David Deignan takes in a “vibrant shorts programme” at this year’s Dublin International Film Festival.
This vibrant shorts programme, the fourth out of five screened as part of the Dublin International Film Festival, was diverse in terms of theme, tone and form. Programmer Si Edwards deserves props for his keen sense of pacing, with the eclectic selection of films complementing each other well. There were eight shorts screened in total, so here we’ll list some brief notes on each one.
Mother – Director: Natasha Waugh, Producer: Sharon Cronin (Ireland)
This absurdist comedy follows hard-working mum Grace, whose perfectly happy home family is suddenly disrupted when her husband arrives home one day with a brand new kitchen appliance – and she slowly starts to realize there may not be room for both of them in the house.
Mother is a wonderfully weird little film, with the strangeness gradually escalating until its hilarious crescendo. Waugh’s direction is subtle but confident, and the film looks great thanks to excellent production design. The central performances are entertaining, with an especially enjoyable turn from Lochlann O’Mearáin as Grace’s husband. Special praise must go to Jonathan Hughes’ offbeat, original script.
This was a real crowd-pleaser, and the perfect way to open the programme.
Inanimate – Director: Lucia Bulgheroni, Producer: Lennard Ortmann (UK)
Inanimate is an accomplished animation produced by the students of NFTS. Its protagonist, Katrine, is forced to try and piece her previously normal life back together when it starts to fall apart – literally!
The impressive short has done well on the festival circuit so far, even scooping two prizes at the prestigious Annecy Film Festival – Europe’s biggest animation film festival.
It’s wonderfully chaotic and, while it doesn’t do much new in terms of is narrative, it’s technically excellent and an enjoyable journey. Evidently Kaufman inspired, Inanimate is well worth watching.
The Egg and The Thieving Pie – Director: Lola Blanche Higgins, Producer: Reshma Makan (UK)
A smart and engaging short; this tells the story of Community Police Officer Shona, who finds herself battling the call of the ocean when investigating the theft of a precious egg.
This short seemed to have the highest production value of the bunch and it showed on screen. The off-kilter diegesis is full of intrigue and drives this mystery thriller onwards. It takes its time telling it’s story and it works, with a twist ending which will leave audiences asking questions. Features a surprising star turn which I won’t spoil here.
No Place – Director: Laura Kavanagh, Producer: Laura Kavanagh (UK)
No Place is a drama focusing on single mother Angela after she, along with her two young kids, have been evicted from their home. The audience accompanies her as she struggles to maintain a sense of normality as an increasingly desperate situation unfolds.
This is a well put together short for the most part, and props must go to Laura Kavanagh for writing, directing and producing, Michelle McMahon gives a good performance as Grace, in a film which benefits from its subject matter being so pertinent in the midst of the current housing crisis.
That being said, it suffers in comparison to other recent works such as Paddy Breathnach’s drama Rosie, which covers all of the same ground, and short documentaries such as Luke Daly and Nathan Fagan’s Through the Cracks. At just 7 minutes long, this short doesn’t have time to tell the story it wants to tell and, as a result, comes off a little melodramatic.
Child – Director: Joren Molter, Producer: Floor Onrust (Netherlands)
This pensive film follows Ella who, upon visiting a museum with her daughter and the child of a colleague, suddenly becomes aware a hidden side of herself.
The cinematography and production design really stand out in this sleek short, and Sophie van Winden is compelling in the lead role.
That being said, it features a polarising, thoroughly uncomfortable ending which will undoubtedly make or break the film for audiences. It didn’t sit totally well with me, but a significant portion of those in attendance felt differently.
Stigma – Director: Helen Warner, Producer: Marie McDonald (Northern Ireland)
A string of confessions unveil an intense tale of religious guilt, sin and redemption in this experimental drama set against the dramatic and rugged Northern Irish countryside.
Stigma is a poetic, provoking short with an intriguing vision which stood out among the programme. Narratively, I struggled to engage with the film but this was softened by the technical assuredness of the film and an admiration for the team’s alternative style of storytelling.
El Hor – Director: Dianne Lucille Campbell, Producer: Brian J. Falconer (Northern Ireland)
El Hor is a sometimes meditative, other times discombobulating observation of one of the most ancient and highly honoured dog breeds, the Saluki. They guide us in love, prepare us for death and transform us in life.
This is another experimental, boundary-pushing short film. It’s absolutely gorgeous looking, stunningly shot in black and white. This short is the one that has stayed with me weeks after the screening, and director Dianne Lucille Campbell was a worthy winner of the Dublin Film Critics Circle’s Michael Dwyer Discovery Award for her work.
Five Letters to the Stranger Who Will Dissect my Brain – Director: Oonagh Kearney, Producer: Roisín Geraghty (Ireland)
Easily the best titled film of the programme, Five Letters to the Stranger Who Will Dissect my Brain (I couldn’t resist writing that again) is based on the poem of the same name by Doireann Ní Ghríofa. It depicts the journey of first-year medical student Viv, whose first encounter with a cadaver in the anatomy room sends her on a soul-searching quest into the nature of what it means to be alive.
Director Oonagh Kearney was the winner of the Best Irish Short Director at last year’s Cork Film Festival and it’s not hard to see why. This is a beautiful short, refreshingly original and undoubtedly emotional. Venetia Bowe shines as Viv while special praise must be reserved for Irene Buckley’s haunting score and Cara Holmes’ nuanced editing.
DIFF Shorts #4 screened on Tuesday, 26th February 2019 as part of the Dublin International Film Festival.