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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 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, Dec 12 2018 03:34PM



Midlands Review - Reversal


Directed by Sheikh Shahnawaz


2018. Catharsis Films


The Midlands most prolific filmmaker™ Sheikh has released yet another short drama before Christmas in which he features his regular contributing actor Nisaro Karim in a brief tale of mystery.


Beginning in stark close-up, the film starts with Karim’s hooded character staring into space but we quickly cut to a shot of his abdomen and discover that he is in fact injured. How and why the audience may ask?


Zooming further out we see that another suited man (played by Angus Villiers-Stuart) is leaning over his body in a pedestrian underpass. His hands are soaked in his attempts to stop the flow of blood.


He slowly backs away from the body. Is he in shock? Does he think his help is futile?


Well, actually... [spoiler warning] his slow steps backwards reveal that the film is in fact shot in reverse. Suddenly a bloodied knife rises from the ground into his hands and its shown to the audience that this may not be the seemingly good Samaritan we first thought.


His heavy breathing cuts to Karim’s victim suddenly rising from the floor to set up a standoff between the two. And then we see another switch again, reversing roles and constantly toying with viewer expectations.


The film plays with time in a Nolan-esque way (a definite nod to Memento for sure) and with great soundtrack music by Savfk, there are also audio hints of reversed instruments evoking a feel of Zimmer’s Inception score.


A clever short, the film has lots to think about in its brief runtime and has a feel of another local movie called FEIHT (Midlands Movies Awards Best Short winner 2017) which uses a similar sleight of hand narrative and time twisting structure to play with audience perceptions.


Another winning formula of acting, music and technical editing, check out Reversal for an impactful short that delivers a lot in its brief (backwards) runtime.


Michael Sales


For more info on Sheikh and his film projects please check out the links and watch the full short below:


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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/cinesheikh




By midlandsmovies, Oct 13 2018 02:26PM



The Initiation (2018) Dir. Sheikh Shahnawaz


Local independent filmmaker Sheikh Shahnawaz is back with The Initiation, a short film about two childhood friends who have their relationship put to the test when they meet a local crime boss they are interested in working for.


The Initiation starts off in an underground multi-storey car park, quiet with no one around but Aaron and Neil (Sam Malley and Dominic Thompson) as they wait nervously. Their long friendship is clear as they fist bump and agree to stand by each other no matter what, ‘since day one’ Neil says with an anxious Aaron agreeing.


As a dark car creeps up to them it’s clear this is their ride. A window rolls down to reveal a mysterious figure smoking. “Get in” he calmly demands. Neil makes the mistake of getting into the front passenger seat which is quickly met with another demand from the man to get in the back.


As the car drives out of the underground and into the streets it is clear this is one of Sheikh Shahnawaz’s most ambitious films yet as he films in external locations and makes it look effortless.


As the three men pull up on a quiet industrial estate they enter a dilapidated building with just a chair and a small table next to it. It is revealed that the strange man is Vinnie (Nisaro Karim) a local crime boss and a man to be respected and feared within the area. He takes the only seat and sits before Aaron and Neil as he quizzes them over a vacant position in his crew.


Vinnie makes sure to mention however that with the sought after lifestyle he can provide, the money, cars, respect, the job also brings with it responsibilities, one of which is making “difficult decisions whilst in difficult situations”. The initiation has begun.


I really enjoyed The Initiation, the premise being one of the main reasons. It is an interesting dynamic to have two loyal friends have the opportunity to make something of themselves albeit illegally but have them be prepared to do something drastic to achieve this.


Another factor of this short film I really enjoyed was the menacing performance by Catharsis Films regular Nisaro Karim, he seemingly towers over the other two men physically and mentally. Karim brings that authenticity to the role and brings Vinnie to life.


I would have liked to have seen more of a build up as it gears towards the finale as their friendship is ultimately tested it feels a tad rushed. However, this doesn’t detract from the fact this is a strong, short film. It is great to see well-made, entertaining genre films being made in this region by what seems to be the busiest and most determined filmmaker Sheikh Shahnawaz.


What’s next Catharsis films? I can’t wait.


Guy Russell


Twitter @BudGuyer


Watch the full short below:




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 13 2018 07:15AM

Sleepless (2018)


Directed by Sheikh Shahnawaz


From Catharsis Films comes Sleepless, the latest short film from local filmmaker Sheikh Shahnawaz.


What lengths would you go to if surreal nightmares had kept you up for over six days? In Sleepless one man must deal with such a scenario.


The film opens on the troubled man (Sam Malley) resting on his sofa, desperately trying to keep his eyes open. The camera pans down to reveal an electronic ankle bracelet which buzzes soon after shocking him. Who would put such a device on themselves? Who wants to stay awake this badly?


His housemate (Nisaro Karim) sitting opposite from him chirps up, “Why don’t you take that bloody thing off” with a tone of concern for his friend. However, there is an air of tension between the two which is one of the key elements for the story and one of my favourite dynamics of the film alongside a good, moody score by Yunis Khan.


Both men exchange insults as their backstory is revealed, both actors give great performances but Karim’s is especially impressive as he could of easily of played this role as a cartoonish, maniacal figure instead however he downplays his intentions and keeps the audience guessing as to what his character is about.


It is later revealed that there was a mugging that had gone awry some days before. What started off as an opportunity to steal a man’s wallet, ends with an unnecessary death. Whilst I’m sure this wasn’t made with the recent national crime wave in mind, it is still effective in the way Shahnawaz displays how the culprit deals with the consequences.


Whilst this isn’t a horror film, the premise of a character wanting to stay awake at any cost as they are terrified of their own nightmares, takes me back to Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street, a film that deals with guilt, regret and consequence, something Sheikh Shahnawaz, on a shoestring budget does in spades.


Making a short film every month is no easy task, however accompanied with good actors and a talented composer, Shahnawaz manages to create a dark thriller that is expertly paced throughout its seven-minute runtime. Film fans and fellow filmmakers would definitely benefit from checking out his channel for more local short films and advice.


Guy Russell

Twitter @BudGuyer


Watch the full short below and check out Sheikh's YouTube channel here:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCKTUE-VJkqlE_D8j-xs3sUA





By midlandsmovies, May 23 2018 02:01PM



Midlands Review - Blackmail


Directed by Shahnawaz


Blackmail is a short thriller by Birmingham-based filmmaker Sheikh Shahnawaz, who you may remember from our review of his other recent short 'Witness'.


In this tightly-paced short, Nisaro Karim plays a teacher who finds himself blackmailed by a mysterious stranger who has taken pictures of him with his 15 year old lover. At the mercy of his blackmailer, he has no choice but to comply with their demands… or does he?


Karim gives a fantastic performance, really selling his character's distress at being stuck in this situation. Make no mistake, his character is reprehensible and you don't root for him to get off scot-free, but this isn't one of those stories that needs a likeable protagonist. It's a gritty backstreet brawl of a story and you know that no one in this will come out smelling of roses.


The film looks very slick and you can tell Shahnawaz has great talent and a good eye for the technical side of directing. He keeps the pace up and the tension taut throughout, which is no mean feat with such a small story as this. His shots are simple, smooth and uncomplicated, exactly what this film needs to remain grounded and do justice to the intimate nature of the story.


I'm afraid I did see the twist coming, but I think that's probably more my fault than the film's as there was nothing to give it away and I have a bad habit of expecting and guessing twists beforehand (I blame Mr. Shyamalan). The dialogue is a little on the clichéd side, but it serves the story well and is pretty much what you would expect in this situation.


In all, Blackmail is an excellent way to spend 10 minutes and is further proof that both Shahnawaz and Karim are rising stars to watch closely.


Sam Kurd


Twitter @Splend




By midlandsmovies, May 6 2018 06:05PM




Duality (2018)


Directed by Sheikh Shahnawaz


New psychological thriller short Duality is the latest film from Sheikh Shahnawaz and delivers a powerful message about a woman who develops a split personality after years of abuse.


Sheikh’s first film Witness was a Tarantino-infused crime short (review here) but Duality heads in a darker direction with shocking scenes of emotional torment set amongst the drama. And shot in just one day in and around Birmingham, the filmmaker again makes the most of the region by utilising the talent of local Midlands based actors.


Duality opens on an upsetting non-consensual sexual encounter which throws the audience directly into the cruel relationship between our lead Sharni Tapako-Brown as Vanessa, and her husband Simon, played by Nisaro Karim.


Conjuring up an imagined alter-ego twin, Sharni in fact plays two roles here, both as the oppressed wife and her more self-assured double/alter-ego who questions her reasons for putting up and staying with Simon.


Whilst the idea of her conscience appearing as a mirrored vision of herself is somewhat a flight of imagination, the film tackles its domestic violence themes with upmost seriousness and believability. Sheikh has infused his drama with ideas of isolation –Vanessa's twin questions whether it is her or Simon keeping her away from her friends – and verbal as well as physical manipulation.


Empty apologies from Simon are accepted in real life but her conscience reminds her that this is repeated behaviour which he does “every time”. And as Simon goes out with his mates and claims not just the house as his own but his partner is too – “my woman” – the well written and refined script gives the character a possessive nature which is played very well by Karim.


The two leads do fantastic work with the material and the script covers all aspects of abuse from name-calling, physical control, domination and cruelty. And the subtle delivery of calm, but ultimately vicious, language gives the piece even more power with its understated approach.


The film shifts tone towards the end as our protagonist infuses herself with the confidence of her conscience but we are left with a cliffhanger as to what her next step is to be. Revenge on her perpetrator is heavily hinted upon and we leave the story as the tables are about to turn.


For me, Duality ends up being an even better film than Sheikh’s previous efforts with both reality and fantasy coming together in a script that is intelligent, sensitive but also convincing with its well-researched concepts. With two fine actors giving forceful and moving performances, Duality is a evocative short film that demonstrates Sheikh Shahnawaz as a unique filmmaking voice.


Midlands Movies Mike




Watch the full short on YouTube below:







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