8 October 2015
By Ben Nicholson
Precocious tweens, Gen-X nostalgia and trailer park romance abound at this year’s big screen bonanza.
Film festivals are perfect for making discoveries, and the shorts programmes often prove ideal for finding strange and bold new work. Free from the restrictions of feature narratives, filmmakers young and old can be adopt a more playful approach to story, music, tone and style. Here are five gems worth checking out at this month’s London Film Festival.
CATWALK – NINJA THYBERG
Catwalk is cut from similar cloth to that infamous Paris Vogue editorial in which children were dolled up as models. It tells of two sassy pre-teens who duckface for selfies and savage their classmates’ fashion faux-pas during lunch breaks, while their plain-Jane friend feels the need to conform. Fuelled by pop culture and evident in the controversies surrounding figures like Miley Cyrus, the tension between childhood and the precocious ‘tween’ state is explored in this neat Swedish chronicle of peer pressure and the moment when a new leather hat rocks the playground.
THE EVOLUTION OF A GEN-X MUSIC PURCHASER – JACK MARCHETTI
Few things will stoke the fires of nostalgia in 30-somethings quite like a shared history of buying music. This film plays on those memories deftly, from Rage Against the Machine blaring over your headphones as you skated to an actual record shop to the simultaneous horror and ecstasy of the world’s music library being available at the touch of an idle fingertip. If it’s a poignant exploration of the gains and sacrifices of music distribution’s advancing tech that you crave – the death of the cassette tape, the glory of the iPod and the bitter loss of that musty vinyl smell – this one could be for you.
A GIRL’S DAY - ROSA HANNAH ZIEGLER
The other side of the coin to Catwalk is A Girl’s Day, a look at a teenager denied a childhood by neglect. There’s something reminiscent of Pussy Riot about the protagonist, Yasmin, outwardly noticeable in the punky sensibility of her choppy blonde bob, but also in her candour and use of language – via extracts read from her diary – to achieve her goals. But Yasmin is not rebelling against the state, she’s rebelling against her drug-addict mother, and her words allow for a voyage of self-discovery that will resonate with audiences of all ages.
MADELEINE – OLLIE VERSCHOYLE
Madeleine is what would happen if David Lynch met Wes Anderson in the golden afternoon light of small-town America, and they decided to shoot their surroundings on their iPhones. It’s like an Instagram filter over an appropriately everyday suburbia where, as you wait for a train, the curtain is lifted to reveal a mysterious world hiding behind the mundane. Story is mostly rejected in favour of stylish reverie and a beguiling feeling of heightened perception for character and viewer alike.
SLINGSHOT – DAVID HANSEN
Imagine the dusty Americana of a Lana Del Rey video, but stripped of its retro kitsch and transplanted to a trailer park in New Zealand. Now add a couple of straight-talking Maori kids, and you have the basic ingredients of Slingshot, a tongue-in-cheek portrayal of cynical modern romance in the guise of a summer holiday courtship. Though the short begins with a ‘meet cute’, it soon morphs into a hilarious riff on break-ups and custody battles. “Sweet, huh?” “Yeah, I reckon.”