Shadows Film FestShadows off the beaten path
Indies, foreign, docs and shorts...


< <
S H O R T S > >

Reviews by Rich Cline | See also: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL | Last update 19.Sep.21

New Queer Visions: Parental Guidance  
Reviews by Rich Cline
parental guidance
release UK 20.Sep.21
21/UK NQV 1h44

escaping gravity
This collection of six dark dramas from around the world isn't always easy to watch, as each story explores tough themes about the connections between people, most notably parents and children. Each film has a queer twist to it, sometimes integral and other times irrelevant to the story itself. But all of them challenge the audience to consider bigger issues from new perspectives.

prisor, gbocho and bucin dir Charlotte A Rolfes
scr Fentje Hanke
with Lucas Prisor, Karmela Shako, Dejan Bucin, Sopie Pryn Akonda Gbocho, Anja Reschke, Martin Skoda, Iskander Madjitov, Frank Schubert
16/Germany 17m


Samira Strikingly well-shot in vivid locations, this German drama has a several hugely emotional moments along the way. Some are wrenching, while others are sweet. Director Rolfes takes a bold approach that tells the story well but never quite establishes a point of view that lets the audience in. Still, there's a complex layer of feelings in the story that provoke some deeper thoughts.

At the port in Hamburg, Janosh (Prisor) is called to help the police when a young African woman named Ramiye (Shako) barricades herself on a ship. She's threatening suicide if the authorities try to deport her, and when Janosh promises to help he certainly isn't expecting to end up holding her infant daughter overnight. Back home, his boyfriend Sebastian (Bucin) steps up to care for baby Samira (Gbocho).

As Sebastian's parental instincts kick in, Janosh is not amused, preferring to keep a distance from this tiny girl. Although she's pretty irresistible. With solidly understated performances, the film intriguingly depicts how such a relatively simple incident can expose unexpected cracks in a range of places. The film leaves the political commentary about the treatment of migrants between the lines, opting to explore a much more personal story about the collateral impact. And where it goes is haunting.

Aleksiev dir Pavel G Vesnakov
scr Vanya Rainova, Pavel G Vesnakov
with Mihail Mutafov, Aleksandar Aleksiev, Ani Bakalova, Svetlana Yancheva, Kaloian R Pishmanov
13/Bulgaria 30m


Pride With an extended running time, this short drama from Bulgaria is beautifully shot through the eyes of a good man who's a raving bigot, struggling to cope with the way the world is changing. It's a remarkably authentic portrait of the emptiness of the old-world argument about disgracing a family. It's also a full-on, seriously intense story told mainly in long, sharp, devastating scenes.

Retired general Manol (Mutafov) spends his time fishing and driving a cab, proud to be the patriarch of an upstanding family. Then he discovers that his teen grandson Georgi (Aleksiev) is gay. So he confronts him with a quiet, terrifyingly steely stare. Manol's wife (Bakalova) tries to calm the coming storm, reminding him that Georgi is a top student with a kind heart. And when Georgi's mother (Yancheva) arrives from Germany for a visit, there's more news Manol isn't going to like.

Mutafov has a great face that reveals both Manol's years of hard living as well as his internalised thoughts. When he erupts with blustering anger, guzzling vodka and piercing Georgi with harsh words, the scene isn't easy to watch. Cleverly, the filmmakers are exploring how moralistic outrage is simply an expected reaction, a culturally conditioned outburst that doesn't come from the heart. It comes from fear, anger and deep-rooted hatred. And you might as well shout at the wind.

Lost and Found dir-scr Nizan Lotem, Lior Haen
with Aviv Zalishanski, Tom Hagi, Raanan Levi
15/Israel 8m

Lost and Found  

Lost and Found Sharp and rather intense, this mini-drama from Israel adeptly captures that feeling that something unexpected could upend your world. For the teen at the centre of the story, the urgency is vivid, and our minds race along with his as he scrambles to work out what he can do to solve what seems like a nightmarish problem. It's all a bit quick, and perhaps too blunt, but the cast and crew capture the tone perfectly.

After he loses his phone, Yuval goes to the park to meet Asaf, the man who found it. But Asaf wants a reward. And money isn't the issue: he blackmails Yuval for a small fortune, threatening to send intimate photos of him and his boyfriend to his family and friends. Back at home, his father finds Yuval scrabbling around to find more cash, and the confrontation doesn't go the way either of them think it will.

The extortion at the centre of the story feels eerily realistic, and since the filmmakers remain in Yuval's perspective the situation feels like it's closing in around us as well. As a teen he can't even begin to see a way through this, especially after explaining what's going on has meant that he had to come out to his dad. But the filmmakers never sensationalise any of this: they focus on Yuval's more internal dilemma of self-acceptance. And the clear moral of the story is: lock your phone.

gillan and coles dir Carlos Lopes
scr Joanna Benecke
with Tomm Coles, Beverley Klein, James Gillan, Mike Burnside
18/UK 8m

Chaos Toad  

Chaos Toad Beautifully shot and designed, this British short recounts the lively story of a man who has given up on himself over the years and now needs to rediscover who he is. It's all rather goofy and more than a little surreal, but there's a bright idea in here that comes through loud and clear, urging us to take some time for self-care, especially when responsibilities get overwhelming.

Feeling trapped as a full-time carer for his increasingly forgetful and demanding mother (Klein), Andy (Coles) recounts a story about his friend's imaginary friend Chaos Toad's everyday pranks. Then Andy has a visit from his own childhood imaginary friend, Arabella Sparkle (Gillan), who has grown up into a drag queen and is determined to bring glittering colours back into Andy's life.

The witty idea here is that Andy has learned to be beige as he grew up, abandoning the more fabulous sides of his personality. After years of being conscientious, maybe it's time to get out and date, meet someone and have a life of his own. It's not worth digging too deeply into the plot, but it's all so well written, directed and played by an up-for-it cast that it can't help but put a smile on our face.

tambrea and horstmann dir-scr Benjamin Teske
with Sabin Tambrea, Ronald Nitschke, Hedi Kriegeskotte, Janna Horstmann, Lino Meiries, Kalle Haverland, Jimmy Jamal Abboud, Alex Knutter
13/Germany 23m

Escaping Gravity  
Fliehkraft   3.5/5

Escaping Gravity While this German short centres tightly around three characters, it creates a remarkably large, complex world for them to inhabit, each with his or her own issues to deal with. This is a story about parents and children who have built walls perhaps for self-preservation, then find that it's time they come down, even if it won't be easy. So while the premise may feel a little simplistic, the film is thoughtful and involving.

As a trans woman, Leonie (Tambrea) yearns for her father's acceptance. So she disguises herself as a man to return to her childhood home, a funfair. Her mother Marion (Kriegeskotte) accepts Leonie unconditionally, but dad Ludwig (Nitschke) prefers the illusion of Leo, and returns to old rhythms running the family fright-house ride. Meanwhile, Leo reconnects with childhood pal Trixl (Horstmann), who always had a crush on her and is fascinating by her true identity.

There's a remarkable silence in this family, as all three are reluctant to speak about Leonie's identity or Ludwig's fatal illness. And in the community, the old ways remain fiercely strong. So when Leo is taunted by the other carnival workers, she steps up to prove her manliness in a boxing ring. But the more powerful scenes are between mother, father and daughter, as they circle around the connections between them and discover what it truly means to be family.

A L S O   O N
Parental Guidance

Sunken Plum
Sunken Plum

dir-scr Roberto F Canuto, Xu Xiaoxi
with Gu Xiang, Yu Yinmeng
17/China 20m

Reviewed at Raindance 2018

cert 15 themes, language, violence 18.Sep.21

Send Shadows your reviews!

< < S H O R T S > >

© 2021 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall