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By midlandsmovies, Apr 15 2020 07:54AM

White Feather

Directed by Daniel Arbon


Middle Realm Productions

White Feather is the latest short film from Middle Realm Productions, written and directed by Daniel Arbon. The film tells the story of a returning soldier who is met with backlash upon his return from the trenches due to his stance as a conscientious objector.

It is 1919, the war has ended, and the news of this making the front page of a newspaper belonging to George (Robert Moore). He's not reading it however, he is using it as packaging for transporting expensive crockery to a customers house. The sun beams brightly on George as he makes his way through his calm and peaceful village to Mrs Teesdale's (Penelope Wildgoose) property.

As Mrs Teesdale greets George we get a sense that he is a polite and well spoken young man, his manner easily impresses his customer as she goes into her house to complete the purchase of the crockery. Her husband calls out off screen to ask for his name to which he replies, silence, moments later Mrs Teesdale returns to the door throwing a white feather at Georges direction. We later find out a white feather was given to objectors as a symbol for their “cowardice” even though they served just as a non-combatant.

An earlier offer of a ride back into town in her husbands motorcar is swiftly replaced with a scolding perspective, “we have no dealings with cowards” she rudely says.

As the feather drops slowly to the ground Georges memory transports him back between the frontline of the trenches and the corridors of a court as he awaits his hearing in regards to his objection in firing a gun.

These locations are shot with shocking realism for a low budget short film with Arbon, alongside cinematographer Ash Connaughton, creating a claustrophobic, hellish battlefield, smoke bellowing out as George interacts with his fellow soldiers.

This is bold and powerful filmmaking, how can a man serve his country yet arrive back home a “coward”? Arbon tactfully presents both sides of the argument but without a dull courtroom setting, the visual of George sat in a trench whilst the audio of the future hearing plays out is expertly done.

An example of this is seen at the beginning of the film where George is at Mrs Teesdale's door, a photograph of a young soldier can be seen in the corner of the frame. Could this be her son? Has he been killed in battle? Is this the reason for her outburst? Arbon doesn't demonise her at all, the audience are invited to embrace the subject matter and ponder what their stance is on the topic.

White Feather will draw obvious comparisons to Hacksaw Ridge, a WW2 drama about a combat medic who refused to carry a weapon, it was refreshing however to see this film set during WW1, an event that until a few years ago never quite got the re-appraisal it deserves in cinema.

Armed with a short budget and a talented Midlands based cast and crew, writer & director Daniel Arbon defies expectations and creates a strong and informative period film about the injustice of war.

Guy Russell

Twitter @BudGuyer

By midlandsmovies, Feb 15 2020 07:09PM

1917 (2020) Dir. Sam Mendes

Two young soldiers, Schofield (George MacKay) and Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman) are tasked with delivering a message to the front line so a platoon of fellow soldiers avoid an ambush in Sam Mendes’ new WW1 film 1917. Leaving the trenches and entering enemy territory the pair need to deliver the warning to save 1600 lives, but in the process have to protect their own fragile lives in the war zone of northern France.

Mendes stages his film around a Birdman style “single take” which puts the audience in the action, takes you on a journey and forces the viewer to see through the unblinking eye of a soldier. It opens with apparently endless trenches with the Steadicam shooting reminiscent of Kubrick’s Paths of Glory whilst the eerie musical tones echoing WW2 film Dunkirk help keep everything on a knife edge.

The whole set up is therefore simple but effective as the boys avoid German shells and disused guns whilst dead horses, bodies and wounded recruits litter their experience. Always in danger, we feel it along with them every step of the way and a trip wire scene with a rat is phenomenal in its explosive power.

Both main actors are incredibly relatable as they (and we) bond over personal stories to keep their spirits up. As they venture further from their line, they encounter abandoned buildings as the German’s undertake a tactical retreat. Moments of levity stop 1917 from becoming a moribund hellscape but it doesn’t skimp on the atrocities of The Great War either. Its impressive technical construction sees cameras floating over water, planes crashing and night turning to day seemingly in the same one-take.

The “huge-ness” of their mission is contrasted nicely with more mundane tasks as they work against small problems like a van getting stuck in mud. And the film’s focus on these small moments between soldiers makes a mid-film surprise even more of an emotional trauma for the viewer.

1917 ends up being a fantastic war film taking new risks in a genre that has been covered many times in cinema. The film appears to have the most natural shooting style in the world. But then you stop and think about it and marvel at its complexity, audacity and the one-shot camerawork is as unescapable as the horror of war itself.

★★★★ ½

Michael Sales

By midlandsmovies, Aug 20 2018 09:09PM

Midlands Spotlight - Shropshire’s First World War Film Festival

Shropshire’s First World War Film Festival showcases classic and new films from the 1930s to the present day in a new regional cinema event in the area.

A wide selection of films will be shown at community cinemas and village halls around the county as part of the events programme to remember poet and soldier Wilfred Owen and the centenary of Armistice Day at the end of World War I.

The Film Festival runs from 10th October to 23rd November and includes classics like ‘Lawrence of Arabia’, ‘Hell’s Angels’ and ‘La Grande Illusion’ as well as new movies like ‘Journey’s End’, ‘The Burying Party’ (about Wilfred Owen) and ‘The Long Way Home’ about a fictional Shropshire pals’ regiment, filmed in the county.

See Midlands Movies coverage of The Long Way Home by clicking here.

Tim King, the Festival Organiser, says, “We now have 24 screenings of 13 films at 15 venues with more in the pipeline. We have received great support from the venue managers and organisations like Flicks in the Sticks."

Tickets for most films are now on sale online or from the venues and the full programme can be viewed at www.firstworldwarfilmfestival.com and most films are listed in the Wilfred Owen 100 events brochure available at www.shropshireremembers.org.uk

Selected highlights include:

10th October 8.00pm The Hive, Belmont, Shrewsbury SY1 1TE

Shrewsbury Film Society presents: – ‘La Grande Illusion’ Tickets: £6

15th October 11.00am The Old Market Hall, Shrewsbury SY1 1LH

‘Regeneration’ Tickets: £8/concs £7

20th October 7.30pm Trefonen Village Hall SY10 9DY

Flicks in the Sticks presents: ‘Journey’s End’ Tickets: £4, child £2.50

24th October 7.30pm Kinokulture, Oswestry SY11 1JN

‘Hell’s Angels’ Tickets: £7, under 16s £5

25th October 6.30pm SpArC Theatre, Bishop’s Castle SY9 5AY

Flicks in the Sticks presents ‘War Horse’ Tickets: £5, under 18’s £4

5th November 1.30pm Wem Town Hall SY4 5DG

‘Oh! What A Lovely War’ - A dementia friendly screening Tickets: £5, carers free

8th November 5.00pm Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery SY1 1LH

‘The Burying Party’ & ‘The Long Way Home’ A double bill with Q & A with the film makers chaired by Carl Jones, BBC Shropshire film reviewer. https://thelongwayhomefilm.com

16th November 8pm The Hive, Belmont, Shrewsbury SY1 1TE

Shrewsbury Film Society presents ‘A Very Long Engagement’ Tickets: £6

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