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Film Of The Week: The Foster Portfolio

The Foster Portfolio by Danielle Katvan (2017) (USA) (19m)

Based on the 1951 short story by the late American author Kurt Vonnegut, The Foster Portfolio was adapted and directed by Danielle Katvan. If follows the story of Jim Crane, an investment advisor, who stumbles across a man living from hand to mouth but with a secret fortune: Herbert Foster. But just why is Foster so disinterested in his inheritance? It is, without doubt, an extremely well-made and engaging film that closely follows the novella.

Small Deaths


Intersection by Brendan Beachman (2014) (USA) (20m)

Intersection showed at festivals on both sides of the Atlantic. Inspired by his own summer jobs, Intersection is a black comedy telling the story of two road construction workers who are dropped off in the middle of nowhere to police the non-existent traffic at a desert intersection (crossroads). The monotony of the dusty day is broken by the violent arrival of a meteorite and the belief that this astral object may be worth a lot of money.

Place by Jason Gudasz (2019) (USA) (11m)

Place was in competition at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, showing that such films are coming online much more quickly (unless they win) than used to be the case and Sundance has an increasing preference for the unusual when all other variables are the same. Place is a psychological horror in which a new family moves into a new house but, after discovering someone has died there, find that malign spirits within the house intend to turn them against each other in peculiar fashion.


73 Cows by Alex Lockwood (2018) (UK) (15m)

The documentary 73 Cows won the Best Short Film BAFTA in 2019. It tells the story of Jay Wilde, a cattle farmer who finds taking his cows to slaughter to be "soul-destroying" having realised that they are in fact sentient beings. As a vegan, I admire its sentiments but do also wonder why it took him so longer to work out what he is doing is wrong. It is very unusual for a documentary to win the BAFTA. It is certainly well made with some lovely cinematography, and sweet, but why it was considered worthy of the BAFTA is harder to know.

Stone Cars


Omnibus by Sam Karmann (1992) (France) (8m)

A look back at an all-time classic. Omnibus, co-written by Sam Karmann & Christian Rauth, won the Best Short Film Oscar, Palme d'Or and BAFTA during the 1992/1993 awards season (that's a grand slam in my British-biased books). It is a black comedy about a man on a non-stop train desparately trying to convince first the conductor and then the driver to let him off at an intermediate station. Karmann is now best known as an actor on French TV.

The Orchestra (2015) (Australia) (13m)

The Orchestra is an animation that feels like a cross between the Oscar-winning House On Little Cubes and Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials. In this case, instead of dæmons everyone has their own little orchestra following them around. Unfortunately, for the elderly Vernon, his orchestra of mini-mes is always striking the wrong note. When an eligible woman moves into the adjoining apartment, Vernon decides he must finally teach his band to play in harmony.


Cindy's New Boyfriend by Robert Brinkmann (2015) (USA) (23m)

Written by Sean Sellars and directed by Robert Brinkmann, the comic Cindy's New Boyfriend is just all-round good filmmaking. Cindy is the ex-girlfriend of Spencer, who persuades his friend Nick that he should use his acting talent to scare off Cindy's new boyfriend. However, things go wrong when Cindy's new boyfriend turns out to be a man not easily scared. Brinkmann is better known as a cinematographer, shooting such films as The Cable Guy.

The Mother by Anh Le Huy (2020) (Vietnam) (5m)

The Mother is a tear-jerking drama about a man making a long and emotional journey home. Beginning in a snowy city, you know you are in safe hands with the accomplished VFX, and Anh's background in advertising soon shines through with his quick edits and short scenes. Indeed, it almost feels like a trailer for a feature film; perhaps because, despite its short running time, it crams in a bewildering number of high-class shots: it feels like no expense was spared in making this film, and must have taken a long time to complete.


Prey by Acim Vasic (2018) (France) (12m)

Prey was written and directed by Acim Vasic, who won the FILMSshort competition with the snowbound black comedy 8. Prey is another great, dialogue-free short film with a message; this time looking at the predatory nature of some men. Full of unusual shots and set in an unnamed European city, this thriller short film focuses on one such predator as he watches out for a victim and then sets off after her. However, his night is about to take an unexpected turn.

Dear Basketball by Glen Keane (2017) (USA) (4m)

After the untimely death of Kobe Bryant on Sunday, there was only one choice this week. Dear Basketball won the Best Animated Short Oscar in 2018. One suspects that it would not have won the award if the Oscars were not held in the United States, where basketball is so popular. It probably did not hurt that most Academy members live in LA, and Bryant played for the LA Lakers. The title is pretty self-explanatory: it is a valedictory love-letter from Kobe Bryant to basketball, the sport that made him a superstar.


Matria by Alvaro Gago (2017) (Spain) (21m)

Matria won many awards on the short film festival circuit, including the Grand Jury Prize at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. Made in Galicia, Matria tells the story of the middle-aged and humorless Ramona as she struggles through a depressing daily routine of non-stop work, which includes working in a mussel-canning factory and buying her granddaughter's birthday present. Can anything make her smile? It is very much a slice-of-life piece, with minimal story, but it is very real with a great lead performance.

A Love Story by Anushka Naanayakkara (2016) (UK) (7m)

A Love Story won the BAFTA in 2017, when only three animations were nominated. Created in woven wools, A Love Story is a fairly experimental film in which two floating heads come together before one is taken over by a blackness that the other finds impossible to negate. It reminds me of BAFTA winning The Bead Game from 1978 but I have to admit I prefer the older film. Naanayakkara made A Love Story while a student at the UK's NFTS, continuing a long tradition of BAFTA winners from the school.

Cowboy Dave by Colin O'Toole (2017) (UK) (25m)

Cowboy Dave won the BAFTA in 2018. Set in a deprived area of Manchester, it sees a teenage wannabe hustler befriend a chain-smoking, verbose drifter called Dave who thought he was destined for musical greatness. When a debt collector arrives with his violent, axe-toting righthand man, it is unclear whether Dave can talk his way out of the debt or talk his way into trouble. As the debt appears to be for only £5, it would seem unlikely that the debt collector would resort to any serious violence.


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