Shorts to see: recommendations from our programmers

Our festival shorts programmers each pick a favourite from this year’s selection.

Techno, Mama (2021)
London Film Festival

Techno, Mama 

Saulius Baradinskas, Lithuania  

Head pulsating to a techno beat, teenage Nikita is counting down the days until he can call Berghain his home. For now though, his dreams are weighed down by housework and a life with his less than sympathetic mother, Irena, who refuses to understand his desires. As the two Lithuanian generations come to lock heads, it’s only a matter of time before their differing expectations lead to a collision. Cue a film brimming with tensions and domestic toxicity, but underneath it all is an uneasy love that perhaps even this mother and son can’t understand.  

With its visceral and pacy storyline, playful camerawork and a not-to-be-missed bedroom dance scene, Techno, Mama is a less than conventional coming-of-age drama from a promising young director. 

Nellie Alston

The Other End 

Nia Childs, UK

The Other End (2021)

A familiar London story but one seen from an unfamiliar perspective: through the eyes of the invisible women who are nonetheless integral to the stories we hear around violence and gangs. This debut film features a strong central performance from Quelin Sepulveda as a young woman concerned about the whereabouts of her boyfriend one evening. He should be home, but is uncontactable.

The Other End doesn’t sensationalise those harrowing stories we hear in the news, but subtly portrays the worry experienced by many women. This is best illustrated in the brilliant central set-piece, which was created and written following workshops with the featured actresses to ensure the scene reflected the lived experiences of Black and minority communities. 

Although this is a quiet chamber piece, the cinematography by Matt Gillan shows us a wider London of sodium-lit suburban streets, the shades of which are then echoed in the orange fluorescence of the police station waiting room. Childs has created a perfectly formed snapshot of the way we live. 

Phil Ilson

  • The Other End screens as part of the Your UK or Mine? shorts programme on 16 October


Myriam Uwiragiye Birara, Rwanda

In Imuhira (Home), there are few moments of relief for either protagonist Kanama or us viewers. Returning to what should be a place of safety and love, she finds both are limited. There’s no warm welcome, save the unspoken tender embrace of her friends. Fleeing terror, knowing the shame this would bring, Kanama might not have expected a warm welcome from her family, but what makes this film so powerful is seeing their reaction through her eyes. Shot without fanfare, leaving space to feel the stillness and emotion, the purposeful camerawork make these 12 minutes feel much more expansive. The sound design is also rooted in the bleak yet beautiful reality. Imuhira feels like a dream, drawing you into every movement and sound. 

Aduke King

Love, Dad 

Diana Cam Van Nguyen, Czech Republic

Love, Dad (2021)

A personal essay is at the heart of this animated documentary from Czech-Vietnamese director Diana Cam Van Nguyen, which finds her navigating generational and cultural gaps. The director is an LFF alumni, with her previous animated short film Apart being selected for the festival in 2018. In keeping with her previous work fusing animation and live-action, Love, Dad presents a unique visual style evoking the analogue era, when letter writing and family photo albums were the norm.

The film opens with a series of handwritten letters from her dad, who served a prison sentence during her childhood. She reflects on his words as she probes their deeply fractured relationship. In her narration she remarks candidly: ”We were closer when we wrote letters.” The cultural gap is evident as she questions her dad’s traditional Vietnamese cultural values. She tellingly refers to “his” Vietnamese culture, not hers. It’s a disconnect that’s familiar to many of us who have grown up as first-generation immigrants. 

Elaine Wong

BFI London Film Festival 2021

Tickets now on sale. Join us in person, online and across the UK from 6 to 17 October.

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