Manchester Film Festival 2019’s Short Films Session 8 encompassed a broad range of themes and genres over eight professionally produced short films.
First, the rather soulless Invaders — a small UFO vies to win the approval of two mischievous friends around a Christmas Eve home. With the feel of a rejected Pixar demo and a highly clichéd orchestral soundtrack, the faceless UFOs produce little comedy or emotion — the punchline gets a few laughs from the audience, but otherwise Invaders is pretty tumbleweed-inducing.
Francesca Reale stars in The Last Line’s UK premiere, playing a budding actor performing at an audition with mild confidence. The director’s commands and emotional manipulation eventually wear her down: “You want the part, don’t you?”. Despite being one of the shortest on the billing, the film delivers a powerful critique of male power in the arts, leaving a lasting impression on a jarring note. The Last Line is the best film of the night.
Sketch portrays courtroom illustrator Anne’s love at first sight when soon-to-be convict Simon is brought to trial. Fantasy soon overrides reality; set to the wonderful ‘Funky Town’, the mismatched pair dance exuberant 70s styles with perfect execution. Anne was head over heels — the choreography was that good. Funny and bizarrely endearing, Sketch had the audience cooing and chuckling throughout.
Gagarin biopic Yuri makes its world debut, depicting the first man in space re-entering the atmosphere. Landing in a Kazakhstan farm, Yuri meets an old farmer and her daughter and mulls over the life that brought him there. Unconvincing acting and incoherent overlaid poetry fails to deliver on an intriguing premise.
CC, named after its main character, presents the aftermath of a violent encounter between a human-like, AI-driven nanny and an overwhelmed mother. This film would make a decent episode of Black Mirror, Jewel Staite playing CC appropriately cold and unfeeling. A good contribution to the evening, but not the best of the bunch.
The world premiere of Japanese film Prowler portrays the daily struggle of a homeless man searching in and around vending machines for change. Director Toshiharu Yaegari took the subject in good humour, particularly during the man’s encounters with the other homeless people he meets. An unexpected resolution leaves the viewer to decide the significance of all before it.
Why Call the Police, a Chinese-language music video by Haonan Wang, follows an unravelling toilet roll through an apartment block. Despite some intriguing shots of old men in bleak rooms wearing VR headsets and a young woman tied up by laptop cables, the film lacked anything much to hold the interest. This view on apartment-life dystopia was as uninspiring as apartment life itself.
Finally, comes the UK premiere of Sides of a Horn, portraying South Africa’s poaching war from both sides. Refreshing and dramatic, the film gave an understanding of the motivations that lead people in poverty into poaching gangs. Well-acted, realistic, and informative throughout, the Zulu and English language picture went on to win the festival’s Best International Film.