The Manchester film festival had forty-one short films being shown in seven different screenings throughout the weekend. I’ve picked out the highlights from MANIFF’s fourth shorts screening.
My Cousin Klara
The first film of the screening, My Cousin Klara, felt a little unfinished. It tells the story of two young girls, Lisa and Klara, running out of the woods where they meet a man on an isolated road, who gives them a ride. Beginning with hints of mystery about what Lisa and Klara were up to in the woods and the sinister intentions of the man who picks them up. The piece would have benefited with more time, the run time of eight minutes led to the ending feeling sadly rushed and anticlimactic.
The film that stood out the most to me was Neon, a hybrid of science fiction, fantasy, thriller and romance written and directed by Mark J. Blackman. The film uses a non linear combination of a phone call, flashbacks, and reality to tell its story of a man with a secret. Forbidden by a higher power from experiencing love the short focuses on his attempt to spare the woman he loves from a life of heartbreak. The voiceover phone call between Elias (Joe Absolom) and Mary (Kerry Bennett) grounds the film in realism, and the story is heightened by neon visuals that evoke both an 80s/90s sci-fi aesthetic, for the fantasy elements, as well as complimenting the modern elements, such as the clubbing scenes and Elias’ apartment. Neon is an engaging example of magic realism with excellent performances from the cast, outstanding visuals and a take on fantasy and science fiction grounded in reality.
Son is a gripping psychological drama about the relationship between a father and son. With his son in a coma, the father cannot forgive himself and move on but then his son starts to appear to him in terrifying ways during a night shift at the children’s psychiatric hospital.
Whoever Was Using This Bed
Based on a Raymond Carver short story, Whoever Was Using This Bed begins as a mysterious telephone caller looking for “Mick” calls a neurotic middle-aged couple in the middle of the night. While the husband is both ashamed and excited in his response, the wife, whose outward reaction is jealously, seems peculiarly relieved by the interruption of monotony. Once they unplug the phone and remove the disturbance, this dialogue quickly devolves into an unsettling preoccupation with illness and death. Eventually the conversation turns whether or not they want to be kept alive via a machine in a hospital if the worst ever happens and Iris is determined to know the answer to this question of pulling “the plug”.
Among the Dead
The next two films focus more on death and the relationship between parent and offspring. In Among the Dead, mortuary assistant Erich is trying to re-establish a closer relationship with his daughter, so as to help her understand the true meaning of life. But his word view, narrow-mindedness and selfishness lead him into disaster.
Celebration of Nothing
There was also the world premiere of Celebration of Nothing, a narrative filmed and acted by the directors David Kapp and Courtney Loo across the Pacific Northwest of the Unites States. The main theme of the film is communication, as the couple communicate indirectly via Walkman. This serves as the film’s commentary on modern communication via technology and came across like a hipster’s quirky visualisation of the rehashed argument about the over reliance on technology for communication rather than having anything new or clever to say on the subject.
The last film Terminal is a direct commentary on women’s reproductive rights, especially in the film’s setting of Ireland. Two women of different ages, meet in an airport departure gate in Ireland before boarding a plane to Manchester. From here the viewer is witness to a private exchange as they share the different reasons that brought them to the decision to seek safe abortions in the UK. The film is an effective dialogue-focused piece, with writer and director Natasha Waugh presenting the subject matter in the foreground. This is highlighted when one of the women says, “I wish I could talk about it” heavily echoing a common sentiment that many face with the heavily divisive topic of abortion. The dialogue and the performances by Andrea Kelly and Aoife Doyle are the best aspects of the film and are wonderful and engaging.
We teamed up with Humanity Hallows to bring you complete coverage of the Manchester International Film Festival. You can view the full list of reviews which is being updated as we post new content here.