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GLOW

Netflix Glow posterNetflix latest hit ‘own brand’ series is something of an odd fish. While their Marvel series and Better Call Saul obviously come from established franchises and others are fairly solidly angled genre pieces, GLOW seems to throw things together and hope something entertaining comes out the other end and, to a degree, it does.

Based on the story of the mid 1980s GLOW: Gorgeous Ladies Of Wrestling promotion/show it presents a fictionalised version of the lead up to their first television taping from initial auditions to broadcast, similar to the documentary GLOW: The Story Of The Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling (also currently available on Netflix in the UK).

To make it into a drama the series focuses on one of the ladies, the apparently totally fictional Ruth (Alison Brie) a struggling actress in LA who stumbles into the wrestling show. Around her are the cast of wrestlers-to-be (including her former best friend, Betty Gilpin as Debbie) and the producer and director duo of Bash (Chris Lowell) and Sam (Marc Maron), the latter of whom becomes a kind of second lead.

To make this work the main thread of the story takes on a soap opera style, possibly also in a kind of reference to soap opera-like nature of wrestling storylines, which for me is a slightly odd construct but it works for the most part to keeps things rolling along in its half hour per show format.

GLOW - Alison Brie

Alison Brie as Ruth

Along with this though two other aspects collide in a way that makes it often a little on the unbalanced side.

The first, that certainly runs throughout, is the comedic side provided by Maron.

At its best this leads to some genuinely funny moments at which points Maron’s dry delivery is wonderful, but elsewhere it feels a little too much like he is hijacking proceedings with a very different style to the rest of the show, either way he is one of the highlights.

At the other end of the spectrum there are a few moments where the story gets a bit too serious which jars with the otherwise lighthearted tone, this particularly comes with an accidental pregnancy and abortion plot line that just doesn’t sit quite right and feels just dropped in to make up time.

Aside from this it is, for the most past, a light and colourful show a little like the one it is telling the story of (though with a far higher budget).

GLOW - Marc Maron

Marc Maron as Sam

Of course as a fan of wrestling there’s one crucial aspect that would make or break the show for me and that is its depiction of what NJPW calls ‘The King Of Sports’ (I know…). Thankfully in this it does a great job.

From the start its clear things are going in the right direction as not only does Johnny Mundo (aka John Morrison aka John Hennigan) appear as a wrestling coach but one of the regular cast is played by the artist formerly known as Kharma in WWE or Awesome/Amazing Kong elsewhere, Kia Stevens (and in a nice touch the gym is named ‘Chavo’s’ in tribute to that famed member of the Guererro family some of whom were involved with the original GLOW training).

GLOW cast

The GLOW girls

As the show goes on more pro-wrestlers cameo, notably Carlito Colon and the artist formerly known as Brodus Clay in WWE, and at no point is the actual in ring work made a joke of with a reasonable nod given to the effort required given the broader context of the show and these ladies pull off some moves that would never have been seen in the mid-80s outside of Lucha Libre.

With the series culminating, as one might expect for such a show, with an apparently triumphant first screening, GLOW is far from a classic but there’s enough to enjoy in a lighthearted guilty pleasure kind of way, particularly with its nostalgia heavy 80s soundtrack and style, and, while I’m not sure how much fuel there is for a second series, I wouldn’t be disappointed to see it go on.

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Everybody Wants Some!!

Everybody Wants Some!! posterBack in 1993 Richard Linklater took a trip back to the world of his youth with Dazed and Confused, throwing the audience headlong into the world of a Texan high school in the mid-1970s and all the typical comings and goings that went along with it, delivered by an ensemble cast of relative unknowns.

Now, 23 years later, he’s taken us back to first days of college life in Texas in September 1980 with Everybody Wants Some!! a film that is, in almost every sense, a sequel to his earlier work.

The film opens on freshman Jake pulling up at his ‘new’ residence with The Knack’s My Sharona blasting from his stereo and, as he meets his new housemates/teammates, we are again thrown into this nostalgia drenched world of pure Americana.

Jake and his new friends are all baseball players, the stars of the college campus, and the plot, what there is of it, charts the freshman’s journey through the three days leading up to the new term. It’s a whirlwind of clichés from parties, discos and bars to one night stands, stoner philosophy and chance romantic encounters hinting at something deeper we’ve come to expect form American college comedy.

Everybody Wants Some - Jake (centre) with the team on a night out

Jake (centre) with the team on a night out

What sets it apart though is that, despite the cliché and stereotypes, Linklater and his young cast imbue the whole thing with a sense of reality and heart.

This isn’t American Pie, where it’s all slapstick and humour for the sake of it, but something more, with a sense that behind the ‘let the good times roll’ mentality, there is substance.

As the film goes on we see hints of the raw competitive nature present in this crowd of ‘jocks’ while the stoner philosophy gives way to something of an exploration of male youth identity.

Like its predecessor though what makes the film so enjoyable is that it never dwells on these subjects, it simply hints and suggests putting the idea in the viewers head before getting caught up in the next party, making it a perfect thumbnail sketch of youthfully exuberant college life.

Freshman hazing

Hazing the freshmen

Though I will admit there were a few moments earlier on where I thought it might go a bit too ‘laddish’ to use a more British expression – thankfully it never quite did.

The main cast, led by Blake Jenner as Jake, are all excellent and there is a real sense that we are watching a team, with the new freshmen being ‘guided’ by experienced sophomores into this exciting new world of not-quite-adulthood and damn any real consequences.

This seems to be something Linklater is particularly good at bringing out of his actors as while there is a nominal lead, the whole group are essential to the film and the team feeling comes across as part of both the actors and characters.

Everybody Wants SomeHighlights amongst them other than Jenner’s everyman are Glen Powell as Finn, a character in some ways akin to Matthew McConaughey’s Wooderson in Dazed and Confused, and the almost surreal Jay Niles played by Juston Street who is a sight to behold.

You’ll notice the lack of female characters here and it is very true to say the film comes entirely from an alpha-male perspective but that is the story it is telling and the world it is set in so, for the most part, this didn’t bother me as much as I initially thought it might.

Certainly in some senses Everybody Wants Some!! is pretty superficial and it never quite hits the highs of Dazed and Confused for capturing something of a truly universal spirit.

Everybody Wants Some - Jake and Finn

Jake and Finn

Throughout though it is in turns genuine, funny and thought-provoking in a way few films manage to balance and all set to a great example of a mixtape soundtrack that spans everything from Cheap Trick and The Sugarhill Gang to Devo and Stiff Little Fingers before ending on a note that genuinely had me asking what happens for this team next or is this where the real world starts to catch up?

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Channel Islands Pride Movie Nights – 52 Tuesdays and Cabaret

Fermain Valley cinema

The Fermain Valley cinema

Following the previous Saturday’s parade through St. Peter port, Channel Islands Pride week continued in Guernsey as Liberate staged a pair of film screenings of two rather different movies that’s fall under the ‘LGBTQ cinema’ banner, 52 Tuesdays and Cabaret, at The Fermain Valley Hotel’s small but well appointment private cinema (an ideal location for these kind of events).

The two films fall into very different areas of the ‘LGBTQ cinema’ canon but, in their own ways both tackle a host of issues while also having a far broader appeal than that specific cinematic niche may often thought to have.

52 Tuesdays is an Australian indie drama from director/co-writer Sophie Hyde, that tells the story of a teenage girl (Billie, played by Tilda Cobham-Hervey) going through many of the usual coming of age rigmarole seen elsewhere with the addition of her mother (James, formerly Jane, played by Del Herbert-Jane) is taking the first steps of transition.

52 Tuesdays posterOn paper this sounds like it could be a fairly heavy-handed conceit but, with the films largely verite-ish style it all just becomes part of the ebb and flow of Billie’s young, often confusing, life – though it’s interesting to note that the transition isn’t portrayed as the most confusing aspect of this experience.

The title of the film stems from the fact that Billie and James meet weekly on Tuesday evenings and the construction of the film follows this showing us (mostly) only what happens on these Tuesday evenings.

This gives the viewer the chance to see, and the filmmakers a chance to show, aspects of James’ transition over the course of a year rather than a more compact period so it allows exposure to many more ‘day to day’ aspects than I had previously seen depicted, and it never suggests that this snapshot of a year is the complete process.

Along with this we get Billie’s transition into young adulthood and the two are juxtaposed and played off each other very well, even if Billie’s side of the story occasionally has the whiff of soap opera. This is counteracted by the style of the production and the performances which never feel anything less than real.

52 Tuesdays - James and Billie

James and Billie

While not perfect 52 Tuesdays is an energetic and engrossing real life drama that largely steers clear of the stereotypical tropes of soap it could easily veer into and highlights the disconnect between the reality of these situations and that usually depicted through mainstream media while also highlighting the issues faced by those transitioning in a way that isn’t like watching an educational film.

The addition of the coming of age storyline then gives the film an added accessibility away from what might be perceived as a niche, one note, ‘issue’ film, making for something that I couldn’t help but feel could connect with a wider audience if they were just given the chance.

Cabaret movie posterFrom low-budget indie drama to a mainstream award-winning film regularly cited as a classic but still falling firmly into the LGBTQ cinematic canon, Bob Fosse’s startling and unique musical, Cabaret.

Set in the dying days of Weimar-era Berlin it follows English student Brian Roberts (Michael York) on his journey into the city’s hedonistic nightlife led by cabaret performer Sally Bowles (Liza, with a Z, Minnelli).

From the off the style is almost entirely in contrast to 52 Tuesdays as Fosse uses what, at first, feel like almost Brechtian verfremdungseffekt alienation techniques by situating all the music with the Kit Kat Club cabaret, almost commenting on the surrounding action. Here Joel Grey as the master of ceremonies (often referee to as ‘Emmcee’) provides a standout performance at once welcoming and sinister as the story progresses and we get scenes of chaotic decadence juxtaposed with the brutal rise of the Nazi party.

Running alongside the cabaret scenes we get the story of Brian and Sally’s apparent affair which is, for the most part more naturalistic – although the presence of a lot of soft focus keeps it at something of a distance.

Cabaret - Max, Brian and Sally

Max, Brian and Sally

It’s here a more open side of LGBTQ representation and general sexuality appears, away from the potentially seedy and heightened world of the cabaret club, as Brian at first appears to be gay, then later bi or pan, while he and Sally enjoy an explicitly polyamorous affair with playboy baron Maximilian von Heune (Helmut Griem).

Even today this is dealt with in surprisingly straight forward fashion and it’s no surprise this raised more than eyebrows in the early 1970s, though equally it is all a bit idealised in its way.

More shocking now is the depiction of the rise of nazism in Germany with racial abuse, violence and a clear depiction of the kind of creeping nastiness that I can’t help but see reflected in the world today. This is brilliantly portrayed in a scene at a very typical looking country fair type event as the crowd join in with a youthful, blonde haired Nazi in singing a song dedicated to the fatherland.

Cabaret - Joel Grey

The Master of Ceremonies

The culmination of what feels like three nearly independent threads comes in surprisingly melancholic fashion for a big musical with Sally drawn back into the world of the cabaret but with the decadent Weimar audience replaced with brown shirts with red armbands as Brian returns to England.

This leads to an ambiguous feeling of the end of innocence pervading Sally’s haunted delivery of ‘Cabaret’ before the credits roll in silence and we ponder what we all know came next.

As a double bill to show as part of Channel Islands Pride Week 52 Tuesdays and Cabaret were interesting choices but ones that spanned a surprising breadth of LGBTQ issues and experience in their own way and I couldn’t help but think it would be great to make screenings like this a more regular part of Liberate’s work, although the question of how to encourage more than just an already familiar audience into the cinema would be the biggest issue.

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Silver Linings Playbook

Silver Linings Playbook PosterI approached David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook at the recommendation of a friend and, coming into it, I had very little expectation beyond what I’d remembered hearing around the time of its release which, in my mind, had made it sound like a fairly run-of-the-mill romantic comedy – thankfully that assumption proved mostly wrong.

Certainly the film includes ‘romance’ and it does have its comedy elements, however it does this in a context of what I’d call a ‘comedy drama’ if that phrase didn’t conjure images of Sunday evening TV as much as it does.

The story follows Bradley Cooper’s Pat and picks things up as his mother arrives to collect him from a ‘mental health facility’ where, it transpires, he’s been undergoing treatment for bi-polar disorder.

From there it deals with his return to his parents house, the reactions of himself, his friends, family and neighbours to his release and the situation that led to his being incarcerated in the first place. Following this we see development of a new relationship between Pat and Jennifer Lawrence’s Tiffany which occurs in a way that is a good solid twist on the conventions of the Hollywood ‘rom-com’.

Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence in Silver Linings Playbook

Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence

The main thing that Silver Linings Playbook focusses on is the relatively taboo issue of metal health (though why it’s as taboo as it is remains largely inexplicable and with films like this that is changing).

While many films might labour this point and become a bit ‘worthy’ what David O. Russell’s work does is simply incorporate them into the story and it deals with them in a rather refreshingly honest and seemingly realistic way – though there are a few melodramatic moments, but that is part of it being a movie.

The plot too has its share of melodrama, especially in its climactic scenes which do feel a bit contrived in places (particularly as relates to the story around the bets made by Pat’s father), but again this is largely forgivable within the film’s wider context.

What really roots the film are the performances which are as open and honest as I’ve seen when dealing with these issues. Cooper and Lawrence do the main part of the work and are entirely believable throughout leading to as many moments of humour as sheer discomfort, and everything in between, which seems to excellently sum up what they are dealing with.

Robert De Niro and Jacki Weaver in Silver Linings Playbook

Robert De Niro and Jacki Weaver

Meanwhile Robert De Niro turns what could have been something very one note, in the role of Pat’s father, into something more with an extra layer that helps elevate the character and expose another sub-thread to Pat’s story (though he has a few Meet The Parents moments thrown in too). This comes both from the script and his performance but in the wrong hands it could have been very ham-fistedly delivered.

With an underlying message that mental health should be worked with, rather than explicitly ‘cured’, Silver Linings Playbook manages to offer a different perspective on its subject to most mainstream fare, while remaining firmly within the context of a Hollywood style film and certainly presents a lot to think about in the context of a genuinely entertaining and engaging situation comedy.

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Hitchcock

Hitchcock posterThe story of the making of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho is one that has been debated and retold in various forms time and time again, but one account seems to have become the definitive – Stephen Rebello’s Alfred Hitchcock and The Making of Psycho – and it is on this that Hitchcock is based.

I first encountered Rebello’s book while studying Psycho as part of my media studies course so when I heard it was the basis of a dramatic movie about the time in ‘the master of suspense’s’ life I thought it was an odd choice, but, it turns out there really is a great story to tell in there.

Taking us through both the personal and professional trials and tribulations of Hitch’s life, circa 1959 and ‘60, we see the relationship between the director and his wife as well as the relationship between him and his film (and its source material) and him and his leading ladies (both past and present).

We also get to find out more than I expected about Alma Reville, Hitch’s wife, almost so much that the film could have been called “The Hitchcocks”.

Anthony Hopkins in HitchcockAlong with the personal side we also get a glimpse into the making of the movie including many of the well-known little moments such as the filming of the shower scene and Mrs Bates’ surprise appearance in Janet Leigh’s dressing room.

All that comes within Hitchcock’s 98 minute run time which leads me to what I think is the main issue with the film – it tries to pack too much in to really make anyone of them deep enough to totally engage.

scarlett johansson in HitchcockWhat this left me feeling was that this is a film with a great story but really in search of a script that has a purpose. A striking aspect of Hitchcock is how it attempts to paint a duality within the director’s character, but even this feels underdeveloped, particularly when its inviting comparison to the similar motif in Psycho.

As well as being somewhat thematically imbalanced the script also features some occasionally very off dialogue, as it seems to try to fit in some of the famous quotes that were supposedly uttered on and around the set, but often to the expense of sense and at other times it seems the characters are simply talking in cliché.

Helen MirrenOk, so far, this hasn’t sounded like a good review, but, actually I did come out of the cinema with a smile on my face and I had enjoyed it and this was largely down to the performances and a few clever elements of the direction (specifically the visual links drawn between Hitch’s well known TV personality and the Ed Gein source of Psycho).

Anthony Hopkins makes an interesting caricature version of Alfred Hitchcock that seems to channel his take on Hannibal Lector through a less psychopathic filter and add in a bit more of the humour of Hitch which Hopkins nails, particularly as we watch him at the Psycho premiere.

Helen Mirren also puts in a great performance as Alma, despite some ropey dialogue, and translates 90% of her characters arc with her actions and emotions, rather than the dialogue, which really serves to show her skill as an actor – not that it was ever in doubt – but it’s really highlighted here.

James D'Arcy as Anthony PerkinsThe other characters are generally fairly lightly painted but James D’Arcy’s Anthony Perkins is an excellent imitation and similarly Scarlett Johansen seems to channel Janet Leigh, as much as we get to know of them here anyway.

In the end Hitchcock succeeds despite itself, thanks largely to its cast and, while I found it interesting, I did wonder if it would have been as interesting to someone with less of an interest in film, and specifically Psycho, and as a whole, it didn’t really seem to know what it was trying to say about either the man or the film he was making.

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Life Of Pi

life of pi posterDespite everything in the media and the fact that its an adaptation of a famous novel I headed into Life Of Pi with little fore-knowledge of what I was about to watch – beyond the fact it featured a boy, a boat and a Bengal tiger – and I am very glad I had few expectations going in.

What I got from the film was a story that was, at once, epic yet personal and really delved into the heart of humanity in a way I’ve not seen in a major motion picture in a long time, if ever, while also being visually stunning and having all the excitement of any big movie.

The main thing that struck me, and frankly effected me quite deeply, about Life Of Pi was its story and the issues it raises.

Life of Pi follows the life of a boy from French-India on an extraordinary journey from his home in India to Canada following the closure of his family’s zoo.

life of piIn his young life in India, Pi explores various religions, starting with Hinduism before moving onto Catholicism and Islam. This sets up a theme for the film that I think is one of its most integral messages; that faith is something to be explored and discovered and that all faith is a very personal thing – there’s a whole essay to be written on this subject and its representation in the film to be honest, but I’ll leave it at that for now.

What also happens as the film moves on that struck me, particularly in the medium of the major ‘family film’, is the exploration of true animalism.

life of pi 2For a majority of the movie Pi is adrift in a lifeboat with some of the zoo’s animals and we see a real animalistic side of them which, while shot in a stunningly un-bloody way, still gets across the danger of these beasts which is certainly against the image usually presented in family films.

As the film progresses we, along with Pi, are left to make a choice and here another theme arises to do with the nature of storytelling, but to say too much about this would only lead to spoilers, but really was an interesting twist.

Visually the film is absolutely stunning and, along with Dredd, are the only films I’ve thought might be worth seeing in 3D.

Life of Pi 3The most striking thing was the way the film marries the realism of the animals and the ocean landscapes with a heightened visual sense integral to the story as it develops.

Through a mix of real and computer generated effects we get a very real sense of the fear and danger of being trapped with a Bengal tiger but we also get to experience the wonder of flying fish, dolphins and a blue whale.

Really though, despite the films amazing visuals, it was the story and the experience of Pi and the message he transmits that really got to me and made this film what it is as it explores elemental facets of human nature combined with issues of faith and reason in a way usually absent from the mainstream.

Now I just feel like I need to find my own Richard Parker…

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Sarnia Shorts – Day 2: Winners, UK Fiction and mixed entries

For the second full day of the inaugural Sarnia Shorts film festival I saw 33 films spanning pretty much every genre going including a screening of all the festival winners.

Sarnia Shorts 2012 came to a close on real high point with a showcase of all the winners of the weekend, rounded off by Best Film Matar A Un Nino – before that though were around 30 more films from various categories starting early for a Sunday morning.

Mixed screening

The morning’s screening was a mixed bag of films starting with a trio of documentaries and what can only be described as a conspiracy-horror-docudrama. The three documentaries were made with varying levels of success exploring subjects as diverse as Ethiopa’s Christian heritage, life in a Belgian forest and the creation of a song.

While the subject matter of Timkat in Lalibela was by far the most interesting, it was hampered by a somewhat stilted narration track that lost something of the potential intrigue of the footage.

Anatomy of a Song

The opposite could be said of Anatomy of a Song, where the film was well constructed but the subject matter left me thinking this was a somewhat one sided view of what could be a rather controversial subject (in the subject matter of the song being explored).

The other film in the first half of the morning screening, The Haunting of Memory, was, for me, a very odd piece of cinema.

Looking at the potentially true story of Hitler’s pre-First World War visit to Liverpool through the filter of a pair of sisters discovering a box belonging to their great aunt, which told of her admiration and love of “the Fuhrer”.

Beyond this subject matter, what made the film seem so strange, was the imbalance between supposed historical accuracy, soap opera style drama and moments that could have come from a horror movie, which made what could have been an interesting story into something of a mess.

La Lavadora

The second half of the morning session provided a much more balanced selection of films starting with La Lavadora, a sweet (or possibly very bleak, depending on your point of view) romantic comedy focusing on a magic washing machine and a couple living in adjoining flats.

This was followed by another sweet, but in this instance somewhat melancholy, tale of an elderly man making his way away across to for a picnic, Bis Nachste Woche. What made this film work so well was how it explored the precision of the man’s preparations and then revealed quite why he was being so precise and why it meant so much to him.

Date With Fate

Australian entry Date With Fate was another romantic comedy with a twist, shot through the medium of video dating tapes. With its style and plot it added a nice new dimension to what could easily have been a very predictable little film.

The morning session was completed by another documentary, Shooting Blind, exploring the world of the England blind football team as they prepared for the 2010 world cup, which was held in England.

Even as someone with no interest in football this was a fascinating insight into a sport that is rarely seen and through its production managed to capture both the amount of work that goes into training and the drama of this unique form of the sport and for my money, if it wasn’t for Walk Tall, this would have been the best documentary of the festival.

UK Fiction screening

The second session I got to today was the UK fiction films and it kept up the high quality established in the second half of my morning viewing.

Miss-guided

First up was Miss-Guided by William Fuller. An at once comical and slightly melancholic little short that seemed to deal with issues of a young couple’s relationship through the medium of a satnav.

Mum’s Not In was the first of the days more serious dramas and featured an excellent performance by both the young girl and her cat and this was the first of the festival’s films to really get to me, mostly due to the way the cat featured in the piece.

The next film, First Bite, was one I’d had a chance to see before the festival and found to have a slightly ambiguous edge, and this is an edge that remained on the second viewing. This didn’t stop it having an oddly effecting feeling though, and certainly it seems to say something about aspects of modern youth, though to me it leaves what it says open to the viewer on at least some level, not that this is a bad thing.

Birdie was a short and sweet film looking at a retired golfer that, while well made was probably the least memorable of this session, though its shots of Edinburgh in particular seem to have stuck with me.

The Venial Society

The first half of the UK Fiction section was rounded off by three films from Jersey, under the Primavera Pictures banner. While the first of these, Unanswered, was a quirky little piece with a few witty ideas, it was the two other films, The Venial Society and The Final Straw that stood out from the trio.

Both films fell into the horror/thriller category but in slightly different ways with The Venial Society exploring guilt with a great visual style and some excellent special effects and The Final Straw feeling like the set up to a great post-apocalyptic saga, and again made with some more great special effects.

Fall To Grace

The second half of the UK Fiction section started in fine style with Fall To Grace. Telling the story of a puppet who makes himself a man and uses him for a ventriloquist act. Its darkly humourous edge, combined with the brilliant puppetry made it one of the highlights of the afternoon for me.

Room 4 was another highlight as it told its somewhat puerile, but ultimately very entertaining, tale of a trio of 20-somethings investigating a mythical technique being used in a local brothel. While fairly simply shot it told its story in a very effective way that was reminiscent of the best, slightly surreal, TV comedy.

Mug was another effectively shot and edited story with a well done twist that made it memorable and added something extra to its light urban setting.

Room 4

The final pair of films of the UK Fiction came with a bit of a caveat from the festival organisers that due to the seemingly high production values and lack of communication from the films producers they had been disqualified from the competition (which is for amateur filmmakers only), but that the organisers thought they would still be worth screening, and I have to agree, as both were very good films.

First was Brotherhood, which told a story about a pair of immigrants to the north of England and how one brother had turned to crime while the other was training to be a doctor and how their sense of family loyalty clashes with their newly adopted home.

The second, MAM, was set in and around a tower block in the north of England and looked into the life of a young boy who was looking after his brothers and sisters while his mother was ill, again this film came with a sting in the tail that it would spoil things to reveal, but made for a very effecting little story.

While both of these films were very good I have to agree with the Sarnia Shorts orgainsers that the production values seemed suspiciously high for amateur work and the appearance of Josie Lawrence and a few other recognisable character actors seemed unlikely for a truly non-professional production.

Not wishing to down play the fact that these were very good films but, if what is suspected was the case, all the other films we saw this afternoon really did stand equal to these in terms of everything but production values which shows just how good a set of films we were seeing this weekend.

(Warning: This is the uncensored version of the film so probably best not watch if you’re easily offended by comedies about brothels… that sounds a lot less funnier as a description that the film is)

Winner’s Show

So, with all the general entry screenings done, the first Sarnia Short Film Festival came to an end with a session showing all the award winners from the weekend.

Six

The session started off with the announcement of the Best Guernsey Entry, which went to Jack De La Mare for his film Six.

I’ve had the chance to see Six a few times over the last few months, but this was the first time seeing it alongside other short films and I’m pleased to say it more than stood up against Sarnia Shorts’ other award winners and really highlighted what a directing talent Jack is.

Best Student Entry and Best Use of Sound was awarded to Mathew Nesbeth for New With Tags, a great film exploring a young man’s attempts to escape his old life and deal with guilt with some excellent effects work that left me thinking of Fight Club.

Another Guernsey entrant was up next winning the Best Mini category (for a film under two minutes), Josh Fletcher, for Make Your Money Grow. This animation took the notion of its title and explored it in very well realised fashion as coins and notes transform from trees to houses to planes and onwards in visually remarkable fashion.

8-Ball

Next up were a couple of my personal highlights of the weekend; first was 8-Ball, by Mark Brennan, Carl Austin and Geoff Harmer. Picking up the best script award, this was a simple film of two men on a bench that played with notions of destiny with humour, pathos and real emotion.

Best Direction winner, Clown vs Society (directed by Brindusa Ioana Nastasa), was the second of these highlights, as it explored, superficially, how traditional clowning has fallen out of favour in the world of entertainment, while subtextually, it looked at a deeper change and issue of lost innocence in society in a mock documentary style.

The second half of the Winners’ Show started with another fantastic film (as all of them were tonight) They Say (or Dicen) by Alaunda Ruiz de Azua. A Spanish/American co-production that looked into the world of High School bullying in the USA and was shot on location in a school in New Jersey.

Exploring not only bullying but issues of homophobia it told very effecting tale, seemingly based on real events, and painted a very bleak picture of modern teenage life, and deservingly won its Best Use of Camera award.

Room

Best Use of Editing was a very interesting choice from the judges as Room (by Fernando Franco) actually didn’t seem to include any actual edits. Again telling a tale inspired by a real event to do with youth in the USA, this Spanish language film also featured little spoken dialogue and instead put the viewer in the place of, seemingly, a teenager, viewing another on webcam and chatting with a few others through text appearing at the bottom of the screen.

As the film continues the horror of what we may be seeing comes to light through this text in which each character soon takes on their own personalities and, while the film itself leaves the ending open, the title card that follows hammers its point home in very effective style.

Eso Te Pasa Por Barroco

Best Animation was up next for a surreal little film that maybe had a point to make about eating meat, or maybe was just a strange and entertaining ride about a blue plasticine fellow trying to eat his tea. Either way Eso Te Pasa Por Barroco by Pable Serrano Rosillo was great little film in one of the most hotly contested categories in the festival.

Another of my personal highlights came next, picking up the prize for Best Non-Fiction, Walk Tall by Kate Sullivan. My main reason for enjoying this documentary was down to its sheer entertaining quality as it mixed well-made animation with historical photos and new footage of a former Olympic gymnast who represented Great Britain in 1948.

Walk Tall

This entertainment combined with a fascinating subject and amazingly charismatic nonagenarian who not only told his story but offered us all some advice on keeping fit and healthy.

Best UK Entry, Buon Giorno Sayonara by Karen Hope, was the penultimate film of Sarnia Shorts 2012 and for my money, was the one film of this final session that didn’t really stand up next to the others.

While by no means a bad film this nice little tale of pair of couples day out in Bournemouth didn’t quite hit the mark for me in the way that the other films did, but, none-the-less, it was well produced and shot and entertaining in its way.

Matar A Un Nino

Finally for the festival we got the Best Film (and Best International Entry), Matar A Un Nino by Cesar and Jose Esteban Alenda.

Exploring how and when childhood and innocence end (in one sense at least) this seems to be a semi-autobiographical tale of someone and deservingly won as the script, editing, action, camera work, sound and direction all come together to create a truly great short film and while others came close, for me this was a deserving Best Film and closed the first Sarnia Shorts Film Festival in fantastic style.

While turnout for this weekend’s screenings certainly could have been better and low turnouts are always a disappointment, I sincerely hope that organisers Wynter Tyson and Lisa Gaudion aren’t disheartened by this and that the festival continues as, looking at other festivals around the world (most notably Shetland or New Forest), they can become major events for small communities and are indispensible for breeding new filmmakers.

Read my review of Day 1 here and the launch night here.

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