Reviews, Screen

Von’s Sunday at iD Fest including Five Lamps Films’ 24 Hour Challenge

I’m getting early-onset nostalgia for iD Fest already, it was a fantastic weekend. A great reason to spend four days at QUAD (one of my favourite places to be anyway) with ever-rotating groups of friends watching favourite classics, films I knew I should have seen, as well as discovering new treasures I’d never even heard of.  A fantastic program exploring the idea of family in a multitude of forms, here are my thoughts on Sunday.

I started the day in ‘Eat My Shorts’; a showcase of short films submitted from around the world.  It was a broad range of both content and styles with all but one of them having some characteristic that we could discuss enthusiastically afterwards. I enjoyed the simplicity of humorous reveals in both No Comment and Pro Kopf, with the former taking a much more realistic approach but the latter reminding me of the sort of story you’d find in Roald Dahl’s Tales of the Unexpected. A couple took a documentary approach, At This Very Moment looked at Mike Kus’s life as one of the most followed non-celebrities on Instagram; although I enjoyed his photos and approach to family life it did feel a little bit like an advert for Instagram rather than a celebration of photography.

Short film The Sweatshop, winner of iD Fest’s Audience Award

Another documentary Color Blind considered trans-racial adoption and was a thought-provoking look at some of the issues; however despite stretching the short film format at 22 minutes it felt like it skimmed through a lot in trying to look at both deeply complex personal and political/ethical issues within a short piece but it was still nice to see them being explored.  My favourite was The Sweatshop, also winner of the festival Audience Award, which showed familial sacrifice between two children within a sweatshop.  The isolation of the people there gives a placeless feeling which underpins the realisation that this happens all over the world, until the end when it is revealed it is based on a true story in the US.  A beautiful film and provocation for social change.

Her and Him from Girl Shaped Love Drug

I then moved on to Girl Shaped Love Drug, which opens with a discussion between male lead Him and a friend working in a coffee shop where they discuss the book The Secret; Him delivers a passionate discussion of the scientific evidence that the human body uses electric impulses and magnetism to change the molecules around it, so we need to listen to our instincts and go after what we want… before admitting that his source for this is a video on youtube.  The black and white aesthetic, conversational tone and Generation Y context for the conversation reminded me of Clerks from the night before but as the film continues it quickly turns into a love story in the same vein as Before Sunrise with the idea that two people can meet and create an immediate connection/adventure.

Writer and director Simon Powell explained in a Q&A afterwards that it was based on his own experiences of meeting and falling in love with his partner, and his own feelings that you have to follow your gut instincts, go after what you want and surround yourself with positive people.  This seems to have supported his film making career as he described a close-knit sense of collaboration on the film and this shows through.  Main characters Him and Her (as we never discover their names) and thoughtful writing carry the film with a feeling of genuine connection, rebellion against familial and societal expectations with a sense of freedom that is infectious.  One of my favourite scenes was the two of them rocking out, not caring that they are alone on a nightclub dancefloor; it reminded me of me and my friends in the same position which is a naturalism you don’t often see in film.

From a film with a sense of fun and freedom to Bicycle Thieves; an Italian neo-realistic film about a family who have few options, existing in poverty with little work available and that which is is impossible without a bicycle.  This sort of emotional juxtaposition in is a brilliant example of why I loved my festival pass.  Bicycle Thieves is hailed as a classic far and wide and understandably so, though bleak it is a brilliant exploration of the traps that people can find themselves in due to societal circumstances.

The Bicycle Thief

Father and son in Bicycle Thieves

For father Antonio the loss of one object means that his livelihood, future, family and sense of self are under threat and we watch his empathy for others weaken in his pursuit of his own needs as his choices run out.  This is all the more compelling as a historical exploration of a world with no safety net but it made me think about even modern day welfare systems and their rigidity, as a single incident throwing someone’s life into chaos is still relevant.  As the story unfolds I felt I was no longer viewing Antonio as the main character but his son Bruno (incidentally one of the best examples of a child actor I have ever seen) who has to come to terms with the realities facing his family and the choices adults are forced to make.

After Bicycle Thieves I had a full hour available and ate an actual meal rather than snacks, the first time all weekend!  We then went on to the closing event of the weekend, the results of Five Lamps Films‘ 24 Hour Challenge.  Showing 12 films made by local film-makers in a 24 hour period the previous weekend it was the perfect ending to the festival; celebrating the creation and creativity of films, even with limited resources.  The diversity of entries was amazing, one created purely using iPhone technology, another based on the dynamics of biscuit dipping, multiple interrogations, relationships and post-apocalyptic wastelands.  Seeing what people could create within such a tight time-frame was incredible and with a lot of humour, talent and dedication it was a fantastic way to round off the weekend.

There will be more reviews coming up over the next few days as our contributors get a chance to share some more detailed thoughts on some of the above and other films from the festival.  For me, I’m just relieved I had BooksQUAD to look forward to on Monday which held off my QUAD-withdrawal symptoms for one day at least.  Many thanks to everyone involved in creating such a brilliant weekend!

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