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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




By midlandsmovies, Jul 23 2019 08:26PM



Midlands Review - Date Night


Directed by Nisaro Karim


2019


Five Pence Productions


From Five Pence Productions comes Date Night, a short film about an awkward blind date that ends in unexpected disaster. What's the worst that could happen?


Date Night focuses on Serena and Reginald, two single adults who have organised a date through matching on Tinder, however when Reginald arrives both his and Serena's expectations of a successful match plummet.


From the off their personalities clash, not helped by the fact that neither are impressed with the others actual appearance. We can see Reginald has used older pictures of himself where he used to boast thick, brown hair whilst Serena has been accused of resembling nothing like her dating profile pictures which she and other patrons disagree with.


Their awkward exchange is the films highlight as they go back and forth trading off insults, exasperated with the result of the hook-up. The director, Nisaro Karim, does a great job at capturing Reginald's obnoxious behaviour as he eats with his mouth open, is rude to fellow customers and confesses how working out is similar to an orgasm. It comes as no surprise to the viewer when Serena finally throws in the towel then throws on her shawl to leave the building, ending the date.


What does surprise the view however is the three armed robbers that rush through the restaurants doors before Serena can exit, telling everyone to put their hands up and be silent. Serena and Reginald's date just got worse, much worse.


As I was watching for the first time I was surprised by the change in tone as the masked raiders enter the scene, initially I was expecting them to join as more comic relief as that was the mood that had been set early on.


As police sirens echo closer and closer so do the nerves of the assailants as they ponder their next move, this final act is reminiscent of films like Collateral or Heat, Michael Mann crime films with a very American feel to them.


Whilst I could see the effort of ambitiously creating such a huge sub-plot this ultimately hindered the film as the gulf in tone from what the film started with was too much, it felt like two different films spliced together.


Written and directed by Nisaro Karim, a known talent amongst the Midlands independent film scene, Date Night serves as his first time behind the camera which is evident as his excitement and ambition spills onto the screen. He is helped by his director of photography Tomek Zontek who helps capture the vibrant Birmingham city as well as shooting the main action inside local restaurant The Gateway to India.


As the credits roll you are left with an undeniable impression Karim has more stories to tell and will not be far behind with his second short film.


Guy Russell

Twitter @BudGuyer


By midlandsmovies, Jun 13 2019 02:50PM



David and Goliath


2019


Produced by Nisaro Karim and directed by Sheikh Shahnawaz


Five Pence Productions


“You have to, brother. You’ve been chosen to defeat the giant Goliath”.


Five Pence Productions are a new West Midlands company and David and Goliath is its first ever production and one which recounts the famous Biblical tale from yore.


We open in the woods where a reluctant David (Sam Malley, The Chase) is given a slingshot by his mother and tells him to have faith in a planned fight with Goliath - whilst his younger brother optimistically offers to help him on his quest.


A stirring soundtrack sees David then walk into the distance to begin his journey before meeting a girl (Return of the Ring's Rhi Hardman as Abigail) who chides him for his use of a slingshot to best the “crusher of skulls”. But she too offers to join him and his brother on their expedition.


However, just moments later Goliath (Nisaro Karim from Reversal) arrives at their feet – literally – as he pratfalls down a hill but warns them of an even bigger danger in their midst – a colossal Titan!


Some nifty scripted word-play and a splattering of dead-pan delivery of the dialogue gives the short some pep and liveliness that is certainly refreshing to see in a world of regional shorts that are often dramatic and serious in nature.


And filmmaker Sheikh Shahnawaz uses a bit of Lord of the Rings-style forced perspective and woodland locations to echo the tropes of cinematic fantasy – albeit on a small budget.


From coy flirting to embarrassing slip-ups, the short undermines mythical legends but does so with enthusiasm and its tongue firmly in its cheek. Visual gags add to the humour and each jokey sequence shows an affection for the classics – but one the production is happy to poke fun at.


It is also great to see the director again jump genres by trying out various filmmaking styles and tones in their body of creative work. And this has clearly helped them develop an excellent grasp of different aspects of cinema – including a bloody and frantic fight between David, Goliath and the “lofty” Titan towards the end of the short.


A pleasing parody, David and Goliath therefore ends up being as an amusing and silly spoof with a lot of warmth generated by the terrific cast - who are effective at delivering both punch-ups and punchlines.


Michael Sales


Watche the full short below:




By midlandsmovies, Jan 29 2019 02:58PM



The Chase (2018)


Fight Club production in association with Five Pence Productions.


Directed by Nisaro Karim & Sam Malley. Written by Nisaro Karim


A trio of contract criminals are assigned a case whereby they must steal a Christmas present from an empty household, only the job doesn’t turn out to be quite as straightforward as they had anticipated.


Sometimes I see films and I have to admire the potential they showed, even if they don’t quite hit the mark in terms of their execution. What Sam Malley and Nisaro Karim have created with The Chase is something that is a very solid foundation for what could go on to be a well-developed concept should they continue to invest in it.


What piques my interest most here is the premise and the number of questions it raises for the viewer. First and foremost, we have a story that centres around the bad guys, which is never a bad thing in my eyes. Generally speaking, the dodgier the character, the more intriguing the narrative tends to be. The thing with villains is they’re grafters. They always have to work hard, whereas the heroes - no matter how high the odds may be stacked against them - they always seem to come out on top with little or no hardship.


So the fact that I’m straightaway presented with two not-so-good characters as the front runners here tells me that the filmmakers also acknowledge this in some way, and I can appreciate that. What I think would be beneficial is that, going forward, how these people got to be where they are today gets explored.


To be able to get inside the head of a villain is always a fascinating thing, and would absolutely add layers of depth to what is a promising blueprint. Add to this the fact that little notes are added throughout the story with the intention of capturing attention and suddenly you have something that shows a lot of potential indeed. Some of these are a bit on the nose, for example, a package with content that remains a mystery from start to finish. However when you look at the bigger picture, it’s the slightly less obvious details that raise the bigger questions, which is another thing I was a fan of.


There were some moments that felt like they were supposed to be more comedic that didn’t hit the mark for me. For the most part, the downfall occurred in one of two ways. Either the generations involved in making the jokes didn’t fit, such as when there is the opening exchange between Dima and Daisy regarding Daisy’s Netflix viewing habits, or the responses to certain situations weren’t reactive enough, and were just too straight-laced.


Personally, I don’t think comedic elements are really needed here if I’m perfectly honest. I think out-and-out crime drama is the approach I’d prefer, and which I think would work better as getting the balance just right with lighter moments is hard and can carry some weight when it’s even just slightly off.


Overall, I do feel like there is a lot of potential there with The Chase, but it does need more development. Foundations are strong, but I think before any future projects are built upon them some of the writing could be tightened up a little bit, and it needs to have more confidence with whatever direction it is headed in.


There is a good idea here, and I think with the right amount of love it could grow into something great. It’s a work-in-progress, but definitely one where the bigger picture is worth keeping an eye on.


Kira Comerford


Twitter @FilmAndTV101


By midlandsmovies, Jan 2 2019 02:11PM



Trick


(2019)


Directed by Sheikh Shahnawaz


With an amazing short film production run in 2018, Midlands filmmaker Sheikh Shahnawaz ends the year with another hard-hitting drama with his new film Trick.


As a young man pours drugs onto a weighing machine, another older man sits nearby and discusses pets and how kindness can be seen as a weakness that can be exploited.


And “hey presto”, immediately we are thrown into one of the director’s familiar gangster scenarios where a boss is giving his underling some much needed advice. But before the conversation can continue however, they are interrupted by two men – one of whom (Jimmy) sheepishly asks for more time to repay some money.


Crime and violence are a recurring theme in Shahnawaz’s work - from Tarantino-influenced kidnapping in Witness to a Nolan-esque time-twisting attack in his last film Reversal. And here, the film sets up more of the same with a brutal world of hoodlums and terror. One of the hired hands (Shahnawaz regular Nisaro Karim) forces the man to sit down at the boss’ table.


The boss (a menacing James Jaysen Bryhan in a fantastic performance) proceeds to perform a magic “trick” involving a blood-red handkerchief. Darkly comic, he sarcastically provides his own magician’s musical accompaniment to his silly – but scary – performance.


Raising tension, the director does well by mixing the light-hearted trick with the darker themes already shown – thus creating a rising atmosphere of dread. And what will he make disappear using his fists? Well, you’ll have to watch the full film (see below) but suffice to say Sheikh has added one of his trademark twists to the tale to surprise the audience like pulling a bunny out of a hat.


With the director’s plans to tackle less shorts and bigger projects, it seems just the right time for Shahnawaz to tackle a larger and more thorough film. As although the shorts have all been dark delights, they now seem like teasers to a talent that requires flexing in a bigger arena.


Trick therefore ends up with Shahnawaz conjuring up another forceful short that alludes to the next step on his magical filmmaking journey.


Michael Sales



Watch the full film below:




Find out more about Sheikh's projects on Twitter and Facebook:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cinesheikh

Twitter: https://twitter.com/cinesheikh


By midlandsmovies, Oct 18 2018 06:49PM



Midlands Review - Assassins


Written and directed by Liane Moonraven


Assassins is a new micro-short from filmmaker Liane Moonraven and is the first film the American director has completed since arriving in England. And she opens her film in the most English of settings – the good ol’ boozer – and it is here in the pub where her short crime story unfurls.


Liane also stars in the short herself and enters the pub with Midlands Movies favourite Nisaro Karim, star of many shorts from the region. As Nisaro’s unknown man lights a cigarette, the barman brings over some stiff drinks before Liane’s character expresses a stern “We’re expecting a call” to give the short a little mystery from the outset.


As the locals drink, laugh and text, the buzz of the pub is interrupted by the expectant call as the barman hands over a Post-It to the double act at their table.


Downing their drinks they reveal their target is in the car park and with the short’s title of Assassin, the audience may expect a brutal slaying from the pair.


The assassins exit the bar through a back corridor and the woman takes out her gun ready to engage in their next mission. However, a sting in the tale reverses the audience’s expectations and provides a explosive bullet to the narrative.


A micro-short can be difficult to review given the extremely condensed time frame but Liane Moonraven gets over a lot of information in a few shots and with minimal dialogue. With a solid foundation, the film creates a dash of tension yet I hope to see a few more artistic choices in the shots for her next film.


A good grounding, Assassins is the sort of film that a filmmaker can build upon as they develop, where the right balance of character, editing and narrative is delivered simply and with little fuss. Check out the short on the YouTube video embedded below and expect bigger and better things off the back of this level-headed debut.


Mike Sales





By midlandsmovies, Jul 30 2018 08:56AM



Gamer


2018 - Directed by Sheikh Shahnawaz


Filmmaker Sheikh Shahnawaz returns with a new short that presents one man’s dependency on a virtual life that has some serious repercussions back in the real world.


Sheikh has become a bit of a machine on the Midlands movie scene himself. With 4 shorts already released in 2018 (reviews of his films Duality, Sleepless, Blackmail and Witness can be found here), the director has previously stated his prolific production stance to try his hand at a variety of film styles with little budget and crew.


And here he tackles some well edited special effects in this thoughtful short concerning the side-effects of spending too much time online.


The film begins with a bit of background about a small of squad of players involved in the online game Fortnite. For those unfamiliar with the game (myself included), Fortnite is a mass online brawl with 100 players dropped on an island who fight until only one remains – akin to Battle Royale and The Hunger Games.


We are introduced to a cyborg (Nazgore), a sniper (Thorax) and a steampunk dancer (GetRekd69) who are an “unstoppable” force within the game. However, this powerful squad contrasts with the lonely man we see playing as Nazgore as we cut to Noah (Gurjeet Singh) in a dark room staring at his computer screen. His solitary figure is only drawn out of his game by the sound of his 6am alarm as he says goodbye to his online teammates before going to work.


At work, his boss (Nisaro Karim) wants to insert some last minute information into a big presentation but Noah is distracted as he sees his avatar from the game come to life in the office. The film uses good special effects to insert the pixelated characters into the film and as he returns to his house, the other characters appear throughout different rooms.


“We’ve been waiting for you” says one of the avatars as he runs upstairs to escape. Tormented by these manifestations and physically and emotionally drained, Noah exits his game. But before long, after a takeaway for one and avoiding the task of completing the boss’ request on his laptop, he is compelled back for another game.


A tiny few wardrobe issues aside – a professional suit rather than a cardigan would be a better fit for a boss pressuring his employee, whilst a wedding ring on Noah’s had undercuts his lonely demeanour – the film gets straight to the point regarding the themes of gaming addiction.


Like 2018’s Ready Player One from Steven Spielberg, the complex interaction between our real life and online personas are explored here. The music by SavFK is also a good electronic pulsing soundtrack that becomes more ominous as the protagonist begins losing his grip on reality.


In March 2018, the Guardian newspaper suggested the game’s elements are combined into a free downloadable package which makes it easy to join and stick with. And the concept of “video game addiction is contentious within the medical community”. However, the film’s ideas suggest a blurring of lines between reality and fantasy that could have an effect on vulnerable individuals.


Gamer therefore traverses an intricate set of ideas about compulsion, cravings and enslavement to technology. Whilst Sheikh has certainly provided the Midlands with a quantity of short films, the director doesn’t shy from quality productions across genres that provide food for thought. And that’s one habit I’d happily return to time and again.


Mike Sales


Watch the full short below:




By midlandsmovies, Jul 27 2018 07:24AM



The Return of the Ring (2018)


Directed and written by AR Ugas


“Enough teaching about our history. It’s time to fight for our future”.


High fantasy and enduring myth reach the Midlands in a brand new 22-minute short from AR Ugas who brings Tolkien’s tales and epic themes into a contemporary setting with his new film The Return of the Ring.


Described as a fan-film with a title that could elicit groans, don’t let that fool you as the short shouldn’t be dismissed as an amateur production but one which condenses the novel’s rich themes and ideas into a uniquely local idea.


The story follows a young female Elf (Rhi Hardman as Illyandra) who sets out to reclaim the ring after it is told that it was never originally destroyed. This was followed by The Race of Man eradicating Middle-earth which ensured any trace of its history was to become a fairy tale.


Opening with a foot chase involving a mysterious hooded-man in black, the film wears its love of not just the novel but of Peter Jackson’s infamous trilogy on its sleeve. Illyandra escapes from this Nazgûl – the immortal beings bound to the power of the One Ring – and director Ugas, who also writes, scatters some archaic Tolkien language to his script too.


The ring ends up with a barman (Sam Malley as John) and Illyandra makes contact with him at a nightclub. And despite using “orc magic” to get her hand on the powerful item, the Ring Wraith is soon back on their tail. The film balances its extreme fantasy ideas with a suburban realism and the use of potions and pointy ears is subtly ingrained in the film’s modern narrative.



Technically the short suitably aims for the epic with drone shots over the city giving a cinematic feel to the proceedings. Director of photography James Alexander Barnett excellently mixes lens flare with well-chosen locations that give a sly wink to the source material. A conversation in a park against a tree harks to fantasy forests whilst a neon lit water feature in a nightclub echoes a mythic waterfall of sorts.


Sadly, the apartment location– acting as the characters’ main sanctuary – feels a little ‘flat’ but its cramped space seems to represent their confinement – hiding from their enemy in a metaphorical dungeon. But again, its low-budget roots don’t affect the great creativity at work. A clever panning shot, some suitably intense music and well composed colour grading gives the ‘other-worldly’ illusion of the ring-bearer’s scary visions.


Dominic Thompson portrays Alatar the Young (also credited as “The Wizard”) and unfortunately I felt the actor went a bit too far with a slightly pantomime performance. However, his well-delivered monologue to fill in backstory was effectively utilised and the actor nicely incorporated hints of Brad Dourif’s Wormtongue from Jackson’s movie.




Woven into the film was also some excellent, but subtle, updating of ancient costumes. The leather jacket clad Nazgûl, a hooded advisor and the earthy tones of a wood Elf were fantastic and heck, even a white t-shirt embodied John’s naïve innocence to the events unfolding.


Nisaro Karim as Amdir arrives towards the end and the film moves swiftly between locations and characters and flashes of humour keep it light-hearted at times as well. With the power of the ring continuing to corrupt the heart of men, the film shows expert dexterity in technique and cinema skill with its innovative spin of the traditions of Middle-earth whilst still making it accessible and understandable to a modern Midlands audience.


A perfect ending that has a literary nod to Tolkien was a brilliant surprise that will leave you wanting more and the story’s present-day setting blends tones well. With great craftmanship, AR Ugas’ film therefore ends up being not just token Tolkien, but a fully-fledged and ambitious homage that throws in its own satisfying twist on legends with amazing precision. There are some good films in this world and shorts like The Return of the Ring are worth fighting for.


Mike Sales


Watch the full short here:






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