The short films shown at the second screening of the Manchester School of Art Film Festival were phenomenal and revealed the immense talent and potential of MMU filmmakers. Keep an eye out for these filmmakers in the future.
The Keeper is a tense thriller set in a picturesque yet eerily threatening lighthouse on the coast. An elderly man is haunted by memories of his past whilst seemingly trapped inside his nautical home. Alongside an ominous soundtrack and stunning cinematography, The Keeper started Program 2 of the festival to an impressive start. The short perfectly captures the narrative structure needed for a short film, something that is very difficult to achieve, and the subtle yet effective acting was a clear a sign of commendable directing. The Keeper leaves just enough to the audience’s imagination and its unique setting makes the short memorable- it is clear that a lot of time, effort and dedication went into the film.
Rape and sexual assault is a difficult topic to explore onscreen, especially in a short film – such a complex and emotionally raw subject requires a certain amount of time and consideration. Lizzie’s Lawhowever deals with the topic from the view of an outsider, a bartender who found the victim passed out on the floor of the bathroom. The audience see first-hand the monumental effect rape has; not just on the victim, but on everyone involved, including witnesses. Lizzie’s Law is a brave venture, delving into the unfairness and lack of justice often involved for rape victims in the short screen time, making it an uncomfortable watch at times but nonetheless an important one.
Molly and Lexi Multiverse Odyssey
Seemingly cute characters make for a strange, almost existential animated short in Molly and Lexi’s Multiverse Odyssey. Set inside a phone game, the short appears visually simple, appearing like paper cut outs, but it is clear from the outset that a vast amount of work went into the animation. The distinctive sound manages to capture the characteristics of videogame sound effects without seeming like an imitation or pastiche and the character design is highly praiseworthy- each character seemingly has its own unique characteristics, audibly and visually. The subtitled dialogue from the animated characters is witty and the short attempts to challenge the way we utilise modern technology.
I am Flesh
A highly taut thriller with a plot that rivals a Black Mirror episode, I Am Flesh is a perfectly executed dystopian vision of the future. Exploring the concept of organ harvesting, I am Flesh is a cautionary tale of man playing god. The settings and locations involved in the film reveal the commendable and vast amount of effort that went into the short- the high-tech props look genuine and believable, which is difficult on such a small budget. The acting from the lead actress is also a highlight, as are the carefully constructed sets, props and costumes.
The Last Word
A cutting take on modern relationships, The Last Word is a troubling drama that criticises the lack of communication between couples. Set during a hike along the coast, The Last Word is an intimate analysis of one particular couple’s issues despite a lack of communication between the two. The short utilises aerial photography to capture the stunning location, as well as express the turbulence between the two characters.
Verbalize is a daring short that explores political indoctrination in the 21st century. A young man begins to hallucinate in his flat, seemingly on a bad trip- but it is revealed that something much more sinister is going on. With a cutting-edge humour and bold themes, Verbalize isThe Twilight Zone for the modern age. The twists and turns throughout the short are genuinely enthralling and the Sci-fi aesthetic is handled courageously without seeming cliché or tacky.
Ever After was the only short in Program 2 that was a family drama, a highly trying genre due to the believability required to make it work- depicting candid family-life on screen is much more difficult than it seems. It also includes directing actors, including children, in an intimate setting Ever After is genuinely heartfelt, yet it doesn’t resort to emotional manipulation; the issues the family face are relatable and it explores the notion that no family is perfect, no matter how hard the parents work at it.
Time for Tea
A Lynchian journey through a young woman’s confused mind. Reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland, the film’s plot is cleverly written with an unmistakable and consistent wit. The costumes, which include a variety of intricate animal masks, are a definite highlight and give the film a distinctive look. The short’s lead actress also stands out with a clear talent – she loses herself in the role, her character a perfect foil to the madness happening around her. This also reflects the integrity of the film’s directing- surrealist themes can be difficult to master, but Time for Tea is bold and daring with its approach.
Gaia consists of outstanding cinematography alongside beautifully written poetry. The stunning visuals in the film are executed so viscerally that the audience feel as if they could reach out and touch the landscapes. Gaia however is more than simply visually engaging- the film contains an important ecological message about how we treat the earth and how we should never take our place in the world for granted.
The Fleece, the Tie and Clarke
Set in a coffee shop, The Fleece, the Tie and Clarke follows a young man who is being interviewed for an unknown position at a mysterious company. His potential employer is inexplicably intense, the barista deeply threatening- making for an overwrought and exciting short film. The film is shot with underlying sepia tones matched with brilliant cinematography, making the short both visually engaging and distinctive. As with many films at the festival, The Fleece, the Tie and Clarke is full of twists and turns and reflects the budding talent for screenwriting involved in developing the film.