Film is a small but valued category in the Buxton Fringe and as in previous years, Buxton Film has done a great job with its stimulating short films programme.
It is always interesting to witness the emergence of new talent through Buxton Film’s Open Shorts competitions but this year’s selection of BAFTA-nominated or awarded British shorts did at least provide guaranteed quality.
The rich programme of films, all made in 2016, began with Andrea Harkin’s The Party, set in Belfast 1972 and tremendously atmospheric in its depiction of a group of young people drinking and finding love before the craic is abruptly interrupted, changing their lives forever. A Love Story by Anushka Kishani Naanayakkara was extraordinary - an animated love story between wooly creatures that morphed into something quite disturbing, if also slightly unfathomable. Mouth of Hell by Samir Mehanovic was almost novelistic in the moving story it managed to tell in a short period of time about a child labourer in the burning coalfields of India who seizes a once- in-a-lifetime chance to seek help for his dying mother.
In a welcome change of tone, Standby by Charlotte Regan, entirely set in the front seat of a patrol car, humorously charted the touching working relationship of two beat cops. Tough by Jennifer Zheng was an arrestingly animated and thought-provoking exploration of cultural misunderstandings between a Chinese mother and her British-born daughter.
In Consumed by Richard John Seymour we seemed to be veering into Slow TV territory as we journeyed through Chinese factories to see how some of our cheapest nicknacks are actually produced. Afraid I was going to be bored at first, I found myself drawn in and grateful for the time to reflect on my mixed feelings as I witnessed the poor working conditions of so many Chinese people, but also heard how proud they were of their handiwork. I will never look at cheap Christmas decorations in the same way. Nor will I forget some of the oddly beautiful, lingering shots of port containers stretching as far as the eye could see.
The Alan Dimension by Jac Clinch was genius, a wonderfully animated film in a very quirky style and with a great story about Alan, a man who has become obsessed with developing his divine powers of precognition at the expense of his relationship with his witty, long-suffering wife who rightly points out: “You’re not a prophet Alan, you’re a retired accountant”.
A very absorbing hour and a half came to a close with Home by Daniel Mulloy. It is difficult to write about this without giving away spoilers but what started as a comfortable film about an English family scrabbling to get packed for their holiday turned into something that absolutely slayed me emotionally and really brought home what conflicts around the world mean to the parents and children caught up in them. It is worth mentioning that the leads Jack O’Connell (Skins, Unbroken) and Holliday Grainger (Cinderella) gave tremendous performances as did the young children in a film that pulled a very simple trick really in confounding our expectations in order to make us relate to something hitherto unimaginable.
I’m sure that Buxton Film will continue to entertain and engage the town throughout the year, perhaps also encouraging more people to think about entering the traditionally bijou Film category for Fringe 2018.