Back in the spring/summer of 2020, which was last week (right?!) the impressively hard-working small team at Devon and Cornwall Film put together a brilliant film festival that was, of course, very much online and I was lucky enough to be invited to be a judge on a selection of films sent my way.
Below is my personal Top 3, and then reviews of everything I saw! There really was a wide range of topics covered, always with different and interesting ideas which tells me… the future of film is in very good hands, minds and eyes!
This is Part 2 of my reviews, with Part 1 covering even more indie films right here!
Apostate – Tom Patient, 8 mins
Starring director Tom Patient and Max Brandt as a Reverend, Apostate – meaning ‘a person who renounces a religious principle’ is a measured and considered short film, featuring a soldier called Jack who’s returned home to find his wife and child have died, yet he has survived. He initially finds solace in an old local church (seemingly ‘back home’) and let’s his talk with the Reverend becomes a cathartic way to share his feelings and regrets. It’s a reflective, well-fashioned story, based on the reality of a story that reveals itself up to the closing shot. Thoughtful and patient, from a different period, it echoes a feeling of the past with precise focus, accompanied by a perfectly balanced score.
Take Your Time – Orson Cornick, 19 mins
Tim collects clocks, and he will do anything he can to accumulate as many as possible. Those around him are unaware of his reasons, or are they? Watch: https://vimeo.com/111385570
I’ve previously seen Orson Cornick’s Choker, and was particularly impressed, so Take Your Time came at me with intrigue. This short focuses on Tim, who’s around 10-12 years-old, a young lad who’s somewhat separated from the rest of kids his age, working two jobs and has an obsessive interest in clocks. One day in class, his teacher discovers his bag of timepieces and chats to him after class, to check if he’s okay – briefly mentioning that he knows he’s having a tough time. As with Choker, Cornick keeps the meaning behind the story hidden away until the finale and achieves it more than successfully. Over the course of the film, we follow Tim on his mission to gather more clocks, but it’s done with real heart, deliberation and intrigue. Take Your Time is a touching and enduring story, that keeps you watching and leaves you with both a conclusion and a wider scope of something else… stay through the credits!
Blue – Peter Banks, 3 mins
A normal Monday morning becomes a living hell for Simon as he wakes up to discover all the water, he encounters is mysteriously filthy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GtO3PKddw1I&t
If you’re adept at picking up allegory, then you might work out what’s going on in this 3-minute short pretty quickly. In Blue, we join Simon, who wakes up on a seemingly normal day to discover that the water he’s drinking (everywhere) is now brown instead of clear – shown with an opening shot of him spouting it out after taking a sip – I noticed a Thatcher’s glass, I’d spit that out as well to be honest.
Banks’ film does have a nice little twist hidden away but as it’s a literal short, short film, that’s tough to discuss without giving away everything. Blue features some Edgar Wright-influence with some quick-snap-edits of story progression but doesn’t quite hit home the way the likes of Cornick’s Choker does, which has similar themes but with a punchier style. Also, as feedback, if you’ve got your credits at the end, you don’t really need them at the start as well, or vice versa, especially for something so snappy.
Rocketshed – Dom Lee, 3 mins
Eight-year-old Jack and his Dad sit in their ‘Rocketshed’, a garden shed they’ve converted into a Rocketship. The countdown timer ticks down. Two minutes. Not long to go now: https://vimeo.com/189659249
I think one of the hardest things to do with short films is get a real, honest impression across but in Dom Lee’s 3-minute film Rocketshed, he really gives us a huge story and makes it intimate. While I initially felt a mini-Doctor Who vibe in terms of visuals, this has a much deeper impact which displays depth of story and you connect with the actors on-screen. Avoiding spoilers, there’s a strong and steady narrative, not only giving the Dad and son involved a proper background and life, but also showing us what’s happening. Secrets, context and expertly filmed, it’s completed by a well-thought-out score and genuine emotion.
Flies – Jason Housecroft, 14 mins
In the faded beauty of the house of his ancestors, a man waits for the return of the love of his life. Dark fantasies and crushing reality weave a dangerous journey as a struggle unfolds for his mind and ultimately his life.
“Flies don’t come back so who cares about flies?” – https://youtu.be/BNQQwNhuWJ4
Flies, like more mainstream surreal filmmaking, does take you some time to get inside of, which is helped by the 14-minute running time. Too short, and you could dismiss it but if this were overly long, I think you’d lose any connection. Opening with a shot of a torn photograph (I think) falling through the air, the title sequence shows us a man walking down a hallway and then the visuals start to reverse, as does the accompanying music. This indicates that whatever we’re about to watch may not follow the ‘normal’ flow of time, and that’s exactly what Director Jason Housecroft offers, working from a script by Phil John.
Flies is a tale of depression and loss, of somewhat surrealist pain, regrets and – in many senses – felt like a performance art poem to me, visualised through moments of memory. Lead actor Tim McGill offers us a truth of this darkness and while the over-arching story might sound dispiriting, this is an oddly captivating animal that captures an essence of things we often try to ignore in others. A wonderfully strange, and deeply honest, piece of filmmaking with a disturbing atmosphere and some clever camera methods. Reminded me a little of Rutger Hauer’s outstanding short-film The Room, which is highly recommended.
Man’s Best Friend – Ewelina Borkowska, 5 mins
Man’s best friend… https://vimeo.com/271943163
Man’s Best Friend is less of a short film and more of a compilation of someone’s favourite animal, while there is a story, this plays high on sentiment which isn’t always helped by a repetitive piano motif that renders what could be a poignant, a little tiresome. However, the intentions here are positive ones and wrapped in loving memories for any animal lover. It plays deep on the heartstrings in that respect and is, indeed, a human-to-dog-eye view and even a little ode to #AdoptDontShop, which is a great thing. Even for 5 minutes, it feels a little long, but will it make people cry? Highly likely.
Anvew ‘Quiescent’ – Aaron Massie, 3 mins
‘Anvew’ or ‘Quiescent’ is a short poetry film in the Cornish Language by Aaron Massie. It’s a film about a period of reflection before a big change, a longing for somewhere/something. A visual love letter to the beautiful county of Cornwall: https://vimeo.com/349026721
Anvew is a homage and literal visual love letter to Cornwall. While the story is based around a poem that declares its love for all things Cornish, in the language as well, Aaron Massie’s short film is gorgeously filmed, celebrating its heritage, coastline and even the dreams ahead. A real visual journey full of sunsets and staring off into the middle distance, the sea here plays a bit part and who can say they haven’t also spent hours looking out and just admiring the beauty of it all. For that, this is an experience.
Pretty Clarissa – Christopher Williams (Trailer)
Two key scenes from this teaser for a feature film length project that is currently in its writing stage. These two scenes were shot on D16 Bolex at the end of 2018 and March 2019: www.youtube.com/watch?v=6cmpz4Rp-Z4
It can be difficult to judge a project in development, and transition, but Christopher Williams’ Pretty Clarissa aims to offer us just a teaser of what he’s trying to make in a wider context. The result is bang in the middle, quality-wise, but if we’re judging this as a trailer, there’s clear to be a lot of contrasting visions from the two female-leads involved. Darkness and light, the concerns and questions and growing up, changing and all the mystery ahead. Whether this is a love or death story I’m unsure, but the score currently used does date it quite a lot, unless Williams is going for a 70s psychological horror essence, which he might be! Surreal, distant and dark.
To My Dear Son – Louis John Brzozka, 5 mins
A touching story of a man who learns of a family tradition while he is looking around in his attic.
I feel that parents will find an attachment to Louis John Brzozka’s short film To My Dear Son, as that’s exactly where it’s trying to hit home. The Director stars in the lead as a man looking for something in his attic, who stumbles upon an old box with letters from the past – I’m assuming the family inherited the house, otherwise there’s something unintentionally supernatural going on here! The letters found are from the War, and specifically ones from a Father to his Son. I’ve personally seen this kind of correspondence quite a lot, as I did memorial work and had old family Diaries from WW1, so can completely understand the truths revealed. Brzozka’s film offers a reminder of maybe something we’ve lost along the way, a respect of fellow human life and how lucky we are to have the freedom we do now and offer time to one another. Considerate, thoughtful and while filmed quite simply, and occasionally a little over-sentimental, it still gets its nostalgic message across with ease.
A Dream of Ships – Diana Taylor, 3 mins
Diana Taylor’s A Dream of Ships is more of a montage for her love of ships, than it is specifically directed. A poem by David Punter is read by Robin Haward over visuals of ships, the sea and (what I believe) are memories of the tall ships, represented by pictures and films of old boats in both real and painted form. It’s a memory piece, it characterises her passion for something she loves and while not completely my type of thing, if you love the same, I’m sure you’ll appreciate this piece.