The London Short Film Festival (LSFF), now in its 14th year, has been recognised as the premiere UK showcase for cutting-edge UK independent film, while now accepting international submissions. Renowned for daring cross-arts programming, they have showcased the very best of the country’s raw talent for 12 years. Every year the Festival’s large and loyal audience flock to screenings and events, and this network has grown steadily over a decade and beyond.
In January 2017, eight short films from seven LFS filmmakers will join the ranks of films vying to showcase their talent, with two of those shorts included in Shooting People’s Best Student Short Film category. Shooting People is the UK’s largest community of independent filmmakers, and awards the Best Student Filmmaker free lifetime membership to their community.
The first film nominated in the Best Student Short Film category is Christopher Manning’s JAMIE, in which the titular character clumsily looks for his first relationship after several disappointing experiences with men. One afternoon, he meets up with Ben after they chat on a dating app. As they get to know one another, Jamie wonders if he’s finally met his match. The film explores themes of intimacy, solitude and the formation of emotional and sexual identity during coming of age.
Photo Credit: Alistair Little
After winning the Alternative Spirit Award at the BAFTA and Oscar-qualifying Flickers’ Rhode Island Film Festival in August, JAMIE travelled to Twist: Seattle Queer Film Festival, where it was featured in the Best Short Competition. The film has also travelled to Sweden's Uppsala International Short Film Festival, screening in the Queer Fiction Programme before heading to the Sardinia Queer Short Film Festival in November 2016. Now JAMIE returns home for its UK premiere at the LSFF, which Manning is understandably excited about.
"I am looking forward to sharing the lead performances with audiences at LSFF. While working with the actors, I tried to find the balance between keeping spontaneity and creating the depth required to convincingly portray Jamie’s world. This part of the process was highly collaborative and the actors gave a lot. I think this comes across in their performances, which are so genuine and natural, but also complex. Jamie’s vulnerability moves me every time I watch the film."
Koby Adom’s third short film is also up for the Best Student Short Film award, having recently been screened at the African International Film Festival. The film revolves around Jennifer, a British citizen of Ghanaian descent, who goes to Ghana to visit her aunt only to find a culture of abuse against domestic helpers shockingly common.
Photo Credit: Mark Kuczewski
“The overarching thing is there’s a culture here [in the UK] and there’s a culture there [in Ghana] and it’s basically putting those two cultures together and seeing how it works out. And right now, it’s like oil and water.” Jennifer doesn’t just learn about different cultures, but also herself. “What Jennifer learns is that basically she can’t come and just solve a situation because she comes from the Western world. There is an establishment and she learns about that because, like a lot of people who don’t know about Western Africa, she perhaps has a negative perception of it and that’s because any film, documentary or advert that shows Western Africa is always negative, showing poverty. And it does exist, but there’s poverty here.”
The cinematographer on Adom’s HOUSE GIRL was Mark Kuczewski, who himself has a graduation film screening at the LSFF. Kuczewski’s romantic comedy/horror, HAPPY ANNIVERSARY, has Jeremy deciding tonight is the night he’s going rekindle his love with his undead bride by giving her the first dance she never got on the day. Kuczewski stayed true to the 80's film genre, even managing to secure 80's classic (I JUST) DIED IN YOUR ARMS by the Cutting Crew as the film’s soundtrack.
Photo Credit: Thomas Rowe
Back in September 2016, when asked what his plans were for his graduation film ZAIRE after its appearance at the Austin film Festival, filmmaker Joshua Benson said "Ultimately, it would be great to screen under the watch of the old Union Jack at some point and bring the film back home to London where the project started.”
Photo Credit: Alex Grigoras
No less than 4 months later, Benson’s wish will be realised when his short is screened at January’s LSFF. In ZAIRE, two scientists operate a base on a remote planet with the goal of jump-starting an ecosystem. Success remains frustratingly out of reach and their claustrophobic existence requires constant exertion to simply stay alive. Zaire is desperate to succeed, but has to face the looming prospect of failure. At breaking point, he finds a moment of solace in the scale and beauty of the wider universe.
The only film on this list to be co-directed, CHANDRA is the result of South Korea’s Busan International Film Festival and Youku, the largest Chinese video hosting website. LFS MA Filmmaking graduate Fateme Ahmadi met Asmita Shrish on the 2013 LFS Artists' Filmmaking Workshop led by celebrated artist filmmaker Shirin Neshat and co-directed the short together, under the supervision of award-winning Director/Writer Naomi Kawase.
7 year old Chandra and his elderly grandfather have to travel on foot through earhtquake-hit Kathmandu in order to get to hospital, where Chandra’s mother has just given birth. Chandra is oblivious to the scenes of misery on the street, and is fascinated by the many curious and beautiful sights, and excited about meeting this new sibling. His grandfather, who knows the sheer scope of the destruction, attempts to protect Chandra from the grim reality, while gradually coming to terms with the fact that the hospital may not even be standing.
After it’s screening at the LSFF, CHANDRA will go on to the 15th Dhaka International Film Festival to make it’s 16th appearance at a film festival since October 2015. During this impressive run, the film received nominations for the Best Short Fiction at the 30th Fribourg Film Festival, the Golden Egg at the 12th Reykjavik International Film Festival and a Special Jury Mention in the SHORT OF THE YEAR - SUMMER at Promofest.
One person who will definitely be having a busy LSFF is Dornaz Hajiha, having had two films accepted into the film festival. The first of these is her graduation film, MARZIYEH, playing at the ICA on Sunday 15th January. Screening in the second part of the SHORT LONGES category, where audience members are invited to meet the filmmakers involved in the longer-form short film, Marziyeh goes to a wake with her husband where something happens that changes their relationship.
Screening a week earlier at Hackney Picturehouse on Sunday 8th January will be Hajiha’s MARLON. Appearing in the BOYHOOD category, in which testosterone-fuelled dramas tackle bullying angst and coming of age, Marlon’s mum takes the 10 year old boy to an audition. Unfortunately, it seems that it’s not the thing he wants to do. The film has a strong LFS contingent, with Tayub Hussain as Director of Photography, Arash Ashtiani as Assistant Director, Sebastian Lojo as Assistant Camera Operator and Murtaza Shah as Sound Recordist.
Photo Credit: Tayub Hussain
OCEAN WITHIN is Prerna Winter's graduation film, will screen at the 'Women Under the Influence' collection, on 7th January 2017 at Hackney Picturehouse. Additionally, the film is also nominated for Best Student Short Film and Best Female Director.
Click here for a full list of the LSFF’s 2017 New Shorts programme with further scheduling information and details on how to purchase tickets to check out the best in filmmaker talent.
Written by Ben Corbett