LOCAL TASTES was an overall diverse and evocative collection of Cambridge’s top short films of 2011. Kicking off with Ed Wiles’ HEAVEN’S SECRET, a vivid exploration of the mind of a dead man, set against the exotic backdrop of prisoners in South America, this was a scintillating and thought-provoking short. The director of photography, Kristian Butler, deserves praise for the sumptuous shots of the jungle contrasted with the pastel melancholy of an empty field in which the dead protagonist reflects on his final moments.
Another interesting film was Ryd Cook’s THROWN, a subtle and poignant short which followed the protagonists’ curious attachment to a chair unfold as him and his friend contemplate throwing it away. The lead, Stephen Carne, gave a convincing and moving performance, but the brevity of the film didn’t allow time for us to understand just what exactly the chair meant to him. However, overall it was a moving portrayal of a man coming to terms with loss, an eccentric salesmen injecting the pensive tone with some comic moments.
Tom Goudsmit’s documentary STATESMEN was an amusing and interesting exploration of average American citizens; a fisherman, a newspaperman, and two Kentucky brothers. There were some memorable moments, such as the brother bemoaning his sibling’s unhealthy lifestyle of smoking and drinking, whilst sincerely owing his own health to drinking ‘healthy grape wine’. The skill of the newspaperman’s delivery was also interesting to watch, as well as the fisherman and his craft, and although the subtitles for the Kentucky brothers were unnecessary (unless there was an intended underlying irony to them), the film was an intriguing and humorous documentary
Another documentary was EARTH TO EARTH by Sarah Thomas, about the Arbory Trust’s burial project in places of beauty and nature, and the endeavour itself is a brilliant and compassionate way to remember loved ones. However, although the personal accounts of how the project had helped individuals were touching, the film itself felt like an overlong advertisement. A moment worth mentioning was the interview with a bird lover who, although apparently allergic to birds, was collecting the malted bird feathers of her pets to line her coffin; this provided some much-needed humour to an otherwise rather glum documentary.
The film that particularly stuck in the memory was the haunting and evocative THE NEST by Em Cooper. The film explored two sides of the same story, first of the daughter and then of the wife of a recently absent father, and as the story unfolds, the audience is left in the dark as to whether the man is a loving father or a threatening predator. Using reflections and oil-paint style montages to depict the characters flashbacks and daydreams, this is a beautifully crafted film, both the mother and daughter desperately isolated and divided, their whispered voices narrating reality whilst emotive piano music colours their daydreams, creating a compelling and captivating piece of film.