Friday, 9 January 2009

Film Stock 2008 (better late than never!)

Set in the sprawling dystopian metropolis of Luton, this wasn't such a big treck as some of the other festivals I paid a visit to during the latter part of the year, at least geographically. In filmwatching terms, though, it was to prove a marathon: two-and-a-half near-solid days of short films, with plenty of drinking in the interims. It was also the most enjoyable event I went to.

I arrived a little confused, and spent a few minutes finding the cryptically named "Hat Factory", which eventually turned out to be right next to the station. I met Neil, one of the two organisers of the festival (the other being Justin), Alex Barrett, a fellow film-maker who I would end up tagging along with for the rest of my stay, and a few other very welcoming and friendly people. Neil showed me to the pub he'd organised a room for me at (a rather nice place, actually, which somehow maintained complete silence in the rooms despite the pub itself being very noisy every night), then came back to begin the film-watching.

The Hat Factory
The Hat Factory

As I hadn't come on the Thursday, and thus couldn't see Choke, based on Chuck Palahniuk's novel, the first thing I saw was Fear Strikes Out, based on the true story of Jimmy Piersall's battle with being-bloody-crazy to become a big baseball star (which he eventually did). It was pretty good all-round.

This was followed by the first round of short films, which is what the entireity of the rest of my weekend's stay would consist of. As there were so many, I will try to restrict myself to one from each session of about 9 films.

Die Seilbahn (Claudius Gentinetta): A rather lovely animated film about an old man travelling up a mountain in a cable car, but his sneezing shakes it to pieces and he tries to hold it together with masking tape.Die SeilbahnMy Blue Heaven (Yee-Wei Chai): A young boy living with an abusive father watches one of his porn videos one day. Hilarity ensues. Only not, in my opinion. It was beautifully graded but horribly forced and unfunny, with the worst child-actor I've ever seen. Ever. It won an audience award, though, apparently, so maybe I was missing something.
My Blue HeavenPeople Were There (Antoine Bourges): The film-maker filmed some random footage in the city while he and his friend talked about nothing in particular, then did some clever things with text in After Effects on top of the footage. It sounds super-lame, and sadly I have neither a link nor an image, but trust me, it was pretty cool.
Solitude (Mehrdad Sheikhan): Animated film about, um, loneliness (sidenote: along with my film and a few others this seemed to be a bit of a recurring theme here). Specifically, a sad rock-man living on a big rock cube floating in the sky. Far too long, and a bit dodgy in places, but had some very nice moments.SolitudeE Finita La Commedia (Jean-Julien Collette): A father and son sit in a car, discussing life, sex, and "the mother". One of my favourite films of the festival, the dialogue and the whole thing in general were just very well done.
E Finita La CommediaArcadia (Adam Butcher): Very strange: an office-worker's computer starts talking back, while one of his co-workers says he's writing a second bible. Used actors shot against blue-screen on top of tiny built cardboard sets. The blue-screen was actually pretty badly done but it was such a profoundly weird film that it kind of added to it.
Also, judging by this, I think Adam Butcher is clearly some kind of insane genius.
Side Effect (Jae-ha Myung): A woman has to live with the consequences of her son being a criminal, specifically the abuse it gets her from her neighbours. Another one of my favourites, with some incredibly powerful acting. No picture here, either, sorry.
Tony Zoreil (Valentin Potier): A young man born to a family of big-eared people, on having to deal with how it affects his life. Poignant, charming, and well put-together.Tony ZoreilDucks (Adam Young): Horny old people playin'. Sweet and rather interesting.
Sick (Mike Rymer): "As Brian's story slides backwards through 15 years of therapy, his daughter's crashes forwards." That's taken from the blurb in the Filmstock brochure, as I can't really sum it up any better myself, mostly because I can't remember many specifics. I've got "Great" written next to it in my Filmstock brochure, though, so I'd better mention it.
SickCheeese (Huseyin Tabak): "A Kurdish family waits for help from American troops during the Iraq war, in the basement of their collapsed house." Poignant and sensitive, the title comes from the very clever and effective device of occasional photographs, taken by the son on a polaroid camera, which remain static on the screen for several seconds at the moment of their taking, with the dialogue continuing over the top. Another of my very favourites. I think my film came immediately after this, which was a bit intimidating, to say the least.
Eine Kleine Nachtmusik (David Ross): A ridiculously abstract film, the blurb calls it "A three-part pan-dimensional journey", but to be honest you could probably call it just about anything. A bit like watching screen-savers for 10 minutes, but it was kind of worth seeing in a theatre, it was just such a strange experience. You can check out the Youtube link (first of three parts) but it's really not the same as watching it in a dark theatre...half delirious after watching probably about a hundred short films over the course of a three-day-weekend. Apparently I wasn't the only one who (sort of) enjoyed it as it won an audience award.
Eine Kleine NachtmusikLiminal (Stephen Keep Mills): Two naked girls arguing over the sort of thing only girls would argue about, a sweater that, to quote the blurb again, "Ina thinks makes her look good and Joy thinks makes her look too good." Once I was able to stop staring at their vaginas it was actually very interesting and engaging.
Lullaby (Kevin Markwick): A woman who lost a child years ago goes to the special place she always visits on his birthday to finally leave his memory behind. Very touching, with effective, understated acting. A favourite.
That was alot of films, wasn't it? There were a good few I had to omit but that's as many as I can really be bothered covering. The quality overall was up-and-down, but as I've said this was my favourite festival, chiefly because everyone was so friendly and welcoming. It really helped that I turned up at a quiet period when everybody was just sitting around chatting, but that would've meant little without a generally welcoming crowd. Dinner and drinks on the last night (for me: the festival itself went on well past just the Short Film Weekend) was a real treat, so thanks to Neil and Justin the organisers, Alex Barrett and Rahim Moledina for putting up with my following them around the whole time, and everybody else I spoke to and who was nice to me. I'll have to go back next year, whether or not I have a film of my own to enter.

Oh, actually, one more thing, they do something rather lovely and get people to write short comments on films they liked, and email you the better ones afterwards. I got some lovely responses, my favourite being "'Who amongst us hasn’t felt like locking ourselves in a room to get away from the outside world? And how great was Jonathan’s animation? The expression on the main character’s face was worth the price of my stockholders pass.' – Bill Greenberg". Somebody else also told me at the time that the characters was pure "Eeyore", which made me very happy indeed. So thanks also to Bill Greenberg and the other nice man whose name I sadly now forget.

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