Black and white. Dim light. Bean bags. Red text. Lumière…
The scene was set for SHORTS at The Lighthouse, Scotland’s Centre for Architecture and Design.
‘SHORTS’ – a short films event – launched in 2016, organised by Graphic Design Festival Scotland and Pretend Lovers. With no restrictions on theme, genre or subject; simply that all films be under 15 minutes long, the open-call attracted entries from over 100 countries.
Waiting for the first of 15 ‘SHORTS’ to begin for the 2017 event last month - amidst a backdrop of curated International Poster Design submissions – also part of GDFS – felt like sitting at the centre of a cultural melting pot of creative talent as conversations in multiple languages mingled with the tempting aroma of popcorn. (Popcorn: essential to film-viewing.)
I found the experience a surreal and engaging snapshot of thinking from around the world, dealing with both hilarious and serious issues in clever and diverse ways. Not all the films were to my taste, but all of them had a strong message about life and what it means to be human: right here, right now.
The shortest of the SHORTS was only 1 minute 40 seconds (‘Life in Patterns’ by Vojtěch Domlátil), incorporating images of numbers, letters, diary pages, kitsch florals and the moon at a rate of 12 frames per second.
It felt naïve yet important, racing through pages full of text and scribbles and phases of the moon, then empty pages; white squares and black lines summing up a life and the patterns we create and adhere to (and often come to rebel against).
I felt an emotional connection to it as I watched, mesmerised; an urge to reach out and touch those pages addictive and powerful. All created in the mind of someone I’ll never meet yet it felt so intimate.
I wondered later if that film-maker was in the same room, watching us watch. It’s possible.
In ‘Salt and Sauce’ by Alia Ghafar, I felt the frustrations and disappointments inside Tammy, stuck working in a small-town family chip shop as friends and colleagues begin moving on to better things.
I felt her acute embarrassment as she tried to hide from a girl she knew who came in to buy a fish-supper, all talk of ‘the big city’ and Veganism and opportunity.
But Tammy has her camera and she has a story to tell. She’s a voyeur noticing the small details others overlook. She just needs that extra push to realise her own worth and her unique gift to the world.
This film reminded me of the important of fate (faith?), of how life/the world really does work in mysterious ways, and how you need both time and patience to assimilate your place and purpose. Poignant, cringe-worthy and optimistic at the same time.
Meanwhile, sometimes words are irrelevant and that’s how it was in ‘Maze’ by Eve McConnachie. It featured an enchanting and animalistic dance choreography shot in the empty - and at the time - still derelict Govanhill Baths in Glasgow.
I loved the interplay of the two dancers (male and female) as they ducked and dived against, between and around each other reinventing the space: the deep end, the changing rooms, cracked tiles and outdated signs and all the places in-between.
At one point just their silhouettes were moving in rhythm to the electro-inspired music, two pillars either side. Totally immersive to witness this piece, completely befitting the venue.
During the break (and also at the beginning due to a slight tech hitch), a limited-palette animation played on a loop in black, white and pinky-red.
Appropriately titled ‘Gastaloops’ by Nicola Gastaldi, it featured patterns morphing into sketchy everyday scenes – the idea being “to convey the atypical universe of the Londoner”.
The success of the event lay with each piece having such an individual take on life and each film-maker a unique perspective to portray in their 15 minutes (or less) of opportunity. It felt almost as revealing as reading a diary.
Other themes explored on the night include:
- The selfie generation, technology and its pitfalls (‘5 Films about Technology’ by Peter Huang)
- Unrequited love and the unfortunate distractions and interruptions associated with romantic partnerships (‘Life’s a Bitch’ by François Jaros and ‘The Kiss’ by Nia Syazwani)
- Loneliness/loss (‘Closed Visit’ by Jade Evans and ‘Brian and Charles’ by Jim Archer)
- The monotony and minutiae of day-to-day life, specifically against the backdrop of the nightly News (‘Life Cycles’ by Ross Hogg)
- Schadenfreude and karma (‘Second to None’ by Vincent Gallagher)
- Abuse, disability and being 'different' (‘Dawn of the Deaf’ by Rob Savage)
- Conflict and war zones (‘Irregulars’ by Fabio Palmieri)
The last film – Irregulars – particularly struck me as it was a first-person narration of fleeing war and persecution, to find only abuse, hatred and exploitation at the other end, not the anticipated 'safe-haven'.
The film itself showed the inner mechanics of a mannequin factory as each piece moved along a conveyor to be cast, sprayed, coloured, assembled and boxed up for shipping.
Faceless faces and dismembered limbs. The same image cast from the same mould, yet individual too.
The analogy was highly poignant and affecting, the lottery of where you're born dictating the path of your life for better or worse.
The promo poster for the exhibition (also on the cover of an accompanying brochure) summed up what we all need to do. Film - and particularly SHORTS - being the perfect, immediate medium.
As the evening came to a close there was a quick, informal vote to see which film was the favourite.
'Brian and Charles' took it, with its comical take on loneliness and friendship in a bleak, rural setting through a man's relationship with a robot he built himself. Interestingly, that was the longest of the SHORTS, whereas I can't stop thinking about the shortest: ‘Life in Patterns’.
Overall a stimulating evening of film proffering an insight into the collective global consciousness at this moment in time, right in my home city.
NB. This is a sponsored post. Thank you to CitizenM Glasgow for a stimulating, creative night.