Winchester film festival is now into its 8th year. It boasts a week of film premieres and award-winning short films from over fifty countries.
Tonight’s event was held in the Winchester Records Office in Sussex Street, where it has a nice 80 seater custom-built cinema on the top floor. I was not even aware of the venue’s existence until I arrived.
Calamity directed by Séverine De Streyker and Maxine Flyers.
Opening this evenings screening was Calamity a short story exploring a families response to their youngest son’s new girlfrien. It is filmed in Belgium with subtitles. The dialogue was kept to a minimum making them easy to follow. The acting and close up camera details explained the majority of the storyline.
The main focus of the film is Cleo, a transitioning transgender and how she is responded to by her boyfriends family when they are caught off guard in his parents home. The subject of her becoming transgender was not the main focus of this short film. It was the responses from his Mother, Father, brother and sister in law and how each of them reacted.
Fathers character is interesting, a large older man who comes across as staunchly heterosexual. However, he very quiet and deals with the situation awkwardly and appears to be very uncomfortable. As he has no idea what to say he disappears to the garage and rummage’s in the freezer to find Eskimo pies which turn out to be ice lollies.
Mother switches between accepting and being curious. In one scene she approaches Cleo in the hall and places her hand on her breast and tries to turn her. It was abstract and not really in keeping with the Mothers character the audience had already become acquainted with.
The film is left unfinished, it felt like the directors could not think where to take the characters next. The brother was here in one scene and not seen again. Father is just awkwardly talking about getting rid of the freezer and Cleo and her boyfriend get in the car and go. It is as unclear at the end as it is at the start as to how they are going to accept Cleo into the family.
However, the storyline is very fluid and easy to follow.
Lady directed by Will Nash
An unusual choice of filming technique for Lady in 8mm Kodak film, which used to be used a lot in home movies. As the film develops it is clear that the filming style reflects the nostalgic reminiscence of the 90s ladette generation, through the protagonist Amy.
You would be forgiven in thinking that this was set in the 90s. However, upon closer viewing, you can see it is set up to date. The mobile phone by her bedside table and the modern model of car used in the garage she is working on our two hints in how you can date the film. More clarity to tell the audience which decade it was set in would have saved confusion. This was raised during the director’s feedback at the end of the film and duly noted by him.
Amy, the ladette of today reflects back to the time when young women behaved the same as the young lads of that generation. Heavy drinking, casual sex and the changes in job roles for women ie her working in a garage. Women were, at last, becoming equal to men. However, were they as with much nostalgia it is never quite as we remember it to be. The audience can decide on this for themselves.
The subject fitted well into a short film.
Retouch directed by Kaveh Mezaheri
This short subtitled film is set in Iran. It follows the dramatic life-changing events during one day in an Iranian husband and wife’s life.
The dialogue between the couple is strained and you can sense an awkwardness between them, suggesting she is unhappy with him. Before she leaves for work he calls out to her to help him. She enters the bedroom to discover the weights he was using are resting on his upper chest and throat. After a minor effort to help him, she takes the opportunity to finally be free. Letting the weights remove the last breath from his body. She leaves the flat to continue with her usual routine.
The timeline between her leaving the flat and returning later gave the impression it had been padded out. The actress did not come across convincingly at times when she was texting her husband and making phone calls as she is setting up her alibi pretending she does not know he is dead.
Domestic violence has a lot of media coverage at the present time and something as subtle as this short film would not be clear enough. It would be very easy to see her as sadistic in watching him die and to easily misread the film’s storyline.
The story behind this short film was based a short film watched on Facebook where a lady in a similar situation did this to escape her husband who subjected her to repeated sexual assaults. However, without knowing this information the film felt like it was missing part of its storyline.
The Smell of Petrol by Branco Tomovic
A short film about human trafficking. The main protagonist is female. I found this a very interesting choice as most reported cases in the news are run by men.
After the first drop, the woman returns home and showers straight away. Giving the impression she was cleansing herself from the awful thing she had just done.
The exact country, town or nationality of where this is set is left unanswered. The director explained he did not want it to be located as this is a problem all over the world. It was the subject that was the important part to raise awareness of.
The title comes from a device used by human traffickers where they cover the people in petrol to stop the dogs at border control being able to smell them out. This method can have devastating outcomes as featured in this film when the second trafficked couple lose their baby during transit. It is mentioned by the two traffickers that perhaps the baby was overcome with fumes. She is then told in no uncertain terms at this point by the receiving trafficker to ‘dump it, are we fucking clear’. The agonising look on her face when she realises she has to dispose of the baby made for uncomfortable viewing.
This multi-layered short film has plenty of scope to develop into a feature-length film. It gave the audience a small window into the inhumane life of human traffickers where the ultimate price they pay for freedom can be their life.
The main protagonist’s backstory would be interesting to see developed as it only hinted at in the final scene when she is cuddling her daughter and crying, that there has to be a good reason why she is doing this horrendous job.
Cavello directed by Sven Bresser
This is a coming of age short story following two young male friends and how they deal with the arrival of a new girl in their class who they both like. But takes the attention of one of them away from his friend.
A bit disjointed in places similar to the confused mind of a hormonal teenager. This was mirrored by the violent outburst towards his Mother, the awkward masturbation scene, jealousy and violent fighting over the girlfriend. It did appear to lose itself at times though.
The title name Cavello is a clothing brand featured in the film. It was a good device to use as teenagers are known for being into wearing brand named clothes.
It has an extremely uncomfortable ending where the young girl is sat on the railway bridge and as the train sounds the horn underneath as he charges at her. This left the audience stunned and it took a few seconds before anyone clapped or spoke.
This is the first event like this I have attended and I would highly recommend it. These short films give an insight into the talented directors and actors that are working extremely hard around the world producing new films.
The film festival runs from 3rd to 10th November.
Tickets available from the box office winchesterfilmfestival.com
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Hampshire Record Office
Winchester SO23 8TH.