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Last month, when I stumbled across the Two Minute Masterpiece thread on the iPlayer, I also came across the New Creatives scheme – with it’s twin threads of film and audio drama – that proved to be the English equivalent. Some further poking around revealed the Now and Next scheme which is a collaboration with Lux Scotland to encourage budding art filmmakers. (For some reason there doesn’t seem to be a Welsh equivalent scheme listed. I know there used to be a Welsh scheme, for the simple reason that a university friend of mine had a film screened as part of it.) I’ve been dipping into the films on offer at odd moments over the last few weeks so it’s high time I gave them some more concentrated attention.

Unlike the other schemes, the five filmmakers are based within different media organisations around England – each one acting as a regional hub – giving institutional support to young artists who might not otherwise get that. It certainly makes for high production values.

Blackfish

Blackfish is a sweetly sad piece of magical realism about a recently bereaved mother who finds a collection of photos from an alternative future, the life her son might have had. Are the pills cutting her off from a window into an alternate world that brings her comfort, or are they protecting her from something dangerous and helping her to accept reality?

It’s a gentle mediation on grief and it’s reality warping nature. It also feels like it’s passing comment on the dual roles that medication can play in the treatment of mental health on one hand to support people to live fuller, happier lives, but on the other to sedate into submission those society finds difficult.

(It’s also got an excellent central performance from Tracy Ifeachor who conveys the weight and depth of her character Helena’s grief without a single word of dialogue.)

Just what is swimming in her blood?

Greenlight

This is charming little lightweight short. Insomnia and insecurities feed of each other, from escapist fantasy into surrealist nightmare. It doesn’t have anything particularly deep or innovative to say about modern life, but its strength was in its simplicity. It had some nice, stripped back set-pieces, and it made me smile.

And through it all the flashing light of a smoke detector. He should be grateful it wasn’t beeping; now that really would be a nightmare.

Paper Skin

Paper Skin is the bleakest of all the films in this selection, but in a way that reflects the nature of our unnamed protagonist’s job. This is prostitution without any cinematic glamour or violence, its mundane and awkward and slowly grinding her down.

The film makes really clever use of framing and camera angles that reflect the nature of the interactions, the nature of these ‘sugar daddies’ and their willingness or inability to engage with what they’re actually doing with her. And perhaps also the amount of intimacy or detachment that she’s willing or able to deploy on the job.

Top Wavers

I’ve officially reached the age where youth culture just baffles me. Potentially, this film was saying something interesting about the importance of hair to the social standing of young men of African and Caribbean origin, and about living life second hand through social media. Over the film festival I saw documentaries from both Scotland and Northern Ireland, with working class accents needlessly – to my ears – subtitled, but I could really have done with them here.

All the same I’m glad they weren’t subtitled, because the people who really need to see this, the ones who don’t see people like themselves or their communities on screen would doubtless have been just as I was about those subtitled teenagers from Motherwell and Belfast. It doesn’t really matter that I couldn’t parse what this film was saying, because fundamentally it wasn’t talking to me.

We Got It Easy

Though on the other hand some parts of being a teenager really haven’t changed in the slightest. We Got It Easy is a scene from a musical, dealing with eating disorders, intersex issues, street harassment, bullying, body shaming, toxic masculinity, sexual assault, teen pregnancy and a whole other range of teenage issues. All the standard teen experiences in some cases exacerbated by social media and in some cases assisted by social media – giving them the vocabulary to identify their issues. It’s an odd little piece, and I don’t think it’s as clever as it thinks it is, but its heart is in the right place.