Encounters Festival - Incredibly Moving

Women feature prominently in this year’s festival. Of the 16 award winning films, the majority are made by women or have a strong female presence.

The Award Winners’ Screening presented a wide range of genres and styles, from live action, animation, comedy, video-montage, realism and surrealism. This year’s selection of films took the audience through many stages - from laughter to fear and from revulsion to awe. This was a cathartic experience which left me feeling dazed by the issues raised, and overwhelmed by the talent displayed. An incredibly moving selection of films.

Three Women Wait For Death, winner of the Chris Collins Best of British Live Action Award, is a short film about a middle-aged mother waiting for her father’s imminent death. Her two grown-up daughters share a caravan with her, close to his hospital. Family dynamics provide a rich mine for the humour, which is sharply observed and at times very funny. These are characters to care about. Great acting sparkles with the rich dialogue in this enjoyable short film.

9 Days, a European Film Awards nominee, is a heartbreaking video-montage which captures 9 days in war-torn Aleppo in 2012. The photographer shot the film of the civil war raging in the streets outside from his apartment window. Young men, wearing fashionable t-shirts and jeans, fight for the Free Syrian Army. They drag a dying colleague back from the gun fire. His lifeless body paints a red stripe on the pavement. Inside his flat, the tv shows Johnny Depp as Willy Wonka. Life goes on despite the bullets and bombs.

This is a terrifying and traumatic look at how civil war rips society apart yet also how life, somehow, manages to continue for the people trapped in the city. Neighbours change allegiance depending on who is control locally. After the horror of fighting outside his window, neighbours come out to drink tea and laugh in the streets. As the film’s creator says, ‘this isn’t a peaceful revolution.’ A distressing film that deserves a wide audience.

Analysis Paralysis, winner of the Animated Grand Prix Award, is about Anton, an overly analytical man, who becomes conscious of himself and others around him. This is a delightfully comic animation about how easy it is to become lost in the world of things. The artwork’s style is primary coloured felt tip pens, which reminds us of childhood’s simple pleasures. Play is the central theme, as Anton’s dog tries to remind him. The message is heartwarming: in a frenetic world, small acts of kindness count.

Sweet Maddie Stone, winner of the Brief Grand Prix Award, follows street-smart school girl Maddie Stone. She’s wise beyond her years: a school ground entrepreneur who controls the sweets trade. The world is in the playground as Maddie moves among her fellow students and teachers. Maddie’s father has been arrested on a serious assault charge. She is saving up the money she makes from selling sweets to pay for his bail. This is an angry young girl who has been forced to grow up far too early and forced to face adult responsibilities. Fighting is a theme - from childish fighting in the playground, Maddie’s fight for survival, to far more dangerous aspects. A disturbing film which examines the cycle of violence that runs in a family.

(c) Samantha Coughlan September 2016

Award Winners’ Screening
25th September 2016

Encounters Short Film and Animation Festival 2016
20th-25th September 2016

http://encounters-festival.org.uk

Watershed
Bristol
http://www.watershed.co.uk

Author's review: 
4