Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Bradford International Film Festival - The Shine Short Film Award

Below is a list of the films that were entered for this year’s Shine Short Film Award at the Bradford International Film Festival. I must say right from the outset that my expectations were not only exceeded but completely annihilated; I expected that one may blow me away and most to be unimportant or actually offensively bad. I don’t see why I had to have such a negative outlook, but they really exposed me for the idiot I am. I have left a little of my musings on each one along with which one I think should win come this Sunday. I wanted to get this up and give anybody who has seen them chance to comment before the award is announced on Sunday. I have included a link to the synopsis as I neither have the space nor the time to go through them, plus this is really intended for those who have already seen them.

Crescendo Pierre Terade, Didier Woldemard - France

The overall message was one that I very easily ascribe to: fuck the narcissistic alpha male and fuck the system (the colourful language here is necessary to capture the rage within the lead character). By killing her abusive narcissistic boyfriend and taking over his drug trade, it could be read that she will simply become a new version of him, thus creating a cycle, but I think this would be a reductive stereotype that drug dealers = bad. I would also argue that the film takes the same stance as me by showing the individual buying the drugs in the middle of the school to be an upstanding member of society, not the clichéd council estate dwelling drug user. For me it showed that this was the only way of her establishing her own agency and caring for her child, bearing in mind the film showed how the state had already foiled her efforts to make a so called ‘honest’ living.

Death of a Double Act Christine Entwhistle - GB

From the best of the bunch to the worst of the bunch. In a very strong programme this film seemed out of place. Its message was admirable and its reveal toward the end gave it something interesting to say but its delivery was not enjoyable to watch at all. If it was mourning the death of a certain type of performance, what was shown onscreen did nothing to justify its preservation.

La Preda (The Prey) Francesco Apice - Italy

If my gut instinct didn’t tell me that Crescendo was the pick of these films, then La Preda would have been a really strong contender. It is a beautifully shot film that also managed to conjure up a tremendous amount of suspense in such a short amount of time. Not only that, but it portrayed some very complex relationships and asked enough questions to leave you thinking, whilst also offering a whole tale.

The Man With All the Marbles Hans Montelious - Sweden

This film was easily good enough to prove its worth in this collection of shorts, but didn’t quite reach the quality of the best ones. Watching the two brothers face off, both with the marbles but more importantly through their sharp wits and dialogue made for an enjoyable watch.

An Ode to Modern Democracy and the Hairdresser Matt Strachan - GB

A very fun little film that showed an unspoken truth: that it is the semi-skilled, working, everyday person with real character and a real attitude that makes a difference in the country. Not simply the bland, unoriginal world leaders who feel the need to have the same boring and adequate hair cut to fit perfectly into their uninspired existence.

Toshi Jon Gilbert - GB

This film was carried by the underplayed performance by Kentaro Suyama as Toshi. This is not to take anything away from the rest of the film; the script was well written; the directing brought everything together nicely and the tale was well paced, but it was the tremendous central performance that really made it stand out.

Under God Richard Farmer - USA

This film started stronger than it ended; it lost credibility for me when the computer – when asked is there a god? - said ‘there is now’. The rest of the film was stylised but plausible and was asking some interesting questions as to whether a world leader should choose science and knowledge or military might, therefore the implausible answer given by the computer was at odds with this. And undermined everything else it was trying to say.

When the Hurlyburly's Done Alex Eslam, Hanna Maria Heidrich - Germany

This film had a very high production value and maybe it is just my disposition, but along with this production value I fear (though unfoundedly with no evidence) that there was a large budget. I also fear that this may give the film an advantage over some of the other films, yet I thought it was a lot more style than substance. I felt that many of the other films asked more questions and had more interesting things to say. That being said, if it is a talent of the filmmakers to have gone out and secured this many sponsors and this much funding, then maybe they do deserve something for it.
I anticipate that this film will win the prize for its high production value.

Yellow Cake Nick Cross - Canada

It was fantastic to see an animation in here and this was indeed a strong animation; better than most animations in fact, that you would see at an animation festival. The film perfectly portrays the kind of class struggle, oppression and absurdity that dominated the 20th century and through a rampant western consumerism still exists by economically holding developing nations to ransom. The animation style was fitting; a pastiche of the western animation style of early Hollywood, which would have no issue portraying Bugs Bunny shooting Native Americans by the dozen.
I hope that this condensed summary of my thoughts sheds some light on the state of this competition. I cannot stress enough that this was a very solid line-up of short films and my hat comes off to the Festival organisers.

I thought I would make a list of preference just to see where the prize goes to and where that film places on this list.

1. Crescendo
2. La Preda
3. Toshi
4. Yellow Cakes
5. When the Hurlyburly’s Done
6. The Man with all the Marbles
7. An Ode to Modern Democracy and the Hairdresser
8. Under God
9. Death of a Double Act

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