Foyle Film Festival Shorts
Bigger isn't always better, as this 'stunning, charming, creepy' selection of national and international shorts demonstrates
With its Unscripted season of events (ranging from movie quizzes to live chat shows and a great deal in between) the past year has seen Queen's Film Theatre's foyer turned into a venue in its own right.
Unscripted now encompasses a wide variety of top quality movie-based events, and tonight’s short film screening is no exception. The shorts themselves are the winners of the Light In Motion award at the 2012 Oscar-affiliated Foyle Film Festival in Derry~Londonderry, so it is no surprise that the large audience arrive with high hopes.
Divided into two sections – Best International Shorts and Best Animation – the evening kicks off with UK director Mark Davenport’s Photoshopping, a cheerfully creepy tale of celebrity obsession.
This dark comedy plays with issues of fame and voyeurism, featuring a middle-aged celeb junkie on the verge of breaking a world record for having the most number of photographs taken with celebrities. However when cocksure journalist Michael turns up to document the event, it transpires that things are not entirely as they may seem.
There's an appropriately claustrophobic feel to the camera work, and star turns from the likes of TV presenter Fern Britton. The end result comes off somewhere between an episode of The Ray Bradbury Mysteries and infamous media mischief-maker Chris Morris’ short film My Wrongs 8245-8249 & 117.
Things take a turn for the bleak in Austrian director Christoph Kusching's Hatch. Here, illegal immigrants Milo and Biljana struggle to make ends meet but ultimately realise that they cannot afford to look after their new-born child any longer. Meanwhile, couple Thomas and Andreas mourn the fact that they are not allowed to adopt a child, despite desperately wanting to raise a family.
As this vignette delves into the overlapping lives of two families, Kuschnig wisely opts for an economic directorial style: a sparse soundtrack, for example, makes the tense dialogue even more powerful. Hatch is an extremely tense, well realised drama that shows off the short film as the perfect vehicle for moral stories that pack a punch.
Next up, Rhinos is a home-grown comic experiment in communication, language and sound by Irish director, Shimmy Marcus. Brought together by chance on a sunny afternoon in St Stephen’s Green in Dublin, Ingrid and Thomas become incredibly close over the space of a few hours despite a massive language barrier.
In this heart-warming tale, only the audience are truly privy to both sides of the story as the mis-communication between the young woman and man gradually turns to implicit understanding and warmth. Ingrid’s confident eagerness is an excellent counterpoint to Thomas’ uncomfortable bashfulness, making for some great on-screen chemistry.
Rhinos verges on the twee at times, but is so clever and charming that it gets away with it – I cared for these characters, and that was enough. Furthermore, it plays with the medium in a ferociously inventive way, which all good short film directors should surely aspire to do.
The animated section of the evening begins with Conor Finegan’s Fear of Flying, a light-hearted look at the day to day activities of an anthropomorphised bird which is too frightened to fly south for the winter.
Technological prowess and a great sense of humour are combined in this story of triumph over adversity, which features some great imagery such as a vicious house-attack by a wicked squirrel and a dream sequence of bikini-clad birds on a Hawaiian beach. A jolly Calypso soundtrack wraps up proceedings nicely.
Much more surreal is Here to Fall by Evelyn McGrath. This avant-garde computer animation is devoid of dialogue and takes inspiration from a variety of sources including anime, street art and free-running. A minimalist glitch/piano soundtrack accompanies the highly experimental short.
The story concerns a girl attempting to connect with her absent father before falling through a Lovecraftian void. The meanings one can infer are of course highly subjective, and ultimately the piece is not as thought-provoking as intended. Visually, however, McGrath's film is stunning.
Set in Seoul, David Prosser’s Mountain rounds off proceedings with in an observational look at city live. With 8-bit inspired audio and visuals, various elements of the daily activities of three different characters are juxtaposed while the eponymous mountain is personified, watching over the events.
Elements of Jacque Tati’s Playtime are evident in the tension between the old and the new, and Mountain packs a lot, thematically, into its four short minutes.
With this selection of films both the QFT and Foyle Film Festival should be congratulated for recognising and supporting short filmmakers and their output. After all, short films are often more poignant and powerful than feature length films; bigger isn’t always better.
For more information on the Foyle Fim Festival visit www.foylefilmfestival.org.