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Film Of The Week: Matria

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.


The Naughty List by Paul Campion (2016) (USA) (9m)

A competition finalist, The Naughty List reminds us that Santa Claus will visit all the world's children on Christmas Eve, even if the child in question - Vince - is an adult mobster hiding out with his partner-in-crime in a secluded cabin. The problem is that Vince's partner does not believe in Santa Claus and, fearing the stranger could be a hitman, is tempted to put a slug in him. For his part, Santa Claus is no saint, but how will this unusual situation end, and will the rest of the world's children get their presents tonight?

Small Deaths

Argentine Tangos by Guy Thys (2006) (Belgium) (14m)

Arguably the best Christmas short film yet made, Argentine Tangos (Tanghi Argentini), was nominated for a Best Short Film Oscar in 2008. In Argentine Tangos, a beautiful comedy drama full of Christmas spirit, we follow a middle-aged office-worker trying to fulflil his Christmas passion and conceal a snowy-white lie. I promise you will thank me for showing it to you. It is in Dutch with English subtitles.

Seven Things I Learned About Time Travel by J Herzberg (2016) (Holland) (9m)

Seven Things I Learned About Time Travel tells the story of Marcus, a 9-year-old boy whose mother suffers from depression and who has invented a no-frills time machine that works. He now wishes to impart his knowledge. Without wanting give away any lessons, it is worth mentioning that the film - in diving into the human psyche - rather supports the multiverse theory, where it is impossible to change one's own past, but can create an infinite number of different futures for oneself.


All These Creatures by Charles Williams (2018) (Australia) (13m)

All These Creatures won at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival. It tells the story of Tempest, an Australian teen of African heritage whose father suffers from mental illness. The title ostensibly refers to the older man's obsession with the insects overrunning his back garden. A drama film told through narration as much as visuals, it contains very little actual dialogue. It is more of a contemplative piece, with little in the way of story. It is certainly nicely made, with a filmic look, but one wonders if its win in Cannes played a part in its future successes.

Stone Cars

Ice Lolly by Barbe, Desvignes & Hayé (2019) (France) (7m)

Ice Lolly (Glace à l'Eau) shows just what can be achieved with the right software, skill and time. The animation itself is incredible. Ice Lolly tells the story of an iceberg who slips away from his ice shelf and begins to float away towards unknown and potentially dangerous waters. He is befriended by a friendly orca (the only unfriendly orcas are the ones imprisoned by humans) but the two friends soon find themselves faced with an external threat.

The Phone Call (2013) (UK) (20m)

The Phone Call won the Best Short Film Oscar in 2015. This short drama is beautifully made, but it is the performance (and presence) of Sally Hawkins that makes it stand out. Hawkins plays Heather, who volunteers as a phone operator in an understaffed crisis centre (like the Samaritans). Today, she receives a call from Stan, a jazz fan who has decided he can no longer go on after the death of his wife. Will Heather be able to save him and who really needs saving? I have to admit I was expecting a twist but it is a solid and unashamedly lachrymose story.


Foxed! by James Stewart (2013) (Canada) (4m)

A look back at one of the all-time FILMSshort greats. Goosebumps are guaranteed in this amazing stop-motion animation. Foxed! won many awards on the international festival circuit before finally being made available online. Made as a proof-of-concept for a feature film, Foxed! tells the story of Emily, a little girl who has been kidnapped by evil foxes and forced to work in an underground mine. When she sees a chance to escape, she makes a run for it. But what horrors await her when she reaches home?


Wandering Soul by Josh Tanner (2016) (Australia) (12m)

Horror short Wandering Soul was a hit on the short film festival circuit, picking up several awards. It is an effective horror film and it is impossible to fault the filmmaking - with the cinematographer picking up awards for his work on it - though there is perhaps room for more story within a 12-minute film. The trick, of course, with horror films is to provide something other than the thrills offered by the tried-and-tested tropes of the genre; and Wandering Soul certainly does that but I would love to have been given more insight into the main character.

Blue Hole by Erik Gardner (2012) (USA) (12m) 15 Certificate

With Halloween approaching, here's a look back at Blue Hole, a big hit on the horror film festival circuit. With a clever, circular idea at its core, Blue Hole tells the story of an eerie lake, near a cabin in the woods, that is said to be the dwelling place of the Devil. A couple staying at the cabin read up on the legend and decide to visit the lake, only for the entity within the water to pull the woman in. Based on the unfinished writings about the lake, the man believes he can retrieve her...

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