This year’s London Film Festival has a larger-than-usual array of short films, all free to watch online in the UK until Sunday October 18th via BFI Player. Here are some favourites so far.
Dungarees, written and directed by Abel Rubinstein, is a 5-minute 3-hander (now there’s a phrase to conjure with) and it includes some serious reflection as well as least three laugh-out-loud moments. Trans teenager Blake (Pete MacHale) and his cis boyfriend Cane (Ludovic Jean-Francois) are having an evening together, doing what teens do. With Atlanta Hayward as Rachel, Blake’s sister. There’s a lot packed into these five minutes. Joyful and positive. ★★★★★
Barcelona teenagers Nina (Rimé Kopoború) and Joana (Laia Capdevila), the central characters in Panthers (Panteres), directed by Èrika Sánchez, are an odd couple. Nina is quiet, ordered and a bit uptight; Joana is chaotic, extroverted and a bit of a pain in the arse. The core theme of the film is feminine identity. It explores the gap between how women are shown (and show themselves) in the media and the reality, never more viscerally apparent than in the showers at the swimming baths. And it considers the disconnect between our physical selves and the bodies we want, and the reasons we may want them, and how this can manifest. The film has a quiet intensity and a lot is conveyed through action rather than dialogue. Without giving too much away, there’s a pleasing twist and change of tempo at the end. ★★★★
Tommy Gillard’s Shuttlecock, which he wrote and directed, takes us to the world of an overly-competitive charity badminton tournament. There’s something about the combination of badminton, the short shorts, and the headbands, and the lighting in the film that transported me back the late 1970s with a kind of Fast Show homoerotic vibe. Badminton is not a sport that is much talked about these days, in my world at least. But I digress. This is very good and very funny. Shorts (both the film format and the garments) can be tricky to get right but Gillard has got this spot-on. It has a beginning, a middle, and an end, and easily-recognisable stereotypes: competitive alpha male Carl Kitson (Tom Greaves) and dainty and balletic Morgan Silk (Niall Kiely) who threatens his masculinity and his position on the team. The homoerotic charge starts in the changing room (I loved the comically exaggerated sensuous descriptions of the barbecue food), and includes some great negging as Carl struggles to deal with his new feelings. My favourite was “you’ve got a weak backhand and you can’t grow a moustache” which for my money has to be the campest sporting insult ever hurled. Morgan Silk takes all this in his stride. He knows the score and he plays a blinder. No spoilers here. Well worth a watch. ★★★★★
By Karen Smith