Leading the Beneath the Surface strand of short films at Cambridge Film Festival this year is DIAGNOSIS by Eva Riley (2017); a thought-provoking piece which care across as deeply personal and very original. The protagonist is a seemingly charming individual who works as patient actor for trainee doctors, but there is more than meets the eye. Her ability to compulsively lie in each situation is initially flawless, but you see her start to unravel as the consequences of her actions start to become more apparent. A complex and somewhat relatable subject which is led by a talented female team. It is modern, artistic and takes viewers along a fascinating path.
BREATHING THROUGH A STRAW (2017) directed by Leigh Rivenbark is a humorous and peculiar film with dark, complex undertones. Viewers are led through the mundane life of a middle aged man who lives with his mother, who in the dead of night is contemplating taking his own life but is interrupted by a notification from a dating website. The character is suddenly immersed into an adventure of sexual discovery and dealing with the issues of his past. At times the film seems rather stark and explicit, but that is where the warm ripples of laughter trickle in. The piece took home the Winner of the Best Alberta Short Award at the Calgary Film Festival.
Playing on very modern day concepts, A GIRL GOES FOR DINNER by Jack Ethan Perry (2016), gives you a seat at the table of a very dynamic and unusual short. A gentleman extends the offer of dinner and conversation in a newspaper, in which a young woman responds, and the scene is set in the middle of their meet-cute. The apparent conflicting ideologies of the pair leaves the audience questioning the intentions of both the characters, and yet nothing is given away until the last scene. Using many still, panning shots – the director perfectly encapsulates the mood of the audience, watching every single move made. An engaging, and intriguing film based on a well-known cautionary tale.
AniMal, which was directed by Bahram & Bahman Ark (2017) is certainly the most abstract piece in the series. Set in the dense undergrowth of a forest comes the journey of a man who attempts to disguise himself as a ram to cross the border. The graphic imagery is equally striking and disturbing to the viewer. The sheer desperation of the individual to escape is also incredibly captivating. This piece deservingly won the 2nd Prize Cinéfoundation at Cannes Film Festival this year.
Last but not least is the Australian based piece: GRACE by Alex Holmes (2016). A teenage girl living in the midst of a strict Christian sect is overcome by young love as she defies her family and Elders by sneaking out to meet the boy across the road. It gives an important insight into the world of cults, their beliefs and the defiance of youth. It also demonstrates a sexist hierarchy within the cult and how this affects family life. The film is simple and striking thanks to the stunning midnight skyline of the desert, giving the world an outside look into the life of many individuals who know of nothing else.