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By midlandsmovies, Apr 20 2018 05:07PM

Atonement (2018)

Directed by Auzair Razak from Coventry

A Ribbontree Production

Atonement is a new 12-minute psychological thriller from Coventry writer-director Auzair Razak which tackles issues of bereavement, grief and blame.

Filmed in a Paul Greengrass handheld camera style we begin our journey with Daniel who we discover has lost his daughter and is battling to come to terms with her passing. Spiralling into alcohol-fused decline, he returns home one night and begins to see visions of a mysterious forest.

Daniel himself is played by actor George McCluskey (another Coventry talent whom we have spoken with before) and here he excellently conveys the awkward confusion and stress of this melancholic man as he attempts to deal with his demons.

Atonement sticks to its low-key realism with music that is kept to a minimum but when it does arrive it has an eerie elongated tonal quality which adds a touch of unexpectedness to the weird proceedings.

A piercing tinnitus inducing sound signals the arrival of his visions as his daughter Emily (Lamissah La-Shontae) appears then disappears into surrounding woods. The washed-out colour palette of these scenes help establish a dream-like quality whilst McCluskey manages to evoke a devasted father well with the few lines of dialogue he is given.

A date scene in a restaurant conveys Daniel’s frustrations and loneliness as he fails to engage with his guest and as he drifts in and out of his ghostly nightmares we are given hints upon what brought him to this state.

Deep within his trance, a shrine against a wooden log and a blood-red toy car leave clues as to the backstory and we’re soon within Daniel’s mindset as his fanciful dreams and miserable reality collide.

Atonement’s only real drawback is its slight unoriginality. The ghostly daughter and [SPOILERS] car crash denouement is one I’ve seen a lot of in local films. It may just be coincidence but as recent as last week I reviewed a film about a middle-aged bald man suffering nightmare visions that leave him “hanging” onto reality.

However, that’s not to say there isn’t plenty to recommend this short too. The film’s technical aspects are rock solid with sound mixing being of particular note. Dialogue, music and audio effects have been well produced and it’s so easy to ruin a good short with bad sound. But not here. The performances are rugged but consistent and deliver the slightly-seen-it-too-many times before materal with believability and sensitivity.

A great introduction to a young filmmaker I haven’t heard of, Auzair Razak’s Atonement is a fantastic welcome of another gifted filmmaker onto the Midlands scene. One who I very much look forward to seeing more of – with a splash more originality I hope – in the coming months.

Midlands Movies Mike

Follow the short on Twitter at @Atonement_Short

By midlandsmovies, Apr 13 2018 07:58AM

Flatpack Film Festival 2018

The 2018 Flatpack Film Festival kicks off on Friday 13th April so get ready to experience over 100 events and screenings across venues across Birmingham.

Running until 22nd April, there are plenty of options for all kinds of cinema fans and we take an overview look at some of the best the festival has to offer over the full 2 weeks of fun.

Colour Box

This is a fabulous film lucky dip with a focus on “doing” as much as on “viewing”. This year’s creative playground includes smartphone projectors, Moomin puppets, VR adventures and a massive zoetrope, while in the screening programme you can find the best new family shorts and features from around the world. Colour Box is suitable for all ages, although even more fun if you’re 11 and under!

Birmingham 68

A landmark year internationally, 1968 was also a turbulent time for Birmingham. This eye-opening, city-straddling programme will take you from Digbeth bikers to Erdington psychedelia, from black masses in Solihull to the lost streets of Balsall Heath. On 13-15 April a host of special guests will join us for a weekend of walks, talks and screenings tapping into a range of subjects that still resonate today. Flatpack welcome a range of guests including writer Dilip Hiro and Oscar-winning cinematographer Chris Menges and there's a very rare chance to see a psychedelic Cilla Black satire set in Ladywood.

Optical Sound

Optical Sound explores the love affair between sound and image through a packed weekend of live events and screenings. Expect AV artistry, music documentaries and ingenious gadgets.


A chance to poke around under the bonnet and explore the creative processes behind some of the work on show at Flatpack. At the heart of Unpacked is a day of talks and demonstrations with a fantastic line up of artists, inventors and filmmakers, while at Film Camp the focus shifts from making to showing. Film Camp is designed to gather together film exhibitors from across the Midlands to share their wealth of experience, and to explore fresh approaches to programming and audience development. The event is open to everyone from multi-screen venues and festivals to community cinema organisers and student film groups.

Special Events

Check out Flatpack’s full complement of theatre, performance, live soundtracks, daft parties and a quiz. Highlights include live animation troupe Paper Cinema and a night at the circus to remember.

Features, Shorts and Documentaries

based at the Electric and the Mockingbird, this year's survey of the best new films from around the world is a fantastic trip. For those who don’t know, Flatpack started life as a film night in a pub and the short films are an end in themselves, overflowing with great ideas and indelible images. In 2018 the competition expands to six programmes and will include a bumper crop of UK premieres. Flatpack’s international documentary selection is by turns playful, provocative and strange.

Short Film Competition Pass

The short film competition is the shining jewel in our crown each year and audiences can pick up a pass wo view Is This Some Kind Of Joke, Little Wonders, Signal To Noise, Artefacts, Memory Lane and Breaking Point for just £32.

To buy tickets and to check out the full programme go to the festival's official website - http://flatpackfestival.org.uk

By midlandsmovies, Apr 10 2018 05:23PM

Midlands Movies Interview - Going Behind the Lens with Jordan Dean

Local filmmaker Jordan Dean came to Leicester’s De Montfort University from Hull at the age of 22 and grew up like so many did with Spielberg and Star Wars as his first foray into film. We speak to this exciting new local filmmaker about his influences, film music and the uncomfortableness of watching audition tapes.

Midlands Movies: Hi Jordan. Glad you could join today. You mention you got into film via Spielberg?

Jordan Dean: Yes I did, but as a kid I was always asking how they managed to create these fantastical worlds!

MM: And getting older how did you end up in your current position?

JD: Well my love for film as a youngster developed into working for Bizarre Culture where I was their film and media editor. I wrote articles and reviews before studying film at DMU in Leicester. It was a very academic weighted degree but at a very highly regarded film university.

MM: And what did you learn during those years?

JD: Well, I made some terrible and awful stuff in my first year [laughs]. But by my third year I had learnt a lot so chose to make a film rather than do a written dissertation. By doing that I tried to prove to myself I could handle a larger production. I actually had 27 cast and crew for a 7-minute short. This included costume designers, extras, fashion models and the like. It really helped me learn different skills, got me a first in my degree and then played at 5 festivals winning a cinematography award at one of them. That was when I thought - I can do this!

MM: I went to the same University funnily enough from 1998-2001 and we only had video in year 1! It moved very quickly to digital.

JD: Ha ha. I would love to shoot on film but producers say think about the money!

MM: So where are you now in your career?

JD: Well now I am undertaking an MA in Film Production with DMU and Pinewood Studios which is exciting. I get to work every week with Terry Bamber (first assistant director on films such as Gulliver’s Travels and World War Z), Chris Kenny and Iain Smith, producer of Mad Max: Fury Road. It’s a real high calibre of people to learn from.

MM: Sounds very rewarding. What projects have you made?

JD: I worked on Not Alone which was actually a film to test equipment but has recently won a short film award at the Direct Short Online Film Festival. In addition I’ve been working with Rhys Davies on his upcoming feature Acid Daemons (click here for info on that film).

MM: You also made Behind the Lens which was nominated for a Midlands Movies Award in 2018 for best score for Peter Flint (click here). What were your influences for that film?

JD: Both of us were influenced by Drive and Neon Demon composer Cliff Martinez. I also love John Carpenter and got great feedback from Terry (Bamber) that Not Alone was Carpenter-esque which was fantastic to hear.

MM: It’s great to have recognition from someone who has been in the industry for a long time. I have seen in the Midlands that those connections and recommendations can really help (and inspire) local independent filmmakers move forward in their work.

JD: Yes and also give you the feeling that you do know what you’re doing. I’m not the best at networking and its great to be at Pinewood to meet people but also at the Midlands Movies film awards where I met likeminded filmmakers from the region.

MM: With local filmmakers like Gareth Edwards, who jumped from editing Monsters in his home to Godzilla and then to Star Wars, is he an example of how low budget can spiral to the big time no matter how unlikely? Does that help motivate you?

JD: It’s really inspiring to see those journeys, of course. I also love sci-fi. E.T. is one of my all -time favourite films. I’d love to make a film in that genre but I feel I would need the resources to do justice to the ideas I would want to convey. My main focus right now is horror. I’m obsessed with scary films since seeing The Texas Chainsaw Massacre when I was younger.

MM: I definitely noticed a Neon Demon influence in Behind the Lens

JD: My biggest influence right now actually is Nicholas Winding Refn. I know he’s not for everyone but I love his films. Over the last few years I’ve also enjoyed a variety of horrors such as The Babadook and It Follows. I’m not a fan of the current jump-scare style movies though.

MM: I found the recent version of IT a surprise success for Hollywood horror but its musical stings were warnings which gave away the approaching scares. Do you like foreign horrors though?

JD: I think you feel more vulnerable watching a foreign horror giving the investment you have to make. I am a huge fan of Asian extreme horror and my next film is heavily influenced by Park Chan-Wook’s The Handmaiden.

MM: Are there any other genres you would like to dip your toe into?

JD: I don’t want to be a genre filmmaker as such. As a fan of Refn, if you showed Neon Demon to someone they may not consider it a horror. I would like to do similar and mix genres up but I was also exhausted by the end of The Witch as it built up tension without giving the audience a release. I wouldn’t mind trying a straight-up drama and tell a simpler story as well.

MM: Where do you get your ideas from?

JD: Behind the Lens is very much influenced by the photographer character from the Neon Demon and realised I had alos met those type of creepy, really intense characters.

MM: Voyeuristic?

JD: Very much so. I can get uncomfortable myself looking at audition tapes that I get sent given the nature of it.

MM: And where next for you?

JD: The next film is The Nail That Sticks Out whose title is taken from a Japanese proverb. It’s the first film I’m directing that I haven’t written. Rebecca Whelan has written a great script and I was instantly attracted to it as it has a tone and themes I can relate to myself.

MM: And what’s the story of the film without giving too much away?

JD: It’s about a Japanese artist living in England and her girlfriend is a failing English actress. It’s about culture clashes and how far different people are willing to go to produce their art. The two characters go in very different directions.

MM: And how far into production are you?

JD: We're making the crowdfunding promo this week and it’s the most ambitious project I’ve ever been involved in. We’re shooting at the end of July in the Midlands at Scene Studios in Nottingham and location shooting at DMU as well. It also has an all Midlands based crew and we're looking to raise an £8000 budget which feels ominous but we’re hoping for success once we launch.

MM: And what’s changed for you on all of these projects?

JD: It’s a scary thing to undertake these different films. Especially when you can’t always pay people when you are starting out and there are very difficult thing to manage on small productions. Now we’ve got a group of people involved – including a producer – there’s a move away from checking the sound and lighting etc yourself. There’s people you can trust in all the roles within the crew. And Peter Flint will be again working with me on the score so we’re discussing that right now.

MM: That must be a relief?

JD: To an extent. My first real production (Acid Daemons) I was working with others and I took the advice that if I had a full understanding of how film works – not just your own role – then you understand the departments and their processes. By having a little bit of knowledge about each department you can respect their craft.

MM: Thanks Jordan. Any final thoughts or help for other local filmmakers?

JD: Don’t be scared of feedback. I have a weird thing as I think I encourage criticism as it’s the only way you learn. Friends and parents will go “it’s great” but you can’t ride that for long otherwise you won’t get anywhere.

Follow Jordan Dean for updates on all his projects on his Twitter feed here: https://twitter.com/Jordandeanfilm

By midlandsmovies, Apr 10 2018 03:51PM

Nevermore (2018) Dir. Derry Felton

Nevermore is a short film adaptation of the Edgar Allan Poe poem, The Raven, by filmmaker Derry Felton. I will say straight away that it’s probably not something that everyone will go in for, but if you’re someone who is a fan of Poe’s work, or perhaps gothic-type pieces, Nevermore might be worth investing some time into.

I liked what Felton attempted here. I think there’s always a lot of inspiration to be taken from literary works because they are so open to interpretation. This whole idea that the story centred around someone who had been institutionalised following some sort of personal tragedy was a very grim route to take. But I can’t ever really fault people for going with darker narratives, and I think with work such as Poe’s, you’d struggle to go far wrong with this approach anyway, regardless of what the viewer’s personal tastes would be.

I think what would’ve been better for me personally, as someone not familiar with the source until I’d done some further reading, would’ve been some more information on the wider context in which the story is set. In the film, there’s flashbacks pointing towards the past of the characters in question, but something like a short prologue wouldn’t have gone amiss in setting the scene before ploughing on with the story.

Something else that I think would have also helped people like myself who aren’t as well-read on Poe’s work, especially the poem on which this is based, would’ve been to put a more up-to-date twist on the language. I have to admit that this was something that caused me the most issues as I struggled to follow the, at times, quite lyrical dialogue that flowed throughout the entire piece.

It’s something that I think has been done with a few of Shakespeare’s works to some extent, and I know from experience that modern takes on anything revolving around literature can often help it appeal to more people, and also boost understanding of what’s going on.

As I’ve said, I liked the interpretation of the poem. I think the idea of basing the story around someone who had gone reasonably insane was a good one, and is definitely one of the strengths of this film.

There were times, however, that I felt it got a little bit too abstract. Now whether this is due to my unfamiliarity with the original works I can’t say for sure, but there were definitely a few moments that went over my head, which is why I say some form of wider context, or modern translation wouldn’t have done any harm at all.

One final thing that caught my attention were the contrasting looks of this film. I thought there were some decisions made during that editing process that have worked well for this short and the story it told. The harsh lights and the blue tones used in some shots mixed well with the faded appearance of some of the others, and I noticed that this went some way in helping me with my understanding of the storyline.

On the whole, I think this is a solid attempt at adapting a piece of literature that I’d imagine wouldn’t be massively easy to work with. There’s definitely potential to be taken from this film, and also a few tips to be taken on board that will hopefully mean that Felton’s next project is even better. It’s not for everyone, not by any means at all, but if dark, period poetry is where your passion lies, and for quite a lot of people it does, this is definitely worth a punt.

Kira Comerford


By midlandsmovies, Apr 7 2018 12:43PM

Midlands Spotlight - Don't Follow the Light

After the success of his psychological horror and Midlands Movies Award-nominated The Telephone, Derbyshire writer-director Stuart Connock Wheeldon is again delving into the world of independent cinema with his new film Don't Follow the Light.

Stepping into the preproduction phase this short will be filmed in and around the Derbyshire countryside during the summer of 2018 and Don't Follow the Light is a prequel to the filmmaker’s much-talked-about production concept for Vanished which is gaining a cult following on social media.

That film is to be a smart spin on misadventure and mystery and Stuart says Vanished has already attracted the interest and support of industry professionals.

The prequel - which now seeks funding - pre-empts the story of Gillian Gold, who is described by the filmmaker as the ‘Banksy of Journalism’ and a tenacious investigative journalist. Stuart has been influenced by Hitchcock as Don't Follow the Light is set amongst a succession of unsolved murders and the disappearance of Gold herself.

A range of fine actors has already been chosen for production with Lana O'Kell set to play Gillian Gold and Nigel Barber will be joining the cast in the role of Dr. Williams. Paul Dewdney will play Dr. Childs and Dilly Evans-Smith has landed the role of Jessica.

Stuart hopes all these acclaimed actors will bring an engaging mix of experiences and will add heart and soul (“not to mention a degree of ruthlessness”) to the characters.

His production company Nine Ladies Film is now about to undertake a crowdfunding campaign. Stuart is joined by Nick John Whittle as producers of the film and they plan to get together a working budget to realise this early chapter in the Gillian Gold story.

He hopes that with the help of a generous public who enjoy independent film, Don’t Follow the Light's dark ideas can be expressed in full once production is underway.

For more information visit The Vanished Film website to find contact details and updates about the crowdfunding page http://vanishedfilm.org

By midlandsmovies, Apr 7 2018 07:42AM

Midlands Spotlight - Wash Club

Midlands Movies Mike finds out about new Nottingham-made film Wash Club which used a local cast and crew to create its weird tale of a death cult in the least likely of places.

Wash Club tells the true story of how an inspiring journalist accidentally created a death cult and as the movie Fight Club reaches cinemas worldwide, a Norwich student discovers his own underground version.

Wash Club is the latest film from writer Ross Sutherland, director Simon Dymond and producer Lauren Parker. The short was selected from over 300 submissions to be one of just 16 put into production on Creative England and BFI Net.work’s iShorts scheme in 2016.

Since then it has been since shown at festivals around the world and is now available online premiering on the acclaimed Short of the Week. And we also have embedded right here above!

In Wash Club, quiet student Doug overhears an anecdote about a secret society that test their endurance inside the campus tumble driers. Determined to use the story for his journalism coursework, Doug accidentally becomes the ringleader of a new group of tumblers, before realising that the original anecdote was clearly made up.

The filmmakers go on to say that when the campus driers are revealed to be gas operated, Doug realises he has formed a death cult. In a final bid he attempts to shut down the group, but it turns out to be harder to kill a good story than you might think.

Unbelievably, Wash Club is based on a true story based on the writer Ross Sutherland’s own experiences at university in 1999. A satirical thriller, peppered with dark humour.

Watch the film above and also check out the film's Twitter page: https://twitter.com/washclubfilm

By midlandsmovies, Apr 5 2018 08:51PM

Trapped (2017) Dir. Thomas Longstaff

Finding the laughs amongst the darkness, local writer-director Thomas Longstaff creates a unique comedy take on a trip to the wilderness in his new film Trapped. The film is a 4 ½ minute short opening on a beanie-clad hiker, taking in the deep breaths of fresh air before he begins to embark on a journey into a forest.

But soon the audience has their breath taken away themselves as the jaunty and bright opening leads us almost instantly into a trap. And this trap being a literal historic bear-trap that ensnares our protagonist with a rusty metal grip around his leg.

Screaming in pain and begging for help, the audience feel every sharp twist as the lead winces and whines as the awfulness of his predicament slowly dawns.

Graeme Brooks plays the unlucky captured man and provides a fun performance of overdramatic shrieks. And despite the character’s best efforts he is unable to loosen himself from its tortured grip.

The tension is sliced with comedic cuts as we see our ‘hero’ indulge in some crisp munching before he resigns himself to his fate as night draws in. With the symbolic breaking of a chocolate bar, we quickly realise that the man is going to go full ‘127 Hours’ on us.

Here the filmmakers pull no punches (or should that be kicks). Some gruesome blood effects swiftly move this short from humour to horror. Kudos too should go to sound designer Edward Towers whose bloody squelches and bony crunches are an aural enjoyment. But be prepared if you’re not a fan of wounds and gore.

With a wicked sting in the tale, Trapped is an amusing short that relishes in the tongue-in-cheek (foot-in-trap?) nature of the comedy-horror genre. With great technical aspects and some truly nasty effects, Trapped could have you chuckling or chucking up depending on your disposition.

My advice though?

Go get caught up in Trapped. You won’t walk out. Cos you’ll love it too much, baby.

Midlands Movies Mike

As a bonus, we have the full short for you to watch below:

By midlandsmovies, Apr 3 2018 12:01PM

Midlands Spotlight - Upcoming short film Scarecrow

Midlands Movies Award winner Lee Charlish of Korky Films is teaming up with Jam-AV to produce and release a live-action short film called Scarecrow in the summer of 2018.

The screenplay has been written by Warwickshire-based Lee himself who will also direct the film. Jam-AV’s Jason Langdell is the director of photography and he will work with Jamie Sergeant of Touchtype Films on camera.

Jason will also assume editing duties and the film will be overseen by producer Jenny McDonald who also works under the Jam-AV Media Production umbrella as well as the PQA (Pauline Quirke Academy) in Rugby.

Scarecrow follows a bickering couple, Thomas and Natalie, who are stranded on a deserted country lane because their car has run out of fuel. After deciding to try and find a garage they become lost and disorientated and eventually happen upon a creepy looking scarecrow.

Also on board the crew is musician Chris Pemberton who will provide the film’s musical score and incidental theme. Chris is an established musician who is currently on tour with James Blunt and has also worked with the band Budapest, as well as John Grant and Damien Dempsey. The sound for Scarecrow will be provided by Damien Trent.

The film itself is scheduled to shoot in Warwickshire in late May 2018. Locations secured include the picturesque Leasowe Farm in Radford Semele where most of the action will take place. Keeping it very much a Midlands production Scarecrow’s crew will consist of a mixture of experienced and young local talent.

The male lead will be played by Adrian Annis who has a wealth of acting experience gained in short and feature films, including Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows as well as a host of TV credits.

The female lead will be played by Georgina Mellor who will be making an acting return after successful turns in Coronation Street, Footballer’s Wives and Hollyoaks amongst other high-profile TV work. And finally, the eponymous Scarecrow itself will be played by Nathan Lapworth.

The filmmakers go on to explain, “The scarecrow has an ominous sign around its neck which reads ‘Do Not Touch’ and, although Thomas is nervous and cautious, Natalie becomes intrigued by its apparent mysticism and is prepared to ignore the stark warning with chilling results”.

With plans for a release early in the summer to tie in with festivals and the crew hope to submit to the Short Cinema film festival in Leicester for consideration.

As they head into the exciting start of pre-production, the filmmakers have created a teaser poster and you can follow their regular updates at their dedicated web page here - https://www.facebook.com/ScarecrowMovie2018

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