With all the excellent workshops and Eddie-Redmayne-swooning going on in Cambridge, you could be forgiven if you forgot there are some films screening at this year’s Watersprite. Films are, of course, the core of a good festival and Watersprite have got their hands on some crackers. The biggest winner of the festival’s awards was DANCING IN THE ASHES.
It began the festival on Saturday morning, and was the eventual Film Of The Year winner. Telling the story of a Jewish mother and ballet-dancing daughter who are taken to a Nazi concentration camp, it is a powerful and well-crafted short film.
The production design is of superbly high quality (another aspect for which it was rewarded), and the cinematography extremely well crafted. As the train carrying Jewish prisoners rattles towards its destination, like streaks across the daughter’s face as sunlight pours in through the cracks in the carriage. When it stops, signaling that they have arrived, it works as a fantastic way to build dread without moving the camera in the slightest. All this comes from just a static shot in a grubby train.
…build dread without moving the camera in the slightest. All this comes from just a static shot in a grubby train.
The film also happened to win Best Acting, which although primarily aimed at the leads (Sarah Winter’s Edina and Agnes Borombovits’s Eva), is backed up by the Nazi portrayals in the rest of the cast. Some seem to have a flicker of sympathy with Edina’s plight, but the callous indifference of the General at the film’s conclusion is a stark contrast and makes the final scene all the more effective. There has been a real effort put in to this, rather than just chucking some Danny Dyer goon in a Nazi uniform. The music only really ramps up during this closing scene, at which point the realisation hits that music is used extremely sparingly, but highly effectively, in Nick Rowland’s short.
DANCING IN THE ASHES is a powerful short without being cloying.
Although the holocaust is a well-trodden path in cinema, the theme of trying to keep some joy in your heart in the face of crushing horror is a rather compelling one. DANCING IN THE ASHES is a powerful short without being cloying. Although it perhaps isn’t screaming out with originality, when the craftsmanship of the film is a good as it is here, backed up by some fine acting, then it is easy to see why it has been a standout at this year’s Watersprite and deserved winner of several of the festival’s awards.