Belfast Film Festival Short Films 2017


Belfast Film Festival : Short Films 2017

In order of screening at Queens Film Theatre 1 April 2017.

Briefing

Mystery, Death, Life and Reflection on all our natures. There is a rather loose rural life skirting each programme in contrast to the dramatic and dystopian type narratives of the previous year.!
The basic parameters of the short films selected to be shown in the Belfast Film Festival season have numerous presences and absences of the Irish film world. Seen through the direction and vision, the film screen can conjure with our local vision as a mythical or unintentional reality. Reality is frequently asserted as a starting point as it comprises characterisation, location, a foothold of a concept which will go forth and tumble and rise before us in a picturesque journey. The journey is sometimes held in a narrow gate, sometimes commonplace, sometimes unfamiliar yet known.
The road and genus loci are non specific (local does not require genus loci in my view – a spiritual sense is enough and the senses combined can detect it) in many giving us a wider view than the Ireland of the origins of the story or filmmakers output. Many of these films have been supported by Ireland based ‘film institutions’ and some with local authority, even Credit Union backing. The locality is in many senses not important for the universality of the psyche has no borders and the themes realise this time after time. It is worth bearing in mind the displacement while seeing contexts and settings we are normally overfamiliar with. Such is the wealth of new filmmaking we are getting used to seeing locally developing progressive waves of filmic thought being swept onto film, digital and otherwise and skilfully, beautifully realised. The acting, cinematography, music, direction and production capabilities are seen here as gaining traction year on year. This season is roaming into different melts of concept and vision than others, therefore directionally original. They stand as individual units too within the season itself and each differentiates between the alternative frequencies of thought they engage. To bring positive critique to each is difficult as there are a range of competencies and instilled vision coming out of them. They each however have a single story on screen and of it as well as having a future to penetrate and become more widely experienced.

I have tried to give a view which is helpful, of personal insight and each will differ according to the expectations of the viewer as it happens to be the case everyone’s view is different and valid. Chekhov said you should write everything – except denunciations. So do not read into these opinions as anything other than impressions.

Childer
This is a domestic comic thriller/chiller of a simple narrative form. Well shot and full of colour it has a simple theme of keeping nature including its unpredictability in humans prone to error at bay. Living on the outskirts of town in a nice elegant stone clad brand new house with lots of open space would seem a grand place to bring up your family. The childer refers to the children on the fringes of this dream home. In the house are mother and son. She is anxiety riddled and has a compulsive obsessive disorder she does not take pills for and is incessantly cleaning organising and vexing on her domestic chores.  In Persil freshness she hangs out the whites, no colours, (despite her penchant for – directors choice? – red dresses and clothing) which brings her into contact with, at the bottom of the freshly mown green sward garden, four children. Two boys, two girls aged possibly between seven and thirteen. When she sees them and is discomforted by their affinity with their surroundings, they goad her and disobey her retorts which makes her go on retreat and counter planning more strict protocols which in turn test her child’s sense of belief in this obsessiveness. His contribution is to be the brunt of some actions. We see her become obsessed and the huge dreamlike forest becomes in her mind contested space and overwhelms her. The sunshine only serves to enhance the borders and confrontations. It is played heavily for black humour and slickly filmed in a normalised world and it fills the curiosity of how absurd it can get. It does not go too far in its reach and is a fairly decent conversation of the borders of civilised behaviour without going too Gothic, too horrific, to dismiss and it’s good entertainment. Avoiding biblical metaphors it is simply put – cleanliness is next to the forest. I wonder if a male director could have got away with making the woman the brunt of such a waywardness?  I add another common frailty in a later review – The Clock Makers Dream about costume referring to this film also.  Director / Writer Alison Clarke. Duration 18:43


Break
Tedium takes many forms and film about it is, from the outset dangerous territory without a handle to alter the tedium and vision or groundhog premise. With a world of coffee shops next to workplaces and multiple nuanced choices our principle play is satiated while alongside it, the attraction here is for loner and desk jockey Derek that of interacting with a Coffee shop assistant, Jenny with overdeveloped familiarity, constructing in Derek’s head in its empty spaces outside the workplace scenarios beyond reality. One swallow of coffee or joke does not a relationship make, however foreseen it raises its head in absurdity in an overcooked way.  After the inevitable comes the readjustment. None of the aforementioned is sufficient to hold any empathy and it is ultimately lost on a worthless cause in every sense.  Director/ Writer Brian Moran Duration 11:00


A long shot
I’ve had several bets on the Oscars and I wouldn’t put money on this story short making it anywhere near the winners enclosure when the turn arrives next year. The sporting juices are satiated in visions of Croke Park Dublin. An unlikely but true location for a soccer match between Ireland and Germany and the iconic stadium is the star as it presides over a flat land North County Dublin. A place where the sun also rises. The setting of a couple, the girl, Sarah, lad, Larry who are sharing a house, was one which took time to get my head around with a bedridden Dad asleep upstairs and downstairs barely a stick of furniture. The sparseness being a disjoint. Dad frail as he is, is called upon for anecdotal tone setting about the rare oul times – pre Johnny Giles up through the Keane era to the present halcyon days, comparable to Italia ’90 when Ireland became European when Ray Houghton’s left foot took Ireland to a confidence never before believed. A wager is conceived by Larry for a change in fortune except the money wagered is not his. The roles are well played and it is quick into its pace while it arrives at its pay dirt result in a shaky state of unease and has a small twist in the tail. It was an unlikely concept held together with some decent dialogue and feeling but it failed to stimulate as a complete cohesive peace in my view.  Director / Writer Andrew Jordan. Duration 14:55


Cousins. 
More than a friend less than a brother, the  observation goes about Cousins which opens its story on a shoreline and becomes disjointed in its indoor outdoor chosen environments.  The cousins – unstreetwise Jason (12) and his cousin  – risk taker bully Leon (14) who have never met before are tested and soon their bonding becomes a complicit compact with both taking part in a savage brutal violent act which is off the limits of anything either has previously done. As a film construct it is overkill.  There are numerous more effective ways of delivering its message but it also not in either character no matter how the idea got stuck in the writers head.  Getting unhinged has its signals and though people may not see them the clues should have been more subtle. The lame lane scene is insufficient on this score.  It spirals into a confrontation with authority. The young filmmakers are no stranger to the vicissitudes of normal life in Dublin and apparently know no bounds as far as Dublin’s scope is concerned as their theatre of film making marks out familiar places. The fault I have with it is, it brought no more than standard situational inner city struggles while it kept within its own (constraining group work lacking leadership, ownership?) remit – without extending, contrasting its place within drug culture, out of control criminalit.  It tries to imitate (unScorsese like – a film handle used) and they need to their game at a remove or two from this with a complexity beyond the easy familiar – which they deliver assured and  confidently enough – to allow criticism which holds they appear to have smarts but need originality, twist, presence altered and refocused on societal problems, to intimidate and put the heebeejeebees into an audience as Scorsese can do with all sorts of things including Jesuit Priests.  Director/Writer Ciaran Behan. Duration 14:01


A pornographer woos

The title is an overplay of an underplayed act of seduction. A married couple on the beach have the sunshade up, the mother in law in a deck chair, the kids hyper in sunscreen and the reconstructed Michael Smiley as said pornographer fully clothed and reading as he also surveys his wife’s curves and constructs a love poem – stand over John Donne. Melanie McHugh soaks up the sun in a classic black bathing suit and seduces the camera along with Michael as both ignore their family adjacent. When he passes the poem to his wife it creates a central peak and – no spoilers then will follow. It is a sunny smiley film with an almost perfectly formed play on attractions fuel except it never reaches a climax. Dreams become flesh and although it felt awkward at times, like sucking on a boiled sweet, it moves swiftly enough past those minor slips. It is all the more pleasurable that we don’t get to see MS in MS trunks, boxers, sporting a range of bodily delights kept only for his partner MS, and he only speaks a few words in his Norn Ireland drawl. I do like to be beside the seaside and the sangria can wait. Post a love poem and see what you get?  Director Patrick Myles. Duration 07:00


Incoming call
The highly original take on having an alter ego or future/past tense embodiment is an instant draw to this excellent short film. Songwriter singer Kerri played by Naseen Morgan is debuting her talent in a club, Voodoo credited actually, I thought it was Menagerie but the Voodoo have ripped off their vibe and look! For an uncomfortable introduction just before she takes to ‘stage’ and the open mike she receives an incoming message from her future self. If only you could get them to tell you whose hot and whose not in the data world and who won the war we could play God. But it introduces actually a good format for a longer tale perhaps when the instructional self is your primary driver and risk is removed. It provides tangible perplexing truths as to whether you are the best judge and need you commit to something to achieve – what? The story is well put together and the mobile phone footage is so good it leaves you comparing the normal scenes with it and feeling short changed. Only a few films I recall have a decent club feel and then sporadic. The brilliant Victoria set in Berlin 2016 has the many sides of an interior. There is a big range in Berlin and it’s not the Bergeron type or the KitKat type club films have yet to go there but nevertheless is close to the hedonistic style this club fetishes over.  Director / Writer Eion Cleland. Duration 11:20


Dam
Several of these films unfortunately for me don’t fit into the review format I used last year – a)Plot, b)What’s good with it, c)What’s bad with it, d)Verdict. This one does not fit either as it’s too sharp and distinct to narrow it’s feel and the variety of readings it projects. Basically it is a young mans guide to survival when tragedy hits and there are few opportunities to speak of it let alone to peers. So we are transported to the Spelga Dam which itself is a fascinating and camera hunger location.  The penned sheep in the publicity shot is a comedic take on imprisonment of the mind!?  The two principles – one an annoying and insecure foppish young adult Dikey, whose more ponderous mate, Smurf (on the outside – both hold in hurt memories) go back to the place where their mate took leave of this mortal coil. The fact they go back is a challenge and they look for distractions in conversation and the exploration of the place which is a good choice in taking time to breathe and take in the story.

Once the film settles down – when the vodka bottle they have brought along in anticipation perhaps of a measure of courage how ever negative – takes a part as a token messenger. You’ve the bottle speak – another metaphor, the film becomes mature though falters in its use of ‘imitation’ peril. The symbolism of the Dam holding things back is a deluge waiting to happen in itself whether intentional ( there s a mention of their friend Enda holding things back) or not but figuratively it projects sense and sensitivity into the whole body of the work. The core message is clean and delivered with sensitivity. It is no small measure of the ability to convey such hard felt los and the crushing reality harboured that talking helps. A core message delivered that despite being young, wet behind the ears, holding natural fears, using substances as false props the decisive thing is to bring clarity and purpose to bear and connect with people who listen and look for advice and answers and basically love for yourself and fellow human beings.  Director Conan McIvor. Duration 18:00


The Order
Darkwoodsmen don overalls, hit the kill button on their cause celebre and plot the demise of an informer. It’s neither done with grace, insight or sense of reality or governance of a terrors that organisation taking on the Stakeknife role of enforcer. They even brought a seat along for a a wait. It couldn’t have been the Larne woods then, where the PSNI ate their sandwiches while the stash of guns were buried. More like the Wicklow Hills which doubles as a conventional hit squad location of choice. It was a miserable film with a cockamayny twist and ultimately forgettable.  Director Matthew Brown. Duration 12:53


My father, my blood
Young eyes old witch, middle aged man in longcoat. A child watches their father murder a woman in cold blood. More than and other than the first thought of it being an exorcism it’s fiercely terminal. As they continue to live nomadically on the west coast of Ireland, their relationship begins to break apart. Both in the wild mountainous terrain of home territory. John Robert Brown has crafted a film which is outstanding as a drama mystery. His actors, Daniel – Jordanne Jones, Cillian – Barry Ward, principally, and Hag – Maire Hastings, Siren – Anarosa De Eizaguirre Butler, Father – Wesley O’Duinn, Mother – Miriam Devitt, Little Girl – Jade Reidare are the most convincing seen in this season of shorts and of such capable, significant talent they enable the strangeness of this tale to impress on the viewer a real almost Shakespearian sense of surreal otherworld. It is full of the atmosphere of many of the plays without imitating any. It is hard to figure out what is going on. The relationship in the centre is full of mystery as it was revealed to me – the father, referring to the girl as boy, is wishing she was a boy.  Jordanne Jones is incredible as the young Daniel and is full of emotive nuance and bewildering mystery as the girl juvenile in a central role which only points to an natural acting talent who is aware of the finer acting needs some of her peers and several a-listers could gain from attaining.  In RTE Red Rock an older actress who has similar credentials is Leah Minto as a Garda. Leah calls her part Ash as having street smarts. She is another actress who reads her role extremely well. The space shifting and shortness of this film is its downfall as it is of a potentially wider scope and maybe like Magpie did for Stephen Fingelton act as a calling card for a main feature film. It is shot extremely beautifully and assuredly by Ewan Mulligan though it’s over SFX’d at times. The whole team however deserve credit as it’s not easy to give this look and feel to a drama and give it an Irish feel which is well capable of fitting many stories and maybe reinventing familiar narratives – wildly – as long as the include the talent of J. Jones!  Director/ Writer John Robert Brown.  Duration 12:40


Pause
Here dialogue is delivered by tape to a woman in a place she is either returning to for a break, reflection away from the rat race or here to redress and confront a troubling past. It appears this is partially true as she is familiar with the tapes and within them are an uncomfortable record and it’s not Eleanor McAvoy or Shania Twain. Heartfelt are the revealed troubling accounts she rehears. Times are like Get Back Up or Better Times but this is a remote island, Inishbiggle in Co. Mayo, where there is oddly a faint signal for mobile reception. There is a confusing, for audience and Janine Hardy and the viewer of a sense of reality which is evoked mainly by the landscape. It is play on modern necessity to revisit the past, as opposed to previous generations who had to forego the luxury of this journey. Nonetheless people do find a need to sort out particular parts of their past life’s and move on but the memory is not always reliable and things often turn out to be fluid. Other means of exploring this are of greater effect and while it is a decent shot at a particular Pause in a persons story it is does not sit in the memory for too long.  Director/Writer Niamh Heery.  Duration 08:17


Moira Fortuna
The immigrants story is colourful as is the case in this experimental drama which incorrectly is described in programmes as being composed of only three shots whereas it begins with the Moira pacing through the tree lined streets of Hampstead to the Heath where awaits a chance encounter with Mark a young, introverted, shaven headed Irishman contemplating the non sense of space he finds in a remote shelter where his counterfoil Moira arrives seeking a light for her Gauloise cigarette (I imagine) like a winged charioteer of the logo she sweeps into the mind of Mark as a gallant inquisitor. The premise is easy on the eye and it is an escapist stylistic work reliant on tweaks and colourist framing eccentricity whchnos old/new school filmmaking and slightly indulgent. The narrative, dialogue is self centred and vaguely Proustian. As an adventure it is sadly overwhelming of the two main participants whose contribution is very engaging but untested in silences, activity or personal connection.  Director/ Writer Ed Smith. Duration 19:18


The Climb
In the life of others there are unknown hardships and family tragedies which never appear on the surface and then only through contracted framed incidences. For a short to take on grieving and loss in through the metaphor and literal reenactment of a Climb on a mountainside in Northern Ireland there is a sense of jeopardy portrayed by the two participants in the Climb. The teacher and the novice climber this is a depiction based on an actual tragedy and carries it with emotional quality and sensitive slow paced revealing how how such things are overcome. Loss by the widow played by Joanne Crawford, with Ian Beattie as the instructor. Some parts of the intended story do not carry. It is easy to miss the element that this for the fictional Julia is a climb on her adventure loving late husbands favourite mountain, Hen Mountain In the Mournes for example. For a true story it is deals with with a degree of moderation and sensitivity which fails to make it push itself as a short film story of far reaching insight. However well conceived and put together it is with the largesse of a consistently efficient film company it fails to deliver in the main part of new vision.  Director/Writer Lynne Davison.  Duration 09:20


The Ladies
Be prepared for toilet humour of a moderated kind. No harmful or toxic elements are shown, seen and all is piloted very well in the quest to give a set of dating circumstances a new slant. Apprentice dater, the amusingly inept and self-effacing youth Robbie a callow boy wishing to rose to the occasion of a date in a posh restaurant. He is seated waiting for his date to turn up and then sees an Aunt and Uncle who require to know too much. In getting an alternative seat a mate who happens to work at the establishment is asked to direct him to the toilet which is the source of the central plank of the introduction to the protocols of dating. Don’t listen to others for advice being one first rule. Whelehans Wines (Restaurant) of Loughlinstown I am sure would wish to assure future customers that the scenes in the film are entirely fictional and there is no shortfall in their excellent hospitality nor their facilities meeting all the needs and proper expectations of their diners. As a comedy piece it is well directed and well cast with a fresh and good paced unwavering sense of that area of entertainment it is extremely difficult to deliver something fresh, rounded and with a uniqueness despite the heavy measure of iterhaps having only one real joke to relate. It is a short so it is not going to trouble you with the what happened next. Though it has a cute ending.  Director/Writer Juke McKane. Duration 09:44


Homecoming
The narrative here is a familiar tale here North and South of migration and return. The take on it here is a young man working his fathers farm part time alongside his brother who we don’t meet and it shows his routine of daily feeding the group in lower fields presumably late autumn. There is another returnee, a young woman about seven years separate their last encounter having grown up together. An overlong sheep trailing intrudes, adds as a needless buffer and it replaces a missing part, a third dimension or diversion – even an introduction – like – taking a shop trolley back to the local one village shop/post office and meeting the person and saying you’ll drop by later. Instead we get an angry almost phone call? What’s that about? It had potential and it realised it partially in the good conversation dialogue of thoughtfulness regarding both these modern young Irish people. It had some solidity therefore it getting the message across but was let down in my view by other choices.  Director/Writer Sinéad O’Loughlin. Duration 13:55


Emergency stop
When you see another road trip expect human or alien interventions. So when we get the emergency stop it arrives in an unusually disorientating form requiring immediate explanation. The two characters are the girl behind the wheel and what the stop calls for, a partially dressed young woman. The driver at first appears to be in shock but it turns out very different. A male –  I wonder again – if the horror and the desperation which is laden on to be a character cinematic shock – fulfilled plus – would be seen as acceptable and necessary to achieve the reveal.  I think it would have been scorned as a bit patrightfully. It is a brief piece of nastiness anyway and is of shock value only. No heightened colour or darkness, (? tried to make it as naturalistic as possible so as not to give away the – you have to disclose any level of …. occurs anyway?) no distinct shape or vision in the camerawork or editing and it comes to a stop leaving you feeling disappointed.  A momentary Diane Jessie Miller lapse as there is very good work preceding it.  Director / Writer Diane Jessie Miller. Duration 05:41


Narcan
By far this film is the most like a mainstream movie and potentially of a bigger form. Even a mini series.  The story is set in New York with a great scene setting and character intro which shows a paramedic crew setting of on a day’s work with Irishman Sean Ryan leaving loose ends on a day’s start with his wife and child. They fit a tangible unit and subject setting up several possibilities and secured in this beginning Séan is revealed as full of anxiety unlike his negro co-driver. The daily routine is far from it and involves visit after visit to familiar haunts of them caring for seriously hurt human beings hanging onto life as they are called to apply first medical assistance which is life threatening – sometimes in both parts of the equation. It is brilliantly realistically shot and the acting too is superb. The part of Sean’s wife is handled empathetically and convincingly as a woman placed in a foreign city in a homemaking unit with the trappings of improved lives emerging put on the precipice through the job Séan does. It is well scripted and for a New York narrative it is unusual in that it follows an ‘ordinary joe’ going about his day job in the city streets. Several films I am reminded of go into the place of seeming to reveal a part of NY unseen by use of an effective core. Ira Sachs film of last year Little Men does it brilliantly.
This is from a Limerick man and it’s won several awards for Peter McNamara and crew and cast who do a mighty fine job.
The title is from – Naloxone, sold under the brandname Narcan among others, is a medication used to block the effects of opioids, especially in overdose. Naloxone may be combined within the same pill as an opioid to decrease the risk of misuse. When given intravenously, it works within two minutes, and when injected into a muscle, it works within five minutes. This film works in 20mins. and has after effects. I leave it of the roster for my favourite as it is singularly expansive and has is clearly outstanding with a very professional result which I nominate as a Special Award Joscar as I want to highlight other ‘firsts’ deserving special mention. So the origin of this film is also revealed as – While working behind a bar he would hear a wealth of stories from migrant Irishmen but one set of stories in particular stood out from the rest, An Irish paramedic working the streets of New York who would regale him with stories of being on the job and everything gritty detail that it entailed. Fascinated by what he heard he began to write during quiet moments while working in the bar, the blueprint of the Narcan screenplay was ultimately born from these scribbles on the back of beermats and napkins. It’s made.  Director/Writer Peter McNamara.  Duration 20:00


Second to none
Cartoonified twins are competitors in old age. While they presumably never had any hang ups while growing up and why would they the clock doesn’t lie. One came out first and one has just become the oldest living person in Cartoonville. The expressive and deeply intense animation is broad and well shaped. It puts up a gripping little story on a mere seven minutes that flies by. In the end you are warmed and horrified and made sceptically of all elderly folk who look unsettlingly cheerful. It might even get a 12 certificate as it’s only plasticine/clay?!  Director / Writer Vincent Gallagher. Duration 07:10


Groundless
Mary played by Love/Hate Aiobhinn McGinnity is an inner city Dublin single mum. It’s probably best getting that role out of the way in a short! Niaomi Harris, she alleges, did it in Moonlight. Here there is a difference with Mary retaining her faculties.  It could become a hoop around any good actresses neck portraying a subject familiar in so many outlets fact and fictional.  Son Mark is in with the wrong people. Dorset Street is typecast as a lonely street of crime and Garda chasing their tails while hell spirals as a flood about everyone’s ears. For the narrative this film takes it to the ultimate test of love and tests the appetite for continued immersion in a face of violence never seen in reality except to those close to and in the locality of actions which see the body bags and those who arrange the internment of their loved ones right in front of them.  While it is a very accomplished piece it does unfortunately only unsettle and is of incomparable relation to the street crime seen across Ireland and a constituent of most deprived urban western cities. Narcotics are a normal feature. The same weekend – unplaced out in media were the deaths of five young people in the Belfast City area with probable links to contaminated drugs supplied but the violence meted out was and is a destroyed body. Not shot but shut off with drugs instantaneously.  This also in the line of other more savage crimes also having young victims around the same time in the same locality. Narcan fits the spaces and more as far as the complex arbitrary exposure to harm and death with the important key of the Paramedic’s daily trauma clearly setting it apart. Director/Writer Eimear Callaghan.  Duration 10:20


Lady Death
The cloak and spectre of death which is a visitor to everyone comes in the (offset) horror genre film short telling the world of a guardian who is not angelic but places herself as the arbiter of all things final. Lady Death has a way about her which is basically too fundamental. In a journey of youthful discovery Lady Death who is twenty something harbinger of doom in her day post – seeing to the soon to be despatched, tortured souls, – is caught in a frail limbo and sees contentment which she only is able to enable through her portentous clients. She has wisdom beyond her years and is herself fixated with life’s carousel though in the converse to us – as she witnesses wrong choices of doubt, self analysis, which death is not intended for. Having scruples she seeks out the vulnerable to become their Gabriel. As writer Director Karen Quinn puts it ‘Death is not the bad guy, life is.’ With her lonesome task carried on young shoulders she meets a young man whose plight in his hands is doomed. The ill-boding stars align to tell this bearded youth of an apocalypse imploding in his mind while around him the world produces its daily beauty and cycle regardless tempting and fate to his conclusion. Karen is of a similar age to the actress and actor and is instinctively sharp on alternative views. She also delivers some great words – ‘Death is not meant for the young’ ‘Fear is a part of life’. Move over Aristotle. While Lady Death and the young man meet on the waterfront, one sees the bright lights of Belfasts central riverside in two shades, the bright fast moving daily hustle contrasting with the lit up colour of the night sky and moon reflecting on the water all that calmer but equally perplexing – the other sees no joie de vivre but I won’t say which one. The cinematographer though does as the film is shot particularly insightfully around the weir walkway and some ‘Cy Twombly’ (there is a lot of referencing him in my my reviews so learn about the cinematic angle if you haven’t already!) painterly colours and vibrancy lifts the mood. Again an insightful choice.  There is a sharp moment courtesy of Tesco Lisburn Road near the fair trade bananas which is a non sponsored moment. This is highly interesting, entertaining take on the old certainty by a light hand with a deft crew and only the occasional wobble. (Referring to the backdrop of brick which is too much of a students staple – leaning against walls! and multiple [edit?] to and fro on the bridge ‘encounter’ sequence – it moved too much) But all said it was a very good piece of work and the smoothness of a longer piece may create a breakthrough film. The writing being the chief strength. All to mature and form still hopefully as it leaves you wanting more but not necessarily the same thing.  Director/Writer Karen Quinn. Duration 11:40


Pebbles
The territory of Maeve Binchy or a terse Hugh Leonard or even Brian Moore spring to mind in seeing this narrative unfold. The rich seam of the future providing the newly married in an earlier era of say the fifties had authorial potential as well as real possibilities. We have here a Film of a woman returning to her honeymoon hotel to meet with her now estranged husband whose promise of fifty years previously was – whatever became of them – they would return to the Bray Hotel in which they first became a wedded couple. The pebble is a symbol pressed into the hand all those years ago.
Pebbles are strange things and on a woman being brought one with a cross on it after she said, bluebells are best left in the hedgerow, the suitor said ‘It’s a sign the marriage would be blessed.’ For her reply came ‘No Priest can bless a marriage where there isn’t one.’
Many beaches will have similar tales. It is far too literal and unidirectional to see the woman here on the beach with a heavy suitcase in her comfy trainers, with aa dress on and heavy coat to then traipse across to the seafront hotel missing a vowel from its sign. There are a smart young couple dining in the window seat watching each other’s eyes like they’ve discovered this weeks lotto numbers and won’t tell a soul. It only would take a minute to cross the street and get a ticket. All sorts come to mind as this slow work gathers enough steam to boil an egg. Pity it’s sans salt and an egg cup. Basically the film lacks substance and will he won’t he is barely of interest as so many similar tales seem good at first sight on the page as the author has embellished the notion with plenty of asides and meandering to escape the fact it’s a non story of sentimental value for the idly curious. The ‘couples’ place and hotel act well in their assigned parts but it passes quickly with the Sky hardly changing.  Director/Writer Jonathan Shaw Duration 14:55


The Clock Makers Dream
Time holds everything in its hands. For a filmmaker, animator the time frame has stopped. The magic begins when the Clockmaker introduces his management to time. Here is a whimsically travelled, very well doctored reality in a kind of visitor Centre Ireland town or village with the clockmaker returning to find all things stopped not least the town clock. George Meilie is cited as an inspiration. Ever since I saw people parading around racecourses a decade or more ago with quite effectively courtiered horses head pieces on to spin the atmosphere and ironically not to frighten the horses, I’ve seen the use in film as a cop out of imagination. The same flaw entered wth the very first film in the set here at the screening, Childer. There are several inspirations and it had me thinking while watching of Jacque Tati whose absurdity was in the same Gallic charm this conveys. It must be the Brittany connection. Even Dali is a bellwether. Our Clock Maker is in a world having not found live ŵhen time stops and this is the sadness of the piece which propels him into action and adventure. So another lesson there? You only find out you have been inactive in your search for true love, or insufficiently charged before time comes to a standstill and ‘the chase’ has also stopped and love is not only sought but needed.
The concept of the stopping of time is cleverly teased out to play with notions of living in the present. Only now existing. No future release tracking of time is needed. Conversely all the above takes time and this is the fascination of momentary belief suspension. See what I did there?! Shocks appear on screen in this arrested time as it is important to realize the resolved does not happen without a time lapse. Take the Irish historical narrative for one. Blow up Nelsons Column and you get to regain 100 square feet of territory in O’Connell Street. Now what name did it have before? If you look back in time as the clockmaker does the past is seen as a precursor to that broken heart you have or that grief you once had. The present is unresting because it starves you of memory and displaces the potential plans of tomorrow. How many hands have you got and where are they to point? The clockmaker remembers things he has made and now remembers for that is all there is left to do. The doll after doll made before clocks turned to him. If time had more time it would be its shadow. If your hands do not gesture you are not alive and moving on. As they say time heals.  Director/Writer Cashell Hargan. Duration 13:30


Gridlock
In the holiday season, especially in the Wicklow Hills it’s easy to take a back road and find yourself in a traffic jam. It is a welcome sight when it’s on the screen and your not in it particularly as this script has crafted together a loose collection of screwball half witted and cockamamie,ad as hares traveling folk who each have a story. Which has the story? They all have a part in unearthing it. Form the back seat of a car the child getting on trying to behave as if this was what her friends at school think would least expect her to be subjected too and the sun is splitting the sky and there are so many other kids to play with. No. She passively sits and listens to her Da’s rant. When her Dad gets out of the car to see what’s going on he finds a hay art turned over and Goya black horse lying as dead as it can act on the ground. It’s surrounded by a squabble. When he returns to the car straight away he finds Emma is missing. The instincts kick in as he looks all around to see if she’s gone for a pee or is down the other side resting her legs or talking to someone in another car. No. She has gone. The car driver directly behind is quizzed followed by anyone who oscnear. It develops into a very acerbic, horrifying piece of black comedy and every character plays it for pathos and unbelievable truth. The unbelievable truth being half the stories they tell as if it is factually making sense to everyone. This is the least unformed story of the entire set as a film it is too bloody believable asa possibility and puts every parent on warning for kidnapping in every moment of their lives. So they are in a car and lots of people are caught up in the same very narrow road and all wish to move on. How could a child disappear under this intensely claustrophobic set of conditions? Yes she does and into this come past histories, character unhinged fragility, tragedy, complacency, stereotyping and filmic cliches. The manhunt, the dark impenetrable woods, the pressure of time, the police stubborn static unhelpful authoritarian control, the jeopardy and wild imaginings. If it were not for the ordinariness of the main characters and the ease with which these actors seamlessly act together it would be set for critical mincing being a tale of child abduction in appearance. Yet it rises above the horror of the concept to keep you gripped to the end. So why no award? I left it aside as it was far too short and it weaved everything together in a short space of time without time to be excruciatingly terrifying. It missed a beat somehow and I’d have to see it again to explain that to myself again! Perhaps it was trying too hard to be just plain stupid and comedic? Perhaps it was too well shot? Perhaps it was answering your questions too swiftly. It is very cleverly engrossing and is as another aside a kind of everyman portrait. You know the type – where an everyman gets out of bed – something bad happens and his character shifts dramatically – for whatever reason this side is confronting and totally opposite to the earlier persona and can it change back etc.  Director/Writer Darach McGarrigle.  Duration 19:45


Prick
Overstretched fitness fanatic seen in go-pro enhanced camerawork is diabetic Tom. It overshadows his life as body confidence is blunted and sometimes he does not take his medication. Insulin pricks we learn quickly are a nightmare at times and the need for one in a young adult sportsman when competing for example, is our subject here. The director Adrian Rowe with fellow writer Emma Louise Dodds take a great deal of thought in assembling this narrative so as to 1. deliver a short effective insightful entertainment. 2. Be conveyors of health awareness and advice. You are not alone in other words as a young man whether you are a cyclist, rower, GAA player or netball, baseball player or any active young woman or man. A graph of the line of the sugar levels depletion is deployed aka The Survivalist opening frames come to mind! Another survivor but here in the real world of City life and girlfriend, relationships and the uncertainties of the future. It is great to see this kind of work as well executed as it is here and all perform to make it that reality. It is not a usual subject and it is not that complex with results, once the ‘reveal’ of the medical condition, this is not a spoiler as it is flagged up as being about a Diabetic! so it has a empathetic pull and it is exemplary without being brilliant on the levels of others reviewed here. Don’t take that to hard filmmakers because there is a lot of very strong work here!  Director Adrian Rowe Writers Adrian Rowe and Emma Louise Dodds.  Duration 13:58


When the seagulls…
The format of this short is a buddy type movie with a twist. All the more so given it involves basically one scene. It is of two men about late twenties who have come to this isolated beach (Norfolk is credited?) to despatch the remains of a friends ashes whose wish they are fulfilling. On the dunes we loook down to the pair, with an empty deck chair set on the rustling maram grass. Setting the scene they both stare out to sea and both become uncomfortable with this act which neither has done before. They converse with many reflections on themselves the person in the urn and even inform us quite accurately, well almost of what remains of remains and the person once cremated. So far so good. It is a whimsical and thoughtful script and process with the more confident of the two, after all he’s carrying the urn share the moment and a degree f gravitas is entered into. The story is well held and it gives you plenty to think about during this short period. Neither overlong nor short this tale has a twist which none will have anticipated.
Suffice then to conclude this is a very good short film of the type of real life narrative which seeks to be more than the contents, appearance of a short entertainment on observance. Observance is there of the two, of young men’s unfamiliar on the most part o loss and how to grieve. I takes it further by becoming a lesson well told and it becomes visual and the metaphors of the open expanses is singularly potent in becoming part of the confinement even for ‘him inside’ while introducing a heavy closure. There are several morality, finality tales with it seeming when the statistics of ourselves are shared, that that is what we are, just numbers. Another spoken one is that naivety is a greater sin than cynicism.
‘The Foggy Dew’ is played on a great soundtrack an the angelus bells provide the tome of sober paused reflection.
Having been to the cinematographic Norfolk coast on many’s occasion I never forget the vast openness of particularly the location of Blakeney Point where the very earth seems not to exist in any semblance of permanence, with tides and sands constantly exchanging their spoils. Eerily it becomes even more ethereal out at the point itself and the producers/director may have seen something of this location in their choice of exit.  Director/Writer Alasdair Killen.  Duration 13:30


The Cyclops
The double of graffiti and glue sniffing give Duncan fewer brain cells to think with and his relationship with his Mother is on a downward trail. It is attendant on the concerns of youngsters while delivering no new outlook or observance that I am aware of. While it has truth and consequences, such a trashed ‘flat’ – very lucky lad getting any kind of flat anyway on an Irish City – it hangs your interest on outcomes you know require redemption from within the family. I struggled with this as either exploiting a very serious section of life. As well asbeing described as a social realist film and taking on very well formed dreamlike/nightmarish effects interweaving them very well into the narrative ilacls thump kudos and delivery of a social ill dismissed. The teenagers have other interests besides these and no contrasts are exploited whether a short or not having the result I didn’t quite get it as a completed piece.  It may be that the director is not after a vision of reality and is playing with the themes.  Fair enough though talent such as this needs to assert its self fiercely to enter the broader wide long form which is obviously hanging in the air.  Director Hugh Mulhearn Duration 15:00


Six pack and crack
Black and white footage is employed with use alongside coloured flashback to provide the consisting local village shop life of an alcoholic mother Val and her estrangement from her 16 year old son Shane. She has used and is used in a relationship with a Russian whose delinquencies are greater. Joe, her partner has an entourage whose drug choices cover the bases. Shane the son would become a punchbag if he were to live at home. It doesn’t stop him from acting courageously to see his mother make other choices. Even so he has demons which make him wasted. The crystal meth environment of home comes with trading in drugs which accrues money which disappears. The money is put to use in the form of a resolution. It provided a great central role for Shane as he tied the content together while his mother portrayed in gripping, stark, tragic state was compelling. Unable to empathize with Joe the villain should not take away from the menace he projects and conquers any misgivings about the ensemble. It was a good film in many aspects and though it delivered twists and turns it was not my kind of thriller.  Director Rita-Marie Lawlor.  Duration 17:00


Time and again
For two fourteen year old boys the prospect of time travel is not confined to comic books. Two Brian’s appear.  The young and older versions.  The basic subject is very well trodden ground.  Given the chance would you go back and change a life changing event?  Would it be possible and these boys try to imagine it might.  Even a Stephen Hawking probably would have us take the position – the jury is out and the evidence is filtering through. The Eagle type comic is the subject of ones conjecture while the other is a more irritatingly science/professorial kind. The voice of Brian is adult as he narrates the older Mr Jones. Oisin at 14 is technologically secure and insecure. He has false perceptions and his name choice – Ossian being a favourite of 18th century Scottish poet James Macpherson who travelled further back to the poet Ossian of 3rd century ad is as close as I got to engaging with the entertainment yet irritation coming from the protoscientists. The retelling is poorly achieved from the other characters of Mum and Dad and the absence of a father while a good device to provide the impetus it is shallow in complex and does not work. The Tom figure is a type – the adult who says do us a favour son and don’t be havin’ nightmares – all cosy sort of, so it’s not a difficult challenging watch.  The type of safe short the BBC and other screeners favour.  Director/Writer Aiden Largy Duration 13:48

The Party
If ever there was a film to be had of a party in a back street in Belfast in 1972 as aconveyance was f showing sectarian hatred in the hands of violent men and women it’s not here. The utility of sanders and lerbstone paint also adding false notes. A UDA shooting in an area with rwb kerbs? A late bight party attended only by someone who had lost the plot and completely out of their head on drink morexprobably but not eyes wide open. It was a ridiculous and if harbours any nuances or side issues I did not see them. The cross dressing man on the run stupidity is a crude choice.  Given there were trans and LGBT in ’73 as ever, this is something left to perfect.  It may have conceivably got its supporters as an on edge of town bars/discos or The Harp Bar as harmless and indicative of a different paradigm was a good point while it never got anywhere close to a Neil Jordan type twist or visual foil. The interior shots if not the dials hue were good and period convincing.  The doorbell answered is also a conceited  stupidity.  So did anyone get shot for having a Party? Unionists, Nationalists, Socialists, Communists, Lecturers, Councillors, Reporters got shot and killed for having Party allegiances but for the other it didn’t make sense as the film failed in large doses. The triviality is not mine, it belongs four square with the films mediocrity. It doesn’t even make it as false history but ludicrous weak history poorly conceived.  Director Andrea Hardin. Writer Conor MacNeill. Duration 14:00

THE END OF THE FICTIONAL SHORT REVIEW.  MY WORDS AS A PLACEMENT OF OPINION HOVERING NEAR TRUTH HOPEFULLY.  Thank you for reading and if I’ve been too tough or critical on those who are responsible for the film content apologies as it’s meant only perversely (positive criticism) to encourage better and if that’s wrong too then I’ve failed to watch it more closely perhaps.

Non-Fiction Documentary Shorts Belfast Film Festival 2017
I have reviewed a few of the separated Documentary films shown a day after in a group with what I found weird results as far as awarding went as these two were in my view very worthy of winning as opposed to those who settled for ‘obvious’  cineworld reasons having missed the wealth elsewhere. Big time low.

The Wee Shop and Seán Hillen Merging views get my Joscar17 Short Doc award.
2 different and joint winners in my mind. Anything that can bring joy and laughter to a small film theatre in the heart of Belfast on a Sunny Sunday afternoon when the choice has been made not to join the promenade on the beach or car chase on the motorway to catch a barbecue or walk the park avoiding dogs is supremely deserving of any number of awards. In The Fashion Show caught a bright light in the world of Ruth Morrow trainee shepherdess and alter ego film Super Mario and Luigi gamer heros were a breathe of fresh air too. The sublimity – (solid to gas to solid again seems appropriate) – of the world of a rural community letting its worries pass into the afternoon sky temporarily was a lovely escape exquisitely creative and insightful. The surreality of the theme developed as a natural phenomenon and was a really enjoyable watch thoroughly well done by a burgeoning talent.


The Wee Shop

In Belfast the corner shop is a disappearing social staple. The Shop around the corner and later You’ve got mail by Nora Ephron are story films of the urban shop while in Belfast the Irving St John who belonged to a deaf family in Euston Street wrote the very funny play Boyd’s Shop which created a very portrait of the community focal point these places were on basically every road and inner city tributary. They even existed in the backstreets and their lights were on until near nine o’clock to provide for the essentials such as milk bread and sugar and non essentials such as cigarettes, lemonade and ice cream, the weekly pools coupon and a florid diet of gossip. The faltering entity is now a shadow of its former self as this short film makes a collection of a small number of stoical shopkeepers lament themselves about the struggle to remain true to the community corner shop provision they sustain on modest returns. Aside from the butchers and Chip shops and street cafes and fast food outlets they are seldom able to compete and this film is a tale which brings mostly dark humour out with the resolute frank telling of past times. Patsy on the New Lodge Road has plenty in common with her fellow shopkeepers Bill and Norman of Sandy Row and the Shankill respectively. The sorry demise of communities driven to the wall by successive governments undermining through lack of investment in all sectors of community life, the housing, schools, infrastructure, transport and a determination to structure destabilisation through housing allocation and lack of provision for families within communities is seen in these very shops which act as a last connection with the troubled communities they serve and served. By giving as one Shopkeeper explained with conspicuous accuracy, the bigger stores are allowed free access to a market through scale and mainly car accessible shopping by Belfast and surrounding Councils.  Monster supermarkets out of scale with communities and frequented by out of town bound custom heading to the dormitory habitations which provide identikit soulless housing on former farmland and undeveloped hinterlands of small villages. The film is a marker as were photographs of the same shops and former shopkeepers which provide another outlook and insight to the life of a passing community key.  Director  Siobhan King Duration 11:00


Seán Hillen, Merging views
This new short documentary portrait observes artist Seán Hillen as he creates a beautiful new photomontage. He shares thoughts about his work and recent personal discovery. The choice of making a work in the small studio of Seán Hillen is a tool adding emphasis to the incredibly interesting subject which is part of film making achievement; the detail the intensely focal frame.

The intensely imaginative world of Newry native, Séan Hillen in his present home of many years in Dublin is entered as if stepping into the imagination itself.  From the immediacy of an introduction to the dark outside and the loved fat bastard of a cat getting a food treat offered with profanity, a source of warm engagement and audience laughter enters the film theatre, as The Wee Shop did earlier, with its non stop mix of pathos and humour striking a chord here in Belfast.  It is a rare thing indeed to see an artist in a studio and while Warhol identified a niche to have photographers, artists, authors committed to coming to the factory and making their written and visual record of it, itself that became product. Like the late Basil Blackshaw who eschewed the rigmarole of publicity and never courted it Séan Hillen is similarly not keen on intrusiveness. When filmmakers of the aptitude and moxie of Paddy put it to you they want to make a piece about your work it’s a different matter altogether. The work too becomes an artwork. I was reminded of the groundbreaking film following Francis Bacon back from The Colony Rooms to his house and his immediately getting prepared to paint in the wee small hours of the night. Bacon took time to ignore the witness and get on with the work in his mind whereas there is an égalité, an openness, participation advanced here in this film, to welcome in the viewer to the processes of the artists role which attest to their inherent honesty.  A lot of art historians, curators, art critics, galleries do not get this work in its collective worth.  Some and hopefully fewer now, miss the continued trajectory from the Renaissance through to the prominent British artists, Mark Wallinger and Damien Hirst whose continued work excel propelling renewal of thought.

To carry out an explanation of how he works Séan gathers together an assembly of thoughts surrounding a new piece of work. In common with the photomontage works he has been making for nearly thirty years it is a leap into the unexpected each time it would seem and is as I perceived it a conduit of his mind extrapolating for us our own heralded metamorphic conjunctions on possible truths of previously upheld views. His explanation and it’s not given as a foundation but possible source of our connection with his work, is our brains priority in placing – seeing as believing – first ahead of further analytical deconstruction. The eye tells the mind to believe what it sees. Given the mind is relying on a chemical reaction which is fed though light onto chemicals transmitters and is a part of the brain itself we are in teleportation land. In the depths of the oceans we know of creatures that have no eyes. We are aware of the senses prioritising light and colour followed by sound smell taste and touch so reality exists to be broken down intuitively when we encounter only the two dimensional figurative statement of a photograph. Ireland has a complex narrative as does ever inhabitant of it.

Those in the past have questionable histories, so why not confront alternative functions for those times and perceptions, because memories lie and people do also.  Mythology is an art form in Ireland from the pipers lament handed down through millennia to our Newgrange polemic ancestory.  We have an Eros of harmony in our lives which is equated, set alongside, that ancient parallel Greek goddess of discord and the sister of Ares. To the turbulence of the universal rules and reliances we bring construct, more often than not based on simple untruths be it, democracy, loving, civilisation and fellow treatment of all living things. To this is the melee we have to call discord, identified with the Roman goddess Discordia. In Séan Hillen’s work – most notably Irelantis this discordance is highly prevalent. The discordance which Séan Hillen relates to and with in the film is his relatively recent knowledge of his having the Asperger’s condition which has performed a cathartic revalation for him to the extent previously unexplained attributes were held at arms length rather than their current state of becoming part of the reasoned dialogue.

To an artist this must be a great benefit as well as placing a perpetual commitment to the Aldous Huxley type of exploration at the doors of enlightenment. Huxley was taught by his father of the possibilities the mind could extend to.  The Prelude And Præterita of Aldous therefore were built in his DNA along with the affinities the mind constructs.   ‘Seeing’ here is the artwork progressing along those very lines.  Such was the source of the Huxley concepts of cosmic and social order to effect a transformation in Western thinking, a parallel must be held appropriate, in us advancing towards recognition of viewpoints we are yet unable to understand but have a belief they are of such magnitude as to affect our present existence in unknown ways, we are basically staking our whole existence past present and future on that construct being manifest.  Whether it is true – and these art works as well as many other artists works – tend to that possibility – that we are not yet able to see it – it is what allows us the freedom to make such conjectures.  Ireland, Eire has Greek connections to the word Peace the opposite of discord ironically.

There was a palpable stunned silence as the revelatory images became clear and that we were witness to a photomontage which proposed the absurd to not only to be a possibility but had certain other occurrences happened, they could not be dismissed as mere juxtapositions of intangible fluid thought and were reminders how we perceive things alive and active. Advertisements and the land of fictional representation, the apparel label logos, identity symbols and members of the semiotics of visual language. While many are on the parameters of fictional forces there are other ideas and imagery which are disablingly, perplexing and have an inherent, deeply embedded, truth telling ‘voice’, however ‘inconceivable’ they might appear. Our consciousness is at a place where we are incapable of dismissing them, as perceived certitudes divide us and make us what we are. In preparation for God it seems our goal is to seek out beauty in harmony with the universe.  This simple aim is difficult for the human as existence is made all the more confounding by the Bible quotation of God being sorry for making us this way… ‘failing’ you becoming ‘sorry’ in the KJB.

Director Paddy Cahill. Director of Photography Basil Al Rawi. Producer Tal Green.  Duration 10:00

The Irish Film Festa10 asked of Paddy Cahill 3 questions

Why did you choose to make a film about Seán Hillen?

I’ve been a long time admirer of Seán Hillen’s work but it was last year, as I visited him at his home to buy one of his prints as a present, that I knew I wanted to make the film. I wrote to Seán right after asking if I could make a short documentary about him and his work. Seán has an amazing backstory, which should be told in another documentary, but I was really fascinated by his home/studio where he creates his amazing work.
The film is set in a small room:

How did you work in terms of frame composition and editing?

When we filmed it was just myself and Basil Al Rawi, our director of photography, in the house with Seán. It was very important to me that we would be a tiny crew, although not much more would have fit in the room anyway! One rule I tried to keep was that Seán would only talk or answer questions while he was making work. That way it would be less like a traditional documentary interview. I thought that watching Seán work while he spoke would be more interesting to the viewer. This also gave Basil the freedom to get right up to Seán’s shoulder and compose some really beautiful cinematography.

And how long did the shooting take?

Along with producer Tal Green we were planning the filming for quite a while but the actual filming was over the course of one night only. I wanted the audience to have the same feeling we had when we filmed as if they just dropped in one night, to this unusual house on a normal looking terrace street in Dublin and got to watch Seán create one of his works.

More to follow on the Documentary submissions and the above two repeated.
John Graham

15 April 2017

Belfast

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Short season : Belfast Film Festival 2016

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4 sessions of Film Shorts @ QFT Belfast as part of the Belfast Film Festival

There has been a truly great 2016 season of one of the most testing of film making that of what is the short story in film

Film Shorts. Roughly in the order screened.

It is in my view all to to with the story however simple or complex audiences want the sensory experience to be complete by their adding in those absent senses infilling reactively to a cinematic viewing which can be animated, surreal, factual or a fiction historical or contemporary. A story.  The story escapes the screen to be shared.

There are in the first wave some common approaches or location use which seems to be a dominant strand.  The shore and the rugged Irish landscape crop up in several.  Another common element I noticed was a delivery of fourth wall connections.  From dialogue to intermittent apparent logging into engage an audience with facial expression.  Approach and entry too were elongated introductions to a core plot point.  Hands detail etc. lingering atmospheric shots including use of colour and temporary deviation to obtain a visual kick.  Many have a give away, hit me with it title. Here they are.

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1. My Bonnie

Time is precious and to separate, pull apart is like abandoning a past, even declaring it a waste of time.  Some of this comes across to a couple who the film imparts early are a coupe in a crisis.  The male is chasing the escaping female but their having a picnic, metaphor here?  The setting is on a coastline and the place they share temporarily the woman making herself knee deep in the sea and engaging in a ritual cleansing.

The Plot – A middle aged couple adrift and sharing through self absorbed insular reflection an island.  Not John Donne in essence.

What’s right with it – It explores unsentimentally by its visual clues and confronting dialogue a shape of a relationship, it’s complex part loving, part hating and an inability to communicate and placing those emotions in their correct places.

What’s wrong with it – The presence on islands is a correct visual context but it is overdrawn and long shots are not intimate as they come back to close up instead of allowing us to lean into the narrative to ‘hear’ through the words crucial parts of dialogue.  It needed more finessing and dangerous and problematic to film with a great touch of lightness on a seaboard resolutely dark it fashioned out the basic problems of drawing faultlines when one or other chooses to force issues.

Verdict – Good dialogue except point fillers (I’m never sure if it’s coming in or going out) daft if it’s the relationship, pointless if it’s tale of the tide and the odd line.  The actors were very committed and the excercises was very unique if a little tied to its own credentials.  It could have done with dumping some lines and relying on the actors whose own connection was already advanced and on key.

2. Awaydays

This is related but not an attached part of the Stephen Fingleton The Survivalist.  The programme word, The Prepper’ is a ghastly cumbersome and unlikely carry forward of the adult male lead.  Brian Graham. As this introduces the two brothers of the aforesaid main feature as children we are to believe the narrative of the father preparing his sons for a catastrophe. 

The Plot – The sons are weekending in a forest location with their estranged Dad.  He makes it clear they are in for a bit of adventure and instruction and he bullies them into accepting his premis. Unluckily it involves gore and violence.  Mental abuse is also a card he plays.  

What’s right with it – The cinematic film making experience is good.  The acting of the kids is good and realistic. The basic truth of some kind of ‘event’ coming is itself one that is prophetic in many arenas.  Not least the brutally effective The Survivalist which is dealt with in another of my blogs in depth.

What’s wrong with it – The script is hit and miss, the ‘present day’ children mistreatment is implausible.  Firearms included.  The red neck Dad is far too one dimensional which Brian Graham expert skills can’t hide and his contributions tend to be over employed shoutiness.  It dragged and does not have a great title never mind the lagging script. I think it’s the directors first attempt at this dark environmental psychological type of narrative and it would work on a less is more basis.

Verdict – A disappointment on many levels.

3. Insulin 

The Plot – This is after a collapse – the Jared Diamond, Stephen Fingleton territory.  A couple, the woman in a wheelchair in need of continued supply of insulin lives in a lock in pharmacy with her male partner.  No exit to the outside world.  They have callers who exchange food for their diminishing supply of drugs.  A visitor has insulin to trade.  A deal is fixed or is it?

What’s right with it? – This is a short at the junction of very good and brilliant.  The story is unique.  The situation prophetic if unreal in present eyes.  The emotional pull and fabulous close controlled camerawork in a very confined space is nothing short of stupendous in its delivery.  It has an interior light only by a battery powered Prescription sign which was a call of imposition chosen by the brother directors.  It has you gripped and waking for more resolution.

What’s wrong with it? – There is little to fault this film. It length and quick fix delivery is sharp and exacting in detail and emotional heft.  In fact this paragraph is an extension of the previous.

Verdict – Best short Film in this Festival?  See end for a one two three.

4. The Great Wide Open

The Plot – Set on the Glengarrif Co. Cork coastline we met a Granfather living in a boat he is restoring at th bottom of his families garden.  His niece provides the narration and helps to reinstate The Great Wide Open.

What’s right with it?  This is over in ten minutes and has an uncomplicated family story of connections across generations.  It does not produce any surprises and is simply an easy watch. The acting is homely and sweet.

What’s wrong with it?  The story is barely constructed. Painting a boat and putting out to sea has a limited tableau.

Verdict – An excursion which is never moving, merely pedestrian and normal interaction.

5. Prison door.

This did none of the above being a recluse hermit in a prison system refusing to leave his cell.  Familiar tropes of skinny inmate, dirty disheveled surroundings, along Kesh fitted the bill, almost behaved to type.  It avoided being a missed opportunity but was only just cinematically instinctive being able to show the sameness of the environment, the walls stick up photos, and the long corridor as static forms which people entered, left or never moved.  It had a facial closeup nearly fourth wall but out of it I got – never trust a man who wears a hat indoors.

The Plot – A prisoner confines himself to a world of his cell and washroom.

What’s right with it. – It makes a lasting impression of the old Long Kesh and the fact humans lock up humans.

What’s wrong with it. – Slighlty too detached in period as conditions ought to be less dirty in UK jails and the plot is one dimensional.  It contains a bird confined no doubt by the filmaker behind a sheet of glass which doesn’t convince me as the expression of freedom.  A very tiered trope.

Verdict
. Good production neatly and claustrophobic sense of improsonment. Still shots of corridor good green/red reflect the day and control.

6. Death of a Projectionist

This I am sorry to say was a poorly, predictably scripted walk up for the actors involved.  Some mechanics of the reel projection Ian McIhenney portrayed was not exactly a sweat filled angst ridden role.  None of the joy of Cinema Paradiso.  The interior hardly engaged.  The Strand Cinema was utilised but had not much of its unusual decor or ambience entering.  There was a big slab of a dog, an old persons home, a ever asleep wife? made up in bed as if in open coffin mode. Roma Tomelty trying not to stir. Small parts were never a sub-plot even though shorts can do sideline text. It was barely mood altering and had the effect an alkaline-seltzer might have had to the pretend corpse.  The slab dog disappears.  Left at another Sea shore.  Your never ten meters from a screen showing a shot of the Sea here in Ireland.

The Plot. – The local cinema (Strand) projectionist who spends his way time visiting his unconscious wife in a grand health care home and lugs a large dog around.  He meets a change as the cinema staff do of moderisation. Going digital.  It disturbs him and his mental health and he becomes less cheery and sees death around his corner.

What’s right with it. – The fate of a suburb cinema is tested and the reinvigorated picture house shows a hybrid cinema with multi use entertainment mostly, (political meetings not so) with a retro feel.  Well acted though it is cumbersome in places.

What’s wrong with it. – It is a see what it says on the reel tin.  Not enough digging and entry to the reel technical difference. The flash stick USBs shown contain trailers and it is a bit of a memory loss. Also not an acting role for Roma Tomelty who could have been slightly more animated

Verdict – Too safe and slow.

7. Introducing Brian

This was the most loudly engaging film for the audience with one joke to kick off a collapse of a man living his past in a rear lane covered by apprentice graffiti. Standing there for godness knows what reason except it is a colorful backdrop.  Not to hang a scenario on in normal cinema parlance.  More fourth wall, even after the joke turns up.  The personality of Brian is of a mentally disturbed elderly man grabbing in flashback to his past.  More engagement via. Colorful inserts of his past and then.  Well the past is the past and the present round another corner.  The Lawrence Street Workshops are a participant and it is from the Colin Reid stable of music which lifts the mood.  The place itself not on screen except perhaps as portional set?

The Plot. – The homebound pensioner Brian is low on spirit and talks to who or whatever looks back at him including the pigeons and seagulls in the back entry.  He recalls his youthful exuberance and childhood wonders.  His outdoor life is lonesome and carries us on as Brian never gives up hope.

What’s right with it. – The fate of the elderly is to be buried anonymously in neighborhoods of change and separated at times from their loved ones.  It is a bit of a struggle Brian copes with, without vices, drink etc. and has a survivors mould.

What’s wrong with it. – It is a case of mixed successful unsuccessful scenes and too navel gazing at times.  Even Brian doesn’t get and even break.  Only the humour is a lift often.

Verdict – Too low key and dependent on, granted, good laughs, so wobbles often.

8. Mama Hen

This is a film documentary of a side of Belfast which you seldom come across.  Mama Hen is a North Belfast lady who rears birds.  Rhode Island Reds mostly and not often for the cooking pot but for people to keep and obtain their eggs.  Egos are few and this lady leans over her half kitchen door surveying the ones roaming around her yard.  There is one bird in particular who is bonded to this lady as she has no beak (the hen) and relies on her to be fed more than her poor one beak scavenging musters.  Now a plan comes into being which might explain the metal unicorn thing poking out of the forehead of ‘Cornflake’as she’s known. Ye know the Kellogs bird is a model likeness (not) and things, tensions build to this perilous operation.  

The Plot. – Being a homemade documentary it is a tale of live and fowl deeds.

What’s right with it. – Unfortunately chickens are not as dumb as they look and Rhode Island Reds aren’t camera shy.  Cornflake has character a bit like a female Mel Gibson – all strides and panicky trying to hide a soft as putty heart. Cornflake does a Braveheart and pecks away at the dust menacingly yes and attitude beyond the call. She has a survivors mould. The tension – yolk – builds and children wonder after visiting whether they should eat chicken. Maybe they stop at the KFC to think about it.  It is a glorious and multi faceted little tale of endurance.

What’s wrong with it. – The winter times are absent and the hard work of surviving the Belfast of winter probably causes a few fatalities. Nothing really grates in this film and it is user friendly.

Verdict – Isacch Pearlman once while playing; he wore calipers and put them aside to play, broke a string and carried on playing with three.  Asked why he did not stop and repair it and start again he said, ‘I know how much music you can make with what your left with.’  This is a testament to struggle in a little film which you are not expecting life lessons from as great as Pearlmans.

9. The Drive  

The Plot – A woman driving, baby in the baby seat behind, pulls over to talk to the Doctor on her mobile.  After the call and getting out of the car she has a mishap which has her in a panic.

What’s right with it?  – It is a salutary tale of keeping your nerve and not being distracted.  A choice is made with not catastrophic results but it is a bit concerning for a little while.

What’s wrong with it? – If you dislike car journeys and sorting out problems on the move this might be a lesson.  Otherwise it simply a small tale reasonably well told.

Verdict – it may have seemed a good idea at some stage but it shows a woman in a fit of pique and disorientated. Not a film treatment of value or extended thought.

10. Displaced

The Plot – This is a documentary on the displaced in Ireland.  Coming from a variety of nations it firstly bizarrely starts in Germany, and then introduces a comparison with Arabic culture there and here.  Another displaced person is a creative young South African woman with positive attitudes and a varied and wise view of her displaced situation.  A traveller describes his displacement with great effect and it describes partly the reconfigured state.

What’s good about it? – These people offer without motive their view on the word displacement and how it affects them.  Some provide obvious but nearly always overlooked, the differences such as the young South African woman describing brilliantly how in her homeland she could once pick fruit from the trees and that is now gone.  The traveller man is equally illuminating about living in houses after a lifetime of traveling.  A young Irishman worker in London shows us how the Ruislip GAA ground provides a useful backstop and focus for some of the diaspora.  It is very well shot and is an intimate look into the simple needs and large outcomes such connections make.

What’s not to like? – In some ways the variety and interviews are themselves displaced and a cross over happens and recovers later as a sort of resolution.  It pops about too much and a steadier more calm approach would have been more effective and provided a coherent message.  It had a common touch but that would have developed a bit better if for example the young South Africans story had been woven together better.

Verdict – it is a while since such a good diaspora film was available given the new climate ‘after the fall’.  The generosity of spirit and Irish people welcoming and recognizing their own nations movement is part of the message though it could have been much stronger and sometimes the obvious needs to be stated.  It would have been useful to hear it expressed by different nationalities in new words.  Words of the present time.

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11. Doting
The Plot – This is a fairytale Lady from the Sea (non Ibsen) or a search which is made by a young man drawn to a seashore to find his dreamt vision of a beautiful woman.   A fantasy becoming a reality and realised partially.

What’s to like about it? – Probably its ambition at telling a mythical tale with little but the seashore devilish good constrained actress, actor and use of mystery and controlled watery atmosphere. Some very good engaging camerawork.

What’s not to like? – The juddering and poor ‘special effects’ are painterly, affected, but little of visual impact being of old school drama type tools and it takes away from the balletic touches provided by both players.  There are ponderous meaningless shots of entrance, hands, long walk and after found again a following which goes no where.  The opening scene of the marsh grass and entering stranger is sufficient and a good start.

Verdict– A general disappointment given the alluring potential and balletic movements and scenery.

12. Unhappy Endings

The Plot – This is a bizarre barely coherent short story adapted for the screen featuring a writer.  His story as a young man – we encounter him as a aspirant with a tale to tell of finding the best looking woman in the world and .. what could he possibly want?  We meet him again as a grey ponytailed writer with a American accent telling a similar tale to Theresa Russell on great form. Will it end badly?  How else?

What’s to like about it? – Scalanis restaurant has never looked so decadent.  It is faux glamour as is the tale.  A poor Tales of the Unexpected, dressed up with triumphal humping, (over ponderous rear images hard to displace unfortunately – ugh) scattered bedclothes and a bit of unremitting … X Y ++ Z.

What not to like? – It is a hammy story of the aforesaid series type but with technicolour distasteful cockamamie wise guy antics and blatantly misoginist and demeaning.

Verdict – Filler material for a late night obscur TV network with subtitles.  The Spanish are masters of this kind of film and are leagues ahead.

13. Testimony Based on a true story.

The Plot – The legal fight in the Family Court involves in the centre a young girl barely ten years old whose Testimony is setting parents in conflict and making her too a damaged party.

What’s to like about it? – It points up the adversarial construct of a Court system necessarily delving into the core problems at the heart of a family in breakdown.  It points out the centrality – among all the adults – of the core hurt child.  Disowning or telling stories against one or both parents uncertain of the outcomes. The child’s face was full of expression and this was a key focus of direction for the importance to the narrative and the implied consequences.

What’s not to like? –  I found it at times formulaic and some of the answers given by the child were illuminating but it is very invasive not only in reality but as a film project it shows what most know is a badly constructed environment.

Verdict – Intrusive and not dissimilar from a vast range of cases no doubt.

14. Fallen Bird

The Plot – A prisoner make use of his time to create using paints and writing his story through the images.  He is connected therefore to his motivations and his harmed prior life.  This enables his work to become visionary and a recognition of the problems and difficulties that have brought him here.

What’s to like about it? – This is a very mature reflective picture of a prisoner able to combat his depressive and negative feelings through examining his thoughts through art.  His work is inventive and includes the narrative of the fallen bird close to friends but falling.  It also shows in flashback his days or nights out in Temple Bar and in the city with all its potential problems if mixing in bad company.

What’s not to like? – The story is only due to its short profile a snapshot where deeper and more questions arise than this is able to answer.  The past present and future are all pulled into this short with good insightful work but it is self limiting. The prisoner is himself a great example of people having the strength to move on and any damage thankfully he has coped with and drugs or other injuries have not I hope damaged him.  That’s the impression given.

Verdict– A very thoughtful film unearthing a Prisoner of talent previously compromised by a lack of opportunity or lack of educational institutional awareness.  A well made and told story worth showing to other Prisoners I would think as a positive source of hope.

15. The Captors

The Plot – A tiger kidnapping goes horribly wrong.

What’s to like about it? – It packs into a short time span half a dozen or so twists and turns with a cast and direction fully fit and on score.  The settings and construct start out as believable but it courses into mayhem as betrayal after betrayal interweave with gruesome effect.  A good plot worth going along with and well scripted.  Not a masterpiece but I was relied Brian Graham’s character was deep enough to bring that actors skills to the forefront.  He acted with constraint while he mulled over the way out of his predicament. A well shot scene in a bathroom was dificult to shoot but expertly handled.

What’s not to like? – It is a bit of escapist entertainment and though filling all its desires.  It was dark realism but had some unresolved moments. “I’ll go to the police if you play up!”  ?

Verdict – A good film for followers of crime fiction shorts. Not a series or pilot but a one off.  Well executed.

16. Blight 

The Plot – Father Brown this is not.  It involves a young priest sent to perform an Exorcism on an island when summoned.  The child bearing woman at its centre is a manically possessed demon.  Things take several twists unforeseen.

What’s to like about it? – Visually captive and thoroughly atmospheric.  Dense colours and shot in genre stylised way making it enthralling and horrific at the same time. The actors are all well versed in the demands of this drama and it unfolds with a very well controlled pace.  It doesn’t linger or exit scenes too soon.  A bold and brilliant entry to the genre with an original script.

What’s not to like? – Disturbing as it is it petered out towards the end as extra characters turn up and the story comes to its conclusion.  The misty moments in the boat were good but moderately false in appearance.

Verdict – It was a very imaginative take on a spiritual world fixated with demonic unknown enemies visiting the unwary.  It should appeal across many levels, even those not interested in horror or poltergeists etc. and things that have your children ( don’t allow them near it) hiding behind the sofa.  Would give your granny nightmares also.

17. Spacer 

The Plot – A young homeless man berfiends a lost dog and they strike a deal.  Feed me and I’ll help you out of your rut.

What’s to like about it – On Dublin Quays and throughout the city there are far too many ( ones too many ) homeless. This is a story of one who is up against it surviving and a dog turns up.  He gets the name Spacer as (not) they both sleep under the stars.  One is betrayed but needs must.  This is well crafted and makes you think of how little it would take to lift the barriers to a ‘normal’ existence of such selfish regard did not permeate society under the state missives and malfunctioning greed it pays homage to. 

What’s not to like – The canal side life is almost everyday but the separations are not raw enough and the ignorance distance rejection not given abrupt focus.  The 20€ scene is close but pure fantasy and unreal.  The work is put in by all and Dublin is a Fair City but not for some.

Verdict – very decent well scripted and expected film in not easy conditions.  Not hectoring but also slightly twee in its approach. An undoubted clear choice as it is only a short and it gets across a lot of the message. Them and us is us.

18. Recorded Absence

The Plot – Billed as experimental this is confined to a rilict cottage of a bachelor farmers final home.   

What’s to like about it? – This despite the billing is of a simple presently unloved house which is a time capsule memorialising the former occupants life.  Inserts of radio dialogue and the voiceover of a neighbour paint a colour ful tapestry of a life fled in rural Ireland.  It is done with awareness and clear vision and delivers on its small promise.  

What’s not to like? – The cottage is part of a parcel of community disconnected and retreating back to the land it came out of. More imaginative investigation could have uncovered places more far gone or those about to follow an established pattern.  Compare and contrast perhaps with the narrators own home and his equally significant memories and similar ices or otherwise to contemplate modern life. Holding onto a mobile phone talking to dispora for instance.

Verdict – it’s a miniturised world and familiar to many whose own past encloses such memories.  It is possible it may penetrate other ‘jurisdictions’ and provide a small portrait but is slightly limited though beautifully done in its approach.

19. Breathe 

The Plot – The phenomenalily effective actor John Conners appears centrally as an Irosh traveller.  He has a son whose troubled and does not fit in as he has other unusual perceptions of who he is.  It is deeply troubling for those around as hey recognise his inner struggle.  The father comes from a tradition to man up and his peers bring this to the forefront.

What’s to like about it? – This is a taut complex story with some challenging confrontational interactions.  Conners is able to deliver the unfamiliarity with the things presented to him and his struggle to love his son.  It is completely immersive and delivers a story of love and pain on the hinterland of modern society and its reconciliation with itself for difference and the help and understanding to overcome that difference.

What’s not to like? – Absolutely short on any failure of dynamic, courage, complexity and clearly knowledgeable of the pressures of tradition.  The tribal instincts must prevail but do they?

Verdict – Excellent in an educative positive insight.  Proof of love existing all around us.

20. Pockets

The Plot – At a lake on a parkland bench a woman, Mary McAvoy sits observing the water.  Also observing is a young (cynical wit and wise cracker) man whose troubled and separately in his own bad place.  He joins her on the bench in search of a smoke.

What’s to like about it? – The presence of mind to take on problems in a different way and provide a plausible construct woth twists and comedic inserts.  The value of life’s and each person being alone in their travels bring to the fore the John Donne – no ‘man is an island’ philosophy with a modern take.  Like fellow guards on the battlement they dismiss a few interlopers summarily.  It has some great lines.  Why a Cork man would be at Powerscourt, or Blessington or wherever it is located is beyond me but a rebel turns up and his line is “I’ll be leaving Ye at it so.”  Magical and spot on line like a lot before and after.

What’s not to like? – There is no reason to critique this on any level really as it delivers for its modest ambitions. The tourist is awkward though.

Verdict – Another life lesson mode of movie and life affirming despite the subjects and problems at its heart.

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21. The Way Back

The Plot – A woman scientist revisits her past and a loos some twenty years before.  Her anxiety never leaves until an opportunity – scientifically challenging – comes to hand.  Will it resolve her pent up continuing distress?

What to like about it? – It is an ethereal stretch  taking us on a redemptive exploratory journey. As the visual and effective flashbacks and present merge the empyrean steps are posing problems and a resolution is dangerous territory.  The playing is excellent within a confined script.  Would a side issue help?

What’s not to like? – It’s absurdity mostly and locked miniscule premise.  It hard to relate without spoilers but that is not the filmmakers fault, hence the brevity of this retro look at it.  It is timorous and stealthy but not enlivening.

Verdict – A limited look at an event without its resolution in the beginning and without resolution in the present vision.

22. The Boy Murderer

The Plot – In a community coming to terms with child suicide there is a compass of thought closing down on the why and how to come to terms with you gloss and how to prevent it being ‘imitated’.

What’s to like about it? – For unknown reasons I put this film way back in my memory and remember little about it except through referring to my notes.  It is a shocking film which in my view I’ve put away its impact as it is a subject around us if not the outcome delivered here.  It is very well conceived and delivered.  Notes have these elements.                                             Beautifully paced – Implied transference – Dream hallucination – Correct casting – Great script – Well edited – Born wrong – Every segment has a link to the next. Rare. – Consumately handled family encounter wished on no one – Object lesson on care and insight.

What’s not to like? – The central conceit of the reveal. It lowers the films penetrative reach if not an incumbent demeaning approach.

Verdict – Troubling to watch. Untruthful by the plot reveal despite the heft it manages to deliver.  A thinking story.

23. Good Boy

The Plot – Another foreshore another emotional edgy story to encounter. Isolation in a small cottage.Three feet thick walls. A woman lives alone and has a loss which she seeks time to repair the emptyness. A dog again is a bonding agent.

What’s to like about it? – The trusting character is present, their goodness and in contrast the problems of family life, the pressures and perilous relationships which have a problem which neither partner are aware of a solution to.  It is crass of mr to say a dog is a bonding element but as a short it provides a connective link across very different characters and it does it well.  A smart film in several ways.

What’s not to like about it? – The unexplained or lack or proper clues in the beginning are a bit confounding.  The later stages are excellently conveyed but some props are unnecessary story indicators and its conclusion is a happy ending however benign and resolved it fits awkwardly I thought.  It’s me being cynical and too demanding.

Verdict – A well crafted emotionally connecting film well worth seeing. 

24. Hurt

The Plot – Very short date gone pear and apple shaped.

What’s to like about it? – it has a deliver on a short twist and is effective as a beware of your expectations and choices. Has an accomplished feel to it and is unhurried.

What’s not to like? – Plainly creepy.  Unsustainable Tales of the Unexpected type twists. U busy Scalanis restaurant is always busy.  Is this a misoginist dated film?  You decide.  I disliked the fourth wall as it is a formulaic short trope. Effective, needed sometimes but not here.

Verdict -It’s over in a trice.  It’s a roll of the dice and a three and a four making it lucky seven.  Things like that just don’t happen.

25. The Hiding

The Plot – A story of implausible loss and unconsiable retreat from reality.  Damaged parties all round.

What’s to like about it? – There is a warm feeling at the beginning and we are taken on a peregrination to interior of grief and landscape.  Very provoking although barely believable or sustainable. 

What’s not to like? – There is no relief in this grim story.  The actors do make it plausible but it is dark and indulgent of a weak story. 
Verdict – my review is short as it tries not to reveal anything other than it is a story of grief and unrelenting sorrow.

26. Doting

The Plot – Balancing new life with old and a wake at which reconnection happens is a struggle across the generations.

What’s to like about it? – This is a good idea for contrasting ages, times modern and old.  The family allows a division through generations. Each belonging in a section of siblings, parents, grandparent mode.  Therefore the disjunction is more evident. The flow of this is very neat and pace deftly handled as are most of the technical issues.

What’s not to like? – It sounds like an overdub is in use and little atmospheric addition is employed. This is a major role distraction for me as it is distracting as it may be for most expecting ‘realism’ or a construct to justify it. Some cuts are also poor but this is only my view.

Verdict – A good film slightly spoiled by the cooking and small things hurt the bigger picture. It’s unfortunate but only part of the process of learning crafting story in difficult circumstances.

27. The Current

The Plot – A buddy movie with local identity and usual compromises and choices.  It’s all about what life has for a catch on the end of your fishing line.

What to like about this? – The acting and entry to this film is convincing and assured. Despite some not so buddy inflicted dialogue it moves along quickly delivering plenty to digest.  The story unfolds and the opposite male viewpoints collide and draw out universal things.  The comfort and friendship outside of home both male and female are strands of everyday life.  The escapism shared and explored is there. There 

What’s not to like? – Some of the tests each gives the other are a bit contrived and unconvincing.  The film may even been a bit better if certain things were left out and the audience making their own construct on things.  It’s extremely difficult to master that in the art of the short film but this is close to achieving it making that annoying.  An annoying if only. There are interpretations of it having a homoerotic aspect but that is not the intention is took from it.

Verdict – A generally good and fairly unique take on the way people, men and women depend on friends outside the stronger relationship of partnership and marriage to give them and their friends perspective on things. It is a necessary outside assistance enabling countless people hold onto things.  So I see it beyond the easy tag of homoerotic given it plays across the sexes in its accomplished insightful story.

28. Leave

The Plot – Ireland has visited upon it in many a county and town seemingly inexplicable murder and crime not known up to say the eighties.  The consequences on communities is horrendous and bring up children in these environments are constantly a battle with resources. This is a crime completely unexpected in its source and outcome.

What’s to like about it? – The moody slow pace of rural life is as quiet as a sheep on Sunday.  The depiction of a community shop and passers through is gently handled.  The people within it entirely believable.  About 3/4 stories interweave eloquently and to deliver a tragic twist with many unexpected, some in flashback, neat touch well chosen, to a conclusion which is full on.

What’s not to like? – Probably little as I have little concept of life in rural Ireland but am aware of its connection to similar places all across the island in incidences of crime.

Verdict – An imaginative compelling story deftly delivered not lacking in skills in any area.

29. Today

The Plot – The multi faceted superbly adept at understatement John Connor turns up in a car awakening there in a Connemara landscape.  His phone on mute.  Why is he ther?  It becomes clear very quickly and he is facing a new reality. It is one he must face up to and help comes to hand.

What’s to like about it? – For a story opening in a bleak landscape and us not full of expectations it takes us on a very deep emotional journey and into the male fragilities faced in modern Ireland.  Into the immediate clarity comes assistance and another very fine actor gives an awesome performance as if he was born into his character. Lalor Roody at his finest.  I would say this is the besting he’s got his hands on in years.  Their exchange is full of unsaid so and knowing glances.  It is a brilliant deliver of simple connection with masterly delicacy and finely tuned, courtesy of the real cinematic nucleus of Irish identity in film as light and vigorous in intention throughout. 

What’s nor to like? – Far from having faults it shines as beacon for Irish film making of any generation.

Verdict – Just as fine a short as your ever likely to see.

30. Cruelty  based on a short story by Anna Blanford

The Plot – A young couple having a heart to heart walking at night by the canalside come across an badly injured dog.  It becomes a test of will and then they have their own problems to sort out.  Staying or parting?

What’s to like about it? – The titles! Excellent.  The fact they have the foresight to use a short story they like, even though I disliked it, it shows they visually imagined it in its entirety before pursuing it.  It looks good and is handled well in its problematic night setting.  No stretching things for the medium. It just flows and tells a story of commitment.

What’s not to like? – Unfortunately the trope includes another dog! Can we have an endangered swan neck in a splint! Savage and manic while getting help! Then the black swan white swan love story interwoven? Or something like that instead of a soppy (not so soppy here) dog story.

Verdict – A tight story with good pace and twists which continue and show ability to handle very different environments without making thenm appear disconnected.  So,Erinyes that’s needed but they have an awareness here what is required.

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31. The Mountain 

The Plot – The sense of a Mountain controlling your life is the premise in that it, in your growing up must be acknowledged as nature being a form of protection.  You need to respect the spirits of the mountain and the boy growing up encounters through his grandfather stories, his Doctors warning about health a consolidation of self and identity.

What’s to like about it? – For a 10 min film to tackle and deliver a message of a complex spiritual existence which touchs people at some point in their lives has to be something of a miracle and I have to say it delivers though I didn’t realize this at the time of watching it as critical nerves were set to absorption rather than the spaces in films where you can do nothing but set the dial to ‘is this effective, affecting?’. So that’s an unusual thing in itself I hope others experience.

What’s not to like? – Given the scope the domestic parts are only just on the edge of parity with the outer world.  They lack an atmosphere regardless of the fine chaacterisatoons of all the actors.  I can’t suggest those particular points but they might be found if the director takes another look at that lack of link.  Maybe I’m totally wrong.

Verdict – An excellent wide scoping film bigger than the sum of its parts.  Excellently cut, slightly wrasping sound, unnecessary cadences in them used, good song though The Emerald Armada played. A very good film and all round perfect expression of the form.

32. Dust

The Plot – This is a story of abortion with the ex only learning afterwards, the young couple apart might reconcile.

What’s to like about it? – Able to convey young people struggling with choices and their relationships this is a hard film to get across the mixed tangeledemotions in such a short timescale. With workshopped and some improvisation it comes with no easy answers and has hits of current themes and questions who has the right to decide except the parent(s) of a potential life.

What’s not to like? – There is nothing to disregard or have you reject as the subjects are themselves experimental fictionalised for those involved in the making of it and they carry of the subject with commitment.

Verdict – See it for what it is. A question outside everyone’s reach except those at the centre.

33. Brenda

The Plot – A young woman addicted to heroin has a daughter who she tries to keep way from her dark world by the thinnest of viels.  Brenda the daughter is the central focus as the observer of this tragic circumstance? Methadone is used and the streets and lanes of Dublin traversed for failed connections and fellow users.

What’s to like about it? – It’s the fact a story is realised which is acutely realistic and opens eyes to the damage of compartmentisastion of users whose manner of dealing with their addictions and the circumstances they have to live in, some destitute, without a home, dependent on charity and fringe stretched charity instead of welfare centre and health access of the road to recovery absent.  It is a mastery piece of depicting addiction through the device of an innocent, perpetually challenged young child.  All handling their roles superbly.

What’s not to like? – Some of the lane shots and side talk is loose and underdeveloped or awkward.  The cuts between scenes need not have the gap they have. All is plainly minor.

Verdict – Who are we to judge is one clear message.  There are several and foremost is the presence if we could but see it, it were not treated as a them and us, the state is looking after it attitudes which would take little to alter were we big enough to demand it.  “Because their sick and your not?”  Instead of playing to the manipulating governance making issues out of water and borders.

34. Orchard Road

The Plot – There appears to be a world shortage of apples.  There also appears to be an insatiable appetite for apples in a young boy who loves nature and has an indulgent loving Dad, no problem there, who has a mischievous mate.  There is one in every Ulster street or townland.

What’s to like about this? – The crew of two responsible for this are a very young pair, completely adept at story telling.  The writer, Olaf I’ll call him, didn’t catch his name has constructed in the Ulster landscape a universal little comedic and satirical sweep of benign friendly folk in a place facing possible shortages.  Made comic the delivery is astuteLy shot and the writing wonderfully acute given its from an outsider it captures Ulster folk and their humour very well.  On top of that is a director Ida-Maria Olva who has a neat hand and excellent eye.  The Knockagh Monument appears in an early shot, (early shots in a 7 min film!) as a dynamic signature geometry of the frame, and deftly throughout, nature is absorbed close and from a distance as well as in transit in the jallopy of a car; I can say that because it’s old enough to have a cassette player.

What’s not to like? – Apart from a cod sign on a community farm there’s nothing else.

Verdict – This is likely to herald deeper more affirmative serious work from a pair of young old hands and it was a very pleasurable watch given it caught our zeitgeist pretty well, just for one thing of many attributes it discovered. I was also envious of their excellent original titles giving it a great closing look.  How did they manage it!  More power to them.

35. Violet    an animation.

The Plot – In a fairytale setting of high refined costumer you and period palaces a bit of the Hogwarts fee scale we meet a girl growing up afraid and dismayed at her reflection with all the surrounding opulence a fiendish countervailing goal.

What’s to like about it? – Around the meter of a poem excellently orated by Aiden Gillen an amazing delightfully, vivacious, flouncy, elaborately decorative story of the societal contest of finery, used historically as an expression of wealth and the lack of a need to dress for mundane tasks of labour conflict with this young girls perception of herself.  It is a brilliantly executed piece of observational filmaking bigger through its poetic sensibility and deft weave.

What’s not to like? – it could hardly be faulted with no false notes.

Verdict – This standard of animation takes on the big moguls with their assured graceful approach and not reruns of familiar tropes and already visited stories.  Much for children and adults to enjoy in an assured fairytale.

36A Sign

The Plot – Une Signe Un Gest. Holy worship is a struggle for a woman at a bewildering point in her life.  She is an aging prostitute whose life has been ever this.  The streets of Paris at night are a harsh unsentimental apparently Godless place. Rosaline then becomes a muse of a kind for a special type of artist who she literally stumbles across as he tends his basement steps in the dark.  He dances to a different tune to the rest of the lonely punters. 

What’s to like about it? – This film of 18 mins duration is allowed to develop and for us to discover its heart.  The contrasts of her co-workers ways of shutting out their reality is given a brio and a polish through coarse street dialogue.  The ‘punters’ are feared and befriended in a sentence or two with the potential charge of violence ever on the screen. From this is the message of discomfort, routine, abuse, marginalization, fractured existence, loneliness in company and survival. With hope a sign is needed.  Will she be let into the world without healing without God? Will she listen to noises off?
What’s not to like? – the period it’s set is unclear but maybe that’s a concious decision as the dress, the clarity and flow of the story does not need, in fact probably benefits from some suspension of the realism a ‘period’ signature might dispose.

Verdict – Not an easy or comfortable film and it has undercurrents requiring the attention it may not receive in casual viewing.  Well worth seeing several times a it has without doubt many layers and shifting ideas.

37. Children and Animals

The Plot – Set in a film school workshop the Course Ttor has invited a young, ‘name’ actor to shake up his class and learn about the art of the professional participant with certain unique perspective. They meet something more than they are asked to take inspiration from. The title will resonate soon enough.  Might have been Don’t trust Actors.

What’s to like about it? – Martin Lynch, local playwright (so rich he had a record player Ibrahim his bedroom in late sixties/seventies) said there’s no such thing as black comedy.  I agree as a recent poem of mine contended. So this is about a bonkers unhinged actor playing a knowing tutor when he hasn’t a clue about himself or anything else.  Putting himself (the actor) in this role takes a bit of nerve.  The young Wicklow Film School class take all as instantly dismiss able and the hydraulics of this film are racked up with blistering wit and skill by the pupils.

What’s not to like? – It is a film with many types of approach in it.  ‘Reality’ interviews, harassed script writer, fourth wall confessions, moderate scene play and a mixture of all things.  Ireland’s got Talent feel.  Wildlings Ahead warning. A bit David Brent likey likey.

Verdict – Despite some hiccups and being,all things, all knowing, not meant to be funny shtick,  it travels well entertaining all through. 

38. Afterwards   B/W

The Plot – Kevin is a time nourished young drifter round the modern movingIrish town he is still attached to.  He has escape routes but they are pharmaceutical, sexual, impulse driven.  He has a mass of ideas and is troubled into reflection as awareness is about the what next?  The teenager questions, the young adult questions arising as What happens next? The time referred to as Afterwards.  About escaping the experience and wanting to graft onto another.

What’s to like about it? – It is a good story well crafted and ideal territory for a short film.  It doesn’t do big things on the surface but has the heft to project them through very good acting in believable situations.  The belief comes from the truism of the journeys between slow interludes themselves incident and not asides. A functional almost dystopian vision. Good promising work.

What’s not to like? -Some characterisations are stereotypical.  The places are at times underused and dialogue though sparse enough had the promise of more even though it was visceral and coherent.  

Verdict – The confidence to shoot it as black and white making it require you to listen (the soundscape wasn’t adventurous enough) while the contrasts are cinematic and atmospheric as the techniques promise and deliver.

39. Love is a Sting

The Plot – This is literally a headhop containing a malignant lonesome needy mosquito.  It arrives in through an open attic window of a reclusive writer artist with a degree of creative block.  A bearded youthful thirty something his life is of being a recluse never interacting striving to arrive at the solution to all things and bypassing his extensive Dublin lofty library; it seems to gather dust he is uninspired now interuppted.  Only the mosquito is animated and its quest is not to swept away.

What’s to like about it? – Set as an hors d’oeuvre or a main course of finale this story hangs together as a narrated by Ciaran Hinds feeling this tale of one of Dublins finest unknowns, Harold Finch.  It is an attic of careworn studious mark previously occupied by a procession of artists.  The scene is replete with invective as Ciaran Hinds delivers acid drops of the needy insects desires contrasting them with the unwitting and unconcerned emotional balance of Harold lack of muse mainly due to the prevailing disconnect he inhabits and love never abjures. Very finely crafted and engaging throughout.

What’s not to like? – Sometimes repetitive, a tad solemn despite the splendidly into aged textural expressive narration the contrast occurs of too much ‘normalcy’ and a buzzing insect can only do so much.  Despite that it carries through without hesitation.  So I’ve just contradicted myself!

Verdict – A well developed beautifully choregraphed surreal tale with a cross over of animation and real film dynamics it’s hard to tell, never a problem what’s CGI what’s animation and what’s filmed in loco is subltely blended.vSpeaks of the breadth of skills employed and giving us a thoroughly intelligently handled screen entertainment. 
That’s about it.  My views are not nailed on views and relate to one viewing in a stream of screenings so if your not mentioned, (Directors Writers Actors and Funders, Supporters are not listed as they can be found following the belfastfilmfestival.com own links and other avenues) it does not mean you were not brilliant.  The whole act of making a short is awesome in itself and you should be encouraged to do more or if you haven’t done one try and you’ll find out perhaps something magical may happen.  I was truly thankful and appreciative of seeing these and good luck with your future film making and viewing.

My favorite films  were as follows –

1. Insulin (no. 3)

2. Today (no. 29)

3. Breathe (no. 19)

Others to commend are Pockets (no. 20) Mama Hen (no. 8) The Current (no. 27) and obviously more that could be added.
John Graham

1 May 2016     ‘Up the Workers!’ ‘Keep Left!’

Belfast