The London Short Film Festival (LSFF) makes a welcome return to start the year, easing film lovers out of their holiday stupor into a 10-day celebration of the best British shorts currently around.
In this year’s programme the featured events include ‘Come to the Cabaret’, an evening of film and live cabaret; Super-8 screenings from Edinburgh’s Screen Bandita; and silent films scored by the South London five piece Breton. There are also interviews with Sightseers’ Alice Lowe, director Peter Strickland and ex-Jesus and Mary Chain member (and director of the sharp Christmas satire …Long Distance Information, 2011) Douglas Hart. Winners of the previous nine years’ British Council-sponsored best British short award will be in conversation and two of them will be showcasing new work.
The full programme boasts 25 programmes of short films and can be accessed here. To celebrate the festival’s 10th year, here’s 10 to try:
I Am Tom Moody (Ainslie Henderson)
Mackenzie Crook lends his distinctive southwesterly drawl to Tom Moody, an anxious musician keen to perform but hampered by childhood memories of stage fright. Ainslie Henderson’s claymation confessional is the perfect inclusion to the LSFF’s opening strand Funny Shit, fitting snugly between the programme’s eclectic mix of funny-strange and funny-ha ha.
Morning (Cathy Brady)
Reclusive Mary is disturbed one morning by a press photographer keen to unearth her tragic story. Up-and-coming director Cathy Brady allows Morning to rest with its sympathetic and nuanced performances by Johnny Harris and Eileen Walsh as, respectively, the eagle-eyed reporter and his emotionally shattered prey. The moving two-hander is shortlisted for the British Council award for best UK short film.
Only One Person Will Like This Film (Mark Bowsher)
The title suggests a narrow audience but every filmmaker and programmer attending LSFF will relate to this tale of a frustrated filmmaker who, after years of rejection, embarks on a targeted campaign to get her film screened. Mark Bowsher’s simple comedy has been shot on a shoestring but tells its festival-friendly story with verve and a knowing sense of humour.
Spaceship (Alex Taylor)
Chloe, an outsider armed with a beautifully elaborate homemade costume of the alien queen from the Alien series, is drawn into a group of conspiracy theorists convinced she can connect with angels. Director Alex Taylor is a master of a fiction/documentary hybrid where plausiblity is constantly tested. Another nomination for the British Council best UK short film award, Spaceship is also being adapted to feature length.
If Himmler Played Guitar (Andy Taylor Smith)
Part of LSFF’s annual documentary marathon, If Himmler Played Guitar explores the world of a Nottingham-based Second World War re-enactment performer who chooses to dress and impersonate Himmler. Award-winning director Andy Taylor Smith films with acute sensitivity to the uncomfortable subject matter, but the nature of the film is still bound to polarise audiences.
Physics (Claire Oakley)
Winner of the 2012 Film London Best of Borough award, Claire Oakley’s short is set on a deserted pebble beach where two young girls think they may have found the God Particle. Matt King (Peep Show’s Super Hans) appears as an ageing hippy but it’s Jodie Bastow and Maisie Hopkins as the outwardly tough but emotionally vulnerable young leads who enliven this beautiful tragi-comedy.
Hiding in the Open (Tina Ghazimorad)
An innocent teenager thinks it might be fun to spy on her neighbour with her new camera but observes more than she should. When the neighbour realises he is being filmed, the teenager is forced to confront her actions. Hiding in the Open shifts the themes and ideas of Hitchcock’s Rear Window (1954) to Tehran, creating a suspenseful insight into growing up in contemporary Iran.
Life Sentence (Ray Panthaki)
Two young men clash at a house party in an incident that has lifelong consequences for both of them. Ex-Eastenders actor Ray Panthaki writes and directs his first short film, which is allegedly based on real life events. Panthaki co-produced Kidulthood (2005) but here he shapes the familar tropes of that influential British urban tale into an altogether more reflective work.
69.4 Degrees North (Eva Weber)
Also known as ‘Reindeer’, 69.4 Degrees North is a brief but striking documentary from Eva Weber whose previous film, The Solitary Life of Cranes (2008), established her reputation for arresting images of working cityscapes. Here Weber casts her eye on the annual herding of Lapland reindeer, where she creates mesmerising atmosphere in the contrast beween the huddled reindeer, teeming with life, and the dead world of the Arctic conditions in which they live.
Volume (Mahalia Belo)
In his rich but sterile surroundings, Sam is grieving the loss of his missing next door neighbour, Georgina. As Sam’s relatives grows increasingly keen to sweep the miserable incident away, he becomes suspicious about what they might know. Tightly scripted with fine performances and fresh underwater photography (how did they make a Berkshire home look so exotic?), Volume won the 2012 BIFA award for best British short.