The Short Fusion section of the Cambridge Film Festival is always such an unassuming, brilliant underdog – bringing to light many exceptional concepts from up and coming filmmakers, using their fleeting minutes to explore ideas, situations and stereotypes. One notable part of the love series is the exploration of love, family, affection and loss through different genre titles that all encompass a deep, burning adoration for others at its core.
Mothering (2018) takes us through Mia’s first night in her new foster home, which is made even rockier by the arrival of her first period. The film navigates the understandable initial anxieties of coming into a new home with complete strangers, backlit by the deep burgundy of the kitchen. Meeting her new guardians is tentative and unsettling for both parties, but Mia (Sapphire Paine) learns to open during her moment of desperation, letting her vent up emotions to trickle out in the most tender way. The film exudes this subtle compassion, the director focusing into such minute aspects that could normally be overlooked, and makes light of their importance, such as period pains and staining. By creating work that openly, unapologetically covers taboo subjects such as menstruation from the girl’s perspective; it definitely helps to reduce pre-conceptions.
The years can slowly take a toll on a marriage, as we succumb to routine and familiarity, and Bogdan i Roza (2017) bares this cold truth in a wonderfully humours light. Their morning pattern is stagnant and awkward, gruffly ignoring each other and stubbornly refusing to help each other with the smallest of errands. They are confined to live together in one room, work at the same school canteen and cease to utter a word to each other. The atmosphere at time descends into the ridiculous as frank and wind each other up in such a malicious fashion. Polish director Milena Dutkowska encompasses the mundanity of our reciprocal lives through two people in a way that is suffocating yet sadly endearing – as their actions may hopefully lead to reparations. It is shot beautifully, relying on natural light to illuminate their worn expressions, and extreme long panning shots to signifying their emotional and physical distance.
Although this film delves into a telling of a gothic fairy story, one cannot assume that Beast (2017), is for children. Set in a manor the depth of the countryside, surrounded by woodland ferns, lives three women coming to terms with a recent divorce. Our young protagonist Alice, clings to the memory of her father, confused as to his disappearance, and her mother Grace, played by the exceptionally wonderful Billie Piper, weaves a story with her dulcet tones about her father’s transformation into a beast. The house echoes with emptiness and desolation, and is filled with Alice’s mischievousness and curiosity to discover more, while her mother spends her days lost in thought, her face echoing a haunting pain. Beast tangles up the anger, confusion and hurt projected by all the characters, with lashings of dark humour latching onto the sinister tones the film exudes. A shocking, twist of events completes the simple brilliance of this short, transporting the viewer into this twisted landscape, and confirms not all tales have a happy ending …
Linda (2018) debuts its premiere at the Cambridge Film Festival as part of the love Shorts Selection. A heated night of unexpected romance takes place, as two old friends delve into the start of a passionate affair. Slightly older, one having just lost her husband and the other leading the funeral service, the women elegantly avoid the awkwardness of the morning after, but reflect on the years that could have been. The issue of sexuality in older age shows the disparity between her lover who admits to being completely open to a potential romance, whereas Linda confesses to her sensible reservations and expectations. The film does this in an accepting, frank way that does not detract from the trickles of love between them but acknowledges the realities of the transition of acceptance LGBT+ people can struggle with, especially in later life. The the atmosphere feels raw and vulnerable, with the wisdom of age and regret of time wasted, wondering if it is too late.
A story that explores complicated values, overcoming traditional prejudices and the ends that you will go to for love, Miwako van Weyenberg’s Summer Rain (2017) takes the audience into the life of Keita on his trip to his Grandparents in the Flemish countryside. His grandmother is effortlessly doting on the young boy, encouraging his craft work in planes and wanting to hear about his life, whereas his Grandfather is less affable and more hostile towards Keita. His Belgian-Japanese heritage is a source of contention with his grandparents muttering over him in Dutch in assumption that he cannot understand. You retain sympathy for Keita, clearly desperate to gain his grandfather’s approval, but also unwaveringly stubborn and confident in his own abilities. When his grandmother falls ill, only then do we feel the worry between the pair, and the slow blossoming tenderness. There is something so gently profound about character sat in the back room, as a melody plays on – the disparity of age but sharing such similar emotions and resilience.
Finally, we come to the end of the love shorts collection with The Wait (2018), a five-minute piece about two strangers striking up conversation at the bus stop. The woman nurses her stomach, clearly pregnant and gazes out, as the elderly gentleman next to her enquires about her due date. She echoes this bizarre hostility, almost unkind towards this stranger who tries to support her in an encouraging manner after she confesses her fears of being single, pregnant and with ailing parents. The rain trickles down from the bus stop as they shiver, the grey London backdrop giving an air of gloom, as he attempts to find warmth in the situation. The piece is gentle, empathetic and a little heart-wrenching, as companionships form over solace and looking to the future in optimism.