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Bafta Shorts 2013 Bafta Shorts 2013
Travelling around to UK cinemas this year, this is a programme of seven short films nominated in the live-action and animated shorts categories at the British Academy Film Awards. Strangely, only one nominated film is missing (The Voorman Problem), but the programme includes the winners of both awards: Swimmer and The Making of Longbird. With a range that travels from kaleidoscopic artiness to black comedy and even a semi-documentary, it's a fairly strong selection, although there are a couple of clear standouts.
release UK 12.Apr.13 • 13/UK 1h45       15 themes, language, violence, sexuality • 12.Apr.13
Here to Fall   3.5/5
dir Kris Kelly
scr Kris Kelly, Evelyn McGrath
12/Ireland 6m
Here to Fall
Here to Fall Using offbeat, fantastical animation, this short has an eerily realistic quality to it, as if we have been thrown into the main character's dream. We watch as a teen girl in a hoodie falls through the sky and lands in a surreal post-apocalyptic city, which she proceeds to run through, surrounded by strange images that hint at various aspects of life. The film is abstract and evocative, with animation that's fiercely original, making clever use of colour, light and depth. Along the way, there are big action sequences and visions of things that are both comforting (domestic settings) and terrifying (a giant toothy jellyfish). But what makes it mesmerising is the way it takes us into this young person's mind, letting us feel strong glimmers of both hope and sadness.
The Curse   3.5/5  
dir-scr Fyzal Boulifa
with Ibtissam Zabara, Mohammed Hanouchi, Abdel Jalil Abdelaoui, Sabrine Sghiri, Abdeljalil Azdour), Achraf Naciri, Dacoua Jordini
12/Morocco 16m
The Curse
The Curse When Osama (Naciri) catches Fatine (Zabara) cuddling her boyfriend (Abdelaoui) in the desert, he doesn't hesitate to let everyone know that she's behaving badly. And it only seems to take seconds for word to spread of her wanton ways. As if she weren't upset enough: her boyfriend is moving to Europe to start a new life. Now everyone is whispering that she's a prostitute, and Osama gathers a group of children to taunt her as she walks home. Soon, they're blackmailing her into buying them some candy. And unfortunately she knows what to do to get the cash to pay for it. The film is shot in a realistic and urgent style, with doc-style camerawork and raw performances that show the strained emotions. Yes, it's also tinged with a very black sense of irony, as Fatine operates in a world of double standards. The filmmaker cops out of one key point-of-view shot, obscuring the film's most important point, but this is a provocative short that haunts us. Especially as we realise along with Fatine that her torment at the hands of these kids and others has only just begun.
Tumult   3/5  
dir-scr Johnny Barrington
with Ingvar Eggert Sigurdsson, Gisli Orn Gardarsson, Ivar Orn Sverrisson, Dolly Wells, Raymond Mearns, Eileen Dunwoodie, Howard Lee, Jean-Marc Chautems
11/UK 13m
Tumult This blackly funny short hinges on a rather simple joke that's never very clearly developed. But it's extremely well-staged, without ever giving into a cheap gag. It begins with four Norse warriors hiking across a barren Highlands landscape. When the most injured man dies, he leaves just the chief (Sigurdsson) and his two sons (Gardarsson and Sverrisson), who immediately begin to argue about about who will take over when their father dies. Then they see a road winding through the countryside, and a bus appears like some sort of iron beast or a ship with wheels. The tourists on board start taking photos of what they think are actors in costume, and their guide (Wells) tries to talk to them. The warriors aren't sure if she's an angel or some sort of demonic apparition, and they certainly don't know what to make of mobile phones or camera flashes, so they draw their swords. The film is shot with the production values of a feature, making the most of the sprawling landscape while contrasting the desperate Norsemen against the hapless tourists. The script also has a very sharp sense of black humour, with hilarious dialog and some riotous grisliness. It's a witty collision of two disparate ages, with a surprisingly sharp sting to it in the way everyone reacts to what happens.
I’m Fine Thanks   4/5  
dir-scr Eamonn O'Neill
voices Paul Thomas, Simon Roberts, Joseph Tate
11/UK 5m
I'm Fine Thanks
I'm Fine Thanks Brightly colourful characters on white or black backgrounds make this short look like a hand-drawn storybook come to life. It follows a young boy playing in his neighbourhood, where he's bullied by a local girl. Years later he's struggling in school, still trying to get her attention. More years pass and things don't get any easier. Then she asks to be his friend on a social networking site, but he can't get the images of her cruelty out of his head, which causes his whole world to melt down. Filmmaker O'Neill's imagery is full of clever touches that put us inside the central characters' head as his thoughts swirl out of control. For such a garish-looking film and such simple drawings, the themes are startlingly dark. But it's packed with witty touches that are dark and provocative, and eerily moving too.
The Making of Longbird   3.5/5  
dir Will Anderson
scr Will Anderson, Ainslie Henderson, Vitalij Sicinava
with Will Anderson, Tobias Feltus, Vitalij Sicinava
11/UK 16m
The Making of Longbird
The Making of Longbird Combining documentary with wacky comedy, this oddly structured short often looks like an old silent movie, complete with jittering frames and the sound of a clattering projector. It opens with murky images of films made by a groundbreaking Russian animator (Feltus), who invented an iconic character called Longbird. We then get Anderson himself narrating his attempt to resurrect Longbird, but once the character is animated (and voiced by Sicinava) he immediately starts arguing with Anderson about his artistic merits and how he should be shown. This surprising and often hilarious film is both an homage to the early days of animation and a witty commentary on celebrity, as it plays around with animation techniques from simple paper cut-outs to complex digital trickery. Anderson is inventively and playfully using all of these styles to explore the history of the artform. It's all a bit gimmicky and sometimes a little too silly, with essentially one gag. But Anderson packs a lot into 16 minutes. And along the way, even Longbird admits that "this is not funny anymore".
Good Night   3/5  
dir-scr Muriel d'Ansembourg
with Anna Hogarth, Rosie Day, Jay Taylor, Dave MacRae, Michael Stevenson, Justin Chinyere, Emeka Sesay, Shmulik Kaufmann 12/UK 27m Good Night
Good Night Filmmaker d'Ansembourg shows considerable skill in writing and directing this dramatic short, although she's trying perhaps a bit too hard to be controversial. It follows two 14-year-old girls (Hogarth and Day) who are having a girls' night together, trying to get drunk by dipping tampons in vodka and then dressing much older and sexier than they are. They hit the streets of London looking for the cool clubs, but the bouncers and the cute boys all know they're too young. Then when they're confronted by a drunken man (MacRae), another stranger(Taylor) comes to their rescue with his car. But is he any safer for them to be with? The film is superbly well shot, edited and scored, and the cast members are excellent, even if they seem a bit over-eager about conveying their personalities. But then every scene seems to strain to be transgressive while also trying not to tip over some indescribable boundary. In other words, we never feel like there's any real danger here, even though in the real world things could go very badly indeed. But it's so sharply well-made that it holds our attention, especially as it grapples with the important issue of the over-sexualisation of society. These young girls have no idea that they're playing with fire.
Swimmer   4.5/5  
dir Lynne Ramsay
with Tom Litten, Sophie McKeeman, Oscar McVeigh, Adam Holden, Carolina Main, Gemma Norris
12/UK 18m
Swimmer Commissioned as part of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad, this gorgeously artful short is powerfully moving even though it has no narrative to speak of. It merely features sumptuous black and white footage of a swimmer (Litten) travelling through a river along which a variety of people gather, from children playing games to lovers sneaking around. The swimmer is often photographed underwater, or catching droplets of water as he swims in achingly beautiful slow motion. And he even leaves the water and ventures into the woods at one point. It's impossible to say for sure what this is about, but the scenes are witty, emotional and even rather scary. And every frame is simply stunning, edited together with skill and creativity and accompanied by a terrific sound and song score, much of which comes from British cinema. It may feel slow and a bit too long, but it's magical, meditative and ultimately intangibly powerful. In other words, pure art.
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© 2013 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall