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Film Of The Week: Leylak


Leylak by Scott Aharoni & Dennis Latos (2021) (USA) (17m)

Leylak (Lilac), made during the coronavirus pandemic, is a classic festival drama; the short equivalent of Nomadland (but more diverse). It follows a Turkish gravedigger in New York who is having to dig more than the normal number of graves, and who has to take his daughter to see her mother. There is something he is keeping from her, which is putting a strain on their relationship; but what is it exactly?

Louis' Shoes by Philippe, Leung, Blanc & Jamin ('20) (Fra) (5m) 15

Another excellent animation from French students, Louis' Shoes (Les Chaussures de Louis) won the Student Academy Award for Best Animation. Yes, it ticks all the "made-for-awards" boxes (except diversity), but that does not detract from it being a very nicely made film with a warm ending. Louis is an autistic kid who has arrived at a new school after classmates at his previous establishment used his devotion to his shoes against him. Forced to introduce himself, he seems destined for a life on the sidelines.


You Eat Other Animals? by Ed Wiles (2021) (UK) (5m)

Evanna Lynch (Harry Potter) is one of two aliens who are taking two happy-go-lucky men back to their home planet for a lifetime of adoration. The men know they are on to a good thing but the vibes turn sour when the men question the lack of meat in their spaceship meal. It seems the aliens find the idea of humans eating other animals hard to grasp and the men's efforts to justify their diet just makes things worse. With one of them oversharing, they dig themselves into an ever-deeper hole.

Fred by Leftchannel (2016) (USA) (1m) *

The short comedy Fred, a fantastic computer animation, was a winner in the FILMSshort competition a few years aback. Fred is a short short that tells the story of two ingenious mice, a wedge of cheese and a feline called... Fred. The highly-skilled mice come up with a cunning plan to get past the sleeping Fred but wake him. Things take an unusual turn when Fred then mistakes their attempts to bypass him as an invitation to dance. And Fred has some moves!


The Field Trip by O'Hara, Attie & Ojeda-Beck (2021) (USA) (13m)

It is hard to know what to take away from this Sundance doc, in which children are given a taste of the real world by running a microcosmic city for a day. From a British perspective, it's an indictment of the way all American kids are told they are special and can be high-achievers (like president): it instills unachievable goals and the idea that success is classed by earnings rather than happiness. To make matters worse, the children had already been classed as CFOs, CEOs or waiters by their teachers, indicating their futures were already mapped out for them by others. Of course, it may just be a mirror.


Taj Mahal Presents... A Short Film by David Dearlove (21) (UK) (5m)

A rather brilliant meta movie that should be required watching for all short filmmakers, though it is possible some of its Swiftian self-indulgence will go over many heads. Starring Phil Daniels, any explanation of the plot is quite impossible, as there is no plot. I believe Dearlove comes from a cinematographic background, which may explain why the (deliberately) unnecessary landscape shots work aesthetically despite being too long. They are also held together with an extremely professional score with a cool Spaghetti Western feel.

Favourites by Martin Monk (2019) (Germany/Austria) (17m)

The low key drama Favourites (Favoriten) was a hit on the festival circuit. It is very much a festival film, having a subtle story and muted quality, though somehow not pretentious like many others (perhaps because it was not shot in 4:3 ratio). It follows talkative and confident teenager Lia, who has run away from home after rowing with her mother. Apparently wanting to find her father in Italy, but with no money, she finally gets a lift from the middle-aged and taciturn Michael.


The Disappearance of Willie Bingham by Matt Richards (2015) (Aus) (12m)

A former winner in the Fs competision, The Disappearance of Willie Bingham is a truly disturbing short film. The eponymous Willie is languishing in prison having killed a wife and mother. Unfortunately, the criminal justice system allows for his victim's family to demand that Willie have a limb amputated as part of his punishment. Willie can then be used as an example to Australian children not to partake in crime. However, the victim's family can demand the removal of another limb. And another.

Gnome by Sacha Goedegebure (2016) (Israel) (4m)

The animated Gnome was a success on the short film festival circuit before winning the BEST SHORT SHORT FILM AWARD in the FILMSshort competition and becoming a hit on the YouTube channel with nearly 4 million views. The film explores the idea that no good deed goes unpunished when a kindly gnome decides to help out a hungry caterpillar unable to reach the leaves on a branch outside his treehouse. Having cut down some leaves for the caterpillar, the gnome finds the young creature something of a loud eater. Desperate for some sleep, the gnome must try to find a solution to his noise problem.

Small Deaths

The White Helmets by Orlando von Einsiedel (2016) (Syria) (40m)

This Oscar-winner follows a team mostly made up of tradesmen (builders, blacksmiths etc) as they try to rescue civilians caught up in the Syrian civil war, which of course means they are mostly trying to save people hit by Russian bombs. A little like watching the 2019 Oscar winning feature length documentary, For Sarma, was also filmed in Aleppo, it is difficult to not be angered by the war crimes being committed by the Syrian regime and its ally. However, the White Helmets (or Syria Civil Defense) try to stay clear of politics, focusing instead on their humanitarian work.


Jet by Jordan Chesney (2012) (USA) (8m) *

Joint winner of the 5th FILMSshort competition, Jet takes its place amongst the very best short films ever made! This dialogue-free film is a gripping thriller in which a man who plans to use a handgun on himself sees a girl being snatched from the curbside and decides he must take action. Jet was a remake of a film Jordan made less than a year before but on a lower budget and tighter shoot. A kind of dress rehearsal for this more polished version.


Period. End Of Sentence. by Rayka Zehbatchi (2018) (India) (25m)

Period. End Of Sentence. won the Academy Award for best Short Documentary in 2019. It is a shocking indictment of the struggles girls suffer in India when they start, and the mind-blowing ignorance surrounding, menstruation. As the recent feature film White Tiger explored, there is still a massive gap between the rich and poor, often based on caste, and the education enjoyed by each group respectively. Of course, there is also a cultural issue to be overcome when it comes to how periods are educated.

Colette by Anthony Giaccino (2020) (USA/Fra/Ger) (25m)

This Oscar-winning short doc follows the eponymous Colette Marin-Catherine, whose family were in the French Resistance during WWII, and who is visiting Germany for the first time at 90. Her journey is instigated by the young French student who is composing biographies of those who died at Neuengamme concentration camp, including Colette's brother. Of course, anything about the death camps is bound to bring a tear to your eye and it is hard to find a unique take on the Holocaust.


From My Window by Frank Pickell (2021) (USA) (19m)

With a tendency for us to get lost in our own difficulties, our problems pale into insignificance when compared with the everyday struggles of others, such as the subject of this film, Melissa. Born with cerebral palsy, and thus confined to a wheelchair, Melissa dreams of climbing the mountain she can see from her bedroom window. With the help of her blind mentor, Erik, and the support of a charity, Melissa will get her chance to ascend the unreachable peak. It is a life-affirming story that will have you reassessing your own problems - at least for a few hours.


Films marked * contain no dialogue. Search the entire website below.

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