Our man on the ground, Adam Cook, has reviewed the short films that made the final screening programme from this year's call for submissions. They are a wide and varied bunch, which we think you will enjoy. We hope this helps you plan your visit to XpoNorth...
Director: Mark Callum
Scotoma means the partial loss of vision in an otherwise normal visual field. Rather fittingly this curious title becomes clearer by the conclusion of this compelling two-hander. Dawn is anxiously waiting at the crown court to be called to the dock. With her best friend for comfort the pair discuss the trial. Mark Callum’s film wisely focuses on the script and performances as the audience gradually learns about the case and the relationship between the friends. It’s a tightly constructed short that delivers an effective moment of clarity in its final minutes.
Someone Else’s Skin
Director: Patrick Perlman
Geoffroy has spent his entire life in a small French town and never met anybody who is different to him. When he gets lost in the multicultural Parisian area of Barbès he discovers his small town prejudices are not deserved. Patrick Perlman’s comedy short makes fun of Geoffroy’s warped world view whilst mocking his bigoted outbursts. Yet, impressively the audience is still able to care for the protagonist as he gradually discovers his beliefs are unfounded. With a sharp script and charming performances, “Someone Else’s Skin” is another French winner.
Director: Serdar Cotuk, Bugra Ugur Sofu
An amusing silent short about a group’s strange encounter at a bus stop.
Director: Mark Jenkins
“Surface” is an experimental docu-drama and one of the biggest surprises of the festival. Mark Jenkins' stunning film is shot with a GoPro camera around the waters of Orkney. The versatile camera allows the audience to go anywhere, from skimming across the sand to diving below the lapping waves. “Surface” is a truly unique audiovisual experience as the film travels around the islands capturing the sights of the land and the distorted sounds of the sea. The seamless editing gives the illusion of a single take whilst the music reinforces this inspiring journey of reflection.
Director: Hsun-Chun Chuang, Shao-Kuei Tong
A humorous CG short about the battle between a giant praying mantis and an inept superhero.
Director: Jacob Joyner
Tyler and Joy are working the night shift at a grocery story. It is Joy’s last shift and Tyler is running out of time to ask her out. Framed as a series of comedic daydreams the audience witness Tyler’s fears of rejection: can he finally muster up the confidence to ask the question? With solid production values and a fitting muzak-inspired soundtrack, “Swoon” is a sweet-natured romantic-comedy about the difficulties of opening your heart to another person.
Take Your Time
Director: Orson Cornick
Set in a Cornish town, “Take Your Time” marks the directorial debut of Orson Cornick. Tim, a quite young boy, collects clocks and will do anything to accumulate more - but what is the reason for this strange and fanatical hobby? This sincere drama explores a son’s love for his mother and the unusual lengths he will go to for her. Employing elements of magical realism, “Take Your Time” is likely to appeal to both young and old viewers.
Tall Tales Part 2
Director: Jon Turner
A slickly animated and humorous tall tale. Perfect for keeping the little ones quiet.
It is wonderful to see countries as far afield as Bahrain be represented at this year’s festival. Mohd Ateeq’s “Tarweeda” is the moving story of a wife chained up by her abusive husband and who manages to find freedom the only way she knows how. The film’s visuals prove to be just as powerful as its story with the strong colours and dynamic framing leaving a lasting impression. It is a pleasure to see the festival giving a voice to so many international filmmakers.
Ten Paisa And Grandmother
Director: Sachi Bansal
The second Indian short at this year’s festival, “Ten Paisa and Grandmother” is the story of self-discovery for a ten year-old boy in New Delhi. Chakku is a headstrong boy who has an answer for everything. When he steals ten paisa from his grandmother in order to buy a kite it triggers a series of events that will teach Chakku a valuable life lesson. The naturalistic style and honest performances enhance this simple yet engaging coming-of-age tale.
Director: Kevin McNulty
“Tethered” was a five year labour of love for its director, Kevin McNulty. Set in a unique cloud world where balloons are being oppressed by monstrous creatures called Ids, a brave red balloon finds the courage to fight against the injustice it finds around him. “Tethered” is an animated short with a blunt but powerful message. It is a story against bullying and oppression as the balloons find the courage to rise against the abuse and hate and regain their inner-power. It is a film with universal resonance, no matter your background or circumstance.
The Bird That Never Flew
Director: Hector Bizerk
The Bird That Never Flew - Accompanying their same-titled EP, “The Bird That Never Flew” is an unforgettable film from Glasgow hip-hop duo, Hector Bizerk. It is an arresting and angry state of the nation address as the pair attack growing social divides and modern culture. The film, directed by Hendo & Mackenzie, perfectly complements the band’s vision delivering an ever-shifting collage of Scottish life. Bold, ambitious and exhilarating, the short film is a perfect showcase for Hector Bizerk’s powerful music.
Director: Keith Mannix
Keith Mannix’s documentary is not for the squeamish as he explores the world of cockfighting in the Philippines. The film follows Rudy Bongoyan, a cockfighting trainer as he explains the rules and culture of the popular bloodsport and his curious relationship with his prized chickens. “The Fight” is a fascinating glimpse into a world few of us get, or even want, to see. Whilst some of the scenes are distressing Mannix manages to reveal a unique culture without ignoring the important question of animal cruelty.
Director: Venetia Taylor
A newly engaged couple wonder what the future will hold for their relationship, but when they come face-to-face with their future selves they might not be happy to know the truth. “The Future,” from writer-director Venetia Taylor, is an amusing relationship comedy that plays on people’s curiosity of the future. This economical short film deftly explores its premise whilst delivering one of the best punchlines of the entire festival.
The Girl and her Tail
Director: Yong Jie Yu
An expressive animated short from Singapore with a simple yet captivating style.
The Laboratory With Leaves
Director: Daniel Roberts
“The Laboratory with Leaves” is an informative documentary produced by the University of Oxford. Deep in the Wytham Woods, researches are studying the diversity of insects. Featuring interviews with the passionate scientists this short doc helps to reveal the importance of biodiversity and the vital part insects play in our ecosystem. You will also never look at ladybirds in quite the same way again...
Director: Michael Creutzburg
Yara is the new girl at school struggling to navigate social conventions. She is drawn to the pink-haired and independent, Nova, but when she discovers her new friend is a lesbian Yara has to make a decision between her own feelings and social acceptance. “The Latecomers” is a beautifully shot coming-of-age story with a soft colour palette matching the film’s pleasingly understated tone. The two central performances help support the film as the audience is pulled into their intimate world.
The Longest Day
Director: Tim Courtney, Shaun Hughes
A short film that demonstrates that you can find comedy even in life’s darkest moments.
The New News
Director: Danny Sandler
An informative mini-doc about the evolution of news platforms and the rise of local interests.
The Penguin Construction
Director: Mihály Schwechtje
“The Penguin Construction” is a droll comedy from Hungarian director, Mihály Schwechtje. Szabadit is middle-aged, unemployed and down on his luck when he is offered a new flat and job. With a new lease of life he sets out to win back the woman he loves but his upturn in fortune is not destined to last. This gentle and humorous film succeeds thanks to the sympathetic portrayal of Szabadit as he tries to turn his life around. It’s impossible not to feel for him as the world unfairly conspires against him.
Director: Nelson Fernandes
A melancholic yet beautifully animated stop-frame short constructed entirely out of cardboard.
Director: James Arden
“The Technician” is an accomplished graduation film from director, James Arden. Exploiting the fears of online and technological security this effective thriller explores what happens when curiosity costs more than just our privacy. The story follows a freelance IT technician who copies the private files of his clients but soon discovers something he wished had remained a secret. From a simple setup, Arden wrings tension out of the situation before delivering a bloody climax.
The Trouble With Lucie (Film Contains Swearing)
Director: Lionel Kaplan
“The Trouble with Lucie” is a short film that is sure to keep audience members on their toes. Lionel Kaplan’s slick and professional short follows Lucie, an actress who really wants to be a director. At her latest casting call reality meets fiction as the audience is thrown into an unreliable world where nothing can be trusted. The short is cleverly constructed as it playfully twists our perception of the events on screen but it is Clemence Faure’s excellent lead performance that helps anchor the film and ultimately make you care for her character.
The Wheel Of Time (Film Contains Swearing)
Director: Kagan Kerimoglu
Set in a dystopian future, “The Wheel of Time” features excellent production values and an engaging story. In the future the government create a serum that grants the population immortality. However, the cost of this immortality is being kept secret by the totalitarian state forcing a hacker to try and release the truth. Kagan Kerimoglu’s atmospheric short may tackle familiar sci-fi themes but the accomplished production and compelling performances make sure this a worthy addition to the festival programme.
Director: Michael Peeling
Eric returns home to visit his childhood friend, the recently engaged Lily. He convinces her to dig up the time capsule they buried as children. On their journey to the capsule they discuss the past, how time has changed their relationship and Eric’s true feelings for his lifelong friend. “Time Capsule” explores themes of regret and missed opportunities yet Michael Peeling’s film doesn’t go for the obvious. Instead it delivers a more truthful and emotional climax to a story that could have so easily become overly sentimental.
Trî Cíga (Film Contains Swearing)
Director: Liam Hall, Matias Breuer
“Trî Cíga” is an assured student short from filmmakers, Liam Hall and Matias Brewer. Set in a grey Prague park, the friendship between two adolescent boys is tested after a freak incident. The drab cinematography matches the wintery Prague locations as the boys’ situation quickly turns from messing around and stealing cigarettes into something far more serious. The young directors effectively coax natural performances from the even younger actors whilst exploring a compelling shift in their relationship.
Under The Same Roof (Film Contains Swearing)
Director: Dornaz Hajiha
This London Film School produced short film from director, Dornaz Hajiha, is centered around a complicated moral dilemma. A young married woman, Ana, is having an affair with her tenant, Diana. When her son finds the pair in a compromising situation, Ana tries to get Diana out of the house whilst keeping the truth from her husband. Hajiha avoids any easy answers whilst exploring this uncomfortable situation. With a measured pace the short captures Ana’s internal conflict and guilt whilst delivering an ending that leaves many of the relationships refreshingly unresolved.
Director: Shira Levin
“Upside Down” is a socially aware drama about acceptance and tolerance. A ten year-old girl, whose parents have recently divorced, befriends a transgender woman in her apartment building. However, her mother is displeased by her daughter’s new friendship. Writer-director, Shira Levin, explores themes of tolerance through this affectionate odd couple relationship between a precocious child and a brave woman who faces prejudices on a daily basis.
Director: Ian Todaro
Atka, an arctic grey wolf, travels across the USA to teach people about wolves and dispel some of the myths and stigma attached to the beautiful yet endangered creatures. Ian Todaro’s documentary is a film with a clear conservation message as it attempts to promote the protection of a much maligned animal. Featuring informative interviews with Atka’s carers, “Waning Wolf” educates its audience on the declining wolf population and reveals the truth about an animal that has unfairly become the villain in many popular stories.
Director: Yukai Du
A visually arresting animated short capturing our worrying dependence on technology.
We Got Your Back
Director: Viktor Hertz
An amusing and satirical short from Sweden that can be enjoyed guilt-free.
Where Are You Hiding?
Director: Nadia Abate, Victoria Musci, Francesco Forti
Produced by an all-female directing team, “Where are you Hiding?” is a novel animated short from Italy. Pietro, a four year-old boy who dreams of having a younger brother, sets out on an adventure to find one with the help of his friends. The film is a humorous and often surreal look at where children think babies come from. Using the far-fetched stories and fantasies of real children the filmmakers take the audience on an amusing an unexpected journey.
Director: Nor Hazlin, Nor Salam
A short documentary following the human stories of a road gang painting white lines on England’s roads.
Director: Olivier Lallart
Marc and Stéphanie are soon to be married but Marc must first make a decision that could alter their relationship forever. “White Swan” is a flirtatious French comedy from filmmaker, Olivier Lallart, exploring a simple moral dilemma whilst piling on the twists and turns. Marc is placed in a situation that threatens his upcoming marriage yet he still seems incapable of making the right decision. Whilst the film’s destination may appear predictable the director manages to throw in some welcome surprises to keep this short film fresh and engaging.