Short and sweet: our pick of the best directors from the Encounters Short Film Festival
The 19th Encounters Short Film and Animation Festival, which took place in Bristol last week, once again proved that those who say shorts are merely ‘practise before someone makes a real film,’ are utterly wrong. Showcasing a varied selection of films from across the world, the festival showed that a short can be as full of drama, humour and import as their feature length cousins.
Dazed cast its eye over some of the films screening in the Encounters competition and pick out five directors whose future short and feature films will be leading the way in cinema over the coming years.
The British animator first gained prominence on the festival circuit a few years ago for his brilliantly twisted Keith Reynolds Can’t Make It Tonight. He did it again at this year’s Encounters with the equally long titled In The Air Is Christopher Gray, which also won the Animated Encounters Grand Prix. In some ways reminiscent of the work of Dave Shrigley as Massey mixes childlike innocence with a heart of blackness, his deceptively simple stick animations are a thing of beauty.
Legrand is perhaps better known as a French actor (including an appearance in Louis Malle’s Au Revoir Les Enfants) but his stunning debut Just Before Losing Everything indicates a director of rare skill and talent. The film – which also won numerous awards at the Clermont Ferrand International Short Festival which is essentially Cannes for short films – is a taut examination of the final day of a woman and her children as she prepares for a new life. Legrand makes sure every minute of the film’s half hour running time is suffused with tension and energy and displays a knack for finding intense drama in the most simple of ideas.
Chema García Ibarra
From its opening scene – in which a woman cleans a child’s bedroom only to blithely reveal a Nazi flag hanging over the bed - Chema García Ibarra’s Mystery is an almost perfect short film. Telling the story of a matriarch who is looking for a different life, the film revels in the unsaid and it’s this subtlety that makes the work such a joy. Mingling a sense of the absurd with gritty realism one of García Ibarra’s greatest strengths is to mix genres without diluting any emotional punch his work has.
Armstrong may already be well known – he’s the man behind scripts for the likes of In The Loop and The Thick of It as well as being one of the creators of Peep Show – but on the strength of his directorial debut No Kaddish in Carmarthen then a future career behind the camera looks very likely indeed. Reminiscent of the work of his contemporary Richard Aoyade, Armstrong’s film – about three teenagers in a love triangle – has an undeniable archness alongside a genuine sense of heart and soul. He revealed to Encounters audiences that he had ‘… a feature film cooking away.’
Originally from Columbia, Petro has studied at the London Film School and her film Rosemary Jane won the Best of British award at the festival. The story of a grief stricken woman who heads to a council estate to buy some marijuana, the film mixes the tenets of social realism with the grace and elegance of a costume drama. Playing with ideas around both generational and social differences, Petro brings a sympathetic touch as well as an outsiders’ eye to an affecting piece of filmmaking.
Find out more about Encounters at www.encounters-festival.org.uk