation as all focus is on the characters, the film lacks a sense of space, but it makes up for this with the intensity and realistic approach to violence with a groan-inducing moment in which sword and genitals meet unexpectedly. With plans for a feature-length adaptation, the vintage approach to animation technique is not something to be missed.
As the only documentary, MINING POEMS OR ODES (Callum Rice 2015) offered a change of pace for the BAFTA screenings, showcasing an unintentionally eloquent exploration into the surprisingly well read world of a Scottish welders yard book club, challenging first impressions of typical masculinity. We follow Robert, a writer who looks back on how the world of welding shaped his career and knowledge; “I learnt how to write under a welding helmet” he states. The somewhat repetitive task of welding proves to be a thought-provoking space, that solitary work allows an atmosphere to dwell in silence; a secret world of creativity.
Opening immediately on frantic screaming puppets amidst a primal therapy session, MANOMAN (Simon Cartwright 2015) is a chaotic animated short about discovering your inner manhood. When something primitive emerges from deep within Glenn, he realises his life will never be the same. On the upside it shows him how to live up to his true macho potential. Overflowing with carnal rage and testosterone, MANOMAN presents the downfall of striving for peak masculinity. Featuring a screaming choir and a unique urine baptism, this erratic animated short will stick with you, perhaps for all the wrong reasons.
Following on from many bleak shorts regarding death or suicide, ELEPHANT (Nick Helm and Esther Smith 2015) provided the audience with a light-hearted comedy set in Brighton. Exploring quintessentially British sensibilities, we follow two friends dealing with abundant amounts of tea and being too polite to complain to waiters as they begin to realise something more than friendship exists between them. As the duo awkwardly prance around their feelings it seems that a mutual decision has been made to go on as friends so as to not jeopardise their relationship. As the title suggests the “elephant” in the room is their desire for romance.
Arguably the most popular event at Southampton Film Week, the BAFTA shorts were screened twice throughout the festival due to such a high demand for tickets. Ultimately, this year’s collection featured a depression mix of suicide, death and sorrow. Even the lighter shorts like ELEPHANT and MINING POEMS OR DOES had an air of sadness to them, exploring themes of isolation and awkward relationships. The undisputed champion of the screening was OPERATOR, resonating with the audience and lingering long after the screenings had finished; a difficult task considering where it was placed in the lineup.
The BAFTA Shorts screening took place on Wednesday 9 November as part of Southampton Film Week. A further screening on Monday 14 November took place in The Austen Lecture Theatre at Southampton Solent University.