Monday, March 20, 2006

Long haul, short flights

The 10th Kinofilm Manchester International Short Film Festival has landed. Kate Taylor checks the highlights.

Ten years. For a person it’s still childhood. For a duck it’s a good innings. And for a film festival it’s a marker of survival instinct and audience canniness. So does the tenth instalment of the Kinofilm Manchester International Short Film Festival mean that Kino’s all grown up?

The signs are there. A sponsorship deal with Baby Cow Manchester reflects a commitment from Steve Coogan’s production company, and has also resulted in a new comedy strand. The Kinofilm Cinemobile, a 100-seater screening room on wheels, has been unmissable for the past fortnight, showing shorts in car parks across the North West. And the festival’s pull continues to see international filmmakers travelling to Manchester for a chilly ten days in February and March.

Still, if the festival has grown wise it has lost none of the anarchic edge that make it unique. Audiences can still expect to see films that they can’t see elsewhere, and there’s plenty on show to reflect the organisation’s underground roots such as the feature double bill of Pink Narcissus and Thundercrack, with the traditionally rowdy Kino Extreme screening and cult retrospective Suspect Package programme throwing bad taste into the mix.

But what of short film? Is this a vintage year for shorts? Festival programme manager Angela Reilly certainly thinks so, particularly in the region, “North West shorts are comparing really well with the international selection, I’d say better than last year. The Made in Manchester programme is strong and the city definitely has a lot of talent.”

And due to increased DIY screening activity in the city, Reilly sees audience appetites on the up too. “Kino Tales that we started last year has expanded. Kino Fantasy is new, we’ve also added Leap Years, which is tales of childhood and we’ve reintroduced a Women in Film programme,” Reilly says. “A lot of filmmakers and film students attend. It’s a supportive atmosphere and this year the delegate centre will be in the Green Room so we’ll have access to the bar.”

Ah yes, the bar. A drink beforehand often enhances audience receptivity to shorts. So to help navigate the broad and diverse selection on offer, The Mix has knocked back half a shandy and investigated some of the best films audiences should look out for.

Firstly, and possibly the hippest short film ever made, Yeah Yeah Yeah by Marcal Fores (International Student Shorts and International Award Winners) is an indiepop dream with a riot grrrl soundtrack from Bratmobile, Le Tigre and Comet Gain. This Spanish teen romance features much vinyl-swapping action, a Michel Gondrey inspired ping-pong scene and a surrealist heart that will charm you senseless.

Also on a musical theme Green Vinyl, by Kleber Menonça Filho (Experimental Shorts), is a creepy Brazilian short told in stills and voiceover. A mother gives her daughter a box of 7-inch singles but is told she must not listen to the green vinyl. It’s The Ring or Pandora’s box or the Garden of Eden, except with a jingly jangly folkrock song that leads to random amputations. The film’s ambitious leap from supernatural story to psychoanalytic allegory pays off with an insight into temptation and what it is that makes mothers so cranky.

In Kitchen by Alice Winocaur (Women in Film) a woman’s neuroses are brought to the surface when she decides to cook something special for her boyfriend. Finding she cannot bring herself to slice open the live lobsters she has bought, the black creatures start climbing over the work surface and creeping around the flat. So our French heroine does as any woman on the verge would – has a cry, smokes some cigarettes and starts eyeing up the blender. The dark humour has a bittersweet ending and a pathos that confounds much criticism against the medium.

These are short films that either take the turn you weren’t expecting, or floor you by revealing hidden depth or resonance. And it’s this that can make a good shorts programme just as satisfying and memorable as a feature film experience.

Meanwhile if all this grown up stuff is not for you, don’t panic, Oh My God by John Bryant (Kino Horror) caters amply for the twisted sicko audience contingent who thrill to the spectacle of gratuitous blood-spurting injuries. In the vein of schlock short film classic Forklift Truck Driver Klaus, this is a sheer dumb splatterfest, this time with a Texan edge. Very wrong and very funny.

Another marker of the festival’s success is BlueFiRE! the cultural diversity strand of Kinofilm. Suhail Khan, BlueFiRE! project coordinator attests to the key element’s popularity, “It’s grown tremendously. Within the 10 days of Kino, BlueFiRE! has six days of programming, both films and the KiX strand of education events. It’s a festival within a festival. Last year we broke all box office records to do with BlueFiRE! and we plan to break them again this year.”

The programme here is a mix of shorts and features and includes collaborations with BFI Blackworld and a free screening in association with BAFTA and North West Vision of A New Day in Old Sana’A, a feature from Yemen. Music fans have reason to rejoice with a double bill of UK documentary premieres; Afropunk, a documentary featuring key bands talking about the African American experience of punk rock and (Khan’s personal favourite) The Congos and Friends, Fisherman Style, a film from world reggae label Blood and Fire. Capturing the live sessions of the reworking of new vocals on the Lee Perry’s original beat of Fisherman by The Congos, the film features Horace Andy, U-Roy and Gregory Isaacs, and will be followed by a live PA from Blood and Fire Sound System.

10th Kinofilm Manchester International Short Film Festival runs from 24 February – 5 March. For full details of the Kinofilm, BlueFiRE! and KiX programme go to

No comments: