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London Short Film Festival 2015: cats, cool, clever, creepy and some…just plain crap!

Submitted by on January 14, 2015 – 9:40 pmNo Comment

LSFF New Shorts Lo-budget mayhem category screened at Hackney Attic on 13 January 2015.

It was a cold Tuesday and high above the hustle and bustle of Mare Street people reclined in couches in the Hackney Picture House Cinema to watch the young and the old showcase their films at the LSFF. The festival, which this year ran from 9 to18 January, had been going all week with many categories. That night I saw the screenings of the New Shorts Lo-budget mayhem category. The LSFF’s website had this to say about the category: “ […] a selection of 26 out-there gems from bad taste comedy to bizarre animation. These films go to show that in times of austerity, inventive work can be made on zero budget.”

I was happy to see that one of my favourite films, from my own personal list drawn up while watching that night, won in this category. The winner was the tense Lynchesque feeling film called Two horrible little girls, which is directed by John Jenkison. The 18 minute film featured Michael Sloman, best known for his role as Kevin in director Mike Leigh’s hugely popular Nuts in May, as a really creepy neighbour who unannounced invites himself and his twisted friends over, to a recently bereaved, widow’s house. The viewer knows nothing as to why the groups are harassing the women at her abode.

Throughout the screening I felt the familiarity of the Dark Lodge from David Lynch’s epic Twin Peaks TV series. I found myself looking out of the corner of my eye for velvet curtains or listening intently for a dwarf speaking backwards. The film title also worked on my mind as it made me envision the dead sisters the “Grady twins”, that appeared to Danny when he is pedaling through the winding carpeted passages of the haunted Overlook Hotel, in the Kubrick masterpiece The Shinning. Needless to say that watching, Two horrible little girls was a creepy, unpredictable and brilliant experience.

The other film that  stuck out in my mind was When you’re ready, a very clever five-minute film directed by Julia Sukan del Rio. It is about an actor and a misunderstood audition where a beautiful, British Blue, cat is confused in his position. The casting was superb, the location colourful and bright, the punch line mature and very intelligent.

What I truly loved about this film was how I could identify watching the desperation of someone who is in the arts and creative industries, with the impossible scenario of any opportunity, to grab a break in London. Personally, political undertones came to mind as I recalled New Labour followed by the Tories policies making it very difficult for the many bright young things to get an opportunity in this city unless one has money or the right connections. Meaning that one might lose themselves and do unthinkable things that might never have crossed their minds so as to get ahead due to desperation because finally someone has shown an interest in their abilities.

The short film Goal attainment was also on my favourite list. A very sweet, simple and down to earth one-minute film directed by Andy Lambert. It is about a young boy who is a goalie, at a slow, football match and the antics he gets up to when the action is in the distance but then unexpectedly comes towards him. I feel that it is a bit like life, as generally we always seem to be caught with our pants down or looking the other way when out of nowhere things just happen!

Another favourite of mine was the one-minute claymation called Dead Bird, which was created by the multi award winning animator Trevor Hardy. It portrayed a humorous direct response of an elderly man to a young boy sitting on a park bench with no nonsense, take it or leave it, advice! I wondered afterwards if the old man’s dialogue about friends was the right approach to life or too cynical? So effective was the script that the thought, unanswered, is still there floating around in my cerebral cortex.

It is always fascinating to write a review an array of different films at a film festival. One wonders the process that the judges go through to select them. Do they agonise when deciding or do they just know that there might be an audience for that film? I am sure a lot of both.

The answer was surprisingly revealed to me while writing the above rhetorical question. There on the LSFF website in an honestly refreshing piece on the 2015 short film submissions it states: “[…] anyone can argue and bicker over what is good art or good film. But at the end of the day, a decision has to be made on what to select, so we go with gut instinct. Filmmakers not accepted to screen may feel that this gut instinct isn’t good enough, and they may think that the selectors and curators do not know what they’re taking about. In a sense, they would be right, as such decisions are subjective.”

Overall it was a truly diverse selection and I am sure all the audience found more than one that appealed to them. That of course means that there will be some where you might  watch and go…”What the fuck was that all about?” Others that are just plain rubbish. Now I can’t imagine how hard and time consuming it must be to make a film and yet, I still have to be utterly annoyed by the lack of thinking that goes into making some of the a films that I saw that night.

From utterly predictable, to one’s where only the director and the cast and crew, or perhaps only the scriptwriter, knew the personal joke. How about thinking of your audience and their engagement? Then there were some where you wondered if the director had gone to an expensive London film and TV school and then used daddy’s money to fund a drug fueled party before waking up the next day and saying, “Christ the deadline for the festival is in LIKE five hours LIKE let’s just shoot it at my parents house…YEAH DUDES?”

The awards ceremony for the LSFF took place in the Oval Space in Bethnal Green. Now I am not sure if it is because in the last three years the BAFTA’S have been accepting short films and animation that come from festivals like the LSFF. Yet needless to say the behaviour of the security was ridiculous and a little over the top. There was a strict door policy of the “once you leave you can’t return” that seemed out of odds with the laid back independent experience of a short film festival and perhaps more in tune with a no nonsense security for A-listers at a red carpet awards ceremony. Once inside the atmosphere of a more low key event returned, unfortunately, it was a little too laid back with no one seeming to have information about the nights events or order of the categories. With all that aside I will however say that generally the judge’s picks were visually stunning and engaging and were definitely some of the best short films that I had seen in a long, long time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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