With October now upon us and the nights getting longer, we’ve obviously already got one eye on spooky season here at S/W HQ, but before that happens, we’re still in the midst of checking out some festival line-ups. Encounters may have just wrapped (congratulations to all the winners), but that just means it’s now time for the most high-profile festivals in the UK, with the BFI London Film Festival set to once again open its doors on Wednesday October 5th.
With the programme announced and an exciting mix of features, shorts, series and immersive art works on offer both in-person and online, as is our festival tradition now, we took a deep-dive into the selection and highlight the most exciting titles from filmmakers we’ve featured on our platform before:
With over 160 feature films, from all corners of the globe, screening at the 66th edition of LFF, it’s no real surprise that there are a lot of familiar names in the line-up. With The Banshees of Inisherin by Martin McDonagh (Six Shooter) and Triangle of Sadness by Ruben Östlund (Incident by a Bank) two of the most high profiles examples, along with the films listed below we’re also excited to see Ann Oren (Slamdance-winner Passage), Dionne Edwards (We Love Moses), Jamie Dack (Palm Trees and Power Lines) make the leap to the world of feature films.
From S/W: A firm-favourite of the team here at Short of the Week and with festival juries worldwide, Laps is a memorable short for its unshakable depiction of depictions of sexual assault. Having impressed so many in just under six-minutes, it’s exciting to see what Wells can achieve with a much longer run-time. If the reviews are anything to go by, we’ll be hearing a lot more of Aftersun in the Best of the Year lists presented at the end of 2022.
From BFI: Sophie and her dad Calum are on holiday in Turkey in the late 1990s. Despite a rough start (such as Calum’s broken arm and a room with a double bed rather than twins), it should be bliss – the ‘Macarena’ is blaring, the warm air is filled with the smell of sunscreen and Sophie is capturing it all on her mini-DV cam. However, cracks begin to emerge in the façade Calum is trying to maintain to give Sophie a perfect holiday. It’s no surprise that Aftersun was one of the most talked about films at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. An exquisitely subtle, yet deeply affecting and honest depiction of mental illness and father-daughter love, it is anchored by an incredible chemistry between Mescal and Corio – Grace Barber-Plentie
From S/W: It only seems like yesterday (it was actually January 2021) that we featured Sadiq’s impactful Pakistani short Darling on our pages, little over a year later and his debut feature has already won awards at Cannes, before being selected at LFF.
From the BFI: Haider (Ali Junejo) is an unemployed married man living in Lahore. Sensitive in disposition and accepting of his wife’s ambitions, he finds his masculinity ridiculed by his stern, wheelchair-bound father and older alpha-male brother. Encountering Biba (Alina Khan), a trans woman who performs in an erotic theatre group, Haider finds welcome release in this safe space. Employed as a back-up dancer in her act, Haider and Biba fall in love, upturning the uneasy balance of his family. Sadiq’s drama skilfully details the corrosive nature of patriarchy in all aspects of traditional family life, from sons, daughters and wives, and the limiting roles they are expected to play, to the circumscribed behaviour of fathers. The result is a fearless yet sensitive exploration of gender expectations and taboos – Kalpana Nair
Klokkenluider by Neil Maskell / producer Helen Simmons (F*ck)
From S/W: Our attention in this festival round-up’s is always on the director and although we’re huge fans of Neill Maskell (anyone who’s seen the original Utopia series or Ben Wheatley’s Kill List will understand why), it’s producer Helen Simmons we’re looking to champion here. Coming to our attention when she shared short F*ck, starring a pre-Ted Lasso Brett Goldstein, with us, Simmons has Klokkenluider and Hoard – a WiP feature directed by Luna Carmoon and co-produced Loran Dunn (The Pig Child & Marina & Adrienne) – playing at LFF this year.
From the BFI: From its early scenes of bickering, awkwardness and rising tension, through to its shockingly violent ending, this elegantly constructed, endlessly intriguing black comedy shares the combined DNA of 1970s US conspiracy thrillers, British kitchen-sink dramas and Pinteresque stage comedies. A veteran of the UK independent film scene, actor Neil Maskell is arguably best known for his collaborations with Ben Wheatley, particularly his ex-military contractor in Kill List. He brings some of Wheatley’s black humour and edginess to his directorial feature debut, a confined story of mismatched people thrown together in a rural hideout. But it is the bold play of diverse influences, pitch-black gallows humour, sharply amusing dialogue and stark, perceptive characterisation that singles out Maskell as a singular talent behind the camera – Paul Ridd
Nanny by Nikyatu Jusu (Suicide by Sunlight)
From S/W: Winner of the Grand Jury prize (Dramatic) at Sundance this year and already acquired by Amazon, anyone who watched Jusu’s original vampire take, Suicide by Sunlight, won’t have been surprised by her success in making the leap to feature filmmaking.
From the BFI: Aisha is a Senegalese nanny, working undocumented in New York for a wealthy white family. She looks after her ward Rose, secretly feeding the girl jollof rice when she won’t eat the food her mother leaves for her. Meanwhile, Aisha’s son remains at home in Senegal, as she tirelessly works to raise money for him to join her. As Aisha’s relationship with her employers gains complexity, so too does her connection to home, finding herself haunted by figures from West African folklore like the water spirit Mami Wata and the trickster god Anansi. What are these symbols trying to warn her about – her employers, or something darker lurking within her own life? With a stunning and distinctive visual style, Jusu weaves together a complex and tense portrait of labour, privilege and motherhood. Nanny is a remarkably accomplished first feature with a layered and compelling performance from Anna Diop at its centre – Grace Barber-Plentie
The Damned Don’t Cry by Fyzal Boulifa (Rate Me)
From S/W: Grabbing the attention of the short film world with his Cannes winning, BAFTA-nominated short The Curse back in 2012/13, Boulifa already impressed with his debut feature Lynn + Lucy and with his latest already screened at Venice, this is a director we’ll surely be hearing a lot more from in the future.
From the BFI: Selim and his mother Fatima-Zahra live in close quarters, with so little money that a single moment of bad fortune is a crisis of survival. Man-child Selim has grown up without a father, leaving him and his mother socially marginalised; he’s bound to his mother, but also resents her and offers his love with a dose of petulance. In a starkly patriarchal society, Fatima-Zahra needs Selim just as much as he leans on her. When a trip to her family village reveals some troubling secrets, a rift opens that will see them try to establish their independence from each other, but tests their fragile love. Moroccan-British filmmaker Boulifa offers a glimpse of what is hidden within private spaces – guarded secrets, sexuality, shame, hope and a desire for more than cultural expectations allow. Employing a bold colour palette, Boulifa delivers an atmospheric domestic drama that recalls, in all the best ways, Douglas Sirk and Rainer Werner Fassbinder. Transgressive, tragic and beautiful – Tricia Tuttle
Unicorn Wars by Alberto Vázquez (Birdboy & Decorado)
From S/W: It feels like Unicorn Wars has been in development for ever and to see it finally hitting the big screens of the cinemas feels like a joyous moment. Vázquez is an unusual talent, always looking to push boundaries and surprise viewers and his latest feature looks to become an instant cult classic.
From the BFI: The new recruits of the Little Bear Army may look like colourful and fluffy creatures on the outside, but they are in training to respond violently to the reported threat that unicorns pose to their way of life. In church, they are taught that bears are God’s true creation and that the only good unicorns are dead ones. We follow the bears through the various stages of their training, leading to their operation in the magic forest, home to unicorns and soon to be site of unimaginable horror. Vasquez (Psychonauts: The Forgotten Children, LFF 2015) creates a film that is both funny and shocking, presenting a fascinating, animated take on the dangers of religious zealotry and the futility of war. Implausibly yet successfully straddling a line between The Care Bears Movie and Apocalypse Now, Unicorn Wars is unlike any film you will have seen and not easily forgotten – Justin Johnson
Although the short film programme at LFF doesn’t come with the same kind of fanfare the features get, for the filmmakers involved, being selected for one of the biggest film festivals in the world is an achievement they should be very proud of. As always, there’s an eclectic mix of shorts in the line-up this year and while there are plenty of others we’d love to highlight, these are the titles from filmmaker’s previously featured on our site.
Birds by Katherine Propper
From S/W: In Birds, writer/director Katherine Propper captures the mundanity of the Summer break with a disarming authenticity and sensibility, paradoxically refreshing us while immersing us into the Texas heat – Read the Full Review
From the BFI: Fleeting and free, the lives of Austin teenagers comprise joyous moments during a Texas summer.
Blue Room by Merete Mueller (Dangerous Curves)
From S/W: Having first been introduced to the premise of Mueller’s Blue Room when we spoke to her about her previous short Dangerous Curves we’ve been eager to see it ever since and it’s tranquil exploration of the prison system certainly makes for a surprising and memorable watch.
From the BFI: In US prisons, incarcerated participants in a mental-health experiment watch nature videos on loop. A meditation exploring trauma, isolation and the wilderness.
From S/W: For Iranian filmmaker Hadad, putting her audience in an unexpected and often previously unexplored perspective seems top of her priorities and File carries on this tradition with its take of everyday realism in her homeland’s culture.
From the BFI: A six-year-old’s speech disorder is unexpectedly investigated when his mother takes him for a routine pre-school health screening.
For Heidi by Lucy Campbell (The Pig Child & Marina & Adrienne)
From S/W: Championed on our platform twice before, Campbell has garnered a reputation for building atmospheric, striking shorts and it surely can’t be too long until we see her slide into the world of features now.
From the BFI: Sticking it to the man is often about defiance, but for Heidi this act of rebellion is a deeply personal act of remembrance.
Flowers by Dumas Haddad
From S/W: An ambitious, boundary-pushing piece, Dumas Haddad’s Flowers employs a lyrical approach to explore the idea of what a black fairy-tale would look like. With the director setting out to “reimagine a genre in which a diaspora has been notably absent”, this is a poetic short with a rich aesthetic and strong heart – exactly the type of experimental filmmaking we love to champion on Short of the Week – Read the Full Review
From the BFI: An Afro-futurist tale of love reclaimed through poetic storytelling to imagine how a Black fairytale would look.
My Year of Dicks by Sara Gunnarsdóttir (The Pirate of Love Vol. 1)
From S/W: Although it’s been almost 10-years since we featured Gunnarsdóttir on our site, her animated documentary about Icelandic outsider musician Daniel C has stuck with us strongly since we first viewed it. With that, and the title of this short, in mind, My Year of Dicks is a must watch from this year’s shorts programme.
From the BFI: It’s 1991 and Pam hopes to lose her virginity with her ultimate paramour. Unfortunately, her fantasies don’t quite match up with the goths, skaters and straight-edge poseurs she meets.
The Debutante by Elizabeth Hobbs (The Flounder & I’m OK)
From S/W: A mainstay of the independent British animation scene, with a career in short film dating back over 20-years, Hobbs returns with another short sporting her distinct visual flair and captivating storytelling skills.
From the BFI: We all have those friends who lead us astray, but maybe not as far as one young woman is lead, all in a bid to avoid a bit of dinner.
With their Expanded strand of programming looking to introduce its audience to ‘a new dimension of storytelling with immersive art and extended reality’, although there isn’t a raft of titles to explore here, the selection here will surely be the most exciting and innovative the festival has to offer. While Guy Maddin’s AR Melodrama Haunted Hotel and Darren Emerson’s euphoric interactive VR adventure In Pursuit of Repetitive Beats look like the standout pieces in this particular strand, there’s one film we’re particularly looking forward to:
As Mine Exactly by Charlie Shackleton (Copycat, Fish Story, Personal Truth, Lasting Marks)
From S/W: Having first come across the work of Shackleton in 2015, through his exploration of the first “self-aware” Horror movie, Copycat, the team at Short of the Week were instantly taken by his confident and refreshing short. Since that film crossed our path, the filmmaker has gone on to create a series of increasingly impressive shorts, a couple of feature-length pieces and a 10-hour film of paint drying, as a protest against censorship. Now moving into the world of interactive storytelling, As Mine Exactly is a piece we have huge hopes for.
From the BFI: In this profoundly intimate virtual reality live performance, LFF alumni Charlie Shackleton takes you on a journey into his late childhood and the formative events that defined it.