The main draw of the Norwich Film Festival is, of course, the incredible and diverse selection of short film events. With a huge range of competitions, there is something for all audiences. The first showcase was for films funded by Creative England and included gems including Belle & Bamber and Trigga. Local filmmakers also featured, with highlights including the fantastic Edmund the Magnificent and The Birch. Shorts also came from outside England in the Global Shorts section, which featured What We Lose from Denmark and I Love New York from America. Not all shorts screenings were themed, and many aimed simply to showcase new and amazing short films. With four different events dedicated to showing films like these, there were many treats for people who attended the screenings. These include Edith and Black Road.
Aspiring filmmakers were in for a treat on Friday 17 November, as the Forum hosted a series of industry events and panels led by some of the best in the business. The first event, about sound in films, was hosted by sound editor Eddy Joseph. With film credits from Harry Potter to James Bond, Joseph imparted some expert advice and gave some very practical tit-bits for those with a creative flair for making big noises from small objects.
The second event, about writing for the screen, was a panel with a host of talent. Including the writers of Twins, Swallows and Amazons and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, writers from a variety of backgrounds and experiences talked through how they got into the industry, their best advice for writing, and how to handle tricky film subjects, amongst other topics.
Event number three dealt with how to transition from being a successful short creator into a great feature filmmaker. A panel-style event led by a selection of BIFA and BAFTA award-winners, the topics covered included financing your first film, and how to make the herculean step up creatively from shorts to features.
Unfortunately, the final event about effective publicity for your film was cancelled, but the night was complete with a fantastic collection of short films and the festival social at the Mash Tun pub. The sight of many serious and successful filmmakers in a pub we all frequent was a bizarre sight, but a much-needed reminder that our favourite filmmakers are all real people – and that we can achieve the same as them with hard work.
Double Date: A double date goes terribly and hilariously wrong for an innocent man in this horror-comedy film from director Benjamin Barfoot. The first feature of the festival, it kicked off a week of great films with plenty of laughs from a captive audience. The film was followed by a Q&A from writer Danny Morgan and producer Matt Wilkinson.
The Warrior: A film released over 15 years ago, The Warrior was the debut feature from Asif Kapadia, now an Academy Award recipient for 2015’s Amy. It tells the tale of a warrior in feudal India, who must survive being hunted across the Himalayas.
Butterfly Kisses: Norwich Film Fest welcomed a film that has already won awards and critical acclaim at other festivals. Directed by Rafael Kapelinski, this dramatic piece follows a young boy and his two closest friends, and the demons that haunt them as they struggle with sex, loss and deep, dark secrets.
Brakes: The last feature film was the regional premiere of Brakes, directed by Mercedes Grower and starring big names, such as Noel Fielding, Julian Barratt and Paul McGann. Following the relationships of several couples including, their first meetings and brutal break-ups, each audience member could relate to at least one of the couples and their series of endings and beginnings.
Women in film
Wednesday saw a showcase of short films by women in the film-making industry. The first short, entitled The Wyrd, is a bleak tale of a 7th-century pagan community and one woman’s choice whether to sacrifice her newborn child for the greater good. Well acted and with attention to detail, this is an unapologetic look at a Sophie’s Choice type decision which is heart-wrenching and scarring in equal measure. The BackSeat may have been one of the weaker shorts but it still entertained as we follow Shelby, a girl who spends her days trying to talk to people on the back seat of the bus. While she may seem rather intimidating, she is actually fragile and in search of someone who will listen to her, teaching us not to judge a book by its cover.
Curing Albrecht is a complete change in tone for the evening, focusing on a man who can’t stop dancing. Although it sounds ludicrous, the choreography is fantastic with a chorus of dancers all trying to cure Albrecht and the Wes Anderson style direction perfectly complimenting its bizarreness. The Beast Underneath, an entry from Switzerland, is a mockumentary style account of a fisherman and his quest to discover the largest halibut ever. This is a welcome, if at times slightly laboured, comedy short about a seemingly unfunny idea.
The heart of the evening’s shorts, however, may be found in Kin, which tells the story of one boy trying to take his brother out of foster care and look after him instead. Beautifully told and merged with old home video footage of the two growing up, this pulls relentlessly at the heartstrings. Homecoming is an intimate look into the complex relationship between a man who returned home and a woman who he clearly still has feelings for. Capturing the beauty of the Irish scenery too, Homecoming is about what isn’t said as much as what is.
The short that really stole the evening though was the final one of the night, and the only animated feature, called Catherine (pictured), which told the story of a girl who loves cats. Catherine manages to accidentally kill all her childhood pets in hilarious ways, until she falls in love with an adorable cat only then to part with that too. Sweet, heart-warming and unexpectedly emotional, this won the hearts of the captivated audience. A beautiful end to a night of brilliant shorts.
A prestigious event like the Norwich Film Festival wouldn’t be complete without a star-studded guest line-up, and in this regard the festival absolutely delivered. Kicking off the event was a conversation with Michael Palin, of Monty Python (and many other films), following a viewing of A Private Function, in which he stars. Check out our interview with him in Concrete Issue 344.
Following an unfortunate cancellation from Tim McInnery, the second guest was the iconic British actress Jane Horrocks. Known from sitcom Absolutely Fabulous, as well as a number of other roles in films like Chicken Run and Sunshine on Leith, it was a pleasure to hear such an experienced industry veteran talk about her work and the film and television industries.