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A Short Mission: Cargo

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For a truly effective short, there needs to be less blank victims and more of a focus on the human content within. If you have a character who you can empathise with, you have a story that you can follow and as the events transpire, you’ll be shocked to your core. For example, if you like Daryl in The Walking Dead (almost everyone does) then you are going to be more emotional when he is torn apart by zombies. Which is a funny and completely coincidental example to use when comparing it to this amazing Australian short Cargo.

Though the shuffling rotting meat-bags are pretty common pace in cinema nowadays, from shorts to features, it is natural to feel the concept is a little bit tiresome now as yet another monster movie comes out. But Cargo, directed by Ben Howling and Yolanda Ramke, has managed to keep an originality to it that is much fresher than the decomposition we’re used to seeing. The film revolves around a father whose wife has unfortunately succumbed to the zombie curse. His main priority is now his daughter and finding safety for her. This becomes crucial when he is bitten and hasn’t got long to live.

The reason Cargo works so well is that the thrills, spills and bloody bits that are in usual abundance are waylaid for the visceral and emotive centre. Having the crux of the film on the poignant father trying desperately to save his baby girl is utterly captivating. The nuances to this film develop and as he plans to keep her out of harm’s way until he finds a haven, you’ll be wrapped up in his undeniably powerful parental instinct. When you realise what he’s done and how far he has gone to do it, all with his daughter in mind, you’ll have to have a heart of stone to not well up at it.

Unforgettable and moving, Cargo is a phenomenal horror short.

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A Short Mission: Time To Kill

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Being a hit-man is tricky business. I mean, first you’ve got to track down the mark in a largely populated city. Then you’ve got to do so without raising any suspicion, following someone around where there is lots of people who will become a bit alarmed to find a trench-coat and a concealed weapon. Don’t forget the clean-up after the murder and making sure people don’t actually see your face putting lead into a hit. Yes, being a hit-man is tricky business.

There is one possible solution; sneak into the victims home and wait for them to arrive, then shoot them that way, clean and simple. Well, not quite – which is exactly what happens in director Justin Rettke’s brilliant comedy Time To Kill. Partially written and starring Christopher T Wood, Time To Kill centres on a hit-man who is poised, secluded in the shadows and waiting for his mark. Unfortunately, it soon becomes a test of his patience when the person he is supposed to kill doesn’t arrive.

Time To Kill is a charming little comedy. Well-acted and wonderfully written whilst also steeped in beautiful cinematography, this off-beat but uproarious short film is both riveting, unique and transcends into pure hilarity. What starts off as an ordinary thriller quickly descends into fun as it captures that incessant drag of time waiting for something. Wood, as Harris encompasses the irritation and waning patience only with the added edge that he may kill someone when his task his through. There is a bitterness and loneliness that really comes through in Harris’ character that is masterfully done and will illicit many chuckles.

Time To Kill is now available online!

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A Short Mission: Shorts on Tap present Rocket Science

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Science fiction is one of the most lucrative genres for filmmakers. There is a plethora of imaginative strands that span across the Milky Way or pump inside the views of wide eyes dreamers. We could plunder into the depths of the sky or the horrors in our minds and still not reach its true potential. Love is love, drama is drama, but monsters, stars and the Earth beyond is limitless. At another Shorts on Tap event, huddled in the basement of Juno in Shoereditch, the audience strap themselves in to be sent on a journey of twisted human nature and uncharted futures with Rocket Science; the final frontier of short film.

Blasting off the evening, and with the evening putting their best foot forward, was the exquisite Jonah. Layered with themes that are softly shed with the beautiful story, this is a tale of a woman clinging desperately to an, assumed, lost love. Feeling akin to Michele Gondry’s Eternal Sunshine, Jonah is a steady drama that unfolds to become unnerving. Presenting us with many questions, filmmaker Jeremy Willmott has not only created a stunning aesthetic with strong acting and a gripping score. But he uses futuristic advancements and possibilities to address how memory and clinging on to unacquainted hopes could eat away at you. Jonah is an eloquent film.

The three that follow are steeped in different levels of science fiction but each lack from not concisely telling a story, feeling much more like a snippet than a fully realised film. That’s not to say they aren’t terrific and are a great stepping stone for the artists behind the camera. Exile is a gritty black and white drenched zombie feature, by Zac Moss, that holds your tension though had the (better) possibility of going another way before showing their monsters (for a while, I had hoped for a human hunting story). The Departure by Ioaniss Christoforou placed religion in space ships. Without dialogue, the naked first man and woman are dropped off by anthropoid spaceships, alluding to a new twist to the creationist story. The Radical by Jack Pirie, which, to be fair, has already stated “to be continued,” was about government verses a new age of humanity despite spooky security men wanting to wipe them out. Their short time span hindered them, leaving is before fully forming a story.

The second half of the evening twisted through the quaint, the quirky and the “holy shit, what was that?” aspects of science fiction. Lux by Chris Chung was rather pleasant with gorgeous special effects and a lovely story about star capturing whilst The Last Man on Earth by Carlo Ortu was funny with a dark edge to it. Finally, ending on the most horrific, The Gate by Matt Wesrup presented a moral undertone to illegal pharmaceutical drug possession. Obviously, the only way to do this is to maim our psyches with the strong yet twisted graphics and humans turned monsters. It’s probably the point, because after watching this film, if you see a syringe you’ll be shuddering.

What this night proved, without a doubt, is that the next generation of science fiction film makers have already lifted off into the stratosphere. On minuscule budgets they have bent narrative, expanded our minds and given us worlds to explore. Riveting, Shorts on Tap have yet again succeeded.

And because you all need to be scarred as I am, here is The Gate

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A Short Mission: The Strange Death of Harry Stanley

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Sometimes the police get it wrong. Very wrong. Look at the institutionalized racism and murder in the case of Ferguson, with residents fighting back against the unlawful killing of Mike Brown at the hands of a police officer. These aren’t just pockets of isolated events in America either. Most notably, in 2005, underground police officers shot dead Jean Charles da Silva e de Mendes for wrongfully identifying him as a London Bomber. In this society, the world is full of distrust and prejudice that is quaking in the hands of professionals allowed to hold a gun. In 1999, that ill-informed power caused the death of Harry Stanley.

In Jeremiah Quinn’s short film, The Strange Death of Harry Stanley, a hurried collection of witness accounts and a scared, mindless attitude of the police lead to the unnerving death of the man. Recovering from cancer and going out on a much needed walk, suspicions were raised by an object in a plastic bag. What turns out to be a table leg spells confusion for the police and Harry is fatally shot. Giving us the perceptions of his family and the last day of his life, Quinn allows us into a story largely forgotten in time.

The film uses a deceiving narrative, in subtitles and set up, to hit the powerful message home. Sending us down one route that was perceived as verbatim only to rewind back, we can feel the full and shocking extent of hurried messages and mistaken officers who took Harry’s table leg as a gun. What Quinn enlightens us to are the little lies the media and police have taken, allowing us to see every side to the story and treat some “facts” with caution. Quinn balances it with delicacy, giving us an earnest and gentle look at Stanley and his family, whch underlines the shock of the killing. Drenched in the gorgeous cinematography and DP shots that are evocative, The Strange Death of Harry Stanley is a stirring piece that tackles the weight of power those who enforce the law may have.

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A Short Mission: Tumult

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When it comes to the capabilities of a short film, it is vital that your message and plot hits quick. This week, at the Shorts on Tap Beyond Scotland, when Tumult opened I immediately rolled my eyes, yawning I was already board of what seemed to me a Game of Thrones rip-off. And then the punchline rolls in (literally) and I was awash with hysterics so loud you could hear them ricochet off the walls of 93 Feet East. I am going to try my best to describe it in a way that will entice you and make you watch it but without ruining the punchline.

At the very least the first description stands. There are four blood soaked Vikings making their way across the Scottish highlands after a massive battle has left them wounded. Leaving one of their members behind (and armless) a dying father says his last words to his feuding sons before accepting his fate with death. However, he soon learns that his wars are not over as another army come to test their strength and endurance.

It doesn’t exactly sound like a riotous movie but stick with it and you’ll have a feast of alternative comedy as black as it can get. Director Johnny Barrington has steeped the film in beautiful cinematography that really takes you to the time period and escapes of four lowly Vikings and their quest for almost salvation. This narrative, though tiresome for some, is done really well . So well that when it continuous, it strays into a different path that is wholly fresh and unique. This is where I leave you because to continue means ruining the destination. But if you see Tumult crop on any short film festival, I implore you to watch it.

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A Short Mission: Being Bradford Dillman

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There are many PSA’s and adverts that inform audiences globally about the harrowing effects emotional, verbal and physical abuse has on children. Yet, despite the jovial soundtrack and the jaunty figures on screen, there hasn’t been one as devastatingly real as Being Bradford Dillman. This surreal cut up of animation and live action settings has a similar impact, but by pulling you in to the unique yet crude cartoon figures prancing about, only to hit you with its underlying message, makes Emma Burch and Peter Williamson’s short an effective, powerful piece.

Molly is a timid young girl who is tentatively picking up the fragments in the household left behind by her drunken Mother. When she comes home from school, after being bullied by boys and hoping that they’d all die, Molly’s mum tells her (heavily under the influence) that she used to be male and kept the severed genitalia in a box. Though the story is ludicrous to many adults, it is swallowed as verbatim by Molly and soon she is imagining Bradford Dillman, the incarnation of the boy she could have been. As he helps her throughout the little tragedies of life, could Bradford be a new turning point for the shy daughter and the alcoholic mother?

Burch and Williamson’s evocative tale is visually engrossing. Having a specific and unique flare in its style (that can be likened to a Tim Burton version of Charlie and Lola but I believe it has an originality to it), Being Bradford Dillman is steeped in stale colour palettes used to submerge the audience into quite a disturbing world for Molly, despite her general gaiety. The core message here is the selfish and indulgent nature of Mother’s drinking habit that directly harms and pushes Molly further into her imagination. The desperation of a child to cling to a boisterous imaginary friend that appears whenever mummy over steps a line is poignantly and sensitively handled in a way that hits you fully.

The unnerving aspect of Being Bradford Dillman is the narrative and everyday life that Mum spouts. The guilty abuse that she piles onto her daughter with this soft tone is horrifying. Little verbal nuances such as threatening suicide and accusation of lies when she cannot remember what drunken slur she has said, ripples this intense atmosphere that is juxtaposed against the animated nature of the film. The effect is shocking and that is inherent to the message being conveyed. Written eloquently and considerately, Being Bradford Dillman is a commanding short.

Being Bradford Dillman is now available on We Are Colony

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A Short Mission: Friend Request Pending

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Many people say that there is a massive generation gap between technology and the elderly. Whether it’s the older group who believe that the younger are spending too much time on their laptops, smart phones and dingle-dongle devices or the younger believing the older are wrapped too much in their caveman like ways; there is maybe a definite separation. The divide in this ever expansive technological world could make life difficult for both groups. Well, not exactly. Certainly, there are technophobes out there but the generation gap? Bollocks. There are plenty of middle aged to elderly people who enjoy the social aspect of the internet and that is highlighted perfectly in Chris Foggin’s delightful Friend Request Pending.

Starring Judi Dench, Phillip Jackson and a wonderful little cameo from Tom Hiddleston, the movie revolves around Mary, a mature woman who is looking to find love on the realms of Facebook. Her chance encounter with a man and a couple of mojitos has her taking to the computer to reconnect with him. But can she navigate the new social constructs of this modern society?

The nuances of Friend Request Pending are what set this wonderfully quaint tale apart from the other doddering shorts. Though, similarly to Foggin’s That Night, the movie doesn’t have a major drama or crux to the tale, it is the astute human characteristics that pull along this jovial and charming piece. Brimming with charisma and rambunctious characters that are wonderfully realised, Friend Request Pending gets to small irritations and gleeful interactions of new relationships developed through social media. Foggin’s captures that spirit of tentatively waiting for electrical responses and that excitement of a blossoming new relationship.

Of course, a lot of that charm comes through from Dench’s empathic performance as Mary. Always one to capture the scene, she delectably weaves a pleasingly stirring character. Dench is as enthralling as always and is able to balance a wise yet youthful character. Alongside her is the reserved and fantastic Phillip Jackson as the admirer Trever and the hilarious Penny Ryder as Linda, Mary’s best friend, who bounces greatly off Dench. The cast really band together to create an astute portrayal of relationships and technology, no matter what age.

Again, Foggin’s has captured a dreadfully appealing piece. Friend Request Pending is a pleasing short that has spirit, wit and superb performances.

You can watch Friend Request Pending on We Are Colony now.

 

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A Short Mission: Beat

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Living in the city of London, or perhaps in any major city, there is no doubt that you would have come across a few drunks or one of the many people whose mental illness has slammed them right into the middle of the streets, ranting away at seemingly nothing. Though the main panic, worry or struggle is to ignore them, it seems that they are inescapable, possibly even harmful. Actually most of the time, it’s a matter of personal space being invaded, with very few instances leading to violence. Even then, it is incurred because irritation over-boils and anger between many parties prevails. All of the time, however, it can be said that those are following the path of their own beat.

Which is, presumably, the titular reason for this 2013 short from Aneil Karia. Starring Ben Whishaw, Beat follows the journey of a young man who takes to the streets of England’s capital, dancing erratically to music unheard. Though it may start pretty innocuous at first, it soon irks and invades those around him who take offence to his irritating presence their lives.

Aneil Karia, whose efforts in music videos transcends over to here, has neatly written and directed an empowering short about this man is dancing without giving any explanation as to why. After all, it isn’t as though we need it. Allusions at the beginning that this isn’t his first encounter with the wrong end of a fist and a naughty silent confrontation with a cereal box offers no answers. That, in itself, is simply divine. Beat relies heavily on the central performance and the stripping away of exposition allows us, the audience, familiar with encounters such as this, to delve into this man’s world and mind-set. Whishaw is evocative here. His acting excels, transforming a nameless face into an entrancing eccentric character that is clearly battling many demons, and ultimately succumbing to the music in his head. It is eloquent, poetry set to electric drums and bagpipes, a juxtaposition against the rest of the world.

Karia has, in turn, mapped a long career here alongside his other short Tag (which I urge you all to watch). In Beat, he astutely carves the trembling core of a being not musically matched with the rest of the word. With Whishaw’s character, endearingly and provocatively taking to the streets, held capably in Karia’s creative decisions, whether it is through the score or the grimy confrontations of London, Beat certainly thuds with brilliance.

Beat is now available on We Are Colony.

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A Short Mission: Tag

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The saying goes; “it’s all fun and games until someone hurts themselves,” which general echoes out of the mouths of parents as soon as children enter the vicious world of playground antics. What they fail to mention is that the minute adults decide to play their own version of whatever, previously, naïve kid game, it turns into a bloodbath exceeding Battle Royale. Take Aneil Karia’s work in Tag. The innocuous and tame antics of dodging someone’s hand like they are about to unleash a hefty plague onto you was jovial at first. But the minute a Science Teacher and a PE Teacher take it upon themselves to make it brutal. The result? Well, you’ll have to see for yourself.
There isn’t much to enhance on plot in Tag, the simplistic nature of its creation is enough to enhance upon and adapt it brilliant for the BBC. Aneil’s work here is a cascade of adulterated fun that is hilarious because of the juxtaposition of grown up’s darting around a school, in front of students, in order to win. Though the game may, in turn, dissolve into petty violence, roping in children on either side to help score victory, the nature of the short is fun-filled and action packed.

Played greatly by Andrew Brooke (Phone Shop) and Daisy Haggard (Episodes,) this “tag for your life” shorts is oozing with hilarity and riotous behaviour. It also flummoxes you with appalling student behaviour that then twists the perspective onto the school children. Tag is fun and apocalyptic, intensely dramatic. And now you are all back at school (teachers and all) I hope you won’t do this…

Tag is available on BBC Iplayer.

 

 

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A Short Mission: Pythagasaurus

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Peter Peake, director of Aardman, has perhaps created some of the best family movies with the skill of stop-animation. Famed more for Wallace & Gromit and the upcoming Shaun The Sheep, Peake and his studios have developed some hilarious movies and television shows that makes you titter so. No more so, however, than this 2011 short Pythagasaurus that truly utilizes British humour and the talented film-makers of Aardman.

Taking the action to a land before time, Pythagasaurus tells the story of two caveman who wake one day to find a ruddy big volcano has just sprouted next to their village (a hut). Unnerved by the presence of the lava filled phenomenon, the pair try to find the titular legendary beast who can calculate any sum in order to provide answers to their problems.

With the vocal talents of legendary comedian Bill Baily, fantastic actor Martin Trenaman and Alan Partridges Simon Greenall, Pythagasaurus is amazing uproarious. Utilizing stunning animation that depicts a mathematical landscape and curious creatures that blunder through this short with a mischievous flare.  Laugh out loud, the movie is a small incredible journey that the ideas are strange yet the humour is there. Encapturing the Aardman style but presenting a unique tale Pythagasaurus is a film that you need to watch in order to cheer up your days. Because literally any mood can be lifted by a protractor dinosaur.

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A Short Mission: Boats

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Ok. So straight of the bat, I must say, I am a little bit biased when it comes to anything that pokes holes at Disney. I am not saying that they haven’t had a long history of stirring animation and innovative films that have developed the very nature of cartoons. I’m just saying that, though creators and artists have integrity, there is a vast array of money grabbing low lives in the company that will produce as much as they can for as little as they want in order to monopolise on merchandise. It started with Cars 2, it continued with Planes and the next logical step would be Boats, right?

So enjoy exactly what happens in the studio executive’s room when they come up with the brilliant anthropomorphic sail and speed boats that inevitable tell the tale of an underdog trying to win a boat-race. The eyes practically glint the dollar symbols like Scrooge McDuck as they rip-off some beloved storylines in order to sell billions.

Look there is no denying that John Lassester’s passion project was Cars but Cars 2 was so blatantly an exercise to whore our as much from our children’s pockets as possible. Though an unpopular opinion because Pixar have trundled out glorious films, the fact is that Disney has an investment to stretch the imagination over as many products as possible. It’s a sad truth that has seeped into the minds of everyone thanks to the global sensation of Frozen. Justin Dec has, in a comedic and witty way, created a film that showcases what may happen in those dusty “sweatbox” boardrooms. It’s executed extremely well. Though tongue in cheek, there is also a smidge of truth here.

Hopefully, it won’t give people ideas. 

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A Short Mission: Grandmother’s Not A Toaster

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Generally, the term black comedy is bounced around so much that a lot of filmmakers miss the mark. Often they become offensive, bland or the lack of balance teeters the film out of balance. When you add an Academy Award winner writer (in the form of Shawn Christensen who penned Curfew,) then surely you’re black comedy enthused short would live up to lofty heights. Wellllll, Grandmother’s Not A Toaster is a pretty decent flick but it never fully grasps it’s realised potential. And it’s damn disappointing.

Grandmother’s Not A Toaster tells the tale of two selfish grandchildren and one kinda nice one who are plotting to steal their elderly relatives inheritance. However, their own greed and malice come undone when their ploys start unravelling in front of them. Can this really be the legacy that Grandmother is leaving behind?

The effects of GNAT are impressive. The aspects of the film are told through the characters POV that switch and change the perspective of the film. Instead of telling cohesive yet different tales, it pretty much allows the audience to experience the visceral arcs of the grandchildren and the grandmother. Though the perspective is not entirely realised and it falls a bit flat which is a shame because the humour and vibes that come through from the beginning work best. The characters are strong but they get lost in the every changing POV’s and the end that doesn’t quiet slot in to the rest. Still, there are plenty of laughs to make it a genuinely good short.

But you’ll be left wishing there were more.

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