Archive for January 2011
From Clash, October 2008.
You wouldn’t expect great things to emerge from a concept that debuted in a converted public toilet block under Shepherds Bush Green. But when Future Shorts opened at the excellent (and currently endangered) Ginglik club, that’s exactly what happened. Back in 2003, Future Shorts Creative Director Fabien Riggall was a short filmmaker frustrated at the lack of outlets for the genre. The first event was envisaged as a club night that would showcase short films, music videos and animations. As he explains succinctly, “With people’s need for bite sized creativity, it was an inspiration that short film could be a format that could one day become a more recognised mainstream medium.”
Ginglik was soon sold-out every month and a visit from some Belgian filmmaker friends created the first chain in an international network of local Future Shorts organisations in countries as diverse the United States, Ukraine and Bangladesh. Now the company has launched its first compilation DVD ‘Adventures in Short Film’ that collates a diverse selection of the world’s greatest shorts. But what is it that makes the short so compelling and atmospherically different to seeing a regular feature at a regular cinema chain?
“Short films automatically get people talking, debating and discussing. When you go and see a collection at the Brixton Ritzy, we always have people in the bar afterwards talking about their favourite films,” explains Riggall by way of demonstration. “And to me, that’s what cinema is about – that idea of the communal experience, a place in which people can get inspired, disagree and discuss. That’s like the olden days of cinema.”
The beauty of Future Shorts is that the audience’s consumption of the art form is of equal importance to the social aspect of the event. Needless to say, the whole concept would disintegrate if the program was any less that consistently entertaining and engaging. With a typical night’s program consisting of approximately fifteen shorts, how do Riggall and his team find enough great videos to maintain the quality?
“We get sent around a hundred films a week from all over the world. But there are different ways we find a film; we attend all of the major film festivals and look at the films emerging there, but more importantly the system of Future Shorts is uncovering talent all over the world,” he emphasises. “Each of our partners that run Future Shorts in different countries is also looking for the best local films, so all the best local films come into London and we can create a program that’s really diverse, eclectic and cross-cultural. We watch every film we get sent and there are also huge amounts of amazing films that are online that people have uploaded, so we can an eye out on all of those.”
The interest that Future Shorts has created in shorts films can also be demonstrated with the popularity of their YouTube channel where the many of the films featured have been viewed hundreds of thousands of times. Factor in another eight channels in different languages and the potential audience is huge; certainly many times greater than the previous audience that would’ve mostly been restricted to programs at film festivals. Riggall’s next ambition for the company is on a similar scale. “We’re looking to create a thinking man’s MTV, a place where you can go to be engaged, stimulated and educated. Whether it’s short films, music videos, animations or documentaries; just really lovely pockets of life on a channel. So we’re in talks with various people about setting up this channel which would be on cable, you’d be able to watch it on your iPhone, you’d be able to watch in on the Internet, it would be a multi-platform channel.”
It’s all part of an ethos that Riggall describes as, “creating an appetite for short films because it’s not purely a stepping stone or something you do to make a longer film.” He cites the likes of the Coen Brothers, Natalie Portman and Peter Greenaway’s recent work on shorts as indicative of the art form’s wider recognition in the mainstream. “If we can create a culture in which short film is a brilliant medium in which to explore cinema and to explore new ways of making films. The freedom that short filmmakers have gives them an advantage over feature films because they don’t have the budget and the problems they would have. Sometimes they discover new ways of telling stories that’s really interesting and original.”
It’s also the audience reaction that’s important to Riggall. “One of the things that we’re doing in each of the countries that we have events in is that we film interviews with the audience to get discussion and feedback. So the filmmaker that’s based in Japan can find out how his animation is received in Bangladesh.”
Aside from the multi-platform channel and the DVD release, the activities of Future Shorts continue to expand. Their Secret Cinema event – in which audiences receive a late invitation to a secret film in a surprise location, accompanied by a variety of related entertainment – is already well established, but Future Shorts Rescored sounds particularly excited. The concept is the simple idea of a band rescoring (or creating a score for) a film. An early taster of the event occurred at this summer’s Latitude Festival where The Guillemots improvised a new score for David Lynch’s Eraserhead.
So ultimately Future Shorts continues to embrace the alternative presentation of the short film through various mediums. As Riggall summarises, “If you look at the actual content that’s on television I feel that there’s a mass of amazing films from all over the world that just isn’t getting a view. On television there’s not as much engagement, it’s just not as exciting as this concept.” It’s hard to disagree.
Short DVD review from Clash, January 2011
A timely reminder that Facebook can produce fiends as well as friends, observational documentary Catfish boasts a story almost too outlandish to be believable. When photographer Nev receives a prodigious piece of artwork from a child, it sparks a chain of events that no-one predicted. Although Catfish’s scintillating start runs out of steam before the final credits role, it compares well to similarly engaging stranger than fiction documentaries such as Capturing The Friedmans and My Kid Could Paint That.
Short DVD review from Clash, January 2011
This English-language debut from visceral director and Vincent Cassel associate Kim Chapiron apes classic borstal drama Scum by recrafting the tale in a contemporary American juvenile centre. All the standard plot elements are firmly in place – bullying, prison rape, ineffectual wardens, the guy who just wants to do his time and move on – but the lack of originality is firmly compensated for with a fierce, transcendent intensity; its climactic scenes thunder with the power of a crowbar to the skull.
From Clash, December 2010:
If there’s an adjective to describe Josie Ho, it’s driven. Back home in Hong Kong, she’s an undeniable superstar: she’s starred in a multitude of successful films, hit the charts as a singer and now co-runs the 852 Films production company. Now, it seems, her focus is on replicating that success on a global level.
Ho is in London to promote the release of Dream Home, in which she stars as Cheng Lai-sheung. Cheng works two full-time jobs in order to fulfil her dream of buying an apartment on Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbour. Unfortunately for her, the continued escalation of property prices makes this an impossible achievement and eventually she cracks, leaving a bloody trail of devastation in her path.
“I’m a pretty violent person,” says Ho when asked how she gets into the mindset of such a character. “Sometimes when I’m singing on stage I’m pretty violent, I like to throw things around and I get very emotional really quickly. I have a lot of anger.”
Already a cult hit on the horror festival circuit (Frightfest billed it as Friday The 13th meets Location, Location, Location), Dream Home is, at the surface, a slasher movie – albeit a particularly gruesome one which features the asphyxiation of a pregnant women and bizarre murders involving bongs and toilet basins – but its sense of anarchic energy and social satire make it a truly original experience.
Dream Home also represents both Ho’s first role as a producer and the first film from 852 Films. The company’s mission statement is, she says, to “make films that are a little bit edgy. We want to push Hong Kong’s commercial limits.” She acknowledges Edgar Wright, whose films Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz share a similar ethos to Dream Home, as a role model for the company.
Later in 2011, she’ll be seen as an unconventional love interest alongside Watchmen’s Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Mickey Rourke in The Courier, and has also landed a role in Stephen Soderbergh’s all-star cast in Contagion. “His direction was very clear, he was very efficient, very fast,” she summarises of the director who she first discovered with his film Traffic. “I think Stephen has a very sharp eye for everything.”
“I like to take chances,” she explains in regard to her choice of roles. “When a script moves me, I want to jump into it. Safe roles are kind of boring.”
Josie Ho’s 2011 film releases are Dream Home (on DVD in March), The Courier and Contagion.
From the Clash website:
Film is important. It can take you to faraway lands and touch upon cultures that even the most ardent traveller can’t experience. It can educate you about society’s ills and provide an escape into the most unimaginable alternate universes. It can place you in the most terrifying of predications or provide a smile in hard times. And like most interests, it’s life-affirming in its ability to spark new ideas and to offer a huge immersive culture.
Throughout the course of a year, I sit through perhaps 150 films; new and old, inspiring and stultifying, magically surreal or grimly realistic. Yet by my late teens, I possessed an almost total disinterest in the entire medium.
By this time, the amount of films that influenced amounted to less than a dozen. My Dad loves to recount the story of my tears at the end of King Kong (hey, I maintain that I was upset that I slept through the whole thing), but my first memory of the cinema was seeing Return of the Jedi. Charlie Brown once philosophised, as a metaphor for the innocent magic that dissipates with growing up, that a cinema gets narrower as you get older. The venue, probably the size of the smallest screen at your local multiplex, was cavernous; the screen and the volume almost ludicrously overwhelming. My most abiding memory is watching Luke and Leia attempt to outrun the pursuing Stormtroopers on Endor’s surface. As the other kids yelped and cheered, my outlook was vastly different: “Daaaad… make them be quiet!”
But little else made an impact. I recall being engrossed in the 1979 remake of The Champ with my grandparents and laughing until I cried at A Fish Called Wanda and Gremlins. I begged my parents for months to be allowed to watch Aliens, simply because Aliens, to a kid sounds awesomely gnarly. Little did I realise that it was a defining film of the era and I often sport a t-shirt of the film’s poster to this very day.
Then film lost me, or I lost film. Kids at school mocked me because I hadn’t seen Robocop, but I didn’t care – I had a hunch it wasn’t going to be as good as Aliens anyhow. With four TV channels, one local cinema and no siblings to guide me into films, there was no obvious route. I’d catch bits of foreign films – including snippets of mini classics like the Three Colours series, The Vanishing and A Short Film About Love – late at night while flicking from Match of the Day, but it was inaccessible in my mind, as relevant to my life as ballet is now.
Things eventually changed at university. Under the guidance of my altogether wiser flatmate, I was slowly introduced to a savvier range of films, albeit, initially, mostly student staples including a Flemish subtitled copy of the then banned A Clockwork Orange. Slowly my tastes developed and we’d spend lots of time hunting Blockbuster for new titles to discover – even if he must’ve found my preference for gory eighties horror and anything with the distinctive Tartan Video packaging tiring at times.
Much like a music fan who uses a mainstream band as a gateway to more underground sounds, one thing lead to another; those films that I dismissed years before became favourites and encouraged me to investigate more. From A Clockwork Orange, I could finally appreciate The Vanishing; when The Vanishing proved that subtitles shouldn’t be a hindrance, I was mesmerised by Night Watch; when Night Watch suggested that Scandinavian films could be worth my time I got into Lars von Trier. My love for laughing boy Lars sparked a chain so enormous that it remains influential to this very day. While most film fans were interested in the big gala films at this year’s London Film Festival, my first thought was, “Wow! A new Thomas Vinterberg film! I’m there.”
But, as a film fan, where do I go now? The only way to immerse myself further than I am now would be to work in film full-time, which isn’t the easiest of goals to achieve. When my time with Clash comes to an end, it seems unlikely that I’ll ever have the same level of access to films and film-related talent that I do now. Maybe the next time I rush from the office to Soho to see to see a mediocre overlong film that means I’ll arrive home after 9pm without any dinner, I’ll remember to enjoy the journey while it lasts.