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Article – No/Gloss Film Festival 2015

 

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Posted October 14, 2015 by

 
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No/Gloss Film Festival 2015

The first weekend of October saw Leeds host its fourth independent film festival. Launched in 2012 as a DIY venture, when it was hosted in a former Victorian pie factory, the No/Gloss Film Festival has become an annual showcase for unconventional and experimental projects, exhibited in a ‘no frills’ environment. This year, film fans flocked to The Carriageworks in the city centre to sample a diverse programme of home-grown and international short form, animation, features, and documentaries, and I was fortunate enough to be among them. It was truly heartening to see the breadth of content on offer, and from such an eclectic group of creators. I’m only sorry I couldn’t have been in all of the screens at once and viewed everything on offer, but here are a few of my personal highlights from the weekend.

Adam Moins Eve (France)

Aurélia Mengin’s post-apocalyptic short is Mad Max meets Cronenberg meets a Nine Inch Nails video. Haunting and fetishistic, Mengin’s vision of a dystopian future is played out through a series of striking shots which are equal parts horrific and erotic. The film follows a priest who is guided by voices – possibly divine, but probably not. He leaves his haven, populated with an assortment of sinister characters, and wanders the deserted streets, where he happens across a badly injured woman whom he believes might have been sent to save humanity. Disturbing and compelling, Adam Moins Eve is narratively ambiguous and surreal, but the imagery lingers in the mind like the ghost of a nightmare.

Skinship (UK)

Nichola Wong’s short film explores the way in which human connection, particularly touch, is being transformed by technology. With everyone staring into a handheld device all day and all night, one woman seeks the help of a professional to relearn intimacy. It’s an interesting premise, the idea that in a world where people only interact online and sex and pornography are so readily available, we might find ourselves needing to pay for the experience of simple physical proximity with another human. Quiet and sensual, Skinship is an unusual and quite moving little film.

Marzipan Flowers (Israel)

The story of a widow who leaves the only life she’s ever known in her kibbutz for the mean streets of Tel Aviv, and ends up flat-sharing with a transgender woman, Petel, who has a coke habit and a few skeletons in her closet. Heavily stylised, with colourful, larger than life characters depicted against static, black and white backgrounds, Adam Kalderon’s debut feature might be the sort of thing John Waters would have directed had he been born in a kibbutz! It’s funny, touching, and melodramatic by turns, and Hadas and Petel’s friendship is genuinely warm and believable. Marzipan Flowers has some issues with tone, and the dramatic climax to Petel’s story seems rushed and glossed over. But overall, this is striking-looking feature which reminds us that we are all bound by universal experiences such as loss and grief, and that it’s never too late to start over and follow your dreams.

Mary No More (UK)

Joshua Carver’s short family drama may be a student project, but it’s far from amateurish. Featuring an accomplished performance by Georgie Matthews as eighteen year old Mary, the film documents the gathering of her family in light of her grandmother’s impending death. Seemingly unable to say or feel the proper things under the circumstances, Mary seeks solace in reminiscing with her cousin, Cameron, but their childhood connection warps into feelings of a less familial kind as they both come to terms with their grief. Carver’s desire to internalise conflict, to play down the drama of taboos surrounding sex and death, and his emphasis of small, mundane details make this a very British film (although Carver mentioned he draws influence from Japanese cinema), and his visual style brought to mind the work of directors such as Andrea Arnold and Clio Barnard. Mary No More is concerned with what happens in the spaces between words and actions, with the things that remain unsaid and undone. It’s about the tumult of emotions we all repress, and the consequences when we fail to do so.

Offside (UK)

This moving short from Jimmy Dean is a coming of age story about a young girl on the cusp of puberty, being raised by her father. When her football coach expresses concerns about her future playing as part of a boys’ team, she must come to terms with the changes happening to her body and make sense of her shifting identity. This was one of many films shown at the festival in which a male director put a female character front and centre, and wonderful performances from Sydney Wade as young Kirsty and Rik Garrad as her father made it one of the stand-outs.

Rabbit (Australia)

This drama from Matthew Richards may be just fifteen minutes long, but it packs an emotional sucker punch seldom meted by full-length features, and will haunt you long after the credits roll. It tells the story of a damaged young boy and a dark secret he’s keeping from his new girlfriend, but to reveal any more would spoil the impact. Suffice to say that all the performances are stunning, and this is a perfect example of how great storytelling can be achieved in short form media.

 

 

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Katie Young
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