Future Shorts Festival

Future Shorts is the biggest pop up film festival of its kind, and this week it was hosted at Coventry University for the first time.

We watched a total of five short films all varying in length and style. More information on the short films can be found here http://www.futureshorts.com/calendar-city-screenings.php

Cafe Regular, Cairo
Directed by Ritesh Batra, Egypt 2011, 11 minutes

A young couple find themselves speaking about things they have never spoken about before. In a city where the old and new meet, with the potential for anything to happen, they try to find their own place in a changing and uncertain world. Winner of Special Jury Mention at Tribeca Film Festival.

This is simply 11 minutes of a conversation between a couple at a cafe. We, the audience, don’t know anything about the couple apart from their names. I never thought that 11 minutes of watching a conversation could be anything but boring, but there is something oddly absorbing about Cafe Regular, Cairo. There’s a very good use of camera shots, with subtle changes during the conversation that focus on each character. Somehow without being told anything about the characters we learn so much about them through their dialogue. We know they’re a young couple and they’ve been together for two years. We also learn a lot about the difficulties they as young people go through, when they talk about having sex for the first time. They are both apprehensive about the idea and have nowhere to go, they are unmarried and risk getting in to trouble if they are caught or found out. Through the cleverly written dialogue we actually learn quite a lot about the characters.
Its safe to say that this wouldn’t be able to sustain more than 11 minutes; there is no change of setting, its all just one long scene, however it does feel like a small section of a much longer film which is partly what’s so intriguing about it. It leaves you wondering, and it certainly left me wanting to know more. There’s something so intriguing and clever about it.
This film is wholly reliant on the dialogue to tell the story which is a really unusual technique. It was interesting to see something so unlike what’s already out there, and compare it to other short films. My script for 162MC has little dialogue, as it relies on action to tell the story. I don’t think the technique would suit my idea, and in fact I could probably cut some more dialogue out, but its opened my eyes to different techniques, and is something I may experiment with some other time.

A Brief History of John Baldessari
Directed by Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost, 2012 USA, 6 minutes

From the directors of CATFISH and PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 3, A Brief History of John Baldessari tells us everything we do and don’t need to know about this American conceptual artist. Many know Baldessari as “the guy who puts dots on people’s faces.” But did you know that he is 6’7″ and that his wifi password is 123456789B?  An epic career is crammed into 5 and a half frenzied minutes. Narrated by Tom Waits.

I had no idea who John Baldessari was, so this made no sense to me at all! I love the style used, it reminded me quite a lot of the Ben and Jerry’s adverts on television. Its quite a unique and different style to your usual documentary, and it was a lot more engaging than I thought it’d be. Its humorous and playful while being quite informative, and the narrator has one of those voices that you could listen to for hours! Its a really innovative way to pack lots of information into a 6 minute film, and its really memorable…for me its a far more successful way to inform people about something or someone than your usual hour long documentary.
I personally thought that this was a bit of an odd-one-out compared to the other films shown at the festival. I suppose it does tell a story, although in this case its autobiographical and the stories are true.
Having just researched this film further in order to write this post, its interesting to note that the directors also directed Catfish and Paranormal Activity 3. Catfish is a fantastic documentary style film, that really leaves you wondering if it was real. Its shot in the style of a video diary; a completely different style to this.

Directed by Michael Pearce, 2010 UK, 14 minutes

Mike visits his estranged son on his birthday, wanting to take him out and rebuild a damaged relationship. But drink and the simmering violence from match day in London taints the occasion, resulting in a strained afternoon for both father and son. Pearce has been named one of the  ‘Stars of Tomorrow’ by Screen International, and Rite was nominated for Best Short Film at BAFTA Scotland.

I really enjoyed this gritty British drama. I love gritty drama films, Tyrannosaur is my favourite film and Rite is quite similar to it in many ways, revealing the gritty, violent underbelly of England.
The performances in Rite were very good, particularly the role of Mike (the father). I really liked the way it was shot and edited; it has a really bleak, cold colour to it which is quite common in gritty dramas and it sets up an authentic atmosphere that you can almost feel through the screen. It moves quite slowly and lethargically, even during violent scenes, and it shows just one day in the characters’ lives. I really liked the pace of the film, I thought it was just right. It showed an almost soft side to all the violence and nastiness, making the characters quite endearing. A faster pace would ultimately up the violence and remove any chance of the audience connecting with the characters. The pace almost helps the film to deal with really dark, violent themes in a sensitive and non-exploitative way.
There is little dialogue, so this film was quite useful for my 162 MC research as I am aiming for a script that relies on the action to tell the story, not the dialogue.

The Black Balloon
Directed by Ben Safdie and Joshua Safdie, 2012 USA 18 minutes

Winner of Sundance’s Short Filmmaking Award, the Safdie brothers bring a film intended for children, morphed into a sci-fi urban fable. Black Balloon explores New York and the complicated lives of individuals and their daily experiences from the heights of a stray balloon.

I enjoyed this film but felt it was lacking something that I can’t quite put my finger on. Its pretty to watch and the music and sound is really good; with particular pieces of music repeated throughout, but its really odd.
The concept is very interesting; the day to day difficulties that people struggle through being observed by a stray balloon; an inanimate, unbiased object. It allows us to stand back from the experiences of the characters in the film and observe their lives as if we were the balloon; watching quietly and unbiased; simply observing out of interest rather than really caring. Its an effective and interesting concept, but the film for me was just too odd.
For one thing, it reminds me a lot of an episode of The Chuckle Brothers that I watched when I was a child and still remember (probably because it was constantly repeated on the kids TV channels!) where the Chuckle Brothers have to contend with a red balloon with a mind of its own. That is through no fault of The Black Balloon or its creators, and it certainly doesn’t detract from the quality of it but it meant I couldn’t take it seriously. It was particularly difficult to take seriously at the end, when the black balloon finds a van of fellow balloons and sets about breaking the window to set them free…that part was very Chuckle Brothers!
Chuckle Brothers aside, The Black Balloon is visually very good. Although I think that it could’ve been more striking using a balloon of a brighter colour (the black did tend to disappear among the buildings and roads) it is very visually effective.
I also really liked the music, it had a certain feel about it, and when it was repeated throughout the film it induced a kind of calm feeling.
One of the more bizarre films of the night but by no means one of the worst.

Auf Der Strecke (On The Line) 

Directed by Reto Caffi, 2007, 30 minutes

A story about love, voyeurism and guilt. A department store security guard watches a clerk in the store’s bookshop on CCTV and falls for her. After  he witnesses, and ignores, a supposed love rival being attacked on a train, guilt begins to destroy his once ordered life. On the Line has won over 50 International awards.

This is the film I chose when we were asked to vote for our favourite. Its an interesting and moving story about love and guilt ,with some fantastic performances all round, especially the protagonist. Its interesting how it changes your perception of him, in the beginning I thought he was stalking her, so immediately assumed he’d be a bit of a weirdo, but that turned out to be completely untrue.
Nothing really stood out to me in this film in terms of sound, editing etc; but I suppose that can only be a good thing! If you don’t see the editing, then its a good film and all that. I thought it was very well written and performed, and it was well paced. I loved the quiet brooding atmosphere, it was actually quite dark and tense which worked well.
Again this is a good one for 162 MC research, in terms of script writing again this film didn’t have much in the way of dialogue.

Future Shorts was well worth going to, and who could say no to a night of short films for just £1?! You’d be daft not to jump at the chance. As well as being good fun it was very useful, and has helped me to further my ideas for 162MC. I’m due to re-write my script and make adjustments so I will definitely be bearing in mind some of the things I’ve learned about script writing; particularly dialogue, through watching short films.


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