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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:


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.

By midlandsmovies, Feb 16 2017 07:14PM

Girl A (2017)

Dir. Jess O Brien

Girl A is a new hard hitting drama short from young director Jess O’Brien. Opening with a scene of bullying and the accompanying dressing down by a teacher at school, we track the female perpetrator back home where she sits in isolation.

From staring at the TV to staring out of rain-soaked windows, the unnamed girl is deep in contemplation as we begin to overhear arguments, struggles and possible violence outside of her bedroom in her parental home.

As the protagonist stares at a cracked pot symbolic of a broken family relationship, she sits solitarily in her house as well as at school, being the perpetual outsider wherever she is.

Using tracking shots from behind the character, the filmmaker allows us to follow her journey as she walks like an invisible ghost through corridors and past people who ignore her. With a flash of violence her frustrations spill over back at school and the film ends on an ambiguous note of reflection.

Tackling complex issues, the film sets out to give some context behind the behaviour of others but stops short of casting judgment, although the film therefore lacks some conviction on the subject of the consequences of violence. Both at home or in school, the short omits the sensitive issue of personal responsibility as people move from child to adult or adult to parent but still has much to say about the subject.

The film is cleverly shot in muted colours and brilliantly uses sound – and sometimes a lack of sound – to bring the audience into a world of silence and language, whether it is a teacher’s strict words or an explosive family slanging match.

The drab washed out grey colour palette represents a life of heartbreaking gloom and attempts to show how a miserable family life for a child during an important phase in their upbringing can be devastating.

Without providing any answers or any defence, this powerful slice-of-life short simply shows an unstable situation and asks the audience to think about the difficulties that subsequently arise. And that’s hugely to Girl A’s credit, as it may just be the best way to get people thinking about them.

Midlands Movies Mike

By midlandsmovies, Jan 9 2017 02:05PM

Midlands Spotlight – Filmmaker Jess O Brien launches Kickstarter for Girl A

A sombre new film project has been launched by talented young Leicester filmmaker Jess O’ Brien which tackles the tough subject of domestic violence.

Jess' new film ‘Girl A’ hopes to show how domestic violence in the home can cause young people to also be violent or become a bully themselves. A passion project from the start, Jess plans to tell a story that reveals the reasons behind certain behaviours that can be sometimes seen in young people themselves.

Jess O'Brien made her screen debut in the short PQA film 'Urban Legends' in 2013 before starring in 'Flawless' a short film by filmmaker Keith Allott that has been screened across the world at twenty four film festivals Now aged 15, Jess has also staged two red carpet premieres and been named Into Film's 'One to Watch' 2016 amongst many other accolades.

But in 2017, not only is Jess planning to shoot an engaging piece of film fiction, she is aiming to help other young people who may be going through what the lead character of the film experiences too.

With the Kickstarter campaign in full swing, the film has already surpassed its £700 goal with 22 days still left to go but Jess and her team are encouraging more backers to contribute to make this film even more special.

With donations going to classifying the film with the British Board of Film Classification and a red carpet premiere as well as a digital cinema package, Jess hope that the support given can not only assist in getting the film made, but increase awareness of the issues raised.

Using some of the donations to enter the film into film festivals will also highlight the sensitive subject matter and reach audiences to whom the message has the most impact as well.

Currently in post-production, ‘Girl A’ has some audio recording to be finalised along with the film’s score which Jess and her team are confident will be completed well in advance of the film's premiere.

To find out more information about the film and to donate to the fundraising campaign click on the link below. You will also find a short film containing some behind the scenes footage and words from Jess herself about the project:.


By midlandsmovies, Apr 4 2016 04:59PM

Dolls (2016) Directed by Keith Allott

Starring Leo Denton & Jess O’Brien

Music by Kris Tearse

“They only move when the music stops”.

A music box is an instrument that produces automatic sound and was developed from musical snuff boxes of the 18th century. Playing on that wording, this short is not a ‘snuff’ film, but does contain a fair amount of dark delights for horror fans

Directed by Badshoes Film's Keith Allott, Dolls opens with a slow camera move towards a suburban living room doorway, where we hear a mobile telephone conversation between adolescent Zoe (Jess O’Brien) and her friend. This mundane setting proves a false sense of security for the short which is filled with nasty surprises and also demonstrates the film's prominent focus with sound early on.

Whilst on the phone Zoe struggles to hear the voice on the other end amid the chimes of “ballerina music” coming from the direction of her off-screen brother. Moving from what I thought was soundtrack music (non-diegetic) to sounds the character can hear (diegetic), I witnessed the first of many techniques the film uses to throw the audience out of any comfort zone. No mean feat in a short just over 3 minutes long.

After exclaiming she needs to “shut that little idiot up”, Zoe finishes her conversation and proceeds upstairs. Quirky and omniscient camera angles on a staircase pull the viewer along with the protagonist toward the sounds coming from above. Creating intrigue into the unknown, it also showcased a strange visual discord which complimented the bizarre melodies the audience can hear.

Cutting to another extreme angle inside the room, the viewer then sees her young brother Jimmy (Leo Denton) from a dolls-eye perspective where he is having a child’s tea party. Shot in the gloomy darkness, the flickering candles provide a strange luminescence to the spine-chilling proceedings about to unfold.

With 3 dolls around a table, the short quickly shifts the audience from intrigue to terror as Zoe questions what she is witnessing and receives mysterious replies from her brother about what is going on. It is here where the film excels in getting a lot of information across in just a few brief shots whilst some well-used shaky handheld close-ups cross cut the dead eyes of the toys with the scared eyes of Zoe.

Raising the tension along with the sound, the film’s box of delights takes its inspiration from musical statues as the viewer begins to question how lifeless these baby mannequins really are. Turning the light on could reveal dark truths about the dolls as Zoe’s doubts result in further questions and increasingly risky actions.

With a twisting conclusion, this reviewer does not want to reveal any spoilers but this is a very well made and eerie short with a neat twist on the sub-genre of ‘alive’ dolls in horror. From the maniacal Chucky in Child’s Play to the more recent Annabelle via this year’s The Boy, the presence of innocent dolls is only rivalled by clowns in fright films involving curious children.

Like all good shorts, Dolls ultimately relies on one solid idea played out simply and with earnest intentions it ratchets up the suspense like a tension filled spring in a music box. Winding through the film’s key themes, the filmmakers have intertwined an effective story and great design – with inspired use of music and sound – to provide the audience with enough shocks and jumps to create a unique reinvention of a well known formula.

Midlands Movies Mike

By midlandsmovies, Mar 11 2016 10:46AM

Midlands Spotlight - Leicester Filmmaker Receives National ‘INTO FILM’ Award

Young and very talented filmmaker Jess O’Brien who Midlands Movies has previously showcased here (click here) has been named as one of national film organisation Into Film’s ‘Ones to Watch 2016’ for her excellence in film production. Read more about this amazing feat below.

At just 14 years old, Jess O’Brien is already making waves in the region with her work at the Pauline Quirke Academy leading to her making her film ‘Coping’. Written, acted and directed when she was thirteen, the film features three of her friends Yasmin Allen, April Hancox and David Knight and looks at how a young girl recovers from the death of her two best friends.

Given to only three young filmmakers in the country, the awards have been created by Into Film which is an organisation established by leading film education charities. The First Light and FILMCLUB organisations help to inspire young people aged 5-19 across the UK to learn through and about film.

As part of the honour Jess will be invited to a special careers session at BAFTA led by their Director of Learning, Tim Hunter after which she will be accepting her award and delivering an acceptance speech to the full house at the Odeon Cinema in Leicester Square before the day of celebrations is concluded with an after party at Planet Hollywood.

Upon receiving the news Jess said “I was speechless when I heard. A few years ago if someone had told me I would be going to meet BAFTA executives and accept an award for filmmaking I would never have believed them!”

After completing ‘Coping’ Jess showed great initiative by organising a premiere screening at the Phoenix Cinema, attended by 100 guests. ‘Coping’ has also been selected for five film festivals including the Olympia Film Festival in Greece and the Adelaide Kids Film Festival in Australia.

Jess was nominated by her film teacher at PQA and filmmaker at Badshoes Film, Keith Allott who said, “Jess is an exceptional talent in all areas of film. She is a gifted filmmaker and actor and combines that with great determination and a desire to learn. She is currently discovering film editing and showing a real flare for that too. This is a thoroughly well-deserved award for a bright talent.”

Jess has just completed production on her latest film ‘Hinterland’ featuring young actors Jacq Ardron and Tyler Dunnan and will be organising another screening in Leicester later this year,

“This film looks at the consequences of people’s decisions and how we take responsibility for them”, says Jess.

With two exciting and successful projects already under her belt we predict even further accolades will be coming to this bright regional filmmaker very soon indeed.

You can view ‘Coping’ online below:

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