by Ethan Soffe
Halfway through Southampton Film Week 2018, the “Short Story Cinema” event aimed to demonstrate the significance of short form storytelling. Comprising seven short fictions and documentaries, the event was a particularly engaging and engrossing experience that showcased what a short film can accomplish.
The seven shorts screened were: short drama SAFE SPACE (Ben S Hyland 2018), poetic documentary LETTERS TO BRITAIN (Rosie Baldwin 2018), science fiction comedy TAKING DELILAH (Rachel Stephens 2018, pictured), racial drama FARSIDE (Ash Morris 2017), reflexive documentary LET ME BE BRAVE (Asten Holmes-Elliott 2016), romantic drama ME AND YOU: A LOVE STORY (Sorcha Anglim 2015) and coming-of-age drama THE NIGHT THE WIND BLEW (David Alamouti 2018). The majority of the films offered a social and political commentary that advanced their narratives and reinforced their principal messages.
SAFE SPACE centres on a social worker Sarah (Rebecca Grant) and her relationship with her client Amne (Marlene Madenge), a victim of human sex trafficking, as it unfolds over a nine-month period. LETTERS TO BRITAIN explores various pensioners recounting their experiences of significant moments in history. FARSIDE, one of the standout films of the evening, deals with a Syrian refugee’s relationships with two siblings who have contrasting political views. LET ME BE BRAVE investigates the presence of transgender people in sport. Containing this political commentary in a short form strengthened their impact. The Short Story Cinema event not only showcased timely political stances, it additionally demonstrated how much could be achieved in such a short amount of time.
TAKING DELILAH, ME AND YOU: A LOVE STORY and THE NIGHT THE WIND BLEW are short stories with great substance. TAKING DELILAH presents a couple’s troubled relationship and their dog through the sci-fi genre. ME AND YOU: A LOVE STORY, another standout film of the event, depicts a couple’s entire relationship from the first date to their break-up. THE NIGHT THE WIND BLEW deals with a young boy’s connection with his brother, whilst simultaneously exploring themes of identity and the challenges of early adolescence. Collectively, the films were impressive to experience, exhibiting sophisticated and carefully constructed narratives.
Short Story Cinema was a truly unique experience. The programme offered innumerable benefits for not just the filmmakers presenting their distinctive capabilities in storytelling but also for the audience. Having the filmmakers present for a Q&A afterwards supported the evening’s value as they discussed their specific modes of filmmaking and imparted advice for future filmmakers. Moreover, their presence made for an interactive and encouraging evening. The Southampton Film Week event was a remarkable way of introducing new filmmakers and their stories but also, notably, sharing with the audience something creative and inspiring.
A diverse display of talent was evident at this year's SFW annual shorts screening and awards
Saturday 18 November 2017
by BRENNAN BACKS
This year, 23 shorts were nominated as part of Southampton Film Week’s Shorts competition across three different categories: documentary, fiction and artist film. The films came from all over the world, including submissions from France, Iran and the US as well as regional submissions from the UK’s south coast. This diversity allowed for a dynamic and thought-provoking two-hour compendium of short film craft.
A NAME THAT I ADMIRE (directed by Sam Smartt) came out on top in the documentary category and also picked up the Michael Fuller Award for Best Film. The film looked at a dairy farmer in West Virginia, USA, delving into his life, politics and family and succinctly navigating all three. The Best Artist Film Award went to THE DÉRIVE (directed by filmmaker, dancer and choreographer Tanin Torabi), a single shot that followed a woman dancing through the streets of an unidentified Iranian city. Finally, the Best Short Fiction Award also went to an Iranian film, LIMIT (directed by student and filmmaker Javad Daraei), which follows a disabled boy searching for help.
Out of the 23 nominations, more than half were from the region, showcasing the incredible talent close by. Solent University graduates and Southampton filmmakers Emma Lieghio and Craig McDougall took home the Best Regional Filmmaker Award for their exceptionally well-made documentary WELSH SLATE. The Audience Award went to fresh and funny French comedy PÉTAGE/BREAKDOWN (directed by Greg Tudéla).
A special screening of past 48 Hour Challenge winners
Thursday 16 November 2017
A highlight of Southampton Film Week over the years has been the 48 Hour Film Challenge set up by Southampton network and productions group Exposure Filmmakers. Regrettably, the competition did not take place this year yet there was still the opportunity to watch recent examples. Over the space of an hour, 17 short films played back to back, varying in duration, genre and style.
Most impressive is how each contestant takes the competition guidelines and interprets them to fit an idea. Each year, the participants are given a set of rules to follow. A terrific example of ingenuity is THE BEAR NECESSITY (directed by Harry Gadsby, written by Michael Jones and Ashton Church). It tells the story of a man who, to help his friend through depression, dresses in a bear onesie. The mockumentary style allows for the film to provide a brilliant twist and subsequently create a fantastic comedy. HOW I ATE YOUR MOTHER (written and directed by James Atkins) employed a dystopian future to spectacular effect, turning the zombie apocalypse film on its head. The set-up is superb and the execution perfectly timed. These two examples highlight the imagination and creativity enabled by this challenge.
James Atkins and writer Michael Jones were present for a Q&A after the screening. Jones commended the challenge for promoting imagination and encouraging productivity. For Atkins, the promise of a “challenge” is exactly why he took part and his passion for the craft was clearly evident in the discussion. The Exposure Challenge is clearly valued, bringing together a mixture of people - experienced and not so experienced - who create superb films in a very short space of time. Hopefully 2018 will see the challenge make its return.
This year's BAFTA nominated short films inspire and delight.
Wednesday 15 November 2017
The level of quality on show in this year’s BAFTA Shorts Tour is simply inspiring. Of course, from BAFTA nominated shorts you would expect nothing less. Yet the sheer breadth of material makes the viewing experience incredibly profound. From documentary to drama to animation, each genre has its place and seemingly stands its ground, although some stand out more than others in offering their unique take on what a short film can achieve.
STANDBY (directed by Charlotte Regan) offers a simple yet effective take on the buddy cop comedy. Although by no means technically sophisticated - it is filmed via a static dashboard cam - it is the relationship between patrol officers Gary (Andrew Paul) and Jenny (Alexa Morden), built up in 5 minutes, that takes us on such a humorous and bittersweet journey.
The brilliant stop motion animation, A LOVE STORY (directed by Anushka Kishani Naanayakkara) is wonderfully weird and the emotional connection you make to two balls of yarn will make you question what you are watching. It is a strong example of meticulously hand-crafted stop motion animation but uses a simple story to evoke an affecting response.
The other six short films are each fascinating in their own right, tackling subject matters ranging from the IRA, to the 1960s Chinese Cultural Revolution, and the “Mouth of Hell” in India. All the filmmakers have created a piece worthy of being displayed all over the world, some to make a political statement, some purely for enjoyment. All are likely to inspire the next generation of filmmakers.
Short film screening and filmmaker Q&A
Monday 13 November 2017
by EAMMON JACOBS
Four short dystopian films were screened on Monday as part of Southampton Film Week's 2017 programme and the audience were treated to a Q&A session with the filmmakers.
MEDICAE (2017, 14 minutes)
Written and directed by Leo Rand, co-directed by Will Whiting
MEDICAE sees an interrogation between a violent religious order and a man who carries a piece of nature that may hold the key to our next evolutionary step. Protagonist Noam (Charles Streeter) is written with messianic undertones, while nature itself is clearly compared to the Garden of Eden. In the Q&A, writer, director and actor Leo Rand referred to Alfonso Cuarón’s dystopian drama CHILDREN OF MEN (2006) as a huge influence on his short film. Like the rest of the films screened, MEDICAE shows lavish effects are not needed to create a bleak and hostile world and there is power in its bittersweet ending.
Watch the teaser here.
LOSING FACE (2016, 5 minutes)
Written and directed by Rachel Stephens
A woman enters a pub looking for her friends but instead finds the patrons inside to be faceless and intimidating. Coming to terms with a past trauma and moving forward play into this short tale of self-discovery. The transition in the opening minute from colour to black and white is a clever way of depicting unfamiliarity and a loss of self. The faceless punters are silently terrifying and prove incredibly effective in unnerving the audience.
Watch the teaser trailer here.
TOO LATE TO LEAVE (2015, 5 minutes)
Written, shot and directed by Riyadh Haque
Created as part of the Sci-Fi London 48 Hour Film Challenge and shortlisted for SFW: Shorts, TOO LATE TO LEAVE utilises next to no dialogue but nonetheless immerses the audience into a world so carefully pieced together. In the Q&A, Riyadh Haque detailed that he wanted the audience to find their own answers to the story. With clues as to what has happened carefully placed throughout, the narrative world is plunged into chaos. Like any good road movie, TOO LATE TO LEAVE reminds us life is often about the journey rather than the destination.
Watch the film here.
TRANSMISSION (2017, 17 minutes)
Written and directed by Varun Raman and Tom Hancock
TRANSMISSION is David Lynch meets Stanley Kubrick. Or, at least that is who creators Varun Raman and Tom Hancock were clearly influenced by. TRANSMISSION portrays a world not so far from our own, where a terrifyingly charismatic interrogator (James Hyland) manipulates a young man (Michael Shon) to the point of desperation. As the filmmakers themselves describe it, the film is all about “the conflict between the oppressor and the oppressed”. This is clearly evident in the mental conditioning of the protagonist and the abstract surrealism that follows.
Watch the trailer here.
Described by event director Susan Beckett before the screenings began as an “informal, relaxed exhibition space for local filmmakers”, City Eye Cinema is an opportunity for amateur and professional filmmakers alike to screen their work in front of a live audience and receive feedback. Taking place at regular intervals throughout the year in a variety of alternative venues, this Southampton Film Week edition was held at The Stage Door, a quirky fringe theatre lined with cabaret posters and velvet furnishings, adding to the bohemian stylings of the event.
City Eye Cinema functions as an unconventional exhibition space, with the event showcasing three vastly different short films: Paul Vernon’s ambitious western Vengeance is the Lord, music video Mistletoe Bride by Rakesh Thind and Phil Peel’s anti-rom-com Chasing Fame. After each film was screened a member of the creative team provided some insight into the production of their short film. Most questions from the audience focused on location scouting due to the international flare of the shorts, featuring scenes set in Toronto, Arizona, Edinburgh and, most importantly of course, Southampton. The event was a unique chance to learn about the production of shorts directly from their creators and future City Eye Cinema events should not be missed.
City Eye Cinema took place on Sunday 6 November as part of Southampton Film Week 2016.