Monthly Archives: July 2017

Female Director (Cardiff Mini Film Festival)

Following on from “Fiction Part 2”, here are the films from the Female Director session at The Cardiff Mini Film Festival. I was particularly looking forward to this session being as we really need more female voices in the film world and thankfully the ones showcased here certainly didn’t disappoint! This along with ‘Fiction Part 4’ were my favourite parts of the festival. Please note that any opinions expressed are based off my initial impressions during the screening itself.

01. Ransom
RansomKitty and Kent are in over their heads with gambling debt so they form a plan: kidnap a rich kid and score big time. This US film starts out as a thriller but by the end has evolved into something more preposterous. Whilst this wasn’t a favourite during this session, it’s a breezy five minutes and the film doesn’t outstay its welcome. Film IMDB page.

02.Pillow Talk
Pillow TalkA coming of age film about teenage sexuality with best friends Cara and Lucy on the brink of going separate ways. A vibrant hipster opening gives way to sweet “coming out” film which is well directed by Louise Marie Cooke. If I were to criticise I found the dialogue at the start a little unauthentic, the performers seemed a older than the ages of the characters that they were portraying (not that this mattered once the film hit it stride).
https://player.vimeo.com/video/192267007

03. Sophia
SophiaThe imaginative Sophia is waiting for her bus to arrive on a bench. Whilst waiting we see her imagination turning everyday events and unfortunate situations into something more entertaining (despite how inappropriate this makes her look). This was a charming Norwegian short directed by Marietha Chopra Helgesen, with simple but well executed concept. My only wish would be for a slightly stronger ending (although maybe I missed something here whilst I was scribbling down my notes). Liked this one a lot!

04. Passing Over
Passing OverA mother struggling to move on after a family tragedy seeks a medium to help her overcome the loss. On a technical viewpoint, it’s hard to fault Natasha Dahlberg’s film. It contains strong performances, some fantastic sound design and is able to convey a sense of isolation, grief and haunting strangeness. However I ultimately found it a little predictable and found myself becoming less engaged once “the medium” part was introduced into the story. Whilst I felt there were a couple of stronger contenders during this session, this went on to win the best international Female Film  so well done to Natasha and her team!

05. Almost Perfect
Almost PerfectHelen is an undertaker who advertises for a  make up assistant for her “clients”. When the interview with applicant Stella gets off to a bumpy start, the film can go one of two ways: is she actually looking for a make up assistant or there something more sinister at work? This won the audience choice award (indeed there were quite a few team members at the session). There is a very Gothic feel to the whole piece thanks to some inventive camera angles, red colour grading with Helen in particular having a vampiric quality. I was hoping the film would end with a different twist, but you can decide yourself by watching the film below:

06. Archway 0173
Archway 0173An antique collecting mother brings home an old phone which her son Tom initially dismisses as “more junk”. However when the broken phone rings one day it connects Tom with a young girl called Isabelle who claims to be from 1940. Becoming friends after sharing conversations, Tom soon makes a frightening discovery which he needs to warn Isabelle about. Can he warn her in time and what will be the consequences of his actions? At around 20 minutes, Pat Knight’s film was the longest film of the session, but it was also one of my favourites. It’s well made and has a strong but simple concept with a nicely handled relationship between Tom and Isabelle.

07. Super Dad!
Super Dad!All Toby wanted was one normal day. This proves to be too much to ask for when your dad is Captain Chaos, the super villain of Milwaukee! Maria Pretzl’s comedy is for the most part a father/son relationship with Toby coming to terms with his dad’s disasterous wedding faux-pas. A fun film with a lovely moment of “realisation” at the end.

08. The Girl In The Photo
The -Girl In The PhotoCharlie, an introverted but curious guy, is troubled by a mysterious girl seen in his dream, even after waking up. This was a short film by Alise Ambaine who appeared to be the youngest filmmaker I saw in attendance at the festival. The film was quite short but had an unnerving and suspenseful vibe. I look forward to following Alise’s future projects.

09. The Chameleon
The ChameleonThe story of a struggling Hollywood actor who is cornered by the industry’s shadow at every turn. Our “Chameleon” desperately seeks to distance himself from typecasting thank to his popular turn as “the guy on the Gusto energy drink ad”, the vapid parties, the lies he’s told to try to “make it big” and ultimately Los Angeles itself. Can he make it and will he ever know who he truly is? My favourite part of Stephanie Phoutrides’s film is when all the alter-egos gang up on our Chameleon. Clearly this film had a larger budget than most during this session, but it was fun despite the rather abrupt/odd ending.

10. Belle
BelleAfter her parents divorce due to her mother’s alcoholism, Belle’s life is turned upside down. Struggling, Belle is often forced to assume the role of the grown up with only her teddy bear to support her. One fateful evening during Christmas the situation spirals out of control with heartbreaking results. We see life through Belle’s innocent eyes making it all the more powerful. Out of all the films I watched during the festival, Belle is the nearest companion to our film Emmi (although the innocent 7 year old ‘Belle’ is a far more accessible character than our difficult and troubled teenager ‘Emmi’). Another similarity is that both are based on true stories! Diana Skarbek gives an absolutely stellar performance as Belle. The only real gripe I have is that the alcoholic mother didn’t seem quite as convincing as Belle or her father. This was my favourite film of the session (and indeed the whole festival), so I was pleased to learn Evey Swayland won the best Welsh Female Director for this film (and arguably she should have also won best film also). The film is available below and I definitely recommend giving it a watch:

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Fiction Part 2 (Cardiff Film Festival)

Following on from the previous post, here are the films which played alongside ‘Emmi’ in the Fiction Part 2 session at The Cardiff Mini Film Festival. Please note that any opinions expressed are based off my initial impressions during the screening itself.

01. The Picture on the Fridge
The Picture On The FridgeLonging to reconnect with his deceased mother, Ilan mysteriously jumps into a photograph that soon forces him to choose between his past and his reality. This all ends up a bit like Inception with photos levels rather than dream levels. The special effects are fun, even if they aren’t entirely convincing. This doesn’t matter being as the human story is what draws you in to Dekel Aizen’s film. I particularly enjoyed the film’s observation of technology evolving over different generations (analogue vs digital), a nice film to start with.

02. Ghosts of Burgundy Grove
The Ghosts of Burgundy GroveBased on a true story: Maggie discusses her future with George and worries that they have very little time together left. George however is not willing to discuss the future. There is a rumbling to suggest something is clearly wrong right from the very opening of Ciaran J. Hodgman’s film. Every time the seemingly distant Maggie takes another sip from her cup we see a startling flashback to an earlier point in their lives. Whilst the film wasn’t the most polished and the outcome predictable – it held my attention throughout. IMDB page here.

03. Me And My Thoughts
Me And My ThoughtsThis fictional short film portrays a modern woman who masks her mental health problems whilst striving to look normal and fit in. Whilst I found the film’s subject matter worthy material, the repetitive OCD elements in the first half had a tendency to drag the film down. Things improve in the second half (once the central character’s monologues begin to subside and the drama plays out). If I recall correctly, the director Martin Devek also performed many of the other key roles making this film. He is talented and this is commendable but I can’t help but feel that the production would have benefited with an independent editor helping to simmer the story down to its essence. The main performance in this short film deserves to be singled out for praise (sadly I didn’t catch her name and can’t find it online).


04. Wet Dream

Wet DreamStan is sick to the back teeth with the daily grind of his monotonous city lifestyle. Surreal daydreams punctuate his working week as he pines for the sea. One weekend on the rugged Cornish coast he has a magical encounter and an epic journey ensues… Apparently according to director Joel Duddell this includes “a magical adventure along the Cornish coast with the ghost of an 18th century smuggler”. I must have missed this bit and to be perfectly honest I didn’t really follow this seemingly experimental film. After an intriguing opening, I found myself getting a bit frustrated and was hoping it was the Goldfish dreaming rather than Stan! On the plus side the film sets a curious ambient tone and was good at conveying the mundane nature of day to day life. You can form your own opinions by watching the film here:

05. The Blind Man
The Blind ManA blind man wanders the street completely oblivious to all the disasters happening around him. This one was extremely daft in a fun way and wisely never overstayed its welcome (being only two and half minutes). I question whether the titular character is also deaf – but considering the completely random ending of the film – I’m definitely over analysing things!

06. Pesadilla
PesadillaThis was another of the more experimental films on show. Despite enjoying a romantic moment, we can see the man starting to become troubled. The tone then shifts to what I remember thinking at the time was a surreal Dario Argento inspired nightmare. And sure enough this seemed exactly what director Guillermo González Lanchares was going for – we later learned that Pesadilla means nightmare in Spanish. To watch the full film, visit here.

07. The Consequence of Reliving
The Consequence Of RelivingAfter discovering he has a special ability, a young man must make the most difficult decision of his life. This was one of my favourites of the session, well made, wonderful cast and some intriguing ideas. I don’t want to give too much more away about it, but if there is a fault with the film – it is that it tries to pack a few too many concepts in during it’s fairly brief 15 minutes run-time. This doesn’t make it any less captivating, so well done to director/writer Christien Bart-Gittens and co-director by Grace Smith.


08. Fortress

FortressSet in 1969, a Pirate Radio DJ seeks to defy the British Government by turning his radio station (located in international waters) into his own Kingdom. James Grimley’s film ultimately won an award for best Welsh Fiction Film at the festival and it’s not difficult to see why. From the technical viewpoint it is beautifully produced with wonderful production design and some nice performances (particular shout out to Scarlett Marshall as the feisty Layla). This was shot on Arri Alexa, so it clearly had a larger budget than most of the other films being show during this session. For the most part, this was an intriguing story but the message “a man’s home is his castle” does become a bit tedious after a bit (the subtext of “letting go” being a more interesting area to mine). I had to concur after some deliberation with other audience members that the ending needed to be a bit stronger, but this aside from this it was the most “polished” film of the session.


09. Jerky

JerkyGordon struggles to pick up the pieces of his life after the death of his husband Martin. The biggest obstacle in his healing: Martin’s dog Jerky, whom Gordon never appreciated. The film is a stark and intimate portrait of the grieving process. The pivotal moment comes when the dog chews through Martin’s towelling robe one day and it’s not clear whether things are going to end well or badly for poor Jerky. The story was excellent and I’d say that this was my favourite film of the session (ignoring any obvious bias we have for the next film). IMDB page here.


10. Emmi

Emmi Last, but hopefully not least, we were on! Despite a reasonably small audience turn out (around 10 people), it was nice to learn that the audience (except for the Festival team, Susie and myself) were all genuine audience members rather than filmmakers coming to see their film (you can sense my conflict in writing that)! I was happy that the film worked from a technical viewpoint. The session host Matt let us chat a little about the film afterwards. Susie was approached by one of the audience members afterwards to say that the film had made her cry. This meant a tremendous deal to us, although I somewhat flippantly quipped that perhaps Jerky might have been a better film to end on.

A weekend away with Emmi in Cardiff

It’s been a crazy couple of weeks for our film Emmi! On Saturday 24th June we played at two film festivals (Oakville in Canada and Cardiff). We also held a local screening in Oxford last weekend. I’ll cover more on the latter in separate post, for now I’ll concentrate on the film festival weekend.

Unfortunately we weren’t able to make the Oakville Film Festival (based just outside of Toronto). Susie and I recorded a message for the festival to play before the film (I now appreciate how much I hate talking to a camera – like talking into an answering machine only worse!).

Oops - what I've said now?

Oops – what’s he said now?

Susie and I both made it to the Cardiff festival however (not only would this be our first film festival experience, it would also be our first in Cardiff). You can read Susie’s take on the whole experience here. Susie was 30mins away but already had other plans for much of the weekend, so I was flying solo for the most part. My train (with incorrectly issued ticket) arrived a little later than planned. Almost immediately I started wandering in the wrong direction (typical) but thankfully it didn’t take too long to find my bearings. It was immediately apparent that Cardiff was fun, diverse and vibrant.

Walking around Cardiff
I managed to find my hotel (Park Plaza), check in and freshen up. I lucked out with the bed – absolute luxury!

Plaza Bed

After unpacking, I received a text from Susie and went to meet her at the train station. We then proceeded to Kongs to collect our festival passes. Kongs is a retro-arcade bar fill with old favourites such as Donkey Kong, Street Fighter 2, Mortal Kombat and Outrun 2 (had no idea they made a sequel!) as well as having Blue Moon on keg – nice!

Kongs

Our screening was part of the “Fiction Part 2” session and was located around the corner in a venue called 10 feet tall (presumably because the building is tall and thin). When we arrived on the top floor we found that the whole place had been decorated like a big top, it looked great!

The Big Top
Unfortunately the Comedy section was playing down the road at the same time, which was no doubt a busier session. The biggest surprise came when a former colleague of mine (having just moved to Cardiff) turned up just before our film played. Nice to have some additional moral support. Afterwards we found a nice bar and had a catch up before all heading our separate ways. I decided to grab some food at Wagamama before returning back to the hotel.

I originally planned to attend “Moon Dogs” and “Twisted Tales” during the evening at Jacobs Market but to be honest I was quite exhausted and the bed was far too comfy. I also factored in the thought of wandering around a strange city on my own in the dark having just watched a bunch of adult horror shorts. I phoned the family to says hi before running myself a lovely relaxing bath (with no children invading – bliss). I also spotted Casino Royale was on – perfect! I made it to about 10pm before sleeping (with no kids invading – bliss). This is very early for me being as I rarely get to sleep before 1am normally. Unfortunately I woke at 4.30am and didn’t get back to sleep properly. At 7am I decided to give up trying, get up, shower and enjoy a nice hearty breakfast. As a child I was always told “never eat too much before swimming or you’ll sink”, I decided to check out the pool facilities anyway. The pool was lovely and I managed to get in about 40 lengths before more people started to arrive.

Plaza Pool
I decided to retire to the steam room (which I had all to myself). After what was now my third shower of the morning, I decided to take a short wander around before checking out of the hotel.

The Plaza is based in the castle quarter almost right next to the Castle itself. As you can see the Welsh are quite patriotic!

Welsh Flags

The castle itself cost money to visit, so I just browsed the outskirts.

Cardiff Castle

I have to say I loved the animals carved on the castle walls.

Animal stonework
I walked around some nearby parks/gardens before returning back to the centre, it struck me that there were two things were in great abundance here: shopping arcades and Greggs bakeries (these were everywhere).

Shopping Arcades

There were also a numerous statues. Initially I chuckled at a guilty seagull on the head of Aneurin Bevan (Welsh Labour Party politician and chief architect of the National Health Service) before noticing a more poignant message about the Grenfell Tower disaster at the base.

Statues

After a spot of people watching over lunch, I decided to head down St Mary’s Street to see the Stadium and the river Taff. On the way I bumped into a wonderful mechanical clock.

Clock and Stadium
I was starting to get a bit concerned that I hadn’t seen any welsh dragons other than on flags, but thankfully I found this one on my way back to the hotel.

There be Dragons
The rest of the day I immersed myself in the festival watching the Female Director session and the remaining two fiction sessions. All of these took place in the Old Market Tavern. These seemed more popular than our session, hope to cover a bit about the films I watched in another blog post.

Just before the end of the final session, I rushed off to quickly grab some tea before crossing the river to the Tramshed (unsurprisingly a former tram depot) where the festival awards were being held. I was also planning to catch up with Susie again. Upon arrival I was greeted to live music and some familiar faces who I’d met earlier in the day. Shortly after this Susie arrived.

And the Band Played On
Even though we had the excitement of seeing our film in the nominations for best fictional film, it came as no great surprise to me that we didn’t win it (Susie was perhaps a little more disappointed). The reality was that there were almost 40 films in this category competing for a single accolade! Even so, this was a most enjoyable way to end the festival. After all of the awards were done and dusted we went back to the car and began to navigate our way back. The trip took a couple of hours, but it was lovely just chating on the way home. We had completed our first ever film festival. Now we just had the small matter of a film screening to organise.