This was the last night of the Lift-Off film festival, consisting of shorts made exclusively by local filmmakers to Manchester. Managing to meet a portion of them afterwards at the venue and talk about their creations made the whole experience much more vivid, and the prospect of Lift-Off returning to Manchester next year very exciting.
After being victim to an IED (improvised explosive device), Jodie Baxter returns from Afghanistan to her family in the U.K, physically and emotionally damaged. This short succeeds in demonstrating that the cuts made during war are deep, and very rarely heal.
The young woman feels disconnected from the world around her, unable to breach the unfamiliar gap with her husband and feeling hopelessly distant from her adolescent daughter. Soldier Bee is a brutal short, managing to be incredibly well shot yet making the viewer feel constantly anxious and uncomfortable. One scene in particular conveys Jodie’s irrational behaviour, due to having her life now wrecked forever with mentally troubling memories.
Directed by Alex Hardy
Lost in Spring
“When I was six I wanted to be a cook. When I was seven I wanted to be Napoleon. And my ambition has been steadily growing since.”
This quote is shown at the beginning of the short, and resonates throughout as intelligent and shy seven-year-old Rosie is thrown into the lifelong pursuit of purpose.
Her character is built by a mixture of amusing innocence and maturity, a great penguin beanie and red hair. Asked by teacher to prepare a speech to give in front of whole class “What you want to be when you grow up and why”, the short exposes how prematurely the adult world wants children to find their calling. Her speech is hastily made but genuine, finding herself a little out of breath from the stress of wanting to get it over and done with.
After a touching sequence of self-realisation, Rosie tells her class that she wants to be an actress because she can be anybody she wants to be and it makes her smile. Lost in Spring is a very clever and accurate depiction of how little time we have without worrying about what we aspire to be, but also how Rosie navigates her way through first sentiments of self-doubt and assessment of her own talent.
Directed by Fred Leao Prado Wall
The Sedate Escape
A light-hearted, intricately detailed stop-motion of two comrades from WW2 now in a home, planning their escape from what they think is a prisoner’s camp.
In this comedy, the characters resemble clay, details like the phone, food or the clock are all doll house miniatures, giving the illusion that these might be toys coming to life in a completely non-patronising manner. Definitely becoming a little senile with old age, these two gentlemen are lost in their own world that may be their way of escaping the reality of living in an old folks’ home. Overall, The Sedate Escape is a great addition to the stop-motion genre.
Directed by Joe Dearman
An abstract animation of the colours blue and red, representing many things.
Inspired by cultural ribbon dances and ribbon gymnastics, the ribbons flow with the music, and result in the idea of how opposites complete each other. The blue and the red can be seen as male and female coming together, of calm and energy, passion and control, rational and irrational behaviour.
The convergence of opposites brings to mind Les Mains Libres, a collection of poems by French poet Paul Eluard and illustrations by Man Ray, which celebrates the concavities of women and convexities of men coming together to form a perfect chaos.
Directed by Eldritch Knight
The last short of the festival, Ghosted is a humorous short that encapsulates the themes of love, death and moving on.
We follow Rebecca, maybe in her late twenties or early thirties over dinner at a restaurant take on five dates from online apps, except that her deceased spouse Nigel (played by a wonderful Christien Anholt) haunts each and every one of these attempts at finding companionship. She fails to take these men seriously and through her experiences frames the ridiculousness of how people meet and interact with each other today.
The deceased husband’s ghost will not let her settle, and makes sure that those he deems inadequate have reason to leave. A man across the room seems to be struggling with his own dose of miserable dinner dates too. At the end of a draining evening with quite a desperate contender, Rebecca is quite relieved to be alone, yet it is then that she has the sincerest exchange.
Organically meeting the man across the room, they bond over their ironic inability to connect with anyone they meet over the internet, and sparks seem to fly off the screen. It is on this reassuring note that his deceased wife’s ghost decides to let him give this a chance, and encourages Nigel to do the same.
The ghosts acknowledge no longer needing to be a constant presence haunting them, now at peace with being a memory.
Directed by Neville Pierce