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By midlandsmovies, Nov 9 2019 03:09PM


Step Up


Directed by Nisaro Karim


2019


Five Pence Productions


Step Up is the new film from producers Five Pence Productions and Gurjant Singh Films and is directed by Nisaro Karim, who may may have taken over fellow West Midlands filmmaker Sheikh Shahnawaz as the Midlands' "Most Prolific Director™".


Described as a gritty urban thriller inspired by Netflix’s Topboy, the film sees a gangster in a car (Sarfraz Mughal) asking if a friend Sam (Jacob Lander) is ready to “step up” and do a dastardly deed. Sam claims he is well prepared and we soon find out that he is being asked to kill a rival - yet is limited to just one bullet.


With no second chances he is handed the gun and pulls his hood over his head and exits to the sound of ominous music. Once out the car, his bravado turns to a more worried facial expression as he enters a mobile phone shop.


The stunned shop owner comes off a video call from a loved one and stares at his possible assailant. And as the tension rises, the man draws his gun and Karim cleverly holds the moment for a beat.


With the shooter and the audience taking in a deep breath, we ask the question whether he’ll go ahead and pull that trigger.


I won’t disclose the ending but Nisaro throws in a nice twist keeping the viewer off-kilter and sets up a possible second instalment after this opening short drama.


Similar to his previous micro-film Peaky Blinders A New Era, the film is more of a trailer than an all encompassing short such is the minimal narrative on show. It could also work as a nice sequence as part of a showreel piece for the two actors.


A nice if slight little short, to be fair to Nisaro Karim he has in fact billed Step Up as part of a series and I’ll be intrigued as to where this goes. Especially as he leaves the audience and his protagonist in a place where they certainly do not know what is coming next.


Michael Sales


Watch the full short below:




By midlandsmovies, Oct 31 2019 01:00PM



Midlands Review - The Despondent


Directed by Nisaro Karim


2019


Five Pence Productions


The Despondent is the latest film from Five Pence Productions, the prolific Birmingham-based company who brought us Jed, The Chase, Peaky Blinders: A New Era and more. Primarily known for crime tales, this film is something of an ambitious departure for them as it sees them take on the horror genre.


Jazzmin Letitia stars as Keira, a troubled young woman who lives at home with her mother Jenny, played by Lisa Blissitt. At night she's tormented by visions of an evil demon in her room, one that seems bent on harming her, one that it seems there can be no escape from.


Horror has a rich history of externalising our internal demons, and that's pretty much what's happening here. Keira is depressed and the demon is her depression, pushing her towards suicide. It's all taking place in her head, the battleground where many of us (myself included) struggle and fight daily. It's a good analogy, but rather on-the-nose here.


The film is far from subtle, making it absolutely clear what's going on from Keira's conversation with her mum about her self-harm and medication. It would have perhaps been more interesting to see the two dance around the subject, never raising it head on but dealing entirely in subtext, so that when the tragic ending comes it hits harder. Having Keira stay in her pyjamas over the course of the two days is a very good touch, though, as that's absolutely consistent with some people who suffer from depression.


The story is quite slim and would benefit from having a little more to it, making the film a bit longer. It would have been good to have had more of a sense of Keira's struggles in the daytime sequences, and how they relate to her night terrors, so that we can relate to her more as a character. The scene with her mother establishes their rocky relationship in one quick punch, but at only 6 minutes long there's plenty of scope to let the relationship breathe a little more and help us understand Keira more intimately. As it is, she comes across more as moody than depressed.


This isn't to say that it's a bad performance; Letitia shines in the hallucinatory sequences where she's beset by the demon, coming across as believably vulnerable and disoriented. The standout performance by far though is the demon; it's not clear from the credits who played the part (perhaps split between Imran Uddin and Zohair Raza?), but it's a great piece of creepy body-performance, with stilted and almost contortionist-style movements. I definitely wouldn't want to wake to find him in my bedroom!


The film shines best in these disorienting sequences. The hand-held, shaky camerawork does a great job of confusing and distressing the viewer, and the unnatural framing and lighting work together to create unsettling scenes. There's a misconception that its easy to do horror on a low budget; it has to be planned and carried out carefully to make the most of what you have. Keeping the shots tight and moving fast keeps the audience uncomfortable and on their toes in the nightmare sequences, worrying that anything could happen. The film makes great use of noise in these sequences too, arguably the most important part of any horror film.


Ultimately, The Despondents falls just short of its ambition but it's still a great first step into horror. Nisaro Karim clearly has an instinct for how to unsettle the audience, it's just the slimness of the story itself that holds the film back. Definitely worth a watch, and here's hoping there's more horror to come from Karim and Five Pence!


Sam Kurd

Twitter @Splend


By midlandsmovies, Sep 9 2019 07:19AM

Midlands Review - Jallianwalla Bagh 1919 and Peaky Blinders A New Era



This week we take a look at a double-release of films from new West Midlands film production companies Gurjant Singh Films and Five Pence Productions, which delve into two very distinct historical stories from the past.




First up is Jallianwalla Bagh 1919 directed by Gurjant Singh which is a 1-minute micro short which pays tribute to those massacred by the East India Trading Company in 1919. Given its short length it’s a welcome surprise to see the film mostly shot in slow motion. This extends the visual experience as we see gentle flowing clothes in the wind giving off an air of peace and tranquillity. This is juxtaposed with a screaming military sergeant (Richard Teasdale) and a cut to a primed rifle barrel. A voiceover from the protagonist (Nisaro Karim) provides some context given the film’s extremely brief runtime which was a good use of technique to give the audience background information. The pull of a trigger and the splattering of blood also gives us a brief glimpse of violence. The focus on just one person rather than a group (nearly 2,000 were shot in the struggle for independence) brings home the personal nature of this story to the filmmaker.




The second film is Peaky Blinders: A New Era. Most Midlanders will no doubt by familiar with the BBC TV series crime drama which is primarily set in Birmingham. It follows the exploits of the Shelby family after World War I and the fictional group is loosely based on the real 19th century urban gang who were active in the city from the 1890s.To honour the release of Season 5 in Sept 2019, this fan-film was shot in just 4 hours and set closer to the present in 1950.


This time period allows the short to (briefly) open up a conversation about a time where immigration was a cause for concern for locals leading to tensions running high. The short opens with Jimi Hendrix’s Voodoo Child infamous guitar riff which although is an impactful sound, is simply the wrong song given that it’s associated with the end of the 60s rather than the period aimed for.


The film’s visuals work much better though as we see a gang of suitably attired “peaky blinders” in a pub drinking before they leave and come across an Indian man (Nisrao Karim again) squaring up for a fight before it cuts to a bloody outcome and a promise of more revenge.


In summary, both shorts are technically proficient and tease insights into very different worlds of the past. Their short run-time though merely acts as brief advertisements for longer narratives. Definitely with an air of professionalism throughout, despite my pet-peeve of music choice, they both act as intriguing calling cards for stories I’d like to see more of.


Michael Sales




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