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Film Of The Week: Dark Side Of The Earth

Dark Side Of The Moon by Acim Vasic (2014) (UK/Serbia) (5m)

Another high-concept short from a filmmaker who deserves to be making feature films. Filmed on an iPhone, it is essentially a "lost-footage" thriller short film about a scientist trying to tell the world about a looming catastrophe while being chased by government forces attempting to keep the public in blissful but dangerous ignorance. It's style is deceptively simple, while the acting is superb.


The Gift by Gabriel Robertson (2015) (UK) (13m)

The Gift was long-listed for the 2016 Oscar after its success on the festival circuit. The Gift is an historical drama short about a young boy choosing his 11th birthday present. Will his choice change his life and perhaps the course of musical history? Well, it would have been odd to make a film about an absolute nobody so one can rest assured the boy grows up to be someone of some import. Although essentially a British (Scottish) film, it was shot on location in Tupelo, Mississippi, if that gives you any clue.

Creature Comforts

Wanderer by Mark O'Brien & Jake Wilkens (2015) (USA) (16m)

the short psychological thriller Wanderer sees a male traveller arrive at a secluded house at dusk. He is seeking shelter and the occupants, a couple his age, invite him in and offer him dinner. However, the woman seems uncomfortable with their dinner guest and there is an underlying sense that something is not quite right. Could it be that the nomadic serial killer who has been stalking the area has just walked into their house? Will they survive the night?


Five Cents by Aaron Hughes (2022) (USA) (5m)

Five Cents was a success on the festival circuit with its Brave New World-influenced message. Of course, Brave New World has leaked into society generally and Hughes may not realise how closely elements of his film match the classic Huxley novel. Regardless, drawn on money-orientated newpaper pages, it sees a naive (in style and character) man introduced to money and commercialism, who soon finds himself out of his depth. Literally.

Skin & Bone by Eli Flowers (2022) (USA) (16m)

Skin & Bone employs some well-known horror tropes but, with a well-written script, fine acting and disturbing ambience, it does enough to make it enjoyably - and truly - creepy. Mixing elements of Doctor Moreau, The Witch and Get Out, the film focuses on Christian, a drifter who takes a job at an isolated farm run by Serene, a rather unfriendly woman. Horrific visions soon begin to interrupt his sleep and either he is going insane or something very odd is going on...

The Guilt

Autumn Leaves by Saman Hosseinpuor (2015) (Iran) (4m) *

Autumn Leaves was voted Best Short Short in the 10th FILMSshort competition. It tells the story of a little girl who wants to stay at home and play with a fallen leaf but must go to school instead. We follow her as she makes her way through the streets until she arrives at school, where leaves are no longer a source of amusement. It is a subtle, dialogue-free film full of beautiful shots and showing a side of Iran not normally seen by Westerners.

Ouija Sex by Mondo Ghulam (2017) (UK) (4m)

Ouija Sex was a success on the short film festival circuit, picking up several awards, before winning the BEST SHORT SHORT FILM in the 15th FILMSshort Competition. It tells the story Ryan, who is heart-broken after his girlfriend dies. He manages to make contact with her using an ouija board and things soon turn rather saucy. But there's a time and place for such things. By day, Ghulam works as an animation director in the video games industry.

Mister Hollow

Pitch Black Heist by John Maclean (2011) (UK) (13m)

Pitch Black Heist won the BAFTA in 2012. Starring Michael Fassbender, it tells the story of two Irishmen hired to crack a safe in a London office guarded, for some reason, by a light sensitive alarm system. The younger of the two men - who are strangers - seems to take an immediate dislike to the older but, as they rehearse with blindfolds and share a spliff, they seem to form a bond. However, is one of them hiding a secret and will the heist go as planned in the dark?

My Year Of Dicks by Sara Gunnarsdottir ('22) (US) (24m)

My Year Of Dicks has been nominated for the Best Animated Short Oscar. It is an autobiographical - and sometimes comical - tale of a 15-year-old girl trying to lose her virginity in 1990s Houston, but selecting a series of wronguns (the eponymous dicks), while ignoring her doting best friend. Of course, you could argue that Pam is the biggest dick by selecting a series of unsuitable mates.


Your Mountain Is Waiting by Hannah Jacobs ('21) (UK) (8m) *

This 2023 BAFTA nominated animation is apparently inspired by Native American spirit animal mythology - or His Dark Materials. It tells the story of a moping city dweller who encounters a fox and dives into a magical world with said canine. I use the word "story" loosely here as, in truth, there is not a lot of story and, as is often the case with BAFTA nominated animations, its value is mostly contained with the animation itself (which is of course superb).


Don't Feed The Pigeons by Antonin Niclass ('21) (UK) (9m) *

Don't Feed The Pigeons won the Short Animation BAFTA in 2022. It is set in a coach station in the middle of the night, where a varied assortment of travellers wait in silence while the pigeons go about their business. When the pigeons take flight in a display that inspires awe in the humans, there is a momentary connection between them. The animation is, of course, awesome and there are some nice moments but the story is perhaps a little limited - as is often the case with the BAFTA winner.


Safe by Ian Barling (2021) (USA) (16m)

Will Patton, known to American audiences for Yellowstone, is a father trying to do right by his wayward son after the latter "glasses" someone in a nightclub. There are lots of interesting directorial choices - one could argue that it tries too hard in that respect - and the acting is of course superb. Indeed, it reminded me a little of Manchester By The Sea. It is typical festival fodder, being full of subtlety, unheard dialogue and a somewhat inconclusive ending (though the father-son story is resolved).


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

The Bloody Olive

The Bloody Olive by Vincent Bal (1996) (Belgium) (10m)

The Bloody Olive is a slick, funny spoof from Belgium (they must really love Santa there), where the comedy deepens as things go from crazy to crazier and then up a notch. Don't try to follow the details of the ever-changing plot too closely - just sit back and enjoy one stupid twist after another! Bal went on to make the succesful TV animated series, Kirka & Bob. The Bloody Olive has English subtitles.

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

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