WSFF New Venue, New Gems

09
November
2016

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WSFF: New Venue, New Gems –
REVIEW: Winchester Short Film Festival Screening, The Loft, Winchester Piano Studios, Tuesday 8 November 2016

It very well may be that Winchester Today is slightly biased about the Winchester Short Film Festival – after all, we have been the official media partner to the Festival for a number of years. But the truth is that the Festival continues to surprise even us, and here we try to present an objective view of what’s now become an essential ingredient – the screenings.

Truth be told, the Festival has come a long way since the night of screenings in the basement of the Art Cafe. Last year there were just two venues for screening. This year there are seven, including this beautiful performance area that I had never seen before. ‘The Loft’ forms part of Winchester Piano Studios and was just perfect for the screening, Fantastic sofa-like seating was accompanied by perfect ambient lighting. A lot of thought has gone into this area, and everyone was suitably relaxed – both staff and audience.

We’ve also been surprised by the level of films and standards. The Festival received entries from 35 countries this year.

I thought it was a great idea to have a short introduction on some of the films from the Directors involved – who they were and why they’ve made the film.

By far the strongest film story-wise on the night was the one which opened the screening: Leeches. We’d been warned in advance that this would be difficult viewing. This Indian film captured the entire trauma of a woman’s attempt to save her 13-year 0ld sister from what’s known as a one-day marriage; that is to a foreign businessman who’s willing to part with 50,000 rupees for the privilige (equivalent to £600 or four months’ the average wage).
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The word Leeches here has a double meaning; the sick men who take part, and an appearance from the things themselves. The Director told us that she wanted to make the film because, sadly, it’s part of everyday life.

***

Ministry of Guilt was a slightly sinister British thriller.
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It told us about invasion of privacy – and the twist at the end was comical genius.

***

Ghostboy was a terrific British ‘stop-motion’ animation about a boy who has to put up with his mum’s insistence on moving to a new house.
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However, the new house was not empty! This was fantastic animation which drew a lot of appreciative laughs from the audience.

***

Edith was a beautifully filmed British drama which told the story about a bereaved man and his struggle to ‘let go’ from the ghost of his dead wife. It starred Peter Mullan (Trainspotting) and Michelle Fairley (Game of Thrones).
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It was my favourite film of the night – full of emotion and warmly received.

***

Eden Hostel was a Spanish comic-drama about loneliness as told from the perspective of a statuette of the Virgin Mary in a seedy hostel. I thought this was technically the best-filmed of the lot, with terrific acting and a fantastic set.
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The man responsible – Gonzaga Manso – is a young director and photographer mainly focused on advertising. He told us at the beginning that this film was drawn largely from his own real life. Eden Hostel is his first short film and was shown earlier this year at the Seattle International Film Festival.

Altogether, I thought that this was a fantastic group of films selected for this particular screening. As I watched them, I felt that any of them could easily have been shown on Channel 4 – such is the level now of the films being received for the Festival.

Organiser John Hayes has previously told me that the production values and standards had already shot up by opening up the competition to an international level. This was obvious, particularly in Eden Hostel. If we’re prepared to put up with the slightly grating film-speak like “in competition” as I saw from one of the contributors in a release, then the Festival is already worthwhile. But I also noticed in the credits the amount of obvious financial help that some of these films are getting in order that they could be made along with a crew of thousands. Evidently, crowdfunding is working well.

John has also previously assured me that they will never turn their backs on local talent. I hope that the whole array of these films (particularly the International ones) won’t put off the Hampshire film student who wants to make a film and be in the Festival – but who has no budget whatsoever to fulfill their dreams.

Great venue, great films.

KG