Last night saw the final installment of Leamington Underground Cinema’s 2013 festival, with the event breaking away from its pop-up roots by taking place in the Royal Spa Centre’s cinema. The auditorium was full, with some people rounding off a full week of LUC attendance, and others coming for the first time. The very fact that the festival has managed to sustain both a loyal following throughout the week, as well as inspire newcomers right up until the last day, is testament to the hard work of the volunteers running the event, and the consistent quality seen over the past seven nights.
The final feature of the festival was Sound of Noise, a film about a group of audio-terrorists who take on the establishment by performing a number of percussive masterpieces, using the city as their instrument. Think Das Edukators meets Blue Man Group, but with out the shiny, bald heads. Probably the most unconventional heist movie ever made, Sound of Noise is one of a kind, and well worth a watch. The night was a double feature though, with a second event taking place later on in the evening: Frankie Griffith’s did a great job introducing the finalists for the LUC’s Short Film Prize and hosting an unconventional film quiz in between the shorts. The evening was a great success, and it was the perfect way to end seven days of brilliant cinema. For the last time this week then, I give you my thoughts on the shorts that stood out for me from the final day of the 2013 Leamington Underground Cinema festival.
Nida Manzoor’s witty and surreal Arcade packs a feminist punch, and from the very start, toys with our preconceptions about femininity. Beginning by limiting our view to two pairs of hands wrapped around arcade guns, audience members may assume that they are watching a duo of boys engaged in a violent computer game, but this is shown only to be half true as it is revealed that these hands belong to two adolescent girls. As we watch them fire their weapons past the camera engaged in a virtual shoot-em-up, the arcade game figures as a focal point for their tenacious and callous conversation, which although is seemingly superficial, actually addresses far reaching issues like sex-positivism and slut shaming. Providing a vacant yet astute glare, Hannah Morrish delivers an unnerving and intimidating performance as ‘Ria’, whilst Carly-Jayne Hutchinson plays her critical friend ‘Pandora’, with the rich voice and seething eyes of a young Rachel Weisz. Through a healthy dose of surrealism, the film blurs the line between the imagined and the real as the girls turn their toy guns on members of the public with deadly effect – firmly stating that boys aren’t the only ones who can get violent. However, this is not a film in which the characters are ‘strong’ in virtue of possessing male traits, or despite their being female. Instead, Arcade is so self assured in its convictions, it rises above the threat of chauvinism completely, dispatching with it calmly and swiftly – at one point, we are led to believe that a lecherous male might turn the girls against one another whilst they squabble about short skirts, but instead, they unite and ‘kill’ him with their guns, so that they may carry on arguing. Entertaining, feisty, confident, and fun; Arcade puts the ‘pow’ back into ‘girl power’.
Unlike Arcade, Frank concerns itself with the trials and tribulations of being a man. Well, sort of. Waking up in a leafy forest, our eponymous hero makes his way through an obstacle course of work clothes, cereal bowls, and breakfast tables. Voice-over narration like that of a Guinness advert accompanies, gently mocking the protagonist’s plight with its flowery description of a very mundane task: Getting ready in the morning. Confronted with a dichotomy worthy of Neo from The Matrix (and colour coded as such), the film achieves its funniest joke through its edit, crash landing us back to reality with perfect timing, and putting the short’s metaphors into context. Mornings will never be the same after you’ve seen Joe McGowan’s Frank.
Don’t Do The Right Thing is about three nice guys stepping up when they’re not wanted. Playing on notions of masculinity, this short comedy pokes fun at the tired cliché of the-damsel-in-distress, by ridiculing some well meaning but unwelcome blokes. Writer and director Jamie Oliphant also stars, and he’s clearly put his experience as a stand up comedian to good use, with the film’s title coming as a brilliant one-liner at the end of the short. There are times that you should stand up for your rights; in some instances you must speak up for the voiceless; and there will be some cases in which you will have to fight the good fight – but as Don’t Do The Right Thing makes very clear, sometimes you should just mind your own damn business.
‘W.C Fields once said, “A rich man is nothing but a poor man with money”.’ – so starts the atmospheric and intriguing Homecoming. Created by two-man band, Jay and Mark Taylor, it is surprising that the professional standard of this film was achieved with virtually no budget, no lights, a single camera, and only one lens. Full of soft tones dispersed through soft focus and gently swaying hand-held shots, there is an intimacy and realism reminiscent of Andrea Arnold’s Red Road to be found in this short. Following a man travelling through town, we listen to him describe the events that take place on screen, as if they were a story – a story he tells to himself more than anyone else. The voice-over narration details a troubled childhood, and Aphex Twin’s Nanou 2 provides lofty piano chords which sound out one by one, telling of sadness and regret, but also hinting at hope and the possibility of reconciliation. As the film progresses, we realise that the man’s ploy to surprise his estranged family with an act of kindness has gone horribly wrong – but less of a twist, this is established plainly and is left to hang in our minds at the end of the film. Simply beautiful, and beautifully simple, Homecoming is a shining example of how the short film form can lend itself to a powerful narrative.
It is with great regret that I offer my last review from the festival. Across the week, all of the short films on offer were of a superb standard. It seems odd then, to talk of the film that won the LUC Shorts Prize, because this implies that the other films are ‘losers’ – and whilst is true they were beaten to the top spot, I would like to maintain that they were all winners in my eyes. Never the less, a panel of judges had to pick one film to take home the £1000 short film prize, and that film was none other than The Hungry Corpse. Starring Bill Nighy as the (under)world-weary zombie who is unable to satiate his appetite, and Stephen Mangan as a kind hearted, but lonely pigeon, The Hungry Corpse is a moving story about isolation and friendship. Although Nighy and Mangan’s characters appear in three dimensions, they stand out against the scenery and the other characters, who take on a flatter and less refined aesthetic, simultaneously pairing the pigeon and the corpse together as well as separating them from the rest of the world. Nighy delivers his lines with a laborious tone, depicting an ancient and exhausted soul, whilst Mangan conveys a jittery but sunny disposition through his voice, providing some light comic relief. Visually stunning and emotionally captivating, The Hungry Corpse is a deserved winner of this year’s LUC’s Short Film Prize.
This brings my coverage of Leamington Underground Cinema’s 2013 festival to an end, and I hope you have enjoyed my reviews of the short films as much as I have enjoyed watching them. All that is left to say then is a huge ‘congratulations’ to the festival’s organisers, volunteers and sponsors, who all made the event possible. If you came to any of nights, or even if you just read about them here and liked the sound of them, then you’ll be pleased to here that Leamington Underground Cinema runs a film night about once a month: For more information click here. The week was an absolute success, and I hope you will join me in attending next year.