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Review: NTU Documentary Film Screening

1 February 20 words: Jamie Morris

Screen section co-editor Jamie Morris gives the verdict on the new short films from NTU’s latest batch of skilled documentary directors...

Nottingham Trent University’s latest and greatest MA Documentary Journalism graduates showed off their finest work to the Notts movie crowd at Broadway Cinema on Friday 31 January. With a total of eight short films covering topics from period poverty to Dungeons & Dragons, the screening was a great success that put the spotlight on some of our city’s newest emerging talent.

Behind the Bass: Skepsis
Director: Ranvia Johal
Selected as the screening’s opener, Behind the Bass tells the story behind DJ Scott “Skepsis” Jenkins, exploring his childhood in South London and how bassline music has shaped his life. Johal’s film provides a comprehensive study of what makes Skepsis who he is by contrasting the noise and adrenaline of his packed-out concerts with the much quieter moments of his home life, resulting in something that really spoke to the audience regardless of what kind of music they were into. 

Period Poverty: The Hidden Crisis
Director: Rebecca Wallis
Wallis’ feature on period poverty is a documentary that throws squeamishness out of the window in order to tackle a prevalent societal issue in the UK. Hitting viewers with the startling figure that 40% of women across the nation have experienced this problem, The Hidden Crisis introduces us to women who offer different perspectives and solutions, with engaging interviews that force you to think about the issue. A serious yet optimistic tone is maintained throughout that both clearly informs and inspires.

Director: Kerrie Coshan
This film successfully manages to be one of the most entertaining parts of the screening while still discussing a meaningful topic. We’re shown the scale and scope of young people’s dependency on their phones with a variety of sources throughout Notts before following nomophobia sufferer Zak Georgiou as Coshan challenges him to complete a 48-hour digital detox. Their journey together definitely prompts some laughs, but the real takeaway is how it makes us consider our own levels of phone usage, and whether we should make the effort to reduce the hours we spend online. 

A Manic’s Muse
Director: Philip Kaufman
Conceived as the first episode of a radio doc series, A Manic’s Muse was accompanied by new visuals for the screening and is quite possibly the standout film of the selection. Kaufman seamlessly blends an intimate monologue by his best friend with music, animation and stock footage to craft a beautifully insightful look into the life of someone living with anxiety. Whether the film helps you to better understand yourself, or just how to sympathise with someone you know who is facing similar struggles, this is a truly moving and impactful documentary that deserves to reach as many people as possible.

Tenderly-crafted and helps to give a greater appreciation for the effort that goes into the things people create

Without Her
Director: Rebecca Wallis
Among all of the documentaries and the issues they address, Wallis’ second entry to the screening might just be the most challenging to watch. Without Her is split into three sections - loss, change and grief - and follows two young siblings, Sophie and Jake, who have lost their mother to cancer. Seeing something so tragic through the eyes of a child already makes for a deeply emotional watch, but the film really gives you a lump in your throat when you discover Wallis herself is dealing with the loss of her sister-in-law, and how Sophie is more concerned with making sure she’s okay.

Creative Spaces: Art of Football
Director: Joel McMahon
The shortest of the selection but perhaps the most technically adept, Creative Spaces introduces viewers to artist Matt Vardy and his footie-focused works. In the film, Vardy talks us through his background, style and work process while McMahon skilfully uses cutaways to document the drawing and printing of a new shirt design. Much more about art than it is about sport, McMahon’s entry is tenderly-crafted and helps to give a greater appreciation for the effort that goes into the things people create.

The Men Forced to Marry
Director: Kerrie Coshan
Like A Manic’s Muse, this entry began life as a radio doc and was adapted to fit this screening experience, this time with facts on screen to accompany the dialogue. Featuring distressing stories from two men coerced into marriages, The Men Forced to Marry sheds light on the victims that we may not be aware of. Coshan guides the narrative with a confident voiceover and weaves together a powerful documentary worthy of listening to and discussing.

Exploring Dungeons and Dragons
Director: Philip Kaufman
The closing film of this year’s screening was another from Philip Kaufman; this time a crash course in the tabletop roleplaying game D&D. Complete with music by Queen and a punchy, energetic feel, Exploring Dungeons and Dragons gets to the core of what makes the game fun by speaking to people in the local community about how and why they play. Despite being more niche than some of the documentaries that preceded it, the film definitely pitched the game in an accessible way that hopefully made some of the audience consider picking up a new hobby. 

The NTU Documentary Journalism Master’s film screening took place at Broadway Cinema on Friday 31 January.

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