Showing its commitment to filmmaking and new filmmakers, the Derby Film Festival found space for not one but TWO short film programmes on its final day. Eat My Shorts was a selection of films curated by the Derby Film Festival organisers, Oberhausen, the second of the two programmes, saw the world renowned German based short film festival turn up with six of their best that had been selected from the 4,000+ entries they received for their 2014 festival. All the films in the showcase revolved around the themes of ‘family and alternative forms of communal living’, and what we saw in Derby was a truly special selection.
The Satanic Thicket: One from Willy Hans explores the simple corruptions within ordinary families. In a private home in a secluded forest a mother flirts with her singing teacher while his voyeuristic eye is drawn to her daughter; a son aims a gun at his father; a husband entices a young woman into his car. “My peace is gone, my heart is heavy” sings the mother in an exquisite sequence that’s full of pathos while her son, drenched in blood, slaughters chickens outside. There’s poetry in the film’s final moments – split screen close-ups of the family eating dinner – that echo both the ties that bind us and the secrets that lurk within. The Satanic Thicket: One was given special mention at Oberhausen’s 3sat Promotional Award for ‘a contribution with a particularly innovative approach’. But it was Imraan, C/O Carrom Club that took home the winning prize.
The observational documentary about a Carrom club (a form of billiards) in Mumbai focusses on the eleven year old boy who oversees it. Amidst the tournaments, the youths talk about drugs and sex but it’s unclear how much of their talk is bravado – how much is influenced by their desire to be perceived as ‘men’ by the world at large. An older boy warns the youngsters they are disgracing their country while another coaches them in the Koran. Udita Bhargava’s brief documentary is free of judgement, enabling the viewer to glimpse many facets of reality.
Finally, taking the Oberhausen’s ‘alternative forms of communal living’ strand to its extremes is Ulu Braun’s Birds. Examining the ways in which birds co-exist with humans, this collection of moving images (from birds flying past billboards, foraging through waste and looking down on us from above) defamiliarises the world as we know it. Braun extends this strangeness to images of the birds themselves, frequently capturing just the feet or eyes and accompanying the images with musical cues more familiar with the horror genre. At times Braun offers an uncomfortable, violent viewing experience: one that jars with our common perceptions of the animals with which we share our landscape. In doing so Braun highlights the gap between our world and theirs: the strangeness that we feel emphasises the birds’ own struggle to adapt in an increasingly human world they no longer recognise.
Derby’s decision to team up with leading film festival Oberhausen is indicative of its wider commitment to making quality international films available to cinephiles in the Midlands. And with such an array of eclectic and high-calibre shorts screening as part of their own selection, the 2016 Derby Film Festival is already on our watch list.
Find out more about Derby Film Festival here.