Each year the team behind Exeter Phoenix’s Two Short Nights film festival go out of their way to put together an eclectic mix of contemporary cinema’s finest shorts.
2015’s festival started with two screenings shown back to back in the Phoenix’s lovely new cinema space, Studio 74. The setting might be matt-black and new, but the shorts selected were of the usual high standard.
Two Short Nights International Shorts: A Dislocated Existence and It’s All About Perspective
As always, the two international screenings at Two Short Nights had different themes; the first featured six shorts based on the idea of a dislocated existence and characters that wanted to connect with someone, something, somehow. A theme that seems fitting in an era that is obsessed with status updates and selfies.
The second batch had a theme of human spirit and struggle -inviting you to choose which side of the story you’d see. There was an interesting selection of shorts in both categories, but these were the films that I enjoyed the most.
What Do You See? Directed by Scott Willis & John Batty. UK, 2015.
What Do You See? depicts a grim reality of old age. The promotional materials suggest the voiceover utilised in this short is based upon a poem written by a care home patient, a poem that was found by nurses shortly after the woman died. The poem expresses how this woman perceived the world around her and how society viewed her. It’s not upbeat, nor is it uplifting, but it certainly shines a light on societies tendency to disregard our elderly. This short (above the others) had a greater resonance with me because the lead character was female; cinema has a nasty habit of shunning women of a certain age, more often than not declining to give them a voice or a way to be heard -the most obvious exception is the cantankerous older mother character-type eg something akin to Judi Dench’s role in Philomena (Frears, 2013). It’s by no means fun, but it’s a short film that affords a voice to those who are all-too-often hidden from view and denied the chance to be heard. A provocative and powerful start to the Two Short Nights.
I’m In The Corner With The Bluebells. Directed by Ako Mitchell. UK, 2014.
I’m In The Corner With The Bluebells features half-siblings, Julie and Ricardo, meeting for the first time as adults, however, in an unusual twist of fate they find themselves oddly attracted to one another. The short is beautifully shot in B&W and its troubled, lust-filled romance, recalls the tension and works of a younger Woody Allen. There are a few moments when the acting slips, slightly, but the tension and chemistry between the two leads is undeniable and its both alarming and thrilling to watch as they eventually embrace, for the first time. There’s always one or two really pleasant surprises at Two Short Nights and while this is far from perfect, but it is certainly a highlight of this year’s festival.
I Said I Would Never Talk About Politics. Directed by Aitor OÃ±ederra. Basque, 2015.
OÃ±ederra’s film about politics can hardly be accused of subtly, with its world leaders feasting upon the remains of its subjects but regardless it’s a dazzling animation. The short revolves around a characterisation of the Spanish Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy Brey, who’s travelling by aeroplane to dine at a prestigious restaurant that specialises in the finest quality red meat. It even features an appearance from everyones favourite pork lover, David “oink oink” Cameron, but fear not, his genitalia remain hidden at all times. Phew!
The Best of the Rest…
A few of the other shorts deserve an honourable mention -as I said, the standard was exceptionally high –Duellum (Wood, 2015) is a beautifully shot B&W film about an ordinary man escaping the 9-5 grind, romping around in the countryside, dressed as a medieval knight. The zombie film, Last Perspective (Djukic, 2015), was far better than I initially expected and as it enters its final act, it wonderfully pulls the rug from under your feet. A very pleasant surprise that proves you should never count-out the genre of the stumbling dead.
Sebastian and Them (Bee, 2015) and Foxes (Gurrea, 2015) also proved to be very popular with the audiences in attendance.
Once again, the team at the Phoenix have put together an excellent selection of shorts and the festival continues today with En Bretagne, International Documentary Shorts and of course, the Exeter Phoenix Commissions Premiere. If you haven’t booked your tickets yet, do it now to avoid disappointment.