Strange Days

It’s been a surreal week or so!

Emmi has been selected for three more festivals (exciting):

Emmi Award OnirosPerhaps our biggest news is that we won the award for “Best Drama” at the Oniros International Film Awards. We’ve been focusing on getting the film in front of  an audience rather than winning awards, so this came as a genuinely lovely surprise (thanks Oniros)!

We were also thrilled that Oniros recognised Amy Harris’ performance in the film (so both Amy and Natalie Martins have now received nominations for Best Actress!).

We also screened at two festivals.

On Saturday we played at the Women Texas Film Festival which  sadly we were unable to attend (pleased Emmi featured in the “Strong Female Characters” category). If anyone went to this we’d love to hear more about how things went down!

We also played at the London-based New Renaissance Film Festival in Shoreditch two days before on the Thursday. Susie (on holiday) was unable to come but Alex (Emmi’s runner) and Kevin (Emmi’s post-production sound engineer) provided some moral support (thanks guys). In a curious quirk of fate, Adam (Emmi’s production designer) was also having his stag do in Shoreditch during the same weekend as the festival (Alex was acting as “Best Man”). Coming to the screening would allow him a chance to scout the area in advance. After a reasonably smooth journey from Oxford to London we arrived at Liverpool street and walked to the venue taking in a few of the sights along the way.

Shoreditch SkylineShoreditch Artwork

The venue for the screenings was a lovely chilled out cafe/bar/cinema called The Close-Up Cinema– an absolute treasure trove for film aficionados.

Close-Up Cinema

The cinema itself was an intimate place with around 30-40 seats. The screening had around 25-30 members in attendance. Below is a list of films which played during our block (apologies if I missed one, I feel like I’m missing one):

This Swiss film (translation: Emergency) started the block off with a bang. Set in an emergency call-centre, a misunderstanding leads to an unexpected result. Short and snappy – I really liked it! For more details and the film’s trailer, visit here.

The Immaculate Misconception
Sinead is underage, pregnant and a virgin who lives with her grandparents (stick with this!). Her grandmother, a pious Catholic and the matriarch of the dysfunctional O’Reilly family, will stop at nothing to get the birth proclaimed immaculate. At 25 minutes this was the longest film of the session but the film flew by. It deftly balances drama with light-hearted moments and features exceptional performances from Orliath Feenan, Niall Cusack and Helena Bereen as the O’Reilly family. Michael Geoghegan’s film was originally intended as a feature film but sadly the film’s co-writer Simon Riley died before this could be realised. The film is dedicated to Simon and it seems a very fitting tribute indeed. For more information, read Michael’s Interview.

Others Like You (ALTRE)

Ester is a woman who has a strong longing to get pregnant. Following a surgical procedure by Greta – her family doctor and long-standing friend – she is diagnosed as sterile. Ester’s original desire thus becomes a growing obsession, and she embarks on a series of one-night stands hoping for a miracle. After a casual encounter, she shows early signs of a pregnancy and a positive test result restores her hope of becoming a mother. When Greta, herself barren, learns of Ester’s pregnancy, events take an unexpected turn. This Italian film contained some stunning cinematography and a wonderful atmosphere, although I must confess the story wasn’t always the easiest to follow (although it is memorable). Kevin particularly liked this one because he knew some of the locations where it was filmed.


It was clear that a theme was emerging, so it wasn’t a huge surprise to find that Emmi was next in line! Shameless trailer plug:

98 Street Playland
Reeka, a recovering drug user, seeks out her ex-boyfriend in order to save his life and their relationship. Much like Emmi in our film, Reeka isn’t a character who elicits too much sympathy (despite trying hard to escape the circumstances she finds herself in). The performances in the film are good across the board, in particularly Daniella Alma as Reeka. I do recall thinking that the look of this short film felt like a David Fincher movie and there was some excellent and evocative use of colour grading. By the end I found myself strangely detached from the story and the ending beach shot was particular jarring (no doubt the intention).


At the end of the films Michael Geoghegan and I did a short Q&A. I can’t honestly remember much of what I said (hopefully I didn’t come over too nervous/dull). I did hear a few audience members talking about Emmi afterwards which was lovely. After a quick drink at the bar Kevin and I went in to watch the next block of films and Alex went off on his Stag-do recce. The films played during the next block were:


William Stack is a former child actor who went off the rails just prior to his teenage years. After a shocking fall from grace and now an adult he is attempting a comeback. However before he can do this he will need to face the demons of his past. This was in many ways was the “Hollywood” entry in the bunch. It features Whoopie Goldberg and was executive-produced by James Franco. Glossy, very well produced if a little predictable in story terms.

One in a Million

Kevin is an orphan and autistic teenager living in the South East. Kevin obsesses about becoming a millionaire and escaping the shackles of his seaside hometown. This was the most emotional film I watched at the festival (I live with an autistic family). The film is impeccably shot in black and white, I recall the opening scenes being particularly atmospheric. The greatest asset of the film is Eddie Chamberlain as the protagonist Kevin (a real standout – glad I got to opportunity to chat with him during the festival). Christopher Laws is also extremely effective in his scenes as Kevin’s odious and bullying foster-brother Leo. The only real criticism I can throw at the film is whilst the other supporting roles are well-played, they seem less developed – as a result they don’t always ring true (Charly’s sudden attraction to Kevin and the utter naivety of the foster mum spring to mind as examples – but perhaps these aspects were lost in the editing process). With that aside, this was stirring stuff and director Patrick Ireland is definitely a talent to watch out for in the future. To find out more watch an interview with Patrick here.

Seeing Him

When Sophie and her younger lover James find their relationship being challenged they are forced to confront a truth they have both been hiding from. I must confess I was curious to see this being as it was made by Chris Jones (whose masterclass I attended a few years back). As expected this was polished with a strong performance from Vanessa Bailey as Sophie. Vanessa also wrote the screenplay, so I hope we will get to see her step behind the camera and direct at some point in the future!

Food First

Food first, then morals! A comedy about two couples in a stylish Berlin Tapas restaurant. The initial light conversation starts to intensify and tension increases as each dish is served. Many of the films shown thus far had a serious tone, so this was a welcome change (and the most entertaining film I watched). The performances were great, for me the real gem was listening to the off-screen chefs gossiping about the couples to shots of “food porn” which wouldn’t be out-of-place in an advert for M&S. The good news is that you can watch the film online here:

This animation is based on a Turkish legend: Mankurt is a mindless slave who has had his memory erased after being tortured. This profound animation had clear parallels with events currently happening in the world and served as director Ermina Takenova’s graduation project. The project took her eight months to make.

I Just Disappeared Into You

This music video was directed and performed by Roxana Vilk. It was shot in Scotland and Iran, the dance/film explores our relationship to nature and the nature of movement. In Iran dancing for women is banned, so the video explores contrasts the movements of dancer/choreographer Skye Reynolds, with the movements of an anonymous actress in Iran. Sections of the dance/film are also made up of thousands of still images woven together, exploring new ways capturing elements of the choreography and the ‘energy’ of the dance. The video was hypnotic and it somewhat reminded me of Goldfrapp (albeit more mellow and jazz inspired) – really liked the track also! To find out more read the festival interview with Roxana.


Sisak is set in a bustling Mumbai local train, where a romance develops between two men who are poles apart. This Indian film addresses the fact that homosexuality is still a big taboo in the country and it conveys the story without a single line of dialogue (no mean feat). Whilst I think the film might have benefited from a slightly shorter run-time (20 minutes), I think it conveys an important message to the outside world who are probably largely ignorant. The film has been touted as India’s first LGBTQ film (Sisak is an Urdu word, which refers to “the sob that’s stuck in the throat”).

Even though I only attended two of the blocks, this was an absolutely fantastic experience. In hindsight one thing became apparent: our film clearly had a far smaller budget than the other films shown, most of which were shot on high-end cameras such as the Arri Alexa. It made me feel happy to think we could punch our weight alongside films with significantly higher production values (hopefully a testament to the story and performances in Emmi).

Unfortunately I was unable to attend the other festival days. It was time to swap the film festival experience for an entirely different set of festivities which included zorb football, table-tennis bars, pizza restaurants and culminated in a 90’s theme night. Can’t say I achieved much sleep on Saturday but after a spot of Sunday brunch I was feeling slightly re-energized. This was just as well as it was the festival awards ceremony during the afternoon and I was going with Susie (now back from her hols) and Alex (who probably needed a break after all the organising).

Emmi was nominated for three awards: Best Social Realism Film, Best Story and Best Actress (Natalie). Realistically I wasn’t expecting us to walk away with any of these awards  – it’s just lovely to be considered as a nominee and it would be a great opportunity to hob-nob with other filmmakers and have fun!

We were greeted by afternoon tea and prosecco. During this time I chatted with a music video maker from Birmingham called Andy Rutter (watch his winning Ultrasound video here), bumped into to Michael Geoghegan again and went over to speak with Chris Jones, Vanessa Bailey and her partner. It was quite surreal chatting with Chris who is the person who coached me with the majority of my film-making skills (and it helped to reaffirm how far I have come over the past couple of years).

After the reception we entered the cinema for the main awards ceremony which was hosted by actress Fleur Keith. The full list of nominees and winners are available here. Whilst we didn’t win any of our nominations (as predicted), we were awarded an “honorable mention”.

After this ceremony we retired for a couple of photos and drinks.

Emmi - Susie, Andy, Jan and Massimo Emmi Honourable mention award

Just before leaving the ceremony host Fleur came across to congratulate us on Emmi, it turns out she was one of the audience members attending the screening (thanks Fleur, really appreciated!). I was now caught somewhere between pure adrenaline and complete exhaustion, time for us to head back to Oxford. A huge thank-you to both Jan + Massimo who made us feel so welcome at the festival, we hope to return soon with a future project!

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