European Independent Film Festival – Opening Night Round Up

Hello everyone! Hope you’re all keeping safe and staying indoors as much as possible!

Tonight, 23rd April 2020, marked the opening night and commencement of the European Independent Film Festival, something I admittedly hadn’t been aware of until this year. Due to the ongoing situation with COVID-19, the decision was made to make the selected films available to everyone to stream from home for a very reasonable price. Through a password-protected site, an embedded video was available to view the films in a continuous stream as per the provided schedule of films.

Due to the scheduled operating on Paris time, I admittedly mixed up the times and only managed to catch six of the thirteen films available in the opening night selection. I also missed the Director’s Q&A following this, so I won’t be much help with what happened there. I am going to make a concerted effort to catch as much of the following few days’ content as I can, because you never know when a potential gem is going to catch you.

So I am going to briefly review the films I did see, and yes I do mean briefly this time, as opposed to the other times I’ve said that (see my 2010’s Best Picture Nominees Ranking for that misjudgement!)

Film #1: Bathhouse Drummer (China)

Again, an admission: I arrived 4 minutes late to this Chinese student film, but I more or less managed to get a sense of what it was trying to do in the 13 minutes I did manage to see. This film definitely focused more on atmosphere and design than plot or characters which is fine up until a point – the beautiful framing and lighting can only do so much before I want to know more about the people featured. A good film which could have used a bit more work on the script to accompany the beauty in the cinematography.

Film #2: Imbaisable (Belgium)

Looking at the programme, this Belgian short film caught my eye because I didn’t know what the title meant. The opening credits informed the audience that ‘imbaisable’ is French for ‘unfuckable’ which captured interest. The opening provides enough tension and active questions, but 10 of the 14 minutes are spent with minimal action and build up that disrupts any sense of pace. And the final 4 minutes do pack a punch when they come, but by this point I had more or less checked out due to lack of interest. With a more gradual rise in tension this could have been really good.

Film #3: The Call Centre (UK)

Oh boy this definitely brightened up my evening. Having worked in a call centre myself, I was intrigued to see what was going to come out of it. Over the 16 minutes, writer, director, producer, and lead actress Louisa Connolly-Burnham treats us to startlingly fresh take on connection, loneliness, and the dangers of the unknown. With a naturally compelling lead performance, Connolly-Burnham lures us into a story and then sharply provides several subversions of our expectations that leave us begging for more. The work put into the power dynamics and characterisation in such a small space of time are excellent and the ending provides so many possibilities for the story and it’s perfect. Up there with the best short films I’ve ever seen. Louisa Connolly-Burnham has a bright future ahead of her for sure and I can’t wait to see what she does next!

Film #4: Quiet Carriage (UK)

After The Call Centre, Quiet Carriage provided a complete change of pace, following a man who wants nothing more than to silence the woman loudly talking on her phone in the quiet carriage of a train during his daily commute. At five minutes, the film doesn’t have much time to make its points and get to it fairly quickly, but it just wasn’t my thing. I understood and appreciated the vision and intent, just wasn’t the biggest fan of the execution. This will definitely be some people’s thing for sure, though!

Film #5: Koekoek (Netherlands)

I’ll be honest, I had no idea what was going on in this one. I didn’t quite follow what was happening, but the editing was nice and some of the visual comedy was good. Maybe whenever this surfaces, I’ll watch it again and see if I can grasp it.

Film #6: No, I Don’t Want To Dance (UK)

This one really scared me. For a two-and-a-half minute animation, it wasn’t bad at all, and it was just bizarre enough to be entertaining. Like some of the others, just not in my tastes at all, but I always the strenuous work put into any animation project so kudos for that, I suppose. It shuffled through several scenarios where people would look like they were dancing through no fault of their own, such as choking on food and accidentally catching on fire. Some funny scenarios, but I’m quite selective with animation and this just wasn’t my thing.

See, I told you I was going to be brief. Although I could honestly talk about The Call Centre for hours, it was that good!! I didn’t really see enough this evening to talk about much else properly, but what I’ve seen has gotten me very excited for what’s to come over the next few days! I’m going to try and see as much as I can, and make sure you look out for these films once they have completed their festival circuits to see what you think of them!

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Until tomorrow’s round-up, stay safe everyone!


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