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Short Stack Christmas Bonanza: The Short Film Showcase's Festive Picks

19 December 16 words: Ashley Carter

The bi-monthly short film night pulled together a selection of independent films and music videos from East Midlands-based filmmakers for its final event of 2016...

Still from Michael Jobling's Anoesis

Following the trailer for Michael Keeling’s Cursed, the Short Stack Christmas Bonanza – which featured work exclusively from filmmakers from the East Midlands – kicked off with Essentia, a short film from Leicester filmmaker Isabel Yeung. Shot over a period of two days, the carefully crafted performance-orientated short focused on the lives of five troubled young people, as they shared their problems with another. In both its attention to detail and the confidence of its conclusion, Essentia displayed the impressive potential of a young director.

The evening’s second short showed a director with an equally impressive knack for directing comedy. Ryan Harvey’s Tuesday Afternoon followed a protagonist’s search for his girlfriend across a city, accompanied by his work companion. A script that featured several genuinely funny moments that drew great reactions from a large audience was matched by the impressive performances from its two leads, and the timing of Harvey’s direction.  

Following James Huthwaite’s music video for Green Ratt’s Easy Underwater came debut director Pat Knight’s ambitious Archway 0173. A mother returns home after purchasing a 1930s telephone from an auction, only for her teenage son to discover that the unplugged phone is subject to calls from a similarly aged girl living in World War II London. As their relationship develops, the son realises that he is able to influence the future of his new friend.  Full of warmth, the science-fiction/time travel short displayed Knight’s ability to draw impressive performances from her young cast.  

Jamie Palmer’s striking Lump focused on a newly wed couple’s struggles to cope with the groom’s inability to stand up to the over-bearing mother with whom they live – a fact that constantly blocks them from consummating their marriage.  The atmospheric, beautifully crafted and genuinely creepy short was one of the stand out shorts of the night.  

Next up was Anoesis, by Nottingham filmmaker Michael Jobling.  Of all the short films I’ve seen at Short Stack since its inception, this is one of the finest.  A beguilingly simple concept executed with stunning detail and exquisite cinematography, matched with an acute attention to detail with the sound design combined to create a hugely impressive film that I cannot wait to watch again.

Du Sollst Nicht Lügen, a German short film written by Tommy Draper followed next.  Directed by Sascha Zimmerman, it told the story of a young man regaining consciousness in unfamiliar surroundings, tied to a chair and with only a masked man with a disguised voice for company.  Equally scary and funny, Draper’s script nicely combined different genres, playing with audience expectations and drawing a great crowd reaction. 

After another music video, Make a Halo’s Serial Killer directed by Dan Lord, came Cadence, the road safety film directed by Jason Rivers and produced by and starring Emmeline Kellie.  Following the relationship of Alice and Billy, two young singer/songwriters, it’s a short film designed to warn of the impact of texting and driving, in conjunction with the AA Charitable Trust. 

The penultimate short of the evening came from the ever-entertaining James Pyle, whose gorgeous animated short films have played at Short Stack on several occasions before.  Whilst his work usually focuses on comedy, Abyss was more horror inspired, but was no less entertaining and beautifully crafted in its portrayal of a man’s engagement with a gallery painting. 

Closing the Short Stack Christmas Bonanza was Alex Wither’s stunning Butterfly, a short relating the story of a promising swimmer suffering from epilepsy.  With Karl Poyzer’s arresting cinematography, a subtly wonderful performance from young lead Louise Salter and Wither’s adroit direction, it’s clear to see why Butterfly was recently selected to present the New Shorts: Girlhood section of the London Short Film Festival. 

Short Stack took place at Broadway Cinema on Sunday 11 December 2016.

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