Leeds Film Festival 2009 - Day 11

The last of the short film segments - Hurrah!

I say this not because I don't like them (because there are some great ones this year), but because the last 4 days has seen about 100 films added to the list and my mind is a confused mess of tiny stories mingled with a few dozen big stories. I couldn't make the target without them.

Romanian Retrospective: Enfants Terribles 1

The Exam - An immature student goes to his girlfriend's flat to help him with an essay. (read: find something off the internet and print it out with his name on it) However, he notices the toilet seat is already up when he goes for a pee, leading to a lot of suspicious thoughts. 7/10

Before and After 22/12/1989 - The Romanian Revolution that had overthrown the Ceauşescu regime on that day splits this film in half. Regie and Imagine hear a knock on the door and fear the worst in the before half, and worry about more mundane goings on after. Part 1 is well done and chilling, but part 2 is too laid back for its own good. 7/10

The Tube with a Hat - Marian is a small boy who loves the family telly, which is old, battered, and has been to the repair shop many times. On the day of a Bruce Lee film being shown, it conks again, and so father and son make the trek by foot and whatever lifts they can cadge on the way to get it fixed, by a man who knows the set like an old friend. A charming note on how important small things are in life. 7.5/10

Interior - Tudor and Ana, a young couple put their little argument aside when they find a dead body in the stairwell of their dark and isolated block of flats, where no-one speaks to each other. It has an unexpectedly positive effect. 7/10

Waves - A day at the beach for several families takes an unexpected turn when a beautiful woman takes up a married man's offer to teach her how to float on the waves. 7/10

Romanian Retrospective: Enfants Terribles 2

I got a bit cheeky here. I had a ticket for both this and the British Shorts 1, and I knew through a bit of chatting to the staff that Curtains, the film screened before the Boosh film on Day 5 was being shown first. I used this free slot to see the first of the Romanian films, then sneaked into the British one to get an extra film ticked off.

Home - A Romanian working abroad gets into a taxi on return to his home town in Bucharest for Christmas. Turns out, taxi drivers with similar qualifications also exist, and a debate on the merits of EU membership, working abroad, long hours, and the absence of jobs fills the cab on the way home. The welcome by his family forces the driver to re-evaluate his desires to find work abroad. 6.5/10

British Short Film Competition 1

The kind people at the LIFF had made up a DVD specially for this short film segment, and I made sure I got hold of one while I could. 14 short films from UK filmmakers! Sweet.

Photograph of Jesus - A very funny film that should have been longer, about the unusual and impractical requests received for photographs stored in the Getty Images' Hulton Archive, animated using a mixture of pictures of the archive warehouse, choc-full of indexed files and folders of millions of stock pictures, mixed with some of those pictures brought to life. Pictures of Jesus, the Dodo, and a load of other daft requests are met with patient replies, but you never know, they may exist in their huge and expanding un-indexed section... 8/10

Edward's Turmoil - Poor Edward. One uttered swear word is enough to make him have a painful fit. Not a good idea to go for a walk with his potty-mouthed granddad then - or is it? 7/10

Echoes - On the journey from Lithuania to London with one of her latest girls, sex-trafficker Anya considers the choices she made and the morals she lost when she chose to take part in the herding process, and when Ilana takes off, she has to do battle with her conscience about what to do. 7.5/10

Surviving History - Lithuania was host to many thousands of murdered Jews during the holocaust, and some of the few remaining survivors give their own stories, and their feelings for the future, not least the rise of Neo-Nazism. A sobering film that suggests the wheel is about to come full circle once more and many more lives will be lost, given greater depth by the quiet, unemotional tone of its narrator and interviewer, Shivaun Woolfson.

The Stars Don't Twinkle in Outer Space - A seemingly undemanding film about the imagination of a young brother and sister as they play at space heroes is given a much deeper meaning as their imagination sets them free from the troubles in the real world. 8.5/10

The Trolley Man - A gently knowing look at the life of Ernest Smith (retired) who has made a name for himself in Enfield as the man who badgers the local council with information about the make, model and location of thousands of discarded shopping trolleys over the years. He treats them much as a trainspotter treats his trains, except he also returns them to their owners if they aren't too far away. A tribute to an eccentric man who refuses to sit down and do nothing in his retirement years. 7/10

British Short Film Competition 2

GirlLikeMe - Lucy's parents are too busy shouting at each other day and night to notice what she is up to. Wearing revealing clothing and putting on makeup to appear older, she meets with an older man under the impression that it will get her where she needs to go in life. As the man wrestles with his feelings, she looks at the situation in terms of what she can get out of it. 7/10

Believe - What happens when an unwavering devotion to faith mixes with the sudden and traumatic death of Lewis' loving wife. As he descends further into madness and angered grief, it becomes the role of his friends to get him through. 7/10

No Way Through - When a woman is knocked down, the driver phones for an ambulance, which is not available. When he reaches the hospital things get even more intimidating, in this strangely different version of Britain, where elements from far away have been transposed. A sobering film. 7.5/10

Jade - A young woman's life is turned upside down when she realises she is pregnant. The nice but dim boyfriend (who has a face that looks like it was designed by Jim Henson's workshop) tries endlessly to have a talk, but Jade isn't having any of it yet. However, not everything is as clear cut as that. 7.5/10

Kids Might Fly - The lives, loves and opinions of several teens around London are brought to the screen. Its themes were hidden a little too well under scenes of general teen exhibitionism and thrill, but were recognisably positive and universal. 5/10

Lamb - Johnny is getting in the way of his roommate James, who is after a bit of friction action with his girlfriend in peace. However, the older woman who owns the farm they work on seems a bit open minded, and might give him the attention he is being denied. 6/10

Ma Bar - Bench Pressing involves the lifting of heavy weights and keeping them there for a set time. Septuagenarians typically do not figure in such circles, but Bill has other ideas. He is trying to be top of the pile and has no need for pipe and slippers yet. 7/10

The Wake - A fisherman reluctantly accepts a stranger aboard his ship as he goes off on a trip. Talk of an accident that both men are tied to soon reveals more about them than what is initially revealed. 7/10

Yorkshire Short Film Competition

Vigilante - A faux documentary, interviewing a clearly mental, violent young man who has taken it upon himself to eradicate crime in his sleepy village of Hewson. His simultaneously funny and chilling tirades against even the pettiest of crimes ring true of a thousand times most of us have wished revenge on criminals in our own societies. 7.5/10

The Dogs - A field is all that separates a mother and child from relative safety, but the feral and ferocious dogs that lurk in every darkened corner of the city threaten to take them down. A heavy-handed but passionate comment on societies' troubles. 7/10

Enough - Blink and you miss it: a very short but confrontational film about a father trying to stop his son from being the town yob. 7/10

5 Miles Out - Cass just wants to be alone, away from her unwell sister but nowhere in particular. The trip to the seaside takes an exciting turn when a boy her age announces a daring stunt played out before the parents rise. 7.5/10

Boy - A very unsettling but efficient film where the dialogue is sparse but the meanings are clear. Ed is having trouble understanding and controlling his awakening urges as young boy Ryan takes an interest in his allotment, and is filled with confusion and self-loathing as a result. 7.5/10

Fanatic - A bodybuilding dwarf lives alone and isolated in a caravan, only interacting with society during his job as a cycle courier in Spain. Teased by children and annoyed by people's foot-in-mouth actions, his life is getting no better, but a receptionist at a delivery seems to take a shine to him. Could his fortunes be changing? 7/10

Hammerhead - A spate of shark sightings encourages Boris, who loves them, to forget his families' woes and hang around the local aquarium. Dad has lost mum to another woman, and when Boris' birthday comes up, he has to spend some time with 'new mum', much to his disgust. When Boris suddenly disappears in the middle of an argument, the three must realise what the important things are. 7.5/10

Kimjongilia (US/S.Kor) (site)

The Kimjongilia flower was named after North Korea's now ageing leader many years ago, as a symbol of peace and prosperity, although it is hard to see where these things are found there. Told through a mix of North Korean propaganda TV (though unfortunately no loud orange man from last year's The Juche Idea), graphical illustrations of world events leading up to the separation of North and South after World War II, and most importantly, accounts from North Koreans who have made it out. Getting information about the goings on over there is nigh on impossible, due to the locked down communications and the extreme threats made on the lives of its citizens for the smallest transgressions. This is one of the first documentary films that has been able to gather such accounts and present them to the world.

An estimated 2 million North Koreans fled north into China, and are now living as immigrants, and if you have to go to China for an improvement in conditions, things are pretty bad. However, most leave for South Korea, which since it was placed under Capitalist control, has fared much better in the world, both culturally and financially. North Korea is in dire straights. After requesting aid from the rest of the world in 1994 during the great famine and other disasters, it syphoned much of it off for the wealthy few, and the donating charities immediately withdrew in disgust at their brazen greed. Nowadays and for a long time, many of the citizens are desperately poor and kept ignorant of outside affairs, constantly fed the line that everywhere else has it worse by state-controlled television.

Kimjongilia is a powerful documentary, and gives much insight to the conditions over there that was only available in hushed tones and fragmentary evidence before. There are hopes for the future, not least the expected chaotic uprising that will occur once Kim Jong Il pops his clogs, but there is much to be done afterwards to avoid the same powers getting in and keeping the suffering going. 7.5/10

Carmen Meets Borat (Ned) (trailer - note mentioned website on page not genuine)

Carmen is a young Romanian woman in the town of Glod (meaning mud) with an admiring young man and a future in her fathers' shop. Her town however is smarting from the recent arrival of a film crew that filmed the opening and closing scenes from the film Borat. They paid the town some cash, but this was not nearly enough for the offence they suffered by the nature of the film and the things said about the villagers, especially as they weren't told of what they were filming about, just to smile and nod when instructed in order to receive their pitiful 3 Euros each.

Out of the blue, a charismatic lawyer from the US arrives and sets to work winning over the people with the promise of suing Sacha Baron-Coen for a good chunk of the $300M or so that Borat earned. This has the members of the town meeting licking their lips, but dissent soon forms when some members suspect that money has already changed hands.

In a similar vein to Borat, this film had a feeling of a film attempting to portray real life, but with some changes for the viewers. I have no doubt that the people in the film were members of the Glod community, but perhaps they had been sexed up a bit for the cameras and their stories massaged gently to provide a cohesive backbone to the story of the town's struggle to sue the companies behind it, and the lives of their residents in the aftermath. It was nevertheless entertaining and interesting to see that exploitative practices occur everywhere you look. 7.5/10

Film Count: 131/150

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