In early October, No/Gloss Film Festival returned to Leeds for its fourth year of showcasing the best from the underground, DIY film scene. Many of the films this year touched on contentious themes in cinema such as gender, identity and politics. There was so much talent displayed at the festival, but here are our editor’s top picks from each category…
She Would Move The Tree Rather More To The Middle by Anna Maguire (4mins)
This film –wearing a title inspired by the Virginia Woolf classic To The Lighthouse is a remarkable comment on how we are affected by the people we’re with and raises the question; do we lose ourselves as we strive to be closer to the ones we love?
The film’s protagonist Giulia is so desperate to be close to the man she loves that she has become him. In order for her to find herself again, she must take him off.
Not only does this film fit the bill as a wonderful indie love story but it also makes important references to gender and trans-gender identity issues which is an important discussion that needs to be had in cinema.
Award-winning director, actor and photographer Anna Maguire does all this in a spell-binding 4 minutes of raw film art.
The Life and Times of Thomas Thumb Jr. by Ryan Fox (12 mins)
While not technically a ‘short short’, this film is too entertaining not to be mentioned. Thomas Thumb Jr. has it all: respect, love, fans, and above all, a giant thumb for a head. Yet, in spite of his fame, he’s broke – and he’ll do anything to achieve the American Dream.
The film is surreal, bonkers and absolutely hilarious. Director Ryan Fox does a superb job with the visual gags – a particular highlight included Thomas Thumb Jr. getting his fingerprints taken by smashing his head into a pad of ink and onto a piece of giant paper – and with the satire, brilliantly skewering the fallacy of the American Dream and the lengths people will go to in order to achieve it.
Look at me now by Ben Woodiwiss (19mins)
Delia Remy’s acting is exceptional in this piece. She is able to evoke real feelings of distress and discomfort in the audience with her performance as a sick woman with nothing to live for and is equally capable of expressing moments of joy as though she were sharing them with the viewer. It’s not just Remy’s performance that carries this film though. Director Ben Woodiwiss’ (above) cinematography (especially his impressive use of colour) made this short the one I’ll remember.
The plot explores the same woman at two separate moments in her life, one filled with love, laughter and life, the other with pain, death and despair. It is entirely left to the audience to decide whether the woman is reflecting on her past or it is a premonition of things to come.
What makes Woodiwiss’ work even more notable though is that it has a very worthwhile meta-cinematic point to prove as well. The director came to No/Gloss this year determined to empower the image of women in cinema. Both of his films starred entirely female casts (except for one faceless male in Benny Loves Killing) and they aimed to add psychological and emotional depth to female characters. This is very worthy cause point to make when you consider that only 12% of protagonists in the Top 100 grossing films in 2014 were women.
I Scream Your Name/Je Crie Ton Nom (Switzerland) by Oskar Rosetti (25 mins)
A touching, heartfelt film, I Scream Your Name/Je Crie Ton Nom is a moving, and often amusing, portrait of life inside a retirement home. Our protagonist is Nicholas, a man for whom life is growing increasingly mundane. In an effort to escape his boredom and loneliness, Nicholas spends his nights on the phone to gay sex lines, until his life is shaken up by the arrival of a new lodger, Daniel. The relationship that ensues is one of great friendship and love, an unabashed look at later life infatuation, and of finding joy in the pleasures we all take for granted. It’s a fantastic film that truly alters your world view, leaving you with a renewed appreciation for life.
The Fourth Estate by Lee Salter (80mins)
Did you like Blackfish? You’re going to love this!
The Fourth Estate uses the 2011 Leveson Enquiry as a central case study in order to explore the corruption in the Media Industry and how it monopolises and manipulates us and our society. Backed up by more real-life accounts than you’ve ever seen on the silver screen, the film covers topics ranging from gender to religious representation and political economy to Murdoch.
Director Lee Salter does a wonderful job of combining the sections and montages, employing aesthetically enjoyable visuals which only assist in making his point more vivid.
Salter produced this phenomenal work over 2 years and on zero budget. He has no reason for bias and the documentary comes across as a very genuine plea for the public to wake up to misrepresentation in the media and the harmful effects it is having on humanity. Please watch this. If not for yourselves then for the sake of society.
There really is no business like show business.
Meet The Hitlers by Matt Ogens (84 minutes)
What’s in a name? This is the essential question posed by Matt Ogens in Meet The Hitlers (Executive Produced by Super Size Me’s Morgan Spurlock), in which we meet a group of people from across the world who are called – in various incarnations, and with varying intentions – Hitler. For some, it is their identity, for others, a curse.
Above all, the picture is one of humanity: from the Austrian hermit, who believes he is Hitler’s last descendant and has vowed to let the family line die with him, to the young high school girl whose friends love shouting her name on the playing field, to the brothers who have hidden their identity – and themselves – from the world, Ogens presents us with a vast portrayal of the impact a name, and its associations, can have on lives right across the globe.
It’s telling of the film’s power that we feel as much sympathy for the neo-Nazi whose child has been taken from him because he named him Adolf Hitler as we do for the grieving family members of one Hitler clan. There’s no value judgements in the film, and we’re invited to draw our own conclusions. The overriding message is one of the uniqueness, and universality, of the human experience – and, ultimately, Ogens asks: who are we to judge others?
Images: No Gloss Film Festival