Introducing the closing event of Derby’s first ten day Film Festival, co-director Adam Buss described the Festival’s key motivation as ‘inspiring and nurturing local talent’. A creative evening capped off the final three days of the festival, whose predominant Fantastiq theme gave emphasis to the horror, science-fiction and fantasy genres in interactive style. Cult memorabilia sales at Cafe Horreur, a themed film quiz, and In Conversation sessions with directors Waris Hussein, John Hough and Michael Armstrong, gave the closing weekend a hands on feel. The Festival’s final afternoon took this one step further, handing the screen over to fledgling film-makers in an effort to show what can be achieved with small budgets and a lot of enthusiasm.
Eat My Shorts, a showcase of the best international short films from rising stars, kicked off the afternoon. Blending horror with theology and striking wit was Gianluca Sodaro’s God’s Got His Head In The Clouds. In the sharp exchange between a priest and a naughty child who accuses God of breaking his promise to keep her from evil, this thought-provoking short evokes a mysterious and troubling atmosphere from its sepia tones and candlelit, pulpit setting. Steampunk fantasy, Leviathan Ages, beautifully intertwines live action footage with intricate CGI, while Yann Caloghiris’ psychological horror about a middle-aged hypochondriac, Gustaf, slotted neatly into the Festival’s Fantastiq theme.
The Festival’s winning short, Fabrice Bracq’s Diagnostic, has a more pronounced satirical tone, concerning itself with current social anxieties. What begins as a doctor patient discussion about the results of a medical test quickly turns comic when it’s revealed the patient is suffering from a ‘serious alteration in the higher cognitive functions’. Basically he’s ‘thick’. But what does this mean for his children?
Amid this selection of intelligent films, was a darker group of shorts with a deep social conscience. Unnerving thirty minute film, Novemberlichter, explores the consequences of parental neglect. Nine year old Manuel is given a lift by a stranger when he’s unwanted at home. Placing the camera behind the vulnerable Manuel, director Jーrgen Karasek emphasises our adult perspective, our knowledge that predators are always watching. The stranger trots out recognisable ploys – photos of his grandchildren, sweets, hotdogs. He’s convincing and Karasek leaves us guessing about his intentions. Novemberlichter is a quiet film but it’s also powerful, shocking and a fascinating exercise in suspense.
Sophie Black’s dark short, Ashes, latches onto a similar sense of distrust, focussing on the moment when a loving relationship shifts into the abusive. With limited dialogue, the action flicks between different sets and camera styles that work as metaphors for the exploited woman’s conflicted emotions. In just seven minutes Ashes conjures fear, control, awkwardness and loss.
From here, themes of family and love crossed over into Derby’s preview of the innovative, crowd-created feature, 50 Kisses.
The project was initiated at the London Screenwriters’ Festival in 2012, with the aim゠of uniting writers with film-makers. Following an open call for two page scripts on the theme of ‘a Valentine’s Day kiss’, the best fifty were chosen and circulated amongst a global pool of film-makers. Twenty-five of these shorts appear in their entirety in 50 Kisses, woven together with musical signals and visual cues. The result is a remarkably coherent film given the absence of an overarching plot and the huge variety of thematic interpretations.
50 Kisses opens on a cliche dinner scene and the old chestnut ‘I’ve moved on’. The familiar scenario is quickly subverted by a shot of the woman’s zombie date. Two versions of Neil – a heart-wrenching take on artificial intelligence – make it into the finished feature, along with family dramas, rom-coms, and apocalypse productions. An endearing practical joke in an old people’s home, Beryl, and a tale of two stuffed bears destined to spend a lifetime together, Unbearable, are whimsical and warm, while hard-hitting Smasharoo introduces us to the broken world of a young woman following a serious head injury. With over 2,000 credits, 50 Kisses is an inspiration to emerging film-makers everywhere.
If audiences needed yet more encouragement to grab the nearest camera phone, the Five Lamps Film Challenge arrived to cap off the Festival. Meeting throughout the year, this local film-making group encourages the creation of new movies through mutual support. The Festival’s 24 hour film challenge required entrants to shoot and edit a three minute film in just one day. Previous winners include Ink Motion Pictures and their noir thriller Refraction (2010), whose doppelgヤnger scenes necessitated some striking, express editing.
This year’s entries played out to an enthusiastic and encouraging crowd in the Festival’s largest screen. The Creature, a minimal feature centred on a supernatural being trapped inside a bathroom mirror is a feat in the terrifying, especially considering its brevity, while Below The Line garnered plenty of laughs from its self-referencing comedy about the constraints of low budget filmmaking. Taking a different approach, Mark Duggan’s soulful Window Pane beautifully captured fields and countryside to reveal the inner thoughts of his characters, landing the competition’s third place.
Enigmatic Productions and their challenge winner, Macho Dan, a nerdy comedy about a dumped boyfriend with a wrestling obsession, took home the competition’s most coveted prize – a working lunch with Allies director Dom Byrne along with a critique of their next project. It’s an impressive reward that demonstrates most clearly the Festival’s dedication to nurturing new talent.
On this year’s expansion of the Derby Film Festival, directors Adam Buss and Adam J Marsh said ‘it was a big leap’. Ten days later and it seems they’ve made it to the other side. The revamped Festival has hosted well-known film-makers, revisited classics and opened a window on some of the year’s most interesting films. By choosing to end that journey on shorts from new and rising film-makers Derby Film Festival makes a bold and exciting statement about its commitment to the fresh future of film.
Visit the Derby Film Festival website for more information on this year’s festival and updates on future events.Read Part One