The Fourth annual Plymouth Film Festival was hosted at Plymouth Arts Centre on May 27-28 2017, showcasing a collection of world-class short films and features. With a range of categories such as You Only Live Once, Family Affairs and Random Acts featuring a diverse set of genres, the PFF audience was spoilt for choice when it came to quality cinematic entertainment.
Regular contributor Nigel Watson reviews the ‘You Only Live Once’ category:
A selection of seven short films, under the umbrella theme of You Only Live Once, look at the different ways we perceive and deal with existence. First up was Lucy in my Eyes directed Megan Park. This is an intimate story featuring the adult Lucy laying on her bed with her six-year-old self. She tells the younger Lucy that she is about to be married and reflects on what she would do if she could turn back time. In turn, the younger Lucy tells of events involving her depressed Father that she had long forgotten. Unless you know beforehand, it is a bit confusing knowing who the girl is, and although it is well acted, it seems like a scene from a film rather than a fully realised piece in its own right.
In sharp contrast to the Lucy in my Eyes, which is shot entirely in a bedroom, Harley directed by March Mercanti hits you in the face with his eccentric central character Harley. The documentary tells the story of redneck Harley Russell who lives in the small town of Erick, Oklahoma, through his own words and interviews with the locals.
Just off Route 66 his Sandhills Curiosity Shop is filled with old advertising signs and the kind of old stuff the American Pickers drool over. He confesses he wanted to be a session musician but never really made the big time, so now he entertains tourists from all over the world for tips to make a living. At first he just seems like a crazy red-neck who runs around with a flag, whooping like he’s on fire. Yet, beneath this extrovert outpouring we slowly learn that his wife Annabelle was an equally fun loving individual who supported this free-spirited lifestyle. Her death through cancer cuts through the comedy of the film and shows there is more than just outside appearances and behaviour.
Backstory directed by Joschka Laukeninks is like a TV advert, where it presents the life of a man from the viewpoint of the back of his head. It cleverly shows him growing up, marrying and coping with a tragic loss.
In A Magician directed by Max Blustin a man sees an argument between a man and his girlfriend, and as he intervenes he turns the situation around to provide a satisfying twist to the story.
The Moment directed by Karis Seungyoun is the only animated film in the selection. Like A Magician, it plays upon our notion of perception and our preconceptions as a street artist draws a stranger’s portrait.
Swiss Avalanche directed by Mimi Helm, is an odd film about two women who decide to have a threesome at a party, to broaden their sexual horizons. Things do not go to plan as they get progressively drunker, and the story literally has a sick ending.
My favourite was About the Birds & the Bees directed by J.J. Vanhanen. Set in the cold landscape of Finland, a farmer and his son live on a remote farm, when things become fraught after the teenager has an ‘accident’ with his girlfriend. He has to confess to his father that they need to get to the pharmacy fast before it closes for the weekend. The trip becomes a challenge when their car won’t start and they have to use a small tractor to get there, only to see the shop owner drive off. As they drill into the front door of the store an old bemused, passer-by on a foot operated scooter gives them a quizzical look. There are many similar quirky pieces of comedy here, and beautifully composed shots of, for example, the tractor moving over the snow covered landscape. J.J. Vanhanen is a name to look out for in the future.
Overall, You Only Live Once provided a wonderful variety of films that made you laugh, think, and appreciate our fragile existence.
R.Kaysey reviews the ‘Random Acts‘ showcase:
Part of an Arts Council and Channel 4 partnered project, Random Acts at this year’s Plymouth Film Festival consisted of a selection of 13 short films. Described in the brochure as arts films created by South West 16-24 year olds, most appeared to contain more mature talent. What really stood out was the amount of humour on display, in addition to the visual artistry.
By far the best contribution was The Ship, which won both the Random Acts Sharphams Audience Award and the Festival’s award for Best Animation. It was, surprisingly, about Cornish devolution and a dog marooned in Devon. Surely that this young lady’s film will go on to be viewed outside Devon and Cornwall, and will lead to her being commissioned to do more.
Amongst the diversity of subjects tackled in the rest of the films, there was more unexpected and imaginative artistry. In Hairitage, although the focus was on social attitudes towards Afro-Caribbean natural hairstyles, there was a punchy visual rhythm underscored by a half rappy, half blank verse style of soliloquy that was both bewitching and poetic. Surfing was another delight – almost the entire subject of The Matrix and 1984 were encapsulated in a few minutes’ worth of views of a restaurant scene from different angles. Radioactive Snail, an animated short, concerned a snail’s funny revenge on a mad scientist.
All Random Acts showcase shorts are now available online here.