Flickhead
DVD Review
By Richard Armstrong

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Esurio Admitto

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The Young Ones:

MediaMag’s Short Circuit Film Competition

Twenty-one shorts, trailers and pop videos

From the English and Media Centre, London

Visit the Official site

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    Too many shorts slip through the cracks because we catch them in lots or in anonymous contexts such as daytime or graveyard shift TV. As a result, for many in their potential audiences, shorts tends to stay in the undergrowth of international film production, even while festival after festival opens its doors to them and critical writing proliferates. But a short film’s grasp of mainstream aesthetics and mythology can be its strongest suit, affecting us like smart marginalia to official practices.
    The MediaMag Short Circuit short film competition is the initiative of the UK education resource Media Magazine, a publication catering to film and media students of the 16-18 age range. A shortlist of twenty-one shorts, trailers and pop videos has appeared on a DVD and there are some powerful little movies on it.
    Shot on the streets of Cambridge, England by people from Long Road 6th Form College, Esurio Admitto uses a smeared stop motion look to chart the fortunes of a young man chased by a savage beast and out of step in the modern urban environment. The fear of conformity recurs in these films, cropping up in the bracing Paper Chase, made by Rory Marland of Stewart’s Melville College in Scotland. In this athletic odyssey through (oddly deserted) concrete spaces, the chase becomes an exercise in municipal gymnastics. ‘Parkour’, we are told in a credit, is a way of “moving fluidly through your environment—DO NOT try this without supervision”!
    MediaMag’s selection criteria included a feeling for genre, and “technical excellence—products which look and feel like ’the real thing.’” Many of these films riff nicely on the style and conventions of mainstream filmmaking. Based on a Roald Dahl story, Xaverian 6th Form College’s Lamb to the Slaughter is a dark tale sparely told in which Jasmine Kerr’s scorned lover metes out justice of a peculiarly raw variety. I particularly liked the ancient British Board of Film Censors notice at the beginning, and the ironic use of Edith Piaf’s Non, Je ne Regrette Rien!
    Another period drama catching the gloomy naturalistic look of BBC ‘heritage’ television is Abingdon and Witney College’s adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s Lord Arthur Saville’s Crime. With its strong acting, assured grasp of the tropes of literary dramatization, burnished flashbacks, and evocative use of Oxford exteriors, James Graham’s film looks at an old story with a decidedly fresh eye.

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Lamb to the Slaughter

    Some works fall into the protest or advocacy genre, made out of a passionate regard for the world the filmmakers must inhabit. Promoting the work of the British Dyslexia Association, Greenford High School’s Misunderstood is a documentary attempt to clarify misconceptions surrounding reading and spelling disorders. With its reiteration of interviewees’ words on screen and the writing spilling over the image, the film makes words themselves interesting to watch, belying the idea that filmmaking excellence has to be just about the image. Greenford’s Reetu Kapila is responsible for a trailer for Raw, an angry film about the butchery trade that questions our investment in animals as food. I happened to come to Raw from seeing the frenetic and rapacious 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead, which for this spectator only reinforced Kapila’s message!
    The modern horror movie haunts these filmmakers. Alex Cooke and Christopher Snelling’s Surreal re-animates The Blair Witch Project’s account of an account as a man investigates subsidence and flooding in an eerie deserted field. Foregrounding the failure of modern image and telecoms technology before the spectre of the metaphysical as the environment morphs into a mysterious brick folly, the film reminds us of BWP’s disorientation of narrative space. Among the trailers, Lucie Wilson’s Cursed had the interesting idea of depicting dreams as images and apparitions appearing as if through television static. After the dreamer awakes, the TV continues to transmit dream imagery. It is as if our dreams are immanent, waiting to burst from every screen. Cursed evokes the sound and peculiar abstract image white noise makes. Long Road’s trailer for Fragile Heart is an elderly lady’s recollection of her Edwardian girlhood. It recalls Lucie Hadzihalilovic’s enigmatic feature Innocence (2004). Latymer College’s Her riffs on Sam Raimi’s trademark camera dashing through woods, and the diabolic avenging female of recent Japanese horror.
    Among a selection of pop videos, several stand out. From Cirencester College, Girl on a Bus evokes those blissful 1960s promotions such as Cliff Richard’s Summer Holiday (1963), in which youth cavorts in public places. Crisply shot in black-and-white and color, and unafraid of the solar flair, in Cirencester’s film a girl plays out her heart’s desire along the bus aisle as sunlight pours through the window. Vibrant and funny, Latymer College’s Nobody but Me finds an Elvis lookalike frolicking through a series of London locations. Its opening montage is great! And finally, like Esurio Admitto and Lamb to the Slaughter, Ocean Avenue won a MediaMag prize. Driven by effervescent pop and consumer desire, this amusing spoof of MTV is nicely ironic. These filmmakers are going places. You read it here…

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Copyright © 2006 by Richard Armstrong