The Inverness Film Festival has returned! In a much reduced and socially distanced fashion, but it is happening in this year when so much else has been cancelled or moved online and that in itself is a cause for celebration. I think the weirdest bit is not the no voting slips, or printed blurbs on the short films, or even the virtual Q&A sessions or socially distant layouts. It’s the absence of each film having an intro from Paul the film programmer, I didn’t realise how much I’ve come to consider having his brief intros to the films – why they stood out to him, what makes them important, even just whether he thinks they’ll get a full release – an essential part of the film festival experience for this festival, but more than anything else the fact that it isn’t safe to have him do that really made the difference feel real to me.
However, it wouldn’t really be the film festival if I didn’t go to see some short films. This year’s shorts came courtesy of the Glasgow Short Film Festival and while I often find those to be a bit hit or miss – I either really love them or really hate them, this was definitely a highlights real. All very different, but pretty much universally enjoyable.
So this film turns on the concept of being it’s own directors commentary/making of film. It’s very high concept, and a bit too clever for it’s own good. I suspect your enjoyment of the film may be entirely dependent on whether you find the director character sympathetic or just pathetic? Personally, I wanted to know more about Betty herself and how she felt about the whole messy situation.
Once Upon a Time in Easterhouse
I think this was my favourite film of the collection, I wasn’t entirely sure I was going to like it, I thought it was going in a different direction to the one it ultimately did. It’s very much a coming of age story, there’s teenage gossip, friendship, figuring out who you are and who you want to be, football, photography and underneath it all, a lot of unspoken grief. It’s tender and clumsy but ultimately good-hearted, much like the boys and men at the heart of it. The final joke got a bigger laugh than it might otherwise have, purely, I suspect because it broke the tension and allowed the audience to express their relief that the film had gone in the direction that it did, rather than the way we feared it would.
Was the shortest film of the lot, a sweet semi-documentary about space, scientists and different potential ways of being human in the future.
An Acceptable Face
This was a very raw little documentary, cleverly combining animation with snippets of different interviews with very different people about what it means to be visibly or invisibly LGBTQ in these modern times. Tender and confronting but ultimately very relatable.
Is a pitch black, but incredibly well made gothic horror. It owes a lot to the Wickerman, and those 70s horror films where something ancient and awful lurks in the countryside. It centres around a motorist involved in a hit and run accident, stopped but refusing to get out of his car, so I guess that makes it a very modern – or perhaps post-apocalyptic – take on that kind of film? There’s not a wasted moment in the film, even the quiet moments are carefully calibrated to crank up the tension. The woman’s soft warnings to the motorist, that there’s still a way out, that he can still save himself if he wants to, make a tender counterpoint to the rest of the character’s grim cynicism about human nature. Strange and creepy and quietly horrifying.
The Fabric of You
My second favourite of the films, and only knocked into second place by it’s sad ending. This is a beautifully made animated film, about a tailor mouse and his love affair with a customer. The attention to detail in the film is incredible, the puppets in particular are so amazing, the subtle nuance of emotion in their faces, the way their fur and clothes move and are put together. (The detail in their suits.) The tenderness of the relationship and it’s tragic conclusion.
This is a lovely, funny, heartbreaking look at childhood grief and imagination. It felt a very real portrayal, as though it came from first hand experience of watching/helping a child work through their grief. Unlike many portrayal of children in short films, young Angus felt like a real child, as charming and discomfiting as actual children often are, and his relationship with Neville is utterly believable, as this odd mixture of standard imaginary friend, idealised version of his dad, and punch bag to process his grief through.
It also led me to discover that it’s really awkward to cry in a mask, especially if you also wear glasses. I’ve mostly got the hang of the glasses plus mask combo – and the film festival is teaching me to master takeaway coffee plus mask – but there’s no easy way to subtly juggle mask plus glasses plus crying, without ending up steamed up or clammy-faced. This film, however, was well worth getting in a fankle over, even if I think that if I know ahead of time that a film is likely to be a tear-jerker, I’ll be wearing a scarf instead!