Video-sharing websites like Vimeo and Youtube have long since broken down the forth wall for amateur film-makers, so to speak, allowing for the mass promotion and consumption of short films for free. Yet there are still few public spaces in which amateur film-makers can showcase their work – and meet their audience – without having to fork out for insurance or screen time.
Frustrated by the lack of accessible venues in Northern Ireland, Belfast-based film-maker Brian Mulholland established Film Devour, a short film festival now in its second year. The festival functions not only as a platform to showcase work, but as a place for film-makers and production teams to network face to face. In Mulholland's own words, ‘collaboration breeds creativity’.
This year the sold out event takes place in Belfast's Black Box, a larger venue than last year’s Safehouse Arts Gallery, and features 21 short films all by Northern Irish film-makers.
The films themselves are, as one might expect, something of a mixed bag. The occasional film runs on a little too long (dulling, in this reviewer’s eyes, the emotional impact a short film can deliver), and there are a handful of dodgy effects and a few shots that haven’t been white-balanced. On the whole, however, the standard is generally quite high.
One of the stand-out directors is Aidan Largey, with not one but two submissions, both pushing the boundaries of what can be done within the short film format. Entitled Suicide Blue and No Getaways, these pictures have a heavy Michael Mann influence. They tell tales of corrupt cops, with guns blazing, inspired dialogue and wonderfully crafted props.
For me, the funniest short of the evening is Ally McKenzie and Darragh Haddock’s, Buck Fury: My Side of the Story. Shot in the vein of a VH1: Behind The Music style documentary, it tells the tale of titular hero Buck Fury, battling a group of spides.
Driven by one of the finest pieces of voiceover work I have had the pleasure of experiencing, it is a pitch perfect slab of comedy cinema. Semi-veiled digs at Northern Irish stereotypes never feel twee or stale, and this short drips with sheer style.
My personal favourite, however, is 3 minutes by Marie Clare Cushinan. It is delicately but expertly shot, and tells the story of a young woman awaiting the results of a pregnancy test. 3 Minutes plays with the medium to great effect, making every second count.
We are also treated to films about a psychotic Postman Pat, a trailer for an upcoming sci-fi picture, an animation, a black-metal-meets-zombies romp, and much more.
A special mention should be given to young director Aidan Gault, who demonstrates ferocious storytelling ability and directorial skill with his film. 5 Dreaded Stages is a humorous yet creepy tale of a teenager meeting Death himself. It plays out like an episode of the Twilight Zone, and displays a very high level of scriptwriting ingenuity.
Voting forms are given out at the start of the night, and the peoples’ favourite is David Fleming’s The Young Successful Person’s Guide To… Featuring sumptuous cinematography and stellar performances from all cast members, it feels like an episode of the Inbetweeners meets Monty Python, yet remains original and fresh.
Speaking to Mulholland after the show about his plans for the future, he divulges that he is already planning another event in the new year, and that his goal is to ‘continue to show a wide range of films with a local connection in theme or production’. He adds that, in the future, ‘Film Devour will be run as a charity showcase event’ – great news for Northern Irish filmmakers of every ilk.