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By midlandsmovies, Mar 12 2017 09:37AM

Midlands Movies at the Beeston Film Festival 2017

Midlands Movies headed just up the road from our base in Leicester to take our first ever look at the Beeston Festival which is now in its 3rd year and has become a popular entry into the ever-growing festival scene in the region. Editor Mike Sales jumped on the train for the Saturday session of the 4-day festival to catch up with the talent in the Midlands.

Since its inception in 2015 the Beeston Festival has grown from a small evening event to a multi-day extravaganza that showcases not only features, shorts and animations from the area but has also attracted the attention of national and international filmmakers as well.

Despite this growth, the festival has not lost its grass-roots feel taking place as it does upstairs at the White Lion Bar in the centre of the town. Films fans can catch the variety of skilled artists in the comfortable surroundings of the venue allowing the festival to grow yet still very much intimate and home-grown.

Some of the films screened at this year’s fest are Midlands Movies Awards winners and nominees Hinterland (Jess O’ Brien), Beige (written by Dan Weatherer), Dolls (Keith Allott) and Night Owls (from Sophie Black) and these are of course just a handful of many more being played at the festival. As an attendee I was lucky enough to catch even more great films from the region and beyond and the small relaxed atmosphere makes it easier – if not somewhat compulsory – to chat and network with the film’s makers themselves.

The full 4 day line up consisted of the Three Counties night focusing on local films (Thursday), the festival Horror night (Friday), drama (Saturday) and the final day on Sunday has animation, comedy and the prestigious Beeston Festival Awards.

Festival organiser John Currie made everyone feel welcome and a mix of filmmakers, writers and viewers were in the audience to enjoy both the local and the worldwide gems on offer.

Upstairs in the venue’s function room, a full capacity crowd enjoyed a number of films on Saturday for the drama category that was the focus. ‘The Buzzing of a Bumblebee’ was one of the first films I caught. A half-hour Russian film about a nursing home, the film had gorgeous cinematography whilst British film ‘Butterfly’ hit home with its story of an epileptic swimmer called Jane who has tough decisions to make in her life.

During the break I caught up with Sophie Black of Triskelle pictures (www.triskellepictures.co.uk) who gave an update on the post-production of her new project “Songbird” whilst introducing me to Adam Anwi, one of the many exciting Beeston Festival judges. Neil Oseman was also in attendance as director of photography on Night Owls which was shown earlier this week.

Another judge – who must have had very difficult decisions to select festival winners – was horror aficionado Gino Van Hecke from Zeno films (www.zenopictures.be). Having met festival organiser John Currie at an Indian film festival, the latter invited the former to the region cementing the truly international nature of this intimate festival. After the hustle and bustle of the chaotic Indian festival, Gino was impressed by the smaller but more personal tone of this event.

“The Indian festival we met at had to be moved inside because of weather and went on so long that people ran to the buffet when it was my turn to take to the stage”, he describes whilst laughing. “It was great fun though and I got to meet John and others and that’s how I’ve ended up here”.

Zeno films are a Belgium company who specialise in horror and Gino explained how his company are hoping to work towards producing a ‘Best of Beeston” DVD-anthology together to help give the films and filmmakers involved even more exposure. “I am a fan of horror having released Rubber (horror film about a killer tyre) in Belgium but I’ve enjoyed the whole fest so far and look forward to working with the team in future”.

Midlands Movies hometown of Leicester was also well represented on Saturday with Mike Yeoman from comedy film company FlipYou Productions whose film Parenthood was screened Thursday. www.flipyou.co.uk

Also in attendance was Melvyn Rawlinson, an actor as well as a filmmaker. Melvyn has created documentaries on the history of puppetry – especially Punch and Judy – as well as on the sensitive subject of dementia, an issue that is very personal to me. However, Toton based Melvyn was here in the main to support his appearance in “I am God, And Severely Underqualified” directed by Theo Gee.

As the second round of films began in the afternoon I got to see Just Words – a police investigation from Russia as well as solid dramas Squares and Transmission and others. Again each film demonstrated the high level of quality and it was credit to all of the organisers and volunteers as well as the venue’s staff that things ran smoothly.

Having to leave slightly earlier than planned, I was disappointed not to have been able to stay longer but it gave me a great excuse to return to this fantastic festival in 2018.

With a great sense of community, the Beeston Film Festival is a prize jewel and should be on every filmmaker’s list of events to submit films to each year. But much more than that, the festival has a great centre of attention on the ‘local’ that makes it all the more special for the Midlands.

For further information and much more, please check out the official Beeston Film Festival website at http://festival.beestonfilm.com/

Or follow at Twitter on @BeestonFilm

Midlands Movies Mike

By midlandsmovies, Sep 19 2016 06:07PM

Archway 0173 tells the story of Tom who is fascinated by an old telephone bought at an auction but one day the previously-broken phone rings and connects Tom with a young girl from 1940 called Isabelle. Becoming friends after sharing conversations, Tom's friend Katie doesn’t believe Isabelle is real. MIdlands Movies writer investigates this new short from Leicester where characters make frightening discoveries about each other.

Writer & Director of Archway 0173 is promising newcomer Pat Knight from Leicester. Although this film is Pat's first production she is someone who already has connections with the regional filmmaking community in the city as she explains:

“My son David attends the Pauline Quirke Academy in Leicester and through this I met Keith Allott who is their Film and TV teacher", says Pat. Pat continues, "As well as working with the PQA students, Keith offered to help any parent who was interested in film making. Having been on serval TV and Film sets when David has been filming I became fascinated by the whole process of film-making and was inspired to create my own film, accepting Keith’s offer to help".

So what came next?

"I then began to think of ideas for a film. I love science fiction and time travel and I came up with the story for Archway 0173 having re-discovered our old broken Bakelite telephone which had been stored away. I imagined it connecting people through time and the story developed from there. I am very lucky that I have a very talented young actor for a son so it seemed obvious to create the role of Tom for him and it was such a lovely experience to work alongside him on set".

With David's friends also being actors, Pat felt it was a natural progressions to tap into their talent for the rest of the cast.

"I was delighted when Eleanor Worthington Cox, who is in CBBC’s Hetty Feather with David, agreed to play the role of Isabelle. We were very lucky that her other filming schedules fitted in with our shoot, I feel very honoured to have her in my first film. Our other young actress, Jess O’Brien is a student at PQA and David has worked with her previously on several short films. Many of the other actors in the film are from a local amateur dramatic group and for our crew we were able to enlist some of the other PQA students to help behind the camera as well as help from one of the other mums and my husband".

With this being Pat's foray into film, she said their were struggles but support came from a variety of close friends.

"It was a steep learning curve but Keith (Allott) was an excellent mentor and explained each stage of the film making process before I undertook them from the treatment through to the final draft of the script, shot lists, story boards, the actual filming process then into editing and creating a trailer. Through Keith I was introduced to Javier Blanco, a professional composer who then composed the music for the film. I have learned so much but I know there is still a huge amount still to learn. We filmed over 3 days and in all it took a year from the first ideas for a script to the film being completed".

Archway 0173 had its premiere at The Shortish Cinema, part of The Short Cinema film festival at the Phoenix cinema in Leicester and Pat couldn't be more delighted with the finished film, turning out exactly as she imagined it.

"I was so lucky to have such a fantastic mentor, cast and crew on my first film who all did an amazing job. I am looking forward to Archway’s next screening which is at 5 Lamps in Derby later this month and I have started to enter it into other film festivals all over the world".

Coming off the back of such successful feedback, Pat is now currently working on a draft script based on idea from her son which he is going to take forward and direct himself.

For a review of the film please continue reading after the jump.

Kira Comerford

Archway 0173 (2016) Dir. Pat Knight

Archway 0173 is a short film with a concept that I found to be very interesting. The idea of the two periods of time being linked by one telephone threw up a lot of questions for me, and made me sort of go, ‘Ah, now there’s a good idea for a short film!’.

The two main performances were partly the reason why I felt the idea worked as well as it did. Both David Knight and Eleanor Worthington-Cox did such a wonderful job of portraying their characters and the time they were growing up in. For example, it was very easy to tell that Worthington-Cox’s character, Isabelle, was from times gone by purely by the way she spoke, and I certainly feel that this was essential for the story to work and to ensure that audiences didn't become confused at any point.

One issue the film brought up that particularly fascinated me was the idea of changing history. Of course, in Archway 0173, the characters would not just have been interfering for the sake of it – it was presented here as a matter of life and death. It left me asking myself a few questions after watching, and I'm partly guessing that this was the impression writer and director Pat Knight was hoping the film would create.

All in all, I found Archway 0173 to be a thought-provoking short that was 20 minutes well spent.

Conceptually, I thought it was very good, and I feel as though there could be a future for some of the young actors who made appearances in the film. If anybody gets a chance to see the film at any upcoming local showcases, I would recommend seeing it at one.

Kira Comerford

By midlandsmovies, Aug 28 2016 10:13AM

(for part 1 of this blog please click here)

After some quick refreshments and brief chat about the films from the first half, the second part of The Short Cinema kicked off with Saiyan Armour directed by Daryl Grizzle. This strange but amusing film was set on a council estate where three youths discuss their summer break. Amongst all the “bruvs” and teen bravado the film actually showcases one of them attempting to convince his friends that he spent his holidays on Planet Vegeta (a Dragonball Z reference). Confused? Well it brilliantly subverts expectations ending on a t-shirt reveal that is as surprising as it was satisfying. A curious but comical gem.


Sophie Black’s impressive Night Owls was previously reviewed by us a few months ago but this rewatch confirmed all our admiration for the film from the first viewing. A subtle drama shot in Victorian browns, the short covers a drama set on one wet night as two opposites are attracted in strange circumstances as characters bond over loneliness and being outsiders.


Keeping Shop directed by Raj Pathak was another film set in a late night shop and showed the conflicted relationship between a father and son during a botched (and often comedic) robbery. This failed hold-up opens old and unresolved family wounds and the film’s good gags sit with a sad undercurrent that were both balanced well.


Transcended was shown before our Star Wars screening and the sci-fi short shows a human being infected and becoming a dangerous ‘bomb’ in a remote setting. Great cinematography by director Christopher Bevan, the film combines horror and drama which sit together well. Alongside this is a remarkable cast comprising of A.J Stevenson (Cal), Michael Muyunda (Alix) and Julia Quayle (Bren).


Rajnish Sharma directed dark apocalyptic drama Ascension showing the struggle of a solitary man surviving in a bunker from scary and unknown aggressors. The ambiguous tone and nervy camera work helped create a sense of unease along with the protagonist which lifted the film above some of the clichés of a crackling radio voiceover and disturbed loner.


Congratulations must go to Best of Festival winner Dolls by Leicester filmmaker Keith Allott. We reviewed the film earlier in the year and the film’s discomforting atmosphere was a joy to experience again. The effective horror short used creepy toys and great sound (from Kris Tearse) to deliver possibly the moment of the night. Having seen it before I knew the use of a shocking jump cut would have the crowd screaming and it delivered in spectacular fashion as the scary jolt was broken with an embarrassed audience getting their breath back.


The penultimate film was James Hissett’s Art Film #1: The Struggle. With a title like that it was only going to go one way in the funniest film of the night. Parodying every awful arthouse/student film cliché the film was shot appropriately in black and white with all the pretentiousness you would expect. Hilarious scenes included a montage of sequences shot in reverse as well a stop-motion chair on a lonely factory floor. These were brilliantly undermined by a comedy voiceover from the fictional filmmaker who struggles to get out of bed, watches Buffy the Vampire Slayer and discusses his favourite cereal - the true callings of a 'conflicted' artist.


There were signs of incredibly happy faces at the show’s conclusion as On the Fence by Thaxnay Kapdee arrived in the form of a gloriously animated Pixar-esque short. This sweet CGI cartoon followed a love-struck boy’s attempts in wooing a girl from over the fence using kites. A radiant idea well-executed, this lovely film had exceptional warmth from a gifted animator with shining talent.


And with that, the festival ended on such a high there was nothing but congratulations and well-wishes to be shared by the audience and filmmakers alike. A spectacular event encapsulating not just the talent from the region but the encouragement, cooperation and support the film-making community in the area gives each other. Special thanks should go to the festival’s organiser Alexzandra Jackson who again has created the festival highlight of the year for Leicester and long may it continue for another 10 years.


Midlands Movies Mike

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

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