Probably one of the most entertaining and apt short films at January’s Kino London was an animated comedy by filmmaker Molly Brown, called Last Night on Robodave. The film looked at a dystopian future in the TV industry where stereotyped robots have taken over in order to churn out drivel to an automated audience. In a contrived nutshell, this reflects the problem facing short film generally: whilst technological developments have opened up filmmaking, they have also led to a glut of content and viewing platforms, and a subsequent devaluation of your average real short film.
Kino London is the London cell of the international Kino short film movement, and they aim to address this problem through their Open Mic Nights which offer an accessible platform on which filmmakers can present their work. “Advertisers and agencies are increasingly trying to blur the line between short films and adverts”, says Jamie Kennerley who runs Kino London, “we have to stay vigilant against it!” This is not to say this online filmic noise is always without merit (as ad man and Under the Skin director Jonathan Glazer proves) and, as Jamie says, it has also “changed people’s perceptions of what to expect, or what they can enjoyably watch.” So whilst digital and online have added breadth they have also taken away some of the depth by breeding flippant and absent-minded viewing habits.
Kino London embraces the diversity which has come from this explosion in content (as seen in their pan-genre programmes) but they also root out this creeping ADHD culture simply by putting short films on the big screen, in a dark room and in front of an interested audience. Not only does this serve to give real shorts the attention they deserve but it can also be of great value to the aspiring filmmaker. Jamie says: “Often when people make their first few shorts they’re not that great. They don’t get into any festivals, and filmmakers lose heart and stop making.” In a purely digital world this would be a pretty alienating experience, but events like Kino’s “allow filmmakers to get an immediate reaction to what they’ve made, to compare that to the work of other filmmakers and to meet people they can collaborate with and learn from.”
Probably the thing Kino most deserve credit for is making this process genuinely inclusive. You might be excused for thinking that an underground film event in a hip metalworks in Islington would be a bit pretentious – yet it is anything but. The range of themes, genres, techniques and filmmakers make for an exciting and unpredictable evening more akin to a rough stand-up night than a beat poetry session. This is very important and undoubtedly feeds into the primary film industry by helping to give people confidence. “There’s certainly more filmmakers working on indie features than when we started 6 years ago,” says Jamie, “and that’s reflected at Kino by people bringing work connected to those projects to screen with us.”
Of course, at its beginning over a century ago, all films were shorts. The Lumière brothers’ Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat famously had people running from their seats in disbelief at this new visual phenomenon. 120 years on and due to further technological progress it is difficult to get people back into their seats. Kino London do an important job of giving stage time to this truly independent film form which is generally free of the production interference and corporate concerns which so often plague full length features. With short film festivals and groups like Kino, short filmmakers can react to events and recapture some of the political potential in film – as Tottenham MP David Lammy did with Fourwalls. This urgency and connection with subject matter and audience is something not often found in film, and so it is great to see that under the growing shadow of London’s cinema chains still exists a stronghold for independent film.
The next Kino London film night is on Wednesday 18th February. Find out more about here.
Photos by Brandon Butterworth. Slider photo by Molly Brown.