Cathy Butler checked out some short films exploring big themes at the Student Showcase on offer at this year’s Galway Film Fleadh.
It can be tempting to look for thematic similarities in student filmmaking, as if it may give some insight into the preoccupations of the young generation. While this may be a bit generalised, there were some recurring themes in this Student Showcase screening. Anxiety and depression featured prominently, whilst all the films utilised that great potential of the short form to explore big themes with small stories, be it love, vocation, ageing or even death.
This short documentary by Alannah Murray looks at the role and depiction of disability in the Irish audio-visual industry. Murray turns the camera on various industry players, including herself. The personal note to this film gives it its impact, as Murray recounts her own struggles and her drive to achieve her ambitions. As she succinctly puts it, ‘I am more than my condition.’
When the Butcher Stopped Ordering Meat
In another examination of life and vocation, we meet Michael Quirke, a Sligo resident who inherited his father’s butcher shop but later converted the business into the sale of his own woodcarvings. Director Laura Gaynor takes a hands-off approach and lets the camera roll, allowing Michael’s life and that of his customers come to life on the screen in what is a charming and amusing portrait of a local businessman.
Aoibhinn and the Bear
In the first of the drama pieces we meet Aoibhinn, a young woman who has isolated herself out of seeming anxiety and fear. While her friends try in vain to reach out to her, Aoibhinn’s struggles anthropomorphize themselves in the form of a stuffed bear. Kieran Burke’s film puts a lot of demand on its lead actor Esther Woods, who deftly depicts Aoibhinn’s inner struggles.
This stop-motion animation from Adrienne Dowling takes a well-known theme – finding love after being hurt in the past – and applies it to a fairy-tale, seaside landscape. Eschewing dialogue in favour of some quite fun obvious imagery – this witch is literally cold-hearted – the piece is a meticulously animated and moving story.
What’s the Point
This short, animated vignette from a group of IADT animators takes the form of an information piece looking at struggles with depression. From the perspective of a young woman who has faced depression in the past, the film offers guidance to those who may find themselves in a similar situation.
The perils of alcoholism come to the fore in Rebecca Thompson’s story of a young man faced with losing his family after letting them down one too many times. As with Aoibhinn and the Bear, this challenging story puts its stock in the strength of its young cast, namely the director herself and Mark Agar as the young couple.
All the Time in the World
In terms of big themes, director Ciarán McNamara tackles several at once in this rather comedic look at the various rites of passage human beings cycle through in the short lives we are given.
Returning to documentary to finish the screening, we meet Pat, a bachelor farmer in Co. Galway. In the eighties, Pat began filming people and events in his local community, beginning with his then gravely ill father. Over the years he has amassed something of a personal archive, and an invaluable time capsule of years gone by. While looking at videos of the past, Pat reflects on his own past and the decisions he has made, in this affectionate portrait by Katie McDonagh.
The Student Showcase took place on Wednesday, 6th July as part of the Galway Film Fleadh