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Reviews: EE BAFTAs 2020 British Short Film nominations

This Sunday night sees the return of one of the finest award shows, the EE BAFTAs live from the Royal Albert Hall! Of course, there’s always the ‘big-name’ awards but as we did last year, we’re taking a closer look at that up and coming talent making waves in the indie film world. These 5 British Short Film nominations are helping to give those film-makers a huge step forward, while showcasing some wonderful short stories, both true and fictional.

From two separate, and remarkable, female-based skateboarding films, we also head back to 1800s India, take a look and reflect with an important depiction of knife crime in London and they’re all alongside a dark, bleak tale, let’s begin…


By Myriam Raja, Nathanael Baring

Azaar focuses around the isolated world of a tribe of women in a remote and mountainous desert, it’s a encapsulating visual story where director Myriam Raja utilises the silence, including the soft breeze filtering through the small village, and environment to aid the progression of the unfolding events. We learn that the women are waiting for the return of ‘their men’ from war and Azaar, the youngest among the group, has to role to play for all their futures. The narrative revolves around her ascendancy towards becoming a woman, or coming of age as you will, within the tribe but there’s also a definite focus towards it being an important part of the culture. Touching on specific themes of religious values and long-held traditions, in time she’ll learn the tough cost of womanhood and the price you might pay, if you don’t follow what you’ve been taught. It’s naturally, authentically filmed and, for me, a visual experience worth investing in. 


By Hector Dockrill, Harri Kamalanathan, Benedict Turnbull, Laura Dockrill

Goldfish hits you with intensity from the beginning with a seemingly out of focus scene, in the sense that you’re not sure what’s going on, that emerges to be a young black man on the floor, bleeding and dying, shot from the perspective of being in his position. It’s immediately a gripping moment, with an important delve into true events, focusing on a young lad being knifed in London. Next up, we meet another young black lad, we’re shown he’s had surgery and consequentially we learn that he’s had a heart-transplant. However, events takes a turn for the unusual when our, very much, alive lead is out with his mates and a young girl approaches him, looking for her brother but, of course, this isn’t her brother. Her brother was the guy killed. Shot with close-up photography and a city-encased vibe throughout, plus using moments that reminded me of Femi’s teenage struggle in Shola Amoo‘s The Last Tree, this is a strong tale with huge relevance. It comments on the increase in knife crime in the capital but also offers a literal heart-felt hope underneath the surface of hopelessness.


By Sasha Rainbow, Rosalind Croad

Kamali is one of two skateboard-related shorts up for the big prize but undoubtedly has its own unique world going on. Set in India, it sits around the family of young Kamali, focusing on her young years living with her single mother and brother. It’s a comment on changing eras and we watch her as she starts to learn the basics of skateboarding (and surfing!), complete with a voice-over from her Mother, she tells us how when she was young… this just wouldn’t have happened. What’s also interesting about the short is that it gives us a different perspective. Focusing on what Kamali’s mother, she tells us what would have happened differently if she hadn’t have been forced into a sad marriage, in which she ended up leaving her husband. But for now, and this future, she puts all her energy into giving her daughter the confidence and life she couldn’t have. It’s superbly edited, with the film broken into ‘lessons’, that merge wonderfully with the quick snap shots of life to set up the new scenes. It’s a fascinating out of marriage story, with director Sasha Rainbow finding a unique subject and telling us with great optimism and insight.


By Carol Dysinger, Elena Andreicheva

Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (If you’re a girl) is definitely the most humanly affecting of the selection but in ways that you cannot expect. Having recently seen the documentary Gaza and it’s portrayal of real-life people trying to keep on living with a warzone, I was hypnotised by this short film, set in Afghanistan and telling us the very real story of a Skateboarding school in Kabul, that’s just for girls. Ravaged by war for years, this is a true tale of the women who’ve come out of a Taliban regime and want better for their children. The non-profit school, named Skateistan, not only teaches young girls the basics of skateboarding but also literally teaches them to read and write, the things that their mothers couldn’t do because of the war. They show us how the girls can go somewhere safe to try and give themselves a better future and they’re all supported by their families. While explosions continue to happen around them, which is not ignored by the film-makers, we witness a culture seeking the early stages of a desire for change and how important education is. One of the early things commented by one of students is “Courage is when someone goes to school and studies”, which can never be understated. As well as that side, we also see their outstanding skate teacher and how she aids the young girls to get all the basics going and then some. This is an enlightening, insightful and packed full of hope, I loved it.


By Lena Headey, Anthony Fitzgerald

Finally, up for the gong, is Lena Headey‘s The Trap. Based around Michelle, a women living on her own in something resembling an old farm/crossed with an old garage. She helps one or two neighbours with their car problems and, in return, is befriended by Tony, a man from around the corner who brings her food and friendship. While it might seem she’s getting to know the neighbours, things take a turn for the strange when a random (and very creepy) stranger turns up and takes to charming our lead woman, with power games and, let’s face it, toxic force. It’s an unusual film and not one I was entirely comfortable with but this is mainly due to an impending sense of tension and doom throughout. It does feature good performances but the continual bleak nature and general depressing narrative will probably not be for everyone.

Good luck to all nominees this weekend, my favourite? One of the two Skateboarding films, they’re from different perspectives but equally fascinating.

The EE British Academy Film Awards take place on Sunday 2 February 2020 at the Royal Albert Hall. The ceremony will be hosted by Graham Norton and will be broadcast exclusively on BBC One, BBC One HD and BBC iPlayer.


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