The London Short Film Festival returns to the capital tonight, promising to showcase the most innovative and boundary-pushing films being made right now. Taking place in a few handpicked London venues over ten days, its eclectic programme is centred around a wide range of themes that are relevant to today’s social issues: from visions of dystopia to female mental health and international queer filmmakers. There’s even a popular night of off-beat comedy shorts (called ‘Funny Shit’, in case you were wondering).
With the British film industry still reeling from the government’s decision to abolish the British Film Council in 2010, platforms like LSFF are needed more than ever to celebrate the wealth of talent in independent and experimental filmmaking, both in the UK and internationally. But film screenings are far from the festival’s only attractions: two Savages members will perform on vintage synths as part of the opening night’s Moog Sound Lab alongside visual installations, while a special event explores the evolution of black identity in British punk over the decades. Meanwhile, we’ve rounded up some more film highlights below.
THE NEST (Jamie Jones, 2016)
Starring Vicky McClure of This Is England, this original short is a deeply hard-hitting portrayal of our generation's housing crisis that has reached breaking point in Britain today. Jones is in a unique place to draw inspiration from the real-life experiences of his own mother, who occupied empty houses for 20 years after she was evicted from her own council flat. Now an award-winning director, Jones’ latest offering goes beyond other short films and documentaries depicting London’s neglect of its most vulnerable. In under 20 minutes, Jamie delicately addresses the rise of racism and its correlation with the UK’s failure to stand up to the private system's stronghold on housing and increasing infiltration of social support.
The Nest will be screened as part of LSFF’s London Lives Programme on Saturday 7 January at Hackney Picturehouse.
EVOLVE (Grace LaDoja, 2016)
Grace LaDoja has an insight into youth street culture and an innovative eye for playing with form, which only goes some way to explain her position as current creative director for Skepta. She’s collaborated on multiple music videos, and a mini doc tracing the relationship between grime and Nike Air Max. London youth street culture and its intersection with the worlds of fashion, art and music seem to be effortlessly understood by LaDoja. With Teeth have specially commissioned a new short film from the filmmaker to be screened alongside the rest of her work, which will showcase her highly stylised aesthetic vision.
Evolve will be premiered before a Q&A session with Grace LaDoja on Sunday 15 January at the ICA.
DIRTY GIRLS (Michael Lucid, 1996)
This cult homemade VHS documentary shot by a high school senior has had an unexpected resurgence on YouTube in the past few years, having been recommended by the likes of teen-girl bible Rookie. The film’s eloquent, intimate interviews focus on a group of eighth grade riot grrrls ostracised by the cool kids at their LA school, who make zines and play punk shows as a way to express themselves in a world where they are constantly misunderstood. Peak 90s nostalgia aside, Dirty Girls speaks to former teenage loners and rebels of all generations – it’s pretty hard to believe that these fiercely intelligent, assured and outspoken young women are only 13 years old. Today it's more relevant than ever, when we’re relying on outsiders to create the uproar needed to instigate real change.
Dirty Girls will be screened as part of LSFF’s Youth Through The Decades Part 2 on Saturday 14 January at the ICA. Grace LaDoja’s Evolve will also be screened at this event.
KNOCK DOWN GINGER (Cleo Samoles-Little, 2016)
Named after the classic pastime of bored street kids everywhere, Cleo Samoles-Little’s gritty coming-of-age film definitely contains darker, more adult undertones. It’s the late 90s on a London estate, and 16 year-old Sarah-Lee struggles to fit in with the local girl gang. But tensions begin to run high between rival gangs when she realises that the estate is ultimately no place for kids’ pranks, and Sarah-Lee is quickly drawn into the frightening world of adulthood. Samoles-Little’s portrait of the disaffected youth of London’s sink estates perfectly captures the unique street culture of the time. In an age of groupthink and mass moral panic over young people, it’s a timely reminder of the messy consequences of peer pressure and also the cyclical nature of teenagehood – a time that does sometimes instill strength and desire to escape.
Knock Down Ginger will be screened as part of LSFF’s NEW SHORTS: Youth In Revolt on Saturday 14 January at Hackney Picturehouse.
FREE, WHITE AND 21 (Howardena Pindell, 1990)
The meaning of this all-American catch-phrase, found in many a 30s and 40s film, is completely turned on its head in this arresting short film by black artist Howardena Pindell. It’s not your usual watch, at times reminiscent of an uncanny work of performance art, but its words are precursors to the explosion of black lyricists (Gaika, Beyonce, Frank Ocean etc) today who are recounting deeply personal experiences of racism and prejudice. Pindell, though, specifically addresses prejudice in various institutions and social settings – often at the hands of white feminists. As white gauze bandages become metaphors for both ‘white-face’ and the suffocating reality of having to mask her own racial identity, Free, White and 21 remains almost painfully relevant today.
Free, White and 21 will be screened at LSFF’s I am Dora: Free, White and 21 Special Event at the ICA on Wednesday 11 January.
ONE LAST NIGHT (Kerem Blumberg, 2016)
A perfect storm of radical queer love, the punk scene and the Israel-Palestine conflict is to be found in Israeli filmmaker Kerem Blumberg’s short masterpiece. Two lesbian Jewish lovers, Noa and Orr, celebrate their last night together in Tel Aviv before one of them leaves for Berlin – but not all goes to plan, as their celebration is abruptly ended when they see policemen harassing a Palestinian friend. The characters are then drawn into a moral maze that highlights the fractures appearing in their relationship as well as in wider society – One Last Night isn’t afraid to ask difficult questions relating to racism, queer identity and crossing borders.
One Last Night will be screened as part of LSFF’s New Queer Visions: Roots Manoeuvre Event at Moth Club on Saturday 7 January.
The rest of the programme for the London Short Film Festival 2017 can be found here. The festival will run between 6 - 15 January at selected London venues.
You can follow Laurie Chen on Twitter here @lauriechenwords
Follow Laurie Chen on Twitter here @lauriechenwords