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On this page - 2011 Iris Prize Festival: AMEN | DOWNING | THE COLONEL'S OUTING
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2011 Iris Prize Festival 5th Iris Prize Festival
Shorts in competition at the Cardiff festival, 5-8.Oct.11 (3 of 3)
Downing   3.5/5
dir Ben Peters
scr Peter Forbes
with Jamie Brotherston, Ross William Wild, Krystina Coates, Rehanna MacDonald, Jack Hinks, Ling Law
11/UK 16m
Downing At a lively house party in Scotland, arrogant host Daniel (Wild) roams around the crowd seducing both girls and boys. Although the basement is forbidden, two rather drunken guests venture down there - gay John (Brotherston) and his underaged friend Chloe (Coates). John has been a victim of Daniel's tormenting in the past, and in the wild night than ensues he finds a way to get even. The film has a lively Skins-style attitude, as these teens indulge in all kinds of sexual activity, not to mention drugs. It's an extremely lively film, with an edge of realism that keeps it grounded, and director Peters shoots it adeptly to combine in-your-face rowdiness with more insinuating wit. And while it's thoroughly enjoyable, the story turns rather nasty in the end, all while maintaining a sharp sense of humour and avoiding both melodrama and sensationalism. Which is no mean feat with material as potentially scandalous as this.
Junk   3/5  
dir-scr Joe Morris
with Luke Dunsmore, Connor Ryan, Tara Moran, Martin Hancock, Ian Peck, David Barras
11/UK 23m
Junk This darkly emotional short features striking cinematography that has a potent sense of light and shadow. It's also very internalised, and rather difficult to get into at the start. It centres on Jack, a young guy visiting his friend Tat in Yorkshire. But Jack's dangerous drug use is worrying to Tat, who is trying to get his life back on track. Even so, Tat can't resist Jack, and asks his mum for money to go away again (she worries while his stepdad just turns violent). But their relationship is a mess. Stuck in a squalid lifestyle, Jack is selling sex to get cash for his drug habit. The main problem here is that their romance isn't hugely convincing, unless you see Tat as codependent: it's clearly one-sided, with Jack caring more about his next fix. Tat continually asks, "Do you still love me," while Jack begs, "Stop trying to save me." All of this makes the film feel rather meandering and cautionary, even if it's beautifully shot and acted by a strong cast. It's just too hard to care about people who actually know how to save themselves.
The Colonel’s Outing   4/5  
dir-scr Christopher Banks
with Tyl Van Randon, David Fitchew, Andrea Kelland, Shirley McNeill, Katrina Mathers, Mackenzie Cameron
11/New Zealand 17m
kelland, van randon and fitchew
The Colonel's Outing This hilarious little adventure is packed with witty gags and lively characters who continually make us laugh. It's centred on a retirement home, where author Tristan (Van Randon) whiles away the hours in the sunshine reading his own books. Housemate Mrs Pleasance (McNeill) is desperate to go to the moon, and the sardonic matron Josie (Kelland) is holding things together. Then the Colonel (Fitchew) arrives. There isn't a spare room for this colourful character, so Josie gets him to bunk with Tristan. And as they get to know each other, the Colonel's outrageous anti-women attitudes strike a surprising chord in Tristan, hinting at something else about his sexuality. One day they decide to escape for a picnic in the country, which involves rather a lot of amusing bluster. Writer-director Banks has a great time playing with arcane attitudes, celebrating the absurdity of senility while also managing to touch on some surprisingly emotional elements in each character's life. The film is rather deranged and camp, but also charming and thoroughly engaging.
33 Teeth   4/5
dir-scr Evan Roberts
with Spencer Siegel, Stephen Felix, Elizabeth Mason, Kathy Mayes
11/US 8m
33 Teeth Teenaged Eddie (Siegel) is struggling with his interest in his athletic neighbour Tim (Felix), a sexy hunk who never seems to stop running and exercising in tiny workout wear. Spying through the window, watching his every move, Eddie finally gets up the nerve to go say help, then talks his way into the house, where he explores for a souvenir in the bathroom. He finds a comb and makes a snap decision. The film is bright, funny and extremely well directed and edited, with natural performances from the entire cast that effectively convey a sense of curiosity and inner yearning. But it also feels rather slight, essentially a joke with a good punchline.
Cyclicity   2.5/5
dir-scr Jason Knade
with Heather Salm, Elisa Dei
11/US 11m
While riding on a Chicago ferris wheel, two women (Salm and Dei) describe their courtship, how they met on a beach, felt a mutual attraction and ultimately safety with each other. They talk about their friends, planning their future and the love they share, happy that their relationship has real possibilities. Then at the top of the wheel, they hit a turning point, beginning to bicker about imperfections and the stresses they're feeling. Eventually they begin to discuss distance and separation, then trying to rekindle the spark. The film is a bit glib, merely using the gimmick of the ferris shell to play out the stages of a relationship in a way that's cute but rather pointless. It's skilfully shot and edited, but is so soft and simple that it's difficult to remember five minutes after it ends.
Lost Tracks   2.5/5
dir-scr Jon Stanford
with Rose Langford, Felicity Hickman, Briony Singh, Laura Whitehouse, Gagan Cheema, Martin Williams, Chris Edenborough, Gareth Bladen
11/UK 21m
lost tracks
Beautifully shot in widescreen format, with superbly underplayed performances, this film is a rather shapeless slice-of-life centring on Tobi, who's bored with her life washing dishes in a Shropshire restaurant. She really wants to travel, but is struggling to save up money, staying out all night with her friends. Her family is disinterested in her life, and it's not hard to see why. She mopes around, rather like the film itself, unfocussed and hopeless. Indeed, the film is vague and evasive, revealing details randomly and never quite defining the characters. The cheesy musical score adds nothing at all, and writer-director Stanford really needed a stronger editor to cut this down into a much shorter, sharper film. Sure, Tobi is aimless, but that doesn't mean that the movie needs to be as well.
Amen   3/5
dir-scr Ranadeep Bhattacharyya, Judhajit Bagchi
with Jitin Gulati, Karan Mehra, Madhusmita Sahoo
11/India 22m
Amen This heartfelt Indian short feels oddly dated to Western eyes, both in its filmmaking style and in the attitudes it is exploring. It centres on Harry (Mehra), who meets Andy (Gulati) online and invites him over. Andy is aggressive and cocky, harassed by his nagging fiancee and demanding some sort of sexual activity with Harry, who would rather get to know him first. There's a bit of urgent body contact, but Andy is also clearly at war with himself, arguing that "I'm not gay" before breaking down in tears and confessing, "I can't afford to be gay." While this is a huge issue in many parts of the world, the rather overwrought approach of this film will alienate audiences in more open-minded societies. This leaves it feeling worthy but corny, no matter how important its approach may be in its own culture.
Nice Shirt   3.5/5
dir Erik Gernand
scr Jenny Hagel
with Jenny Hagel, Abby McEnany
11/US 5m
Nice Shirt
This goofy little film is thoroughly entertaining even if it's rather frivolous. It's about a lesbian couple that splits up, vowing that they will be friends forever. But while they insist that there's nothing awkward between them, they start wearing T-shirts to send messages to each other: "Taken" when one finds a new girlfriend, "Game on" in reply. This escalates into insults ("Brenda cheats at Scrabble") and all out war ("Molly is a limp kisser"). It's all so silly that we can't help but laugh at these ridiculous women acting like children. But it's assembled and played in a way that's knowingly corny and very cute. And just when we start to worry that there's nowhere left for the film to go, screenwriter Hagel has a hilarious final gag up her sleeve. We may see where this is heading, but not the witty punchline.
Cross Your Fingers   3/5
dir-scr Yun Joo Chang
with Tuyen Do, Lourdes Faberes, Dionne Harrison, Lindsey Pollard, Michelle Coverley
11/UK 16m
In a London nail salon, Su-Yeon (Do) goes about her business quietly, intrigued by a customer, Maya (Faberes), who leaves her rings behind after a manicure. When they meet again, they strike up a friendship. Su-Yeon has been so lonely in London, that this is a nice change for her, and she agrees to go see her band one night. Her colleague (Harrison) even gives her a Saturday night makeover for the occasion. But she's terrified about the possibilities. Filmmaker Chang tells this story in a low-key, natural way that gets under the skin. There isn't much to the story, which kind of sets everything up and lets us take it from there. This makes the film feel somewhat thin. But it's warm and nicely observed.


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© 2011 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall