Interview: Ascension

Rajnish Sharma answered a few questions about his film Ascension

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Rajnish Sharma’s Ascension was an abstract addition on by far the most outlandish day of films. Sharma’s short was set in a post-apocalyptic world and followed the story of a father who abandoned his family to give himself the best chance of survival. It was a very interesting short that is well worth a watch. Click here to read my review before progressing to the interview.

I began by asking about the inspiration behind his short. ‘I wouldn’t say there was a singular inspiration to the short film, but the main inspiration was to see if I could make a good film that looks good with an engaging narrative using the very little resources I have. It was pretty much the Robert Rodriguez philosophy of making the best with the very least.’

There was another inspiration to the short as he continues, ‘the other inspiration behind the short was to make a Post-Apocalyptic drama that centred around the impact of those left behind and abandoned rather than the monsters looming outside. The Survivor’s selfishness to preserve himself and abandon the family was something I wanted to explore. I find it’s more interesting when you explore the character rather than the flashiness of monsters or zombies.’

The character’s sole motives for leaving his family were never addressed and this was intentional by Sharma. ‘I wrote it in a way were the Survivor left his family as his instinct and myopic desire to survive lead him to fend for himself and abandon the family. When working on the characterisation with my lead actor, he came up with the backstory of abandoning his family due to fear of not being a good enough father and husband to protect his family…to protect them. Without giving too much away in terms of the underlying meaning and subtext. The Survivor left his family, but it wasn’t his choice to do so.’

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Throughout the short we never see the world outside his hideout. This was purposeful on his part as ‘nothing I created would’ve been as interesting or exciting as what the audience would perceive. Plus the outside world wasn’t really the focus of the narrative I was going for. But if I were to say what it would look like, I would imagine a desolate, destroyed place like modern day Syria. A warzone with limited quaratine zones and people too concerned with surviving. A place of death, war, bullets and destroyed buildings and lives.’

There was unfortunately a few major issues during the production period that completely changed the story. He told me that ‘the third scene was meant to be a lot more intense and deliberate and the ending was originally supposed to be this destructive confrontation with the Valykries outside of his hideout. Both scenes had to be scrapped due to a technical fault with the camera that destroyed 11 hours worth of filming and the garage door breaking on location. With both elements changing and the fact I only had two days of the crew before losing them for 5 months on another project out of my own. I decided to film three more hours that day and sit my DOP down and tell him the entire restructured story and what I wanted changing. There was one shot in the film that was taken out due to narrative flow with the Survivor walking off screen with a weapon and make shift shield, but creatively it didn’t work and was left out.’

As a result of this there are several things he would change. ‘I’m very proud of the film but all I see now are the mistakes.’ he said. ‘I would secure a good and reliable First AD (Assistant Director), we had one scheduled but didn’t show up, essentially leaving us without a First AD meaning my DOP (Director of Photography) had to do both roles. I would have had all my actors properly rehearsed with at least a week rehearsal before filming instead of on set hours before rolling, I would have sourced better props and I would have changed the second scene to allow more breathing room.’

This was a debut film for Sharma and was a steep learning curve. ‘I wish I could have made that film now as the Director I am today, as I feel more confident, more knowledgable, better prepared and just a better filmmaker then I was when I originally directed it. But hindsight is always 20/20. There’s no point on dwelling on what could’ve been. Things will always go wrong on set and creatively, you’re never really satisfied. I count my blessing and proud of my Debut short film, I feel I’ve done well with my first ever film with the budget of £220. I’m just using it as a learning experience and carrying forward, I’m glad it happened the way it did because now I feel I can do even better.’

His thoughts are interesting for any amateur filmmakers. During the process of making any film there will be countless things that go wrong but it is how you react to them that will affect your end product. Sharma’s experience goes to show that even if everything seems to go wrong, you can create a short of really high quality.

In terms of future plans he has quite a full plate. ‘The next project I’m doing is a psychology horror called Eve about a girl getting ready for a night out, unable to leave her room beyond her control trapping her into a fate worse than death. I’m hoping to shoot it in April/May and will have a lot more time to prepare.’

After that project is complete he will begin work on more shorts. ‘I have an experimental piece, a 20 second film challenge at my Local Film society 7/5 Forum in Leicester, writing up two more short films (both that will need funding) and will also be attending Raindance’s Masterclass “Directing Actors” 27th and 28th May.’

‘Apart from that I’m still taking Ascension through the festival circuit. Reading books on filmmaking, researching and practicing the craft of Directing and filmmaking. My limit isn’t the sky, it’s the stars. I’m planning on working harder, making more films and getting better at the craft I love.’

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Interview: Hope

A highly original short deserves a highly original interview, or at least a semi-original one

Hope was among the most original shorts in this years festival and one of the best Zombie films I have watched in a long time. Directer Adam A. Losurdo took some time from his busy schedule to talk about his film and his plans for the future. Click here to read my review of Hope before progressing to the interview.

The premise to Hope, that the zombies don’t kill/eat human and instead just wander aimlessly, is refreshingly new and opposite to most films in the genre. The idea was different to begin with though as Adam told me, ‘The co-writer Chris Stival had a general idea of the zombie’s loss of hunger. Then, after finding love with another zombie would gain his blood thirst along with the girl starting up the zombie apocalypse once again.’

As the development progressed, the concept evolved as he continues, ‘we ended up changing the original idea and twisting it into the zombies never becoming hostile in the first place, but rather would just roam the world like stray dogs looking for something other than food. Well until…’

The current state of the zombie genre is something he feels need to change, ‘over the years zombie movies have been put on repeat with no real creativity or originality. I strive to bring fresh concepts and incorporate them with elements of the films that we all love.’ His short is an attempt at breaking the cycle and inspiring others to do the same.

On the topic of inspirations, Adam talked about several directors that influenced his work. ‘Quentin Tarantino is one for his raw stylised approach. He is a writing genius, and he also takes a lot of elements from older films and makes them into his own, which we all know works very well’ Another is David Fincher for ‘his versatility in filmmaking and his stylised gritty films like Fight Club and Seven.’ Finally, and especially relevant for Hope was John Carpenter ‘for his old-school style of horror and cheese factor. The 80’s horror films with all the practical scares and effects are the best’

Whilst making the film, Adam tried to include many pop culture and film references. ‘As far as direct inspiration, I was really inspired to take memorable shots from past movies and make them work within our story and style.’ One of those references in particular was from Titanic when Hope and Karl are in love, holding hands and spinning in the field. Another, more prominent reference was from Sergio Leone’s The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, towards the end of the film when Karl and the two young girls have ‘what we called on set, “The Mexican Standoff”.’ Fortunetely aside from a few minor scenes and shots here and there, no pop-culture references ended up being cut.

The main antagonists of the film, the aforementioned two young girls, was a curious choice by the writers. He explains that he ‘wanted to emphasise the zombie’s being innocent creatures with no knowledge of their surroundings. Young girls at that age are usually considered sweet and innocent but in Hope, we flipped the roles’. This change in expectation alongside the core concept of the zombies keep the viewers on their toes with constant surprises as the short progresses.

In a look to the future we discussed future projects and aspirations. ‘My goal is to continue writing, directing and producing my projects. I have some concepts I’m playing with at the moment and have some more shorts up my sleeve. I’m also developing two full-length feature screenplays for future productions.’ Continuing to develop his own style is something that is very important to him and he wants to share his visions with the world.

In a step towards the hypothetical, I asked what film he would make if given unlimited scope. ‘I would have to say a horror/thriller. I love classic horror slasher films and psychological thrillers so I’d want to combine the two creating an iconic film that will stand as a memorable piece of cinema.’

We ended the interview with his top 5 films. ‘That’s a hard question to answer. So many favourites. So many! I would have to say Halloween (1978) because it has been one of my favourites for so long, The Ninth Gate, Moon, Seven , and to mix it up Nacho Libre. The list goes on and on with films like Empire Strikes Back, The Abyss, Contact, Alien, Event Horizon, Inglorious Bastards, Kill Bill, Django, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Tropic Thunder and The Secret Window’

Interview: Found

An intriguing insight into my personal favourite film of the festival

One of the highlights of day two of Lift-Off was Found, a truly fantastic thriller about a man who spent ten years searching for his kidnapped daughter. I had the privilege of interviewing director Richard Hughes about his film, if you’d like to read a review of this short before progressing to the interview click here.

What makes the short worthy of even more praise is the fact the story is entirely original and not adapted from a book or real life events. ‘We took inspiration from films like Denis Villeneuve’s Prisoners and Man on Fire’ he told me. ‘Dave Christian and I actually wrote the film back in 2015, whilst on a road trip through Montana in the United States’.

Going through the process of turning their idea into the finished product, they found the whole process raised very few issues. ‘We were confident in our script and found it was flowing well with the actors. As a result, we are able to shoot the film without any changes.’ The shoot was not without its problems though as he went on, ‘it was touch and go during the final scene when the house was set on fire. With wild winds on the way, the Fire Brigade we close to shutting down the filmset which would’ve resulted in a totally different ending to the script’.

Hughes demonstrates his fantastic ability to control tension throughout the film with it being a large factor in making it so gripping. He takes inspiration from directors such as the Coen Brothers and Denis Villeneuve who seem to have a deep understanding of tension. ‘A technique they have mastered is to introduce it during silence. This technique, along with visuals to play out tension and suspense is a film craft that I want to execute’

Alongside tension, Hughes also has great cinematographic skill extending past this short and covering all of his projects. ‘I think I’m a very visual director. I loved photography from a young age and always have a camera by my side. I love exploring the technique of ‘Mise en Scene’, or hidden meanings that may or may not be visible to everyone in the audience but can sway a viewers mind subliminally through framing, props and wardrobe. It can be powerful and used with boundaries.’

Away from the craft of the film, the cast deserves high praise for their performances. I asked if they two lead actors Richard Cawthorne and Shane Connor shared the vision or whether there were bumps along the way. ‘They did share the vision, both were extremely passionate about the film’ he said. ‘In particular I learnt a lot about directing performance with the lead Richard Cawthorne. He used a method approach, which is basically when an actor aspires complete emotional identification with the part.’ This, while a new experience for Hughes, lead to a great partnership. ‘Although emotionally taxing, we definitely connected on another level through the shoot. It felt as though we were inside our own intimate bubble, allowing us to break down his character’s motivations without influence’.

In a look to the future, I asked what film he would make, given free range and budget. ‘As a young child I was obsessed with cowboys and pirates. I have always had a dream to make a gutsy pirate film with no frills and true grit. An honest, dark and disturbing portrayal of how these fascinating barbarians rule the seas.’ For now though he is working on transitioning from short to feature film. ‘We have dreams of one day turning this film into a feature length. Currently we have a two feature scripts and we’re pursuing both. The other film is a modern day pirate film ‘Friday Freedom’. His dream of a pirate film may not be out of reach.

Finally, I ended by asking his top 5 films of all time and unsurprisingly the Coen Brothers and Villeneuve both feature in the form of No Country For Old Men, The Big Lebowski and Sicario. The rest of the top 5 is made up of Leon and The Truman Show.

Click here to go back to the Lift-Off Homepage to check out more reviews and interviews

Manchester Lift-Off 2017: Local Filmmaker’s Showcase (2/2)

The final shorts from this years festival

Soldier Bee

After being victim to an IED (improvised explosive device), Jodie Baxter returns from Afghanistan to her family in the U.K, physically and emotionally damaged. This short succeeds in demonstrating that the cuts made during war are deep, and very rarely heal.

The young woman feels disconnected from the world around her, unable to breach the unfamiliar gap with her husband and feeling hopelessly distant from her adolescent daughter. Soldier Bee is a brutal short, managing to be incredibly well shot yet making the viewer feel constantly anxious and uncomfortable. One scene in particular conveys Jodie’s irrational behaviour, due to having her life now wrecked forever with mentally troubling memories.

Directed by Alex Hardy

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Lost in Spring

“When I was six I wanted to be a cook. When I was seven I wanted to be Napoleon. And my ambition has been steadily growing since.”
This quote is shown at the beginning of the short, and resonates throughout as intelligent and shy seven-year-old Rosie is thrown into the lifelong pursuit of purpose.

Her character is built by a mixture of amusing innocence and maturity, a great penguin beanie and red hair. Asked by teacher to prepare a speech to give in front of whole class “What you want to be when you grow up and why”, the short exposes how prematurely the adult world wants children to find their calling. Her speech is hastily made but genuine, finding herself a little out of breath from the stress of wanting to get it over and done with. After a touching sequence of self-realisation, Rosie tells her class that she wants to be an actress because she can be anybody she wants to be and it makes her smile. Lost in Spring is a very clever and accurate depiction of how little time we have without worrying about what we aspire to be, but also how Rosie navigates her way through first sentiments of self-doubt and assessment of her own talent.

Directed by Fred Leao Prado Wall

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The Sedate Escape

A light-hearted, intricately detailed stop-motion of two comrades from WW2 now in a home, planning their escape from what they think is a prisoner’s camp.

In this comedy, the characters resemble clay, details like the phone, food or the clock are all doll house miniatures, giving the illusion that these might be toys coming to life in a completely non-patronising manner. Definitely becoming a little senile with old age, these two gentlemen are lost in their own world that may be their way of escaping the reality of living in an old folks’ home. Overall, The Sedate Escape is a great addition to the stop-motion genre.

Directed by Joe Dearman

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Ribbons

An abstract animation of the colours blue and red, representing many things.

Inspired by cultural ribbon dances and ribbon gymnastics, the ribbons flow with the music, and result in the idea of how opposites complete each other. The blue and the red can be seen as male and female coming together, of calm and energy, passion and control, rational and irrational behaviour. The convergence of opposites brings to mind Les Mains Libres, a collection of poems by French poet Paul Eluard and illustrations by Man Ray, which celebrates the concavities of women and convexities of men coming together to form a perfect chaos.

Directed by Eldritch Knight

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Ghosted 

The last short of the festival, Ghosted is a humorous short that encapsulates the themes of love, death and moving on.

We follow Rebecca, maybe in her late twenties or early thirties over dinner at a restaurant take on 5 dates from online apps, except that her deceased spouse Nigel (played by a wonderful Christien Anholt) haunts each and every one of these attempts at finding companionship. She fails to take these men seriously and through her experiences frames the ridiculousness of how people meet and interact with each other today. The deceased husband’s ghost will not let her settle, and makes sure that those he deems inadequate have reason to leave. A man across the room seems to be struggling with his own dose of miserable dinner dates too. At the end of a draining evening with quite a desperate contender, Rebecca is quite relieved to be alone, yet it is then that she has the sincerest exchange. Organically meeting the man across the room, they bond over their ironic inability to connect with anyone they meet over the internet, and sparks seem to fly off the screen. It is on this reassuring note that his deceased wife’s ghost decides to let him give this a chance, and encourages Nigel to do the same. The ghosts acknowledge no longer needing to be a constant presence haunting them, now at peace with being a memory.

Directed by Neville Pierce

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Manchester Lift-Off 2017: Local Filmmaker’s Showcase (1/2)

A selection of shorts from the last day of the festival

Meat on Bones

On a windy day in coastal Wales, Gwyn, an inexperienced council worker, struggles to climb a steep hill in order to deliver a court-ordered eviction notice to the caravan of Dai, a middle-aged alcoholic. Naturally he doesn’t take kindly to this and in a fit of rage abducts Gwyn and ties him up inside the caravan before knocking him out. After the red mist clears and Gwyn comes to, our perception of Dai begins to slowly change. He isn’t this angry alcoholic as his initial portrayal suggests, rather a vulnerable and self-destructive man who has lost his home and his family. We watch as the pair unexpectedly grow close, in spite of their violent first meeting.

Meat on Bones is a fantastic example of how a large budget isn’t a requirement for a gripping film. Director Joseph Ollman uses the natural beauty of Wales as his setting for this realist film, including a sequence in a cave which is a fitting metaphor for their individual isolation. The two actors, Jams Thomas and Matthew Aubrey as Dai and Gywn respectively, give very convincing performances as the leads and create a warmness and empathy uncharacteristic of the situation they present.

Directed by Joseph Ollman

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Duke’s Pursuit

Duke’s Pursuit is a revenge thriller set in Iceland. It follows Duke whose deep-set principles lead him to seek revenge against a former colleague. After arriving in Iceland and meeting his guide he travels to the small town where his intended victim is currently living. We follow the unexpected twists and turns Duke’s story takes as nothing goes to plan.

In terms of style this short is reminiscent of the Coen Brother’s with its snappy dialogue and dark humour. The cinematography is also in the same vein with fantastic landscape shots as well as framed interior shots. For a 16 minute short there was a surprising amount of character development from visual and spoken cues. In addition the more subtle cues such as body language made the film have more depth than would usually be present in most of this length.

Directed by Charlie Edwards-Moss and Joe Williams

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Ascension

In a post-apocalyptic world, every choice must be carefully evaluated, for one wrong move and your life may very well be over. Therefore the decision to abandon your family to increase your own personal chance of survival is not one that would be easily taken.

Our protagonist, aptly named the Survivor, takes refuge from the hellish environment in his hideout. In the corner of his room lies a radio. It is from this radio that we learn of his identity, of his family, and of his selfish disappearance from the voices of his children calling him, pleading for him to come home. His will is pushed to the limits as he tries to resist risking his life to return.

What is fantastic about Ascension is that we never see the world outside his room, because nothing we would see could ever live up to our own imagination. This allows the viewer to imagine the world in their own way while also keeping the film within budget, in this case a shoestring £220.

The climax to the short plays into the viewers mind once again, leaving the fate of our protagonist open to debate. While this is understandable due to budget constraints I would have liked to see a little more information about the background and fate of the Survivor. I feel this would have led to the audience having a deeper connection with the short, ultimately enjoying it more.

Directed by Rajnish Sharma

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Cabby

For most people, a staple part of any night out is the taxi journey there and subsequently the taxi journey back. One is full of excitement for the night that awaits and the other’s outcome is entirely dependant on the how the night pans out. Shot in the perspective of those who drive taxis in Manchester, we learn of their unique experiences, both good and bad.

Cabby is the third and final documentary short at this year’s festival and sits squarely between the two in terms of quality. The film has the good fortune of being shown in the city that it celebrates, which I feel really deepened the audience’s interest. It features multiple interviews from the drivers pieced together with well-shot footage showing various parts of the city. I do think pacing was an issue at certain points throughout the short but for a student film it is a great effort.

Directed by Daniel Watts

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Return of the Hat

A flat-cap and a silk scarf rest upon a mannequin in a charity shop. Here they live a peaceful life, watching their favourite VHS films every night when the shop closes. That is, until they are both individually bought. In order to return to their home they must kill their new owner and be donated back to the shop.

Return of the Hat has a very original concept at its core but unfortunately this is where the positives end. A repetitive storyline quickly causes this initial excitement to disappear. The acting does very little to distract the viewer from this with every human character feeling either extremely overemphasised or entirely wooden. When the best performance of the short comes from a flat-cap there is certainly glaring issues.

Directed by Alec Birkbeck

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Manchester Lift-Off 2017: Shorts Programme Two (2/2)

The second half of our day 2 coverage

Enemies Within (Ennemis Interieurs)

Selim Azzazi impressively demonstrates the control of human emotion with Enemies Within. From the very first second, he keeps the audience with baited breath as a simple citizenship turns into a tense interrogation.

The interrogator shoots questions at a dizzying pace, especially given the weight they seem to carry. After a few questions that our main protagonist answers with ease, the interrogator purposefully throws him off course. “Say we give you French nationality. What can you give us?” and suddenly the air is thick with indignation. It is now clear what is going on, the state’s paranoia surrounding Algerian terrorism seeping through the interrogator’s stance and tone. Under interrogation, the man goes through different stages of response to the questions and is initially amused at their simplicity, only to end up scoffing at the underlying accusations. The neutrality this man came in with evaporates in front of our eyes as the interrogating goes on.

Changing his approach, the interrogator smooth talks our main protagonist with words of “needing” and “belonging”, he resembles something of a puppet master pulling the strings to get what he wants. The abundance of innuendos is anything but subtle, Azzazi gives us a straightforward, no nonsense short that will leave you doubtful if “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity” truly has any meaning.

Enemies Within was by far the most deserving of recognition out of all those on display at this year’s festival for me, as Azzazi flawlessly exposed a raw nerve of the history of France that touches on the consequences of their colonial past.

Directed by Selim Azzazi

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Pazzo & Bella 

This wonderful Italian short introduces us to a humorous couple with very real problems.

Pazzo is a middle-aged man in a makeshift wheelchair who owns a small gas station with his attractive, alcoholic wife. Both have buckets of character, with very little prospects. Offered a large sum of money by a local mobster to kill a man, Bella is prepared for anything to break up the monotony of their life, yet it is safe to say that Pazzo is not thrilled by the proposition. In typical Italian fashion, the pair argue vividly, the scenes seem straight out of a Scorsese production. Bella finally decides to go through with it alone, although it is an act of love as she wants the money to get Pazzo a real wheelchair. The actor playing Pazzo is a pleasure to watch as he conveys a wide range of moods and emotions through dialogue and silence alike. When preventing Bella from committing the crime outright, he explains that as disabled man pulling the trigger “You’re not a murderer anymore, you’re the story!”. The last scenes of the short bring warmth to their relationship, as Pazzo gently washes the blood off Bella’s forehead in the bathroom sink, ending on a shot of them watching television together, still in shock from committing murder but content with each-other’s company.

Directed by Marcello Di Noto

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Hipopotamy

One of the few animated shorts on at Lift-Off, Hipopotamy is not about people, but about humans. Inspired by the post-impressionist painter Paul Gauguin, Piotr Dumala envisioned a story of simple movement and simple characters.

From what I understood, this doesn’t portray a feminist society, it doesn’t even attempt to elude at civilization. Primal instincts and survival as a race are the themes at stake. There seems to be a reference to the futility of war amid humans. A serene dog passes by overlooking the conflict, showing that even animals are more civilised than them, bringing to mind the quote that “Mankind is truly the cruelest of species”. Stripped of colloquial language that we use today, these humans use dance in order to communicate and signal peace amongst each other, notably when their children are dead and they need to reproduce, apparently following nature’s course. This was deeply polarizing short, and if you are into symbolism or very left-of-centre creations, this one is for you.

Directed by Piotr Dumala

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Relentless

Just six minutes long, this short explores a young woman’s decision between a scholarship or pursuing training to be a boxer.

Quite explicitly emphasising the pressure put on by her single mother, the decision she makes will need to serve them both to eventually end their struggle as Latin-Americans. The scholarship to study medicine at Georgetown University is a prestigious one, and could very well be their ticket to the American Dream. Her mother makes sure to remind her that she shouldn’t question sacrificing her passion for the financial security and future of the family: “You can’t box forever, you should do something better with your life.” This realistic short explores family dynamics and what the American Dream signifies to different people in their respective situations, and leaves you wishing we could follow the character a little longer.

Directed by Tayanna Todd

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Manchester Lift-Off 2017: Shorts Programme Two (1/2)

A selection of shorts from day 2 of Lift-Off

Found

Director Richard Hughes gives a masterclass in tension with his short, Found. Reminiscent of Denis Villeneuve’s Sicarios, he effortlessly holds the audience on the edge of their seat until the bitter end, with only brief moments of respite. The plot centres arounds a father whose daughter, when out of his sight for but a few seconds, is kidnapped by a person unknown. For 10 years he searches from farm to farm in the hopes of finding her. We open to a fabulously shot sequence of him parking up outside the gates of a farm, checking his map to see if he has been here before, then committing to searching it. The cinematographic quality escalates further when the camera follows first overhead, then alongside as he travels through the farmer’s corn field towards the house.

Sweaty palms were a sure feature of every audience member as our protagonist reached the house. There were no hints yet that his daughter was in the house or even alive but after just a couple of minutes I was transfixed. While exploring the grounds to the house he finds a vehicle under tarpaulin, the suspense crescendos, reaching almost tangible levels before we learn that this car is the one used in the kidnapping. Flashbacks often fail to have the desired effect but it was employed very successfully. For the purpose of not spoiling this fantastic short, my description of the plot must end here. However, this is a thriller of the highest order and one that deserves to be watch.

Directed by Richard Hughes

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Wanderlust

Set in the heart of an unknown forest, two siblings must navigate their way through the endless wilds, seemingly devoid of any fauna. When night time approaches it’s time to set up camp and they start to search for supplies. As the sister collects firewood she runs into a white horse, and after running back to share this amazing experience with her brother, she finds he has disappeared.

When a short film is illustrating a metaphor, the metaphor itself has to be engaging enough to sustain interest otherwise no matter how well acted or shot it is, the audience will disconnect. I feel Wanderlust fails here but also it fails in the execution. There is a massive constraint involving time and every moment has to add something or push the narrative forward. Several scenes including the opening where they discuss their mother’s cooking didn’t have an impact large enough for the percentage run-time they occupied. A cliché that really irked me whilst watching the film is where there are two people and one looks away for a moment, and when they look back the other person has just vanished. It’s lazy writing that breaks the immersion the film is supposed to create.

Directed by Barnaby Boulton

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Heathen

Trent’s dad is a renowned anthropologist who spends most of his time on expeditions. When he is back Trent finds it very difficult to get his attention, deciding to complete his own anthropological study on the effects of his towns current drought to try and impress him. However after discovering a darker side to his father, he finds a little dark side within himself.

Heathen is the only film at this year’s festival to break the forth wall, to directly address the audience. Director Siobhan Mulready utilises this technique to emulate the documentaries of those Trent’s father worked with, such as David Attenborough. Our protagonist is played by Jayden Caulfield who, at just 16 years old, gives a very respectable and versatile performance as Trent, managing to switch from documentary style to the plot driven style confidently.

Directed by Siobhan Mulready

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The Cyclops

When a husband and wife divorce, the children often feel the effects most. The Cyclops captures this brilliantly with two brothers each choosing the side of a different parent. A once tight fraternal bond begins to crumble as they place the blame of the failed marriage on the other’s side. Through it all, their mutual love of graffiti hold them together, but for how long can that last.

This social realist film confidently tackles a delicate issue that will surely be familiar to a proportion of those watching. It beautifully details the brief moments the brothers reminisce on the closeness of their past before splintering apart once more. The two actors who play the brothers are sublime, with the intricacies of their complex relationship displayed excellently.

Directed by Hugh Mulhern

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A Battling Body

A Battling Body is the shortest short at this year’s festival, at approximately one minute in length. It is a dance routine illustrating the life of those suffering from multiple sclerosis. Initially she dances exquisitely but slowly, limb by limb, she loses the ability to control her body. The piano score that accompanies paints her frustration and sadness in a way she cannot.

My only issue with Laura Ghazal’s absolutely necessary short is that it was not long enough. I feel that had the short been five minutes long, showing a longer initial sequence before exploring in more detail the slow decay her body undergoes, we would be looking at a short worthy of the highest acclaim. Nevertheless this is profoundly beautiful film, one that demands to be seen.

Directed by Laura Ghazal

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