The London Short Film Festival 2019 runs between the 11th-20th January. I was lucky enough to preview some of the International films from this year’s festival, and have compiled five of the films that really stood out to me.
These films are from a variety of different countries and vary between live-action and animation. They are very different in their tones and styles, which makes for a thoroughly enjoyable mix of entertainment.
You can read my spoiler-free reviews below:
1. Milk (12 minutes, Dir. Heather Young, Canada)
Set in rural Canada, this film follows a young dairy farmer as she struggles to deal with an unexpected pregnancy. She is surrounded by reminders of her own unborn child as she helps to care for the pregnant cows on the farm. The film even opens with a rather graphic image of a cow giving birth, further emphasising the character’s state of mind.
Milk is an incredibly gritty, real film with no non-diegetic sound and very little dialogue. We’re greeted with a lot of uncomfortable close-ups and drawn out scenes depicting the gruelling work done on the farm. It’s a unique portrait of one woman’s life and how she’s coping with a recent change in her life. Whilst minimalistic in its style, it delivers a powerful message with a heartfelt performance from lead actress, Babatte Hayward.
2. Dressed For Pleasure (17 minutes, Dir. Marie de Maricourt, Switzerland)
20-year-old protagonist Sarah is disabled and lives with her conservative parents. Throughout the course of the film, we see her struggling with her sexuality and the various fantasies she keeps experiencing. When Victoria, a transgender woman, joins the family as their new cleaner, her presence upsets the family’s status quo.
This is an incredibly explicit portrayal of female sexuality and the awkwardness of not having independence. There are some incredibly funny moments throughout, but it never feels like it’s mocking any of the fetishes portrayed on screen. To me, it felt like a celebration of them and how society shouldn’t be ashamed of embracing their sexuality.
3. Gaze (14 minutes, Dir. Farnoosh Samadi, Iran)
In this simple yet powerful short, we follow a woman as she travels home alone on a bus late at night. During her journey, she witnesses a robbery on board and has to decide whether or not to intervene. It seems like an obvious choice to most, but the perpetrator is clearly dangerous. This is a great portrait of vulnerability, and how on edge women can feel when travelling alone in the dark.
The absence of non diegetic sound places the audience on the bus with her, giving us a role as a bystander. It’s an intimate, uncomfortable film that delivers a powerful message about the society we live in. This is an important watch for all ages and genders, and one that I’d recommend you seek out.
4. On The Way Home (2 minutes, Dir. Mizuki Kiyama, Japan)
The most striking thing about this film is its truly unique animation style. It’s a very surrealist film with lots of strange imagery that blend into one another. On The Way Home is a simple story about a young girl getting a piggyback from her father as they head home together, but it takes us on a fantastical journey along the way.
It’s a wonderful little film that tells us a lot in only a short space of time. For me, I was brought back to my childhood where my imagination was far better than it is now, and how I crafted little dream worlds in my head. Sometimes they could feel disturbing and confusing, but ultimately, I knew I was safe when I woke up. This film really touched me which is why I sincerely recommend it.
5. (Fool Time) Job (17 minutes, Dir. Gilles Cuvelier, France)
This unique black and white animated short left me feeling rather unsettled. It follows a man who signs up for a new job, hoping to provide for his wife and baby. However, it soon transpires that this job is not what it seems, and soon we are witness to a dystopian world. It’s a world that is, quite literally, devoid of any colour or brightness.
This is by far the darkest of all my recommendations, but I urge you to give it a go. It’s a harrowing portrait of just how far people will go for money, and how crippling it is to fall on desperate times. In this film, actions certainly speak louder than words because of the lack of clear dialogue. It’s mainly sound effects, grunts and one-syllable words, but this works in the film’s favour as it adds to the uneasiness. This world is as silent as it is dark, which creeped me out even more. Out of all my selections, this one is my personal favourite so I saved the best til last!
The films referenced above will be screening tomorrow, Monday 14th January. For more information, please visit https://shortfilms.org.uk/
As ever, please let me know if you see any of them as I love hearing your thoughts!