Instead of rushing to my local multiplex to see the much hyped blockbuster Unlocked.(Yeah, me neither.) I took to a business building to attend some screenings of Sunderland Shorts Film Festival.
I got into two screenings, so here are the quick reviews of each short film. Ending on good, but starting with bad… so very bad.
Four Day Weekend
DIRECTOR Nicole Jones | 20 MINUTES, Comedy, USA
Four Day Weekend is one of few films which I would refer to as being genuinely repugnant. I loathe this short film and I loathe practically everything that it represents. Four Day Weekend follows the particularly arrogant and unlikable individual you see in the image go through a four day weekend in which she tries her hand at stand up comedy and has a fling with a woman she met at a bar, before returning to her utterly miserable husband to tell him all about it.
Yes, the protagonist in this short film cheats on her husband, then gleefully brags about her debauchery to her husband.
I can only imagine that the director of this film was the main character because this film reeks of vanity. This is a short film made for her, and her only, I can’t imagine a single person liking this.
It isn’t funny, despite the whole film being framed through her failed attempt at stand up comedy, which the film just forgets about half way through. It can’t have came from personal experiences because this film is vacuous and has more surface than a Microsoft tablet. It’s not dramatic because you hate practically everyone in this movie.
Four Day Weekend is a bonfire enriched with kerosene.
DIRECTORS Jody Oberfelder & Eric Siegel | 1.5 MINUTES, Dance, USA
Two directors thought that it would be cool if they made a short film with a cut up Twister mat, and so we have Dots.
21ST Century Hermit
A photographer from Reuters finds a consecrated hermit in the Catholic faith who was recently diagnosed with cancer. You would think that there would be something interesting in there, wouldn’t you?
It looks nice, I’ll give it that.
DIRECTOR Evy Barry | 8 MINUTES, Drama, UK
Speaking of photographers, we have Exposure – A film that starts with one of those old tv openings that counted down about thirty seconds before the show started.
Exposure was probably the worst written of all of the short films, the dialogue seemed very Hollywood and stuck their points out like a sore thumb.
There is a good scene wherein the protagonist takes a picture of her mother, then shows the picture to her, who doesn’t recognise herself. That was good, not worth eight minutes of your time though.
On The Edge
DIRECTOR Martin Freeth & Hellen Kirby | 15 MINUTES, Drama, UK
What drags On The Edge down is the technical side of things. This has some of the worst sound mixing I have ever heard in anything pretending to be professional, the sound of the sea is cut about and overlayed over dialogue clearly filmed in another location. A lot of the cinematography in this featured a lot of dead space.(Areas of the screen of no importance, going against the rule of thirds.) You have no idea how much this actively annoyed me.
Apart from that, the short film is perfectly fine enough. The direction is perfectly decent, the acting is serviceable, I thought that the limited costume design worked pretty well.
DIRECTOR Brendan Cleaves | 7.5 Minutes, Comedy, UK
Take a look at the image from the film… yes, you have just got the joke.
This is less of a short film and more of a sketch. So, if you’re a fan of Jack & Dean or Tomska, Roger is right up your alley.
Also, and I only noticed this because I am a car guy, THE CAR CHANGES HALF WAY THROUGH! It starts off with a red, three door Volvo, then in the wide shots you can clearly see a the same car but with five doors.
DIRECTOR Nicolai Tegeler | 3 Minutes, Comedy, Germany
A three minute German Comedy about a man on his deathbed.
Yes, it’s that funny.
DIRECTOR Carlos Muñoz | 10 MINUTES, Drama, UK
Choose Me opened with a whole bunch of awards acclaim, so it was hard to go into this without some form of high regard.
From what I could discover from my research, this film was produced by British production companies, so this is technically a UK production, despite the characters talking in Spanish.
This is probably the most technically proficient of all these short films. It looks really nice and shots have a purpose. However, I couldn’t find myself invested in these characters.
It had a lot of potential, it just lacked in the acting and especially in the script.
La Belle Folie
DIRECTOR Ruth Pickett | 14 Minutes, Comedy, UK
It works, there’s nothing wrong with it. I laughed, so it works as a comedy.
It is also pessimistic and postmodern, as I learned the hard way, postmodernism is the best form of art.
DIRECTORS Alexander Challies & Samuel Dickinson | 16.5 MINUTES, Fantasy, UK
Ever seen Pan’s Labyrinth? Well try to combine that with Trainspotting and then give everyone a geordie accent.
Innocence is definitely well intentioned and it does offer some creepy imagery, but it does linger rather heavily on heavy-handed symbolism.
DIRECTOR Jill Riley | 8 MINUTES, Drama, Canada
This feels like it was based upon real events, and by that I don’t necessarily mean that it is a perfect representation of real life. I mean that in the terms of something like American Hustle or The Wolf Of Wall Street, wherein the events are made even more shocking from the added context of them having actually happened in real life.
Golden Boys tries to be as shocking as a story like this could be, but it can’t force a weighted punch and deliver enough of an emotional impact. It looks nice and the editing is nice and snappy, but that can’t mask up a lacking narrative.
Also, Golden Boys features a subplot about a character being gay, which is immediately forgotten. It’s as if Tommy Wiseau was an executive producer or something.
Despite all of this, Golden Boys is a well put together short film which is executed as well as the meandering narrative allows.
The Driving Seat
DIRECTOR Phil Lowe | 9 MINUTES, Comedy, UK
The Driving Seat, brought to you by inevitable embarrassment from sitting next to your mum.
I honestly laughed quite a bit more than I expected to, the main actors bounce off each other quite nicely, helped by the well realised screenplay. The dialogue renders these characters, you can imagine them on a Sunday afternoon in a garden centre just for the hell of it.
Right As Rain
DIRECTOR Sylvia Zhang | 7.5 MINUTES, Dance, Canada
Right As Rain is a film which I would call sweet, yet delightfully subversive.
This is a silent film wherein a retired ballet dancer and a retired tap dancer duel for the bedazzled umbrella of a beguiling young woman, clearly seeing themselves in her. What Right As Rain does with visuals, a normal movie would have done with exposition, so props to the director for not being conventional.
I quite liked this short film, if you disagree you can challenge me to a dance off.
Some Will Forget
DIRECTOR Ruth Grimberg | 15 MINUTES, Documentary, UK
Oh, here come the waterworks.
Some Will Forget is a documentary about the closure of one of the last working coal mines in Yorkshire and the social/political ramifications.
This film hits hard. The director takes the filmic style of people like Ken Loach, as she lets the camera keep it’s distance, making the people seem more realistic. The camera hardly moves, each shot is static and locked off, apart from the image that you see above. It is this rigid cinematography that transforms the barron landscape shots of empty mines and derelict houses into something more emotive.
You see the family featured in this film just fizzle and falter under the pressure of not finding work and not having enough money to support their children and relatives. If you somehow can’t relate to this, then you don’t deserve a film like this.
I only had one problem with Some Will Forget: At the start, I couldn’t quite work out what people were saying. This wasn’t a problem with the filmmaking, just a problem with the strong accents of the people involved.
Some Other Dawns
DIRECTOR Florian Poupelin | 16 MINUTES, Drama, Switzerland
Imagine in your head a foreign arthouse film… There you go!
Some Other Dawns is a short film that seems to have everything: An oddly haunting setting, mumble-core actors providing stellar nuanced performances, beautiful cinematography that harkens back to people like Bernardo Bertolucci, a stealthily reserved score that doesn’t seem to mis-step and the solid direction that turns a fairly standard arthouse flick into a something trans-formative and truly unique.
I absolutely adored Some Other Dawns. Now, I’ll tip my fedora and walk off listening to The National because I am such a gosh darn hipster!