BIFF 2011 - Day 5

Aesthetica Short Film Competition

A huge list of short films show for the Aesthetica competition.

Unearthing the Pen (UK) - A short documentary about a small village in Uganda that banned the written word a few decades ago for fear of it's curse, and the child growing up in the present day as a farmhand, who wants to have a better life than his parents, and sees going to school as a first step. Local prejudice and huge education bills mean it's a steep hill to climb before he can get there. 7/10

The Shadow Effect (US) - An underwhelming young man who eats nothing but chinese meals, works a dead end job, and feels trapped in his day in day out routine, seeks advice from a self help group that tells him to shadow his biggest inspiration and become them to get the success they want. Shame he chooses two-dimensional, self-centred Dallas wannabe Chad Martini from his favourite soap. It can't end well when the character is killed off.. 7.5/10

Exhale (UK) - I saw this last year in Leeds. Joel is a cocky gang member living in London, and has just been told he is HIV positive. Meeting up with his childhood friend and ex member Chris who lives comfortably with his parents, he lashes out and criticises his clothes and style, rather than telling him the news. 7.5/10

The Laundromat (Australia) - A man fails badly at chatting up a woman until his laundry basket reveals a discarded gun. Turns out the woman finds them a bit of a turn on, but maybe it's not such a good idea to let her hold it.. 7.5/10

Un Certain Dimanche (That Sunday) (Fr) - A young teen Jeanne escapes from the family home and takes a ride with a girl she met at a party the previous night. A car, money and a boyfriend, she is all that Jeanne wishes for, but a trip to the seaside leaves her with a memorable experience. 7/10

Missed (UK) - A short and succinct message about making the most of your time with people because they could be gone tomorrow, as Greg learns when he hears that work colleague Emma was killed in an accident. 8/10

Mother (UK) - When her mother dies suddenly at the dinner table, young Marie and her father both approach their coming to terms with the situation in different ways, not all of them healthy. Director Shaun Hughes was present for a quick Q+A after the films. 7.5/10

Foto (UK) - One of those films that subverts one of your central assumptions about how the world works. Lonely and ageing man Adam goes round the adult shops for his daily porn, but one day his bag contains a roll of film. When he processes it, the photos are of him buying his wares, but also there are some other ones with him in there that he really doesn't remember. A trail of film rolls begins, and his nightmare worsens. 8/10

Love Child (Swe) - The sweet little daughter of proud parents is usurped in their affections by a new arrival - a cat. Slowly edged out of their bosom in it's favour, she leaves home and tries to make it alone. This film is credited with a quick fire triple whammy of making the audience's hearts bleed, giving them a belly laugh, and making them go ...WTF?! right at the end. 8/10

Her Mother's Daughters (Irl) - Too many of these sorts of film - ones that ponce about using interpretive dance to tell the story - become annoying and often do a lot without providing any real message, but this one was quite pleasant. A woman remembers the time when her daughters used to fill her big empty house with their running about, misbehaviour and happy laughter, instead of being always absent in their busy adult lives. 7/10

Hazed(Can) - A quick Pixar-style animation, where an animated factory feels guilty about it's poisonous effect on the environment around it. Simply committing 'suicide' doesn't quite solve the problem however. 7.5/10

I Want to Spend the Rest of my Life With You (Spa) - A brief fantasy by a woman at a stop light, and what happens when she spots the man of her dreams. 7/10

Losers: Flush (UK) - An attention-grabbing music video, using victorian pencil art to animate and lip-sync to a rap-off track. This is the only place I can guarantee you will see a Howl-style giant walking Queen Victoria cannon castle. 7/10

Mam (UK) - Five children (who were present for the screening) grow up in a small flat on an estate. Since mum won't get out of bed, it's up to eldest Danny to keep things from descending into chaos. Josie Lawrence and Paul Barber appeared as a bonus. 7/10

These next films make up the last two parts of the Northern Showcase.

Rebels Without a Clue (UK) (site)

Set in the sleepy Last of the Summer Wine villages of the North Yorkshire moors, two disinterested youths are busy taking pot shots with an air rifle at anyone who happens to park close by. Things change when a flash American car rolls up, and two men begin to do a deal. Unable to resist the urge, Mark takes a shot at one of them, startling the pair and setting off a gun battle which ends up with one dead and the other fleeing the scene.

Finding themselves suddenly with a fancy car, drugs and cash, they decide to make a run for it with their girlfriends to get away from their drab lives, but it's not long before the killer is on their trail.

It's quirky and funny, but the film could have done with some tighter editing as it feels a bit stretched out in places and it drags here and there. They use cheap tricks like driving slowly and putting on screech sound effects later to make it look like they're speeding over the moors. There is some dodgy digital editing as well to make them look like the car is moving. Hopefully however this is a preview screening and they might get enough feedback to tighten things up a little as there is a good film lurking under here. 7/10

The Last Days of Edgar Harding (UK) (site)

Jack and his friends make up a local band from Leeds. They're just doing local gigs so far, but thanks to respected music agent Edgar Harding, they are about to enter into the big time. Edgar, a baritone-voiced lethario with an apathetic wife and an eye for the men, takes a shining to Jack, and doesn't take kindly to being turned down. On the evening of their final contract ironing, Edgar makes his move, but things end very badly for all involved, and when the band have to dispose of the body or be implicated in murder, they need to hatch a plan quickly.

I wish I could have liked this more. By the last half hour it was getting semi-interesting, but prior to that the film just didn't take a hold of me. Partly because the songs they sing are bland, and the characters are not remotely likeable - the audience has to be on their side by the point they are in peril - and the poor editing of a not so great script put a barrier between me and the characters thanks to some pretty shoddy 'lowest common denominator' dialogue. (One example is when they work out what to do with the body, the audience is already minutes ahead, but they have to spend that time arguing amongst themselves and feigning ignorance at the obvious course of action.) Throw in a couple of gay-bashing lunkheads who predictably disappear partway through only to re-emerge near the end to play a pivotal part in it's conclusion, and you have a not so great film that could have done with a few more preview audiences. 5.5/10

When Life Gives You Lemons (Can) - Fictional Hollywood legend Calvin Adams lives peacefully in his advancing years in an affluent part of LA. Ever the charitable sort, he gives a generous tip to the lemonade sellers on his street, although the taste could use some more lemons. Bothered that he has had his dollars tricked out of him, he sets up a rival stall to show those pesky kids how it's done. A pleasant enough film with a nice ending. 7/10

Being Sold (UK) (imdb)

One of several last minute schedule changes, this was being shown as a last minute replacement for Matching Jack which mysteriously got dropped from the schedules. For reasons not fully explained, but involving alcohol at some point, John Foster decided to sell himself on ebay or somesuch. Married and with a kid, wife Lara is less than happy, especially when she spots the increasing crowd of reporters, burger vans and general gawpers advancing on her lawn like night of the living dead.

John wasn't completely stupid, he set a reserve price of a cool million pounds, confidently expecting that no-one would get anywhere near such a value, but in the harsh cool morning with a wife in his ear, the last thing he wanted to see was the total at about a quarter of that and climbing. Suddenly, he's the centre of the worlds attention, and also in the middle of a nasty brewing reporter war between a not very well disguised BBC local news, and an evil FOX network simile.

Being Sold is a solid British 'what if' comedy, and if you look closely enough you'll find some pretty obscure stars from past and present, including a haggard looking Gordon Burns as the in studio newsreader, and a heavily disguised but cheeky self-aware appearance from Roy Walker as a professor of 'refuse psychology'. It's guise as a commentary on the ridiculousness of 24 hour rolling news and the embarrassment of any old idiot becoming a celebrity, is watered down a little in favour of the humour, but it was funny and not completely predictable. 7/10

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