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Film of the Month for June 2017

Judge
Hope Dickson Leach

Hope Dickson Leach is a filmmaker, campaigner and mother, who, after making a number of acclaimed short films that played at festivals around the world, as well as projects for Channel 4, Film London and the National Theatre of Scotland, was made a Star of Tomorrow by Screen and as one of ’25 New Faces of Independent Film’ by Filmmaker Magazine. Last year she festival premiered her debut feature The Levelling, produced through Creative England's iFeatures scheme at Toronto International Film Festival and then London Film Festival, where it saw Hope awarded the IWC Filmmaker Bursary Award. The film is now on general release in the UK and available on demand, and has been met with some incredible reviews. She is currently developing several features and is a co-founder of Raising Films - a campaign to make the film industry more parent-friendly.

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Winner

High production value, smart, sexy short doc about a comic artist. A good set of interviews, excellent images and a great score. The false drama at the ending is a strange shift in tone, and you can’t help but wonder if the anarchic approach to the film itself might have been an interesting one to take all the way through, instead of simply tagging it onto the end. That sort of decision is what makes documentaries stand out from simple accounts of their subjects to art forms in their own rights.


- Hope Dickson Leach
Shortlisted

The filmmakers are to be applauded for the beautiful sound design and an incredibly efficient use of limited resources. This poem of a film works with material that is profound and compelling, and yet the film ultimately feels more literary than cinematic. The combination of voice over and illustrative images begin well, but the metaphor isn’t developed any further and ultimately there is no surprise with where it goes, and sadly isn’t as emotionally affecting as it might be. A reminder that even in just 4 minutes we hope to be taken somewhere surprising and allowed to discover our own emotional truths rather than be told someone else's. I wonder if we had been allowed to see the main character face a challenge we might have truly felt her connection with her mother, rather than hear her tell us?


- Hope Dickson Leach
Shortlisted

Well designed and choreographed drone photography unfortunately means that the voice performances are all ADR and thus stagey and unconvincing, which adds to the familiar cynical characterisation of the suburban population. The surprise redirection in the middle of the story is well placed and turns this into something more ambitious, which is welcome and interesting. However the limitations inherent in the decision to make this a single-shot film mean that we don’t have access into any point of view, which keeps us outside the scope of the story, and prevents us from emotionally accessing the drama.


- Hope Dickson Leach

Film of the Month for May 2017

Judge
Femi Kolade & Angeli Macfarlane

Femi Kolade is a filmmaker and educator, who has worked across the film and higher education industries for institutions and companies such as Watershed Media Centre, Youth Culture Television. Central Film School, BFI, Film London, Arts Council, Skillset, Miramax, BBC Films, ITV and Channel Four. He currently teaches at London Film School, and runs Bushfire Digital Media, a hybrid media content production, education, and technology company, and the African Creative Industry Investment Summit, a creative entrepreneurship and diversity initiative with a focus on Africa and the African diaspora. Angeli Macfarlane is the founder of Script Cube, her training consultancy in film and TV development, which was launched in 2015; teaches at the National Film & Television School in Script Development and on the Screenwriting MA; and is also Film London’s Development Producer where she manages editorial content of the feature and short film production schemes: Microwave, London Calling and London Calling Plus. Some projects she has recently worked on include Gerard Lee's Top of the Lake, Emmy winning Death of a President, John McDonagh's The Guard and Tinge Krishnan's Borrowed. Together they have created Modern Tales, a series of courses and initiatives operating with the specific aim of supporting BAME, women and emerging diverse filmmakers.


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Winner

"a powerful, very contained film that visualises a woman trapped in a single room; it uses in voice over phone calls with women who have been detained at Yarls Wood, which is a deportation centre for women. The sense of the loss of self is conveyed brilliantly. The ending two scenes felt they slightly belonged to a different film – one was back projection and the other a theatrical setting of the character in a lit square. But both also effectively conveyed the impact of war and being incarcerated. For such a tiny film it has a lot of impact.” - Angeli

“A simple, direct and affecting portrait of vulnerable women in a precarious and dehumanising situation. Locked up in an immigrant detainee camp, their raw unvarnished accounts provide an effective backdrop to heavily stylised visuals that effectively express the loneliness, loss of identity and severe dislocation of women who have arrived on our shores, often fleeing trauma, always looking for a better life and who deserve so much more than deportation or an indefinite stay in the soulless environs of Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre.” - Femi

- Femi Kolade & Angeli Macfarlane
Shortlisted

“Light on tension and delivered with rather arch performances, this film achieves its soft-focus goal of making a joke at the expense of the other male character and his rather vacuous girlfriend.” She goes on to state that “it is probably too long and the ending could be seen coming from earlier. To have pushed the joke and really pulled out the stops to achieve comedy escalation would have delivered a stronger piece. The male characters were not quite convincing but top effort as an ensemble comedy is not easy to pull off.” - Angeli

“The film stretches the conceit almost to breaking point and could do with being shorter. However a lightness of touch and a committed cast make this an engaging enough comedy short.” Although, he does also note that the film is “an amusing conceit taken for a jaunty walk. A waiter mistakenly delivers an engagement ring to the wrong table. Much to the annoyance of the young man preparing to propose on his three year anniversary dinner, the other man takes advantage and pretends his intention was indeed to propose to his girlfriend of only two months. All attempts by the young man to rectify the situation are comically sidestepped by the much slicker, confident, smoother other man until he finally reaches breaking point.” = Femi

- Femi Kolade & Angeli Macfarlane
Shortlisted

“This short drama is the observation of a woman’s grief at losing her baby. It is visually very emotional and has a lovely palette. The film doesn’t really give up any reasons for the loss and there is no real story arc, it is more an expression of an emotion than a narrative story. But all the same it expresses a sensitive and empathetic eye at work.” - Angeli

Kolade also sympathised with the film as “in the dead of night her mind plays tricks on her as she imagines herself with her child in happier times before the reality of her pain, grief and loss come crashing back and cripple her.” Kolade goes on to state that McPherson’s film is one “with a powerful theme that establishes a strong mood but without much in the way of character development doesn’t provide an effective enough narrative resolution.” - Femi

- Femi Kolade & Angeli Macfarlane

Film of the Month for March 2017

Judge
Anna Biller

Anna Biller is a filmmaker whose work uses classic genre modes to talk about women's roles within culture, "coding feminist ideas within cinematic aesthetics and visual pleasure." Always working on film, she directed several acclaimed shorts on 16mm, before making 35mm cult feature Viva. Her new film, The Love Witch, has received considerable attention on it's festival tour before being picked up by Oscilloscope Labs in the USA, and is now being distributed across the UK by Icon Horror UK and the feminist-horror collective The Final Girls.

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Winner

The first shot of this confection had me hooked, with it’s pink and blue little ponies and pink plastic alarm clock. Sophie Ansell creates a girl’s world – a mix of a baby world and a world of sexual awakening and aggression. It’s a girl identity piece which both celebrates and mocks the shallow world of a young girl who is alternately charming and grotesque in her self-absorption and Lolita sexuality. It displays in a nauseous way through the exuberant personality of its deranged protagonist how young girls experience a total lack of power in their professional lives, combined with an unsettling real-world power in their youth and sexuality which they fantasize might even extend to being the mistresses of world leaders. This dichotomy that young girls experience creates a constant split between pleasure and pain, and the desire to never fully grow up.

- Anna Biller
Shortlisted

This is a quiet film that details certain moments in a young woman’s life, from her daily rituals, to a therapy session in which she expresses grief, to a date with a young man and her disillusionment with him, to her time alone in nature. There is some nice naturalistic acting and some beautiful cinematography. It feels like the sketch for a longer piece where perhaps more time could be spent exploring the relationships in the film, and more meaning might be derived from the lovely shots of weeping faces, astronomy books, and sunsets.

- Anna Biller
Shortlisted

A piece about voyeurism and listening, this film has an interesting premise, which is the dilemma an eavesdropper faces when confronted with domestic violence and struggles with whether or not to report it. All about its twist, the story calls for more suspense, which could be achieved by higher technical levels of sound recording, visual design, and editing choices.

- Anna Biller

Film of the Month for February 2017

Judge
Stephen Woolley

Stephen Woolley is one of British cinema's most respected independent producers, having produced more than 60 features over an esteemed three decade long career. Some of his many successes include The Company of Wolves, The Crying Game, Interview with the Vampire, Made in Dagenham and Carol. Woolley began his career at The Screen On The Green, Islington in 1976. He went on to run and own both the infamous Scala Cinema in Kings Cross as well as distribution company Palace Pictures with Nik Powell, successfully distributing British films from the likes of Mike Leigh and Ken Loach as well as international hits like Paris, Texas and The Evil Dead. Woolley now runs Number 9 Productions with partner Elizabeth Karlsen. His latest production is WW2 drama Their Finest, due for release on the 21st of April in the UK, which will be followed by The Limehouse Golem, written by Jane Goldman, and an adaptation of the Ian McEwan novel On Chesil Beach.

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Winner

Shades of Living deals with the loss of a child and the effect of this on a relationship. It’s quite moving and although the trick of the ghost child is quite apparent, it has a very traditional mode of filming and some very persuasive performances by the three main actors (including the child). My only quibble with the film is that it is blatantly obvious that the child is a figment of her imagination and as such, it’s a little over-sentimental and as I said, predictable. On a technical level however, it is extremely accomplished.

- Stephen Woolley
Shortlisted

The Truants owes much to the host of filmmakers that like to use handheld camera movements and a more freeform approach to the depiction of children and reality based action. The film is, again, a bit sign-posted in its drift towards a nasty crime which I was desperately hoping wouldn’t happen. So in once sense it really achieved it’s goal which was to keep me on the edge of my seat. I also wasn’t sure if it was scripted or if there was a certain amount of ad-libbing and improv going on which again is a compliment to the filmmakers. So I think it perfectly achieved its aims and it genuinely made me feel very sad.


- Stephen Woolley
Shortlisted

Flushed was definitely light relief although, again like the other two films, was based on the main protagonist’s anxiety. It had a strong element of an everyday nightmare situation which could happen to any one of us. Dangers of mistexting in a dire situation are always a possibility especially when, like the main character, you are in a rather exposed position! This is probably the least directionally assured short but it is also one that needs, by the nature of its comedic tone, to be formally and accessibly directed. Whilst it made me smile however it didn’t make me openly guffaw. Perhaps with a stronger performance and a slightly more amusing script it could have done.


- Stephen Woolley

Film of the Month for January 2017

Judge
Alma Har'el

Alma Har'el is an Israeli-American music video and film director, best known for her boundary blurring, formally innovative documentaries Bombay Beach (2011), about a small impoverished community in southern California, and LoveTrue (2016), a triptych exploring our perception of love and relationships. She's also directed music videos for artists like Beirut, Sigur Ros and Jack Penate, and made commercials for Stella Artois and AirBnB.

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Winner

It is always a surprising moment that awakens a filmmaker's faith in the power of moving image when they encounter a film like "Girl". The small aspect ratio that speaks volumes of the world closing in on this woman and the minimalism of her day somehow work together perfectly to poetically paint a feeling of isolation and the value of grace. Please don't wait for money and film school. Pick up your phones and find your voice.

- Alma Har'el
Shortlisted

What are the little thoughts that go through our head and the mundane actions we take when we have a crucial internal monologue? An elegant one shot that allows us to get into the mind of a woman at a moment that decides life.

- Alma Har'el
Shortlisted

A confident, tongue in British cheek film that captures the drama of childhood in the shadow of abuse through the lens of Sergio Leone.

- Alma Har'el