The film programme for the festival was announced last week and features 45 short films by emerging filmmakers aged 16-25, all of which will be available for free on BFI Player (UK only) from 18-21 February. Award-nominees across ten categories will be in the running for prize money totalling more than £10,000 and mentorships from industry leaders – the winners will be revealed at the BFI Future Film Festival 2021 Awards Ceremony supported by #Netflix, which will take place virtually on 21 February. This year’s Festival is completely free of charge thanks to support from Julia and Hans Rausing and is also supported by Netflix, the 2021 Festival’s Main Sponsor and year-round sponsor of BFI Festivals, as well as Blackmagic Design – one of the world’s leading innovators and manufacturers of creative video technology – who are an official partner this year. (Main image: Dudu)
The full programme and the schedule for events is available to explore now on the BFI website, with events open for booking now: https://www.bfi.org.uk/future-film-festival
ALT’s reviewer managed to round up a few of the films you must see…
Bulldog , dir. Kieran Stringfellow Filmmaker Kieran Stringfellow grasps what makes a good short film: take one solid idea and run with it to its end. This lean, visually arresting and muscular film possesses a surprisingly gentle heart, turning what appears to be a vengeance thriller into something of a romantic drama. The no-dialogue approach to the screenplay works well and creates an atmosphere of despair and anxiety without prohibiting access to the main character, a vagrant portrayed with brooding complexity by the excellent Louis Brogan. Brogan’s ability to convey both menace and vulnerability in one facial tic marks him as an actor with innate ability and instinct for character. The elegant cinematography by Stephen Otosio serves the story and character well for the most part, although the location-hopping feels slightly overdone in the edit and draws attention to the technical aspects of the film, rather than focusing on what is narratively important. In these moments, Brogan’s protagonist is lost to the audience and this is a shame but Stringfellow keeps the momentum propelled for the most part. Despite the sense there is occasionally more interest in demonstrating the quality of the production value rather than the story, this is nonetheless an accomplished short with heart.
Faces , dir. Patrick Taylor This heartfelt and humane documentary sadly fails to offer anything much to well-expressed and discussed issues in society, surrounding pre-conceptions of race and colour, despite its warm-hearted sentiment and engaging cast, credited as the ‘Faces’ in question. It’s clear what filmmaker Patrick Taylor is conveying and the filmmaking style is pleasing, even somewhat sensory, but overall the film lacks innovation. It does keep things honest and open to allow the featured cast to discuss their experiences with frankness and there is no doubting Taylor’s intentions or passion.
The topic of racial abuse, certainly as a discussion across several different viewpoints, is too hard to cover in the contained space of a short film and as such this feels like a snippet of something much more in-depth. Allowing a focus on one or two cast members to expand on their stories might have brought a level of immersion that’s missing here and the floaty, dream-like visuals soften the message so that it fades too far into the background. As a snapshot of an important issue, Faces is effective but as a short film in its own right, it a stronger narrative could have been created.
SUNNY , dir. Sky Yang The experience of growing up with endemic, societal racism, bringing the sense of being different and inadequate along with it, is explored in this angry, visceral and well-structured visual poem. The film successfully captures what being an outsider feels like and the appalling denigration of a person who has been born with a different racial background than their peers. The passionate words of Sky Yang make an impact and land several successful blows, mostly when Yang looks at his own life and loneliness as he comes of age. This is supported by compelling visuals that bring a strong sense of the cinematic. The referencing of Donald Trump’s race-infused hate speeches and clips from dated TV shows are apposite public images of the problem but it is the personalised experience that compels understanding. The filmmaker should note it is his journey the audience wishes to experience and should trust that it will translate to and engage with them. When we come out of this journey, the film is weaker for it. Sunny could have benefited from the elimination of the broader strokes in this regard but Yang adds enough of his own feelings and discussion of his memories to create a worthy short. The film is delivered with force and is not afraid to confront misconceptions about race through experimentation with visual language and some haunting poetry.
BLACK (Dudu) , dir. Simisolaoluwa Akande In this beautiful, tender and yet quietly robust visual poem, filmmaker Simisolaoluwa Akande defies what is evidently a miniscule budget to create a coming-of-age narrative that whispers its universal themes to you persuasively. The pain of love and the rejection that comes with it feels even more heartbreaking when Akande applies her own experience of being rejected because of her skin colour. Her words are gorgeous – accomplished, insightful, poetic and resonant. Every image moves in harmony with these expressions and help craft a narrative that is concerned both with the realisation of the soul and learning the art of growing up. Akande’s interest in bodies and faces brings a deeply human warmth to the film, with every touch tentative yet inquisitive and every look furtive yet longing. The whole piece works as a fluid movement, telling the story with panache and flair. Akande keeps the focus on her journey but allows those experiences and memories to rest with the audience, developing a relativity that goes beyond the existential and becomes almost physical. Dudu makes its point intelligently and subtly. But this subtlety does not obscure a glorious confidence in the film’s direction that exudes from a talented filmmaker who knows what she wants to say and how to use the medium of film to best express it.
Reviewed by David Woods
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