Sunderland Shorts Film Festival
Attending two nights, I was granted the opportunity to see films across a selection of categories including: ‘Young Emerging and Student,’ ‘Comedy,’ ‘Drama,’ and ‘Horror.’ As an avid horror and comedy enthusiast I was particularly excited to see what these genres had to offer (and they did not disappoint), but I was also pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the themes, ideas and cinematography explored in other genres I would not necessarily seek out to watch.
Sharma’s ‘Rimi;’ winner of ‘Young, Emerging and Student,’ especially stood out through its exploration of what it means to be a woman in India, submerged in a life of domesticity. Rimi is a housewife and a mother, a woman who puts her family before herself, in turn losing her sense of identity amidst the everyday banality of chores she undergoes to serve others. Feeling inspired, she allows herself to engage in something as simple as dancing in the rain and from here we realise just how deeply the roots of patriarchy and domestication run to render women as subservient to the point of having little autonomy over their own lives. Shot with a beautiful focus on the mundane, Rimi allows for a thoughtful exploration of self-discovery through a lens of female representation that is often overlooked.
The comedy selection showcased a healthy range of talent with an impressive variation of cinematographic style, concept and humour. Moore’s ‘Sliced Bread,’ comically showed us a dramatic world we would live in if the ‘invention’ of sliced bread had just been discovered, whilst Foster’s ‘Nails & Beauty,’ offers a touching, yet humorous glimpse into the complex journey of discovering queer identity. Lucy visits an unconventional beauty salon that throws away archaic gender constraints and encourages her to pursue a new avenue of womanhood that feels right for her.
Warnaar’s ‘Patched,’ documents Hugo’s amusing hair-loss journey in which he embarks upon a montage of different creative methods with wigs and glue to hide his dwindling hair in an attempt to progress his dating life. Short yet witty, Macdonald’s ‘The Mountain,’ takes an imaginative spin on the struggles of mental health with a focus on Matthew’s relentless but laughable inner voices that mock him in every monotonous aspect of his life. No matter the length, each comedy short portrayed massive quality and originality, which I feel carried through into the drama segment. This was easily reflected in ‘Doughnut;’ a brilliantly scripted and hilarious short about an amateur improv group’s first meeting which shortly turns dark after a seemingly light-hearted icebreaker game.
A drama selected short that distinctly stuck with me was Lamond’s ‘Consumed,’ a harrowing tale that danced along the edges of the horror genre, depicting the struggles and emotional effects of a woman’s miscarriage. Intense sound and dark imagery are used to navigate the primal depths of Faye’s physical and emotional journey as the loss of her pregnancy is explored; we feel her isolation and grief as she mourns the future, withdrawing from the world as her relationship with her husband fractures when he cannot seem to fathom nor emphasise with the enormity of her sadness. Consumed brings to the screen an often neglected representation of the female experience, offering a challenging but powerful piece which explores the intricacies of trauma and the psychology of suffering.
Following horrific themes, Park’s ‘Fishwife,’ was certainly my favourite of the horror shorts (a well deserved best horror winner!) with its dark imagery, eerie music and periodic English setting. Living in an isolated house nestled on the riverside, we meet a lonely woman who’s menstrual cycle becomes of interest to an enigmatic stranger. Fishwife has a captivating air of mystery amongst a beautifully gritty setting whilst entwining elements of psychological body horror, harkening to creature feature classics.
Any subconscious scepticism I harboured towards the quality of a short film in comparison to a feature-length film was certainly squandered by the engaging, thought-provoking shorts screened at Sunderland Shorts Film Festival this year. I can only imagine the other category screenings - ranging from art and experimental to local and documentary, granted an equally immersive experience and opened audiences' eyes to the creative possibilities of short films.