A closer look at the 12th London Short Film Festival

One of the standouts at this year's London Short Film Festival was Another Green World (Dir. Christina Hardinge, UK, 2014), a film which had something wonderfully absurdist about it. You sit in a dark room, watching a man sitting watching a screen in a dark room. This then brilliantly represents his consciousness, when we cut to the real world. Indeed, this short is all about the absurdity of terminal illness, as opposed to our greener, self-constructed narratives. Its style was bold, self-defined, and its message uplifting.

Equally good was Gone (Dir. Lawrence Page, UK, 2014) which presents a rather wonderful hypothesis for the disappearance of socks. It’s one of those fantastic objet d’art that presents the ludicrous in a completely serious style, and leaves you to chuckle at the results. The short almost comes across as one of those charity infomercials that raises awareness of support out there for those who have been affected by the loss of socks. It’s all very funny, and this fictional cosmos where socks mean everything is well fleshed out too.

There was also two brilliantly British tales of adolescence at the festival, with a very British twist to their humour too. Role Play (Dir. Brynach Day, UK/USA, 2014) for example portrayed a family experiencing multiple anarchic, rural power plays in quite a picturesque village. Day captures the youth of his characters to perfection, particularly with his two young boys, whose booze-swilling, fag-smoking badassery is hilarious. But the film also cleverly hinted at how we are taught gendered roles.

Also there was heart-lifting “pom-com,” Year 7 (Dir. Rob Leggatt, UK, 2014) which centres on two boyhood best friends. Again, Leggatt’s film encapsulated perfectly the feelings of being an outsider when young, and of teenage friendships’ changeable nature. The short never loses its comic charm though, and the school-keyboard soundtrack is lovely throughout. Plus Year 7 also presented a rare, refreshingly light-hearted take on young male relations in London.

Another short with an excellent male dynamic and forcefully British humour was Milk! (Dir. Ben Mallaby, UK, 2014). This was by far on of the festival’s best shorts, and although Milk! is perhaps not for the squeamish, everybody else so be sure not to miss it. In fact, this short is particularly essential viewing in all those countries where they insist on drinking tea without milk. Perhaps the best way to describe Milk! is to say that it’s a bit like Withnail and I meets Itchy and Scratchy, as Mallaby’s own comedy duo Raymond and Timothy experience a series of horrible fates as a consequence of running out of milk. The cartoon-esque, highly grotesque gore is a delight, and it is hard not to look forward to seeing more of these two.

If this all seems a bit disconcertingly male-centric, fear not, because Beverley (Dir. Alexander Thomas, UK, 2014), a crowd-funded, twenty-four minute short from Leicester places its emphasis firmly on a mixed-raced, female character’s journey through the 80s. Watching Beverley, you can’t help but think of Shane Meadows’ opus magnum, This is England. Especially seeing as Vicky McClure makes an appearance, like a sort of metonym of Meadow’s earlier work. Meadows’ carefully placed cultural icons and power slow-mos over throw-back songs are all there too though.

But this film adds an important angle to the retrospective Midland-based discussion which Meadows started. Beverley is the daughter of an English mother (McClure) and an African father, and as a character she introduces a multi-ethnic and female perspective to the centre of this central-east England wave. And this is clearly a very personal tale, as the director himself is mixed race and from Leicester. These discussions about multiculturalism in Britain are never more appropriate either, and Beverley is a clear statement of intent. A feature surely has to follow.

26 January 2015, by Thomas Humphrey