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By midlandsmovies, Jul 16 2018 10:19AM



Dark Days


Directed by Daryl Grizzle


A Grizzle and Steele Film


We open on a regular street as a lady leaves her suburban house to stretch before going for a run but there’s nothing regular about this new film from West Midlands director Daryl Grizzle.


As we track her in the park jogging, seemingly enjoying a pastime passion, the film uses narration to explain to the audience how difficult life is living with a mental illness.


Having previously created short film Bless You, which we saw at Leicester’s Short Cinema festival in 2017, the director here provides a portrait of a dark personal journey. With sequences of narration delivered direct to camera in small interview-style segments the film doesn’t sugar-coat the awful aftermaths of actions like self-harm and explores the difficulties of living with depression and its stigma in today’s society.


The film stars Jade Samuels as the protagonist who, as is explained in a coda at the film’s end, is actually performing a recreation of a real interview conducted in 2017. An interesting concept for sure but for me I would have preferred for this context to be given at the start of the film in order for the real truths to hit home from the beginning.


Our protagonist’s testimony continues as the tragic consequences of deep cuts that require stitches, and sometimes even surgery, are explained and delivered by Samuels in an honest portrayal throughout.



A bit more creative flair would set the film apart from the crowd as although the technical elements were first class - especially the park-based tracking shots, the serious themes were slightly undermined with a standard mix of handheld camera work in her house and some VERY long shots which pushed away from the much-needed intimacy.


However, the few minor flaws don’t distract from the story as a whole and we are told how she joins an athletics club before acts of divorcing parents and changing schools became a trigger during a difficult period.


Add to this peer pressure, bullying and name calling and we discover she gives up her hobby which is recounted as the thing that made her most happy. With some solitary bathroom shots there was also a small echo of recent local film HIM (click here) which covers similar subject matter and is worth seeking out as well.


The film is good at leaving some threads open to interpretation however and questions how these childhood events shape and sometimes control us.


And with the disease of depression becoming more fully understood by society as a whole, it is admirable that this film shines a light on a real victim and the very truthful troubles they have been through.


More of a monologue than a full exploration, Dark Days does hold on to the thought that although a positive outlook will not cure the struggles faced by sufferers, there is light at the end of this dark tunnel. Leaving the audience then with a message that sufferer’s journeys will be a marathon and not a sprint, it successfully focuses on how understanding and awareness will help guide people’s efforts in the right direction.


Midlands Movies Mike


By midlandsmovies, Aug 27 2017 04:47PM

The Short Cinema 2017 - Part 2


For Part 1 of The Short Cinema showcase 2017 please click here:

http://www.midlandsmovies.com/blog/4558436876/The-Short-Cinema-2017---Part-1/11214523


After a much needed beer break, I headed back into the main screening room for the second part of the excellent Short Cinema 2017 to discover even more great films from the region’s talent...




Ultrasound – Kon-Tiki by Andrew Rutter

This successful music video (and ultimately eventual winner of The Short Cinema 2017 Main Competition) is directed by Andrew Rutter using a track by the group Ultrasound to launch a whirlwind coming of age story mixing surreal visuals with the band’s catchy melodies. Tackling serious subjects of inner conflict – the young protagonist begins on a bike yet behind closed doors dresses in high heels and nail varnish – the film does so in an entertaining way without ever poking fun at the teenager. With a healthy dose of nostalgia, the film’s most successful images are the most strange and dreamlike ones from an “astro” love-making session to personal reflections on a lake. In the end, Rutter has high ambition and more than achieves his aims throughout the video which itself ends on an explosive climax.

Watch the full video here: https://vimeo.com/192961828



A Broken Appointment by Kaleb D’Aguilar

A 3-minute short about same-sex relationships, A Broken Appointment showcases the complicated issues of closeting and hiding feelings in the gay community. Mixing tender and violent emotions, the film condenses a lot into its short run time from the first touching of hands to the complexities faced by a mixed-race gay couple. Dark yet offering a glimpse of optimism, the film’s sensitive narrative is a dramatic slice-of-life exploring marginalised groups in a responsible and delicate manner.

Find out more information here: http://caribbeantalesfestival.com/project/a-broken-appointment/



Girl A by Jess O’Brien

Reviewed by Midlands Movies earlier this year, Girl A still packs a metaphorical and physical punch on a third watch as young filmmaker Jess O’Brien doesn’t flinch from her story of a bully from a broken home. Using strong language and flashes of violence, the solid story and great performances from a teen cast help infuse the film with believability, as we see a troubled pupil lash out at school owing to problems at home. With some great tracking shots and an open ended finale the film is a local success from a strong young filmmaking voice.

Read our full review here: http://www.midlandsmovies.com/blog/4558436876/Feature-Review---Girl-A/11098121



Vandella Day by John McCourt

Actor Kieron Attwood reappears on our list in this darkly comic short from Leicester filmmaker John McCourt. Alongside Lois Cowley, Attwood plays one of two people holed up in a confined space where we find there is just one bullet left in their gun as they think the unthinkable. With the noise of attackers approaching and with no apparent way out, the gun is raised to their heads but malfunctions at the most inopportune time. The intense 1-minute short sets up its characters, cramped location and desperate motivations in mere seconds and filmmaker McCourt turns the tables when an accident with the firearm leads to less than pleasant consequences. A brief but forceful short, Vandella Day’s in-your-face extremities will hit you like a bullet in the head.

Find out more about Vandella Day here: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt6483644/fullcredits/



Betty by Jordan Handford

Another film reviewed by us earlier in 2017 is this drama from Jordan Handford about the effects of dementia. Set on a park bench the film slowly pans around Betty’s distant face before she is joined by a man who regales her with a story from his past that connects to her own. A subtle film on a sensitive subject, the story had personal connections to me after my own mother lost her battle against dementia in May of this year. “Betty” tackles the issues with a finely tuned script that is masterly delivered by John Ghent as Eric, who uses the well-written dialogue to capture the spirit and memories of the past whilst acknowledging the difficulties of the present.

Read our full review of Betty here: http://www.midlandsmovies.com/blog/4558436876/Midlands-Film-Review---Betty/11160736




The Last Drop by Sascha Zimmermann

Written by Nottingham-based screenwriter Tommy Draper, this new short had a true international flavour having been made in Germany. Der Letzte Tropfen (The Last Drop) concerns itself with a self-help group who are experiencing problems with drink dependency with some attendees less than pleased with being there. The group’s advisor tries to maintain some civility as each member explains (or doesn’t) the problems with their addiction. As a first-time stranger joins the group the film goes into overdrive as it switches genres right before our eyes in a spectacular but satisfying “rug-pull”. With a tremendous script and brilliant turns by the German cast, the film is a superb collaborative effort that audiences can get their teeth into.

Find out more here: http://www.midlandsmovies.com/blog/4558436876/Midlands-Spotlight---Nottingham-writer-Tommy-Draper-heads-to-Germany/11200733



The Inuring by James Hughes

With another tale this evening of childhood abuse, The Inuring looks at a teen who is a victim of bullying who confronts a sister about their past. An astonishing Emily Haigh plays troubled teen Aleish who has been bullied yet keeps many private thoughts to herself. Locking herself in a room, her sister (Sarine Sofair as Claudette) places herself on the other side of the door in an attempt to get her sibling to talk. Haigh’s performance shows the systematic breakdown of a put-upon victim and during their awkward interactions, dark secrets of the past are revealed which raises the stakes in their important conversations. With a bleak and gloomy tone and great cinematography the film is not for the faint of heart but winning performances make this short a satisfying drama of angst, regret and childhood ruin.

For more info click here: http://www.theinuring.com




Retrograde by Eve Wills-Wilson

This 10 minute experimental film uses varying film stock and images to cover issues of the past, present and future as well as celestial bodies and the movement of the oceans. The archive sound drones in the background as an abstract series of repeating motifs are shown. Not to my personal tastes – the backwards clock being a cliché crime – the film nonetheless has its roots in contemporary art and would suit an installation in a modern gallery where its ethereal imagery could be studied and discussed. With lots of random footage and film speeds, I would liken the short to a visual version of The Beatles’ “Revolution No. 9” – i.e. some will consider it a disorganised collage whilst others will see intellectual gifts within. Take your pick.

Watch the short here: https://vimeo.com/200670585




Bless You by Daryl Grizzle

Three videogame-playing friends sit in a front room in this short from Daryl Grizzle who uses the situation to discuss the history of one of the most used phrases of all time. As one of the pals does a particularly large sneeze, his friend gives him a courteous “bless you” before each of them in turn explains their version of the origins of the custom. From the plague and saving angels to keeping the devil at bay, the trio of chums lull the audience into a false sense of security with their banter before a jump-scare filled conclusion. Moving from a lightweight discussion to a darker ending the short is an off-kilter blessing in disguise.

Find out more info here: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt6867424/




Loyal to War by Parang Khezri

Made by award-winning Iranian filmmaker Parang Khezri, Loyal to War was one of the shortest and strangest films of the night. With middle-eastern imagery and a boy looking into a mirror (actually cleverly played by two actors through a frame), the film is a surreal look at nature and life. With some filming shot backwards and the images of petals and mirrors, the short asked the audience to reflect on its ideas but provides very little context as to meaning. An intriguing visual statement, the film is baffling in many ways but portrays a very mysterious aura and an enigmatic puzzle to study long after it ended.

Catch Parang’s previous 2010 short TABU: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zke-4oogD60




Upgrade by Mike Doxford

The final film of the night is another Random Acts funded project called Upgrade, where we are shown a night watchman who heads into a building to see a number of random youths hooked up to different technology. This tech seems forbidden, hence the security, but we notice they are listening to old headphones and playing old handheld video-games. The guard then presses play on an vintage tape recorder which plays some funky brass-filled salsa music. After a bit of head nodding the guard (played well by James Bartholomew) gets “into the groove” and begins dancing around the building. Linking the physical dance with the analogue tape player – the film presents a tangible world which stands in stark opposition to the passivity of modern day digital technology.

Find out more here: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt6394702/


In conclusion, with 22 varied films from different genres this year seemed more than just a showcase of film but acknowledged the huge work done by the community. In these films’ reflection and representation of different stories and narratives, the emphasis was on art and in the face of funding issues throughout the industry it was even more impressive to see the quality on show at the festival.


For more info on the Short Cinema please click here and a big thank you to all the organisers including the magnificent Alexzandra Jackson for such a tremendous 4-day event.


Midlands Movies Mike


Below are some photos from the evening.




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