Film | No/Gloss Film Festival – engaging with film

5/5 Stars

The desolate spaces of Canal Mills was taken over this past weekend by No/Gloss Film
Festival for the second edition of Leeds’ own DIY film festival. The vast, bare
warehouse of the 19th Century mill turned into two screening areas showing a packed
program of 87 films. Ranging from the very short lasting only 1 minute to longer films
and documentaries from all Europe, Latin America, Asia and including Iraq, India and
Australia. The public moves freely between the two spaces, popping in and out of films
and mixing in with the film-makers, striking conversation creating exactly the
unpretentious, no gloss festival space that the organizers so wanted.

Saturday opened with a full day of hard-hitting screenings, including Quite A
Conundrum (Thomas L Phillips, UAS) from the Official Selection, a dark comedy/
thriller about a sex and drugs filled pool party that turns bloody. There was also K & P
(Claudio Ravanelli, UK), a powerful love story of two men and Free Runner (UK),
about a teenager pushed to the edge. A great vibe overall, said the organizers, which
after a roller-coaster of emotions ended on a high with a quirky and macabre 2-D
animation from Germany, Frau Schwein geht in die Scheissdisko (Mrs Swine goes to
the Scheissdisko).

On Sunday we headed down for another day of brilliant film-making. Moments (Ben
Williams, UK) was a beautiful and atmospheric 3 minute experimental record of daily
life. Apocalypse Salad (Ryan Pierson, UAS) started out making no sense before outing
itself as a hilarious zombie parody, including of course Thriller dance moves, while
Silent Night (David Felber, UK) was a triply twisted take on the traditional story. From
a group of Stafford University students came Paper Plates (Jack Satchell, UK), a brief
glimpse of a best man struggling with his feelings for the bride. Beautifulese (Samuel
Dyches, USA) turned out to be a philosophical exploration of the language of beauty
through a relationship between Elenor, an artist, and John, a drifter.

The highlights of Sunday were two UK films. Communion (Greg Hall, UK) was a
harrowing film about storytelling throughout underlined by themes of sexual abuse in
its many forms. Yet at times there were also very heartening scenes in the odd pairing
of Father Clemence and runaway punk girl Maria. Undoubtedly, the highlight of
Sunday was Lad: A Yorkshire Story (Dan Hartley, UK), combining stunning
cinematography of our local Yorkshire landscape with the poignant story of Tom
Proctor, a young lad lost after his dad’s death which is able to put his world back
together after meeting park ranger Al Thorpe. Undoubtedly, Lad is the perfect Sunday
film to cuddle up with a cup of tea.

A final mention to the documentary Paal (Christopher Müller & Victor Vargas
Villafuerte, Mexico). Paal, meaning ‘child’, follows 9 year old Memo, a Mayan kid as he
plays in the Yucatan’s jungle. Through the innocent and fable vision of Memo we learn
about the life and culture of his people, in a spectacular 20 minute film that vibrates
with the sounds of the forest.

Very much like the films screened, No/Gloss is a DIY festival. Molly, Trent and Sophie
head a team of student volunteers working with limited resources. ‘We it with what we
can afford’, they said. Despite being solely funded with ticket sales, and able of selling
out, No/Gloss refuses to fill the space to the brink, preferring to give the public the
flexibility to move around, to feel at ease rather than constrained by formalities. ‘It’s
about engaging with film-makers and the films.’ the organizers tell us. Following this
year’s clear success, we cannot wait for next No/Gloss.

Rodolfo Barradas

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