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Reviews / Screenplay: passionate about short films

FILM lovers enjoyed a packed programme this weekend as Shetland’s annual film festival Screenplay kicked off.

Kathy Hubbard, one of this year’s three Screenplay curators, was characteristically enthusiastic about this year’s exciting range of films and events.

“For me, Screenplay is all about taking the time to try something new. We have so many different things on offer this year.”

Kathy was reluctant to name just one or two highlights from this year’s programme, but suggested that short film selections such as Keeping It Short and Home Made are a great way for cinema goers to step out of their comfort zones and experience a wide range of film types.

She added: “These short film screenings are, to me, a big part of what the festival is all about.”

Sunday night’s Keeping It Short was a smorgasbord of short films selected by Orkney based filmmaker Mark Jenkins. With animation, fiction, documentary and comedy on offer, there really was something for everyone.

The 90 minutes worth of short films opened with four animations. Despite being different in content, these animations shared a beguiling simplicity and whimsical humour.

Elizabeth Hobbs’ The Emperor was a vivid watercolour animation exploring the mystery, which surrounds the whereabouts of Napoleon Bonaparte’s private parts. It concluded with Bonaparte’s pickled member being sold at Christies Auction for one thousand pounds.

Mark Jenkins went on to introduce his selection of short fiction films by describing the “intrigue and ambiguity” which he sees as being so important to this category.

The films, which followed certainly were rich in both of these qualities. Gary Nadeau’s suspenseful Pizza Verdi centred on a New York pizza delivery where nothing was quite as it seems.

In Ewan Stewart’s Getting On, the drudgery of a Glasgow mother’s monotonous existence was relieved by the appearance of an unexpected guest.

Finally, Dominic Allen’s Two Men, inspired by one of Kafka’s short stories, was a powerful meditation on the idea that we can never really know just what motivates other people’s actions.

Next up was documentary. Jenkins’ selection showcased some highly original and creative approaches to the genre. This section began with Jenkins’ own stunning docu-drama Surface and ended with Narcose (dir. Julie Gautier), a short film exploring the “raptures of the deep”.

This feast of short films concluded with comedy, and Jenkins’ selection proved that short films need not be short on laughs.

The comedy on offer was surreal in mood, ranging from the blackly funny Mr Foley (dir Mike Ahern & Enda Loughman) in which a man woke up from an operation to find a group of sound artists sound tracking his every movement to Guillaume Blanchet’s The Man who lived on his Bike a whimsical film about a man who did exactly that.

Jenkins is passionate about short films, believing that they provide inspiration to many aspiring filmmakers and that they often provide a route into making longer films.

He added: “It used to be the case that short films were often screened alongside feature films. Over the years, short films have dwindled away. I think that’s a real shame.”

There will be an opportunity to sample the work of Shetland’s short filmmakers at Friday’s Home Made event.

Genevieve White