Another year is drawing to a close, it is getting colder, we are all getting older and yes, the 36th Leeds International Film Festival has ended. Screening films from 78 countries across a range of genres and formats, it truly was a celebration of cinema.
The opening film was Oliver Hermanus’ Living. An English-language remake of legendary Japanese director Akira Kurosawa’s Ikiru (1952), it stars Bill Nighy as the kindly yet withdrawn Mr Williams.
Alongside him is newcomer Aimee Lou Wood, fresh from her turn on the Netflix show Sex Education. She plays Margaret Harris, a lively and driven young woman who reminds Mr Williams of his youth. After hearing that he only has 6 months to live, Mr Williams sets out on a heart-breaking journey to bring meaning and purpose to the time he has left. In doing so he reminds others around him of life’s wonders.
What follows, admittedly, does fall into cliche at points. However, at its core is an understated and meaningful melodrama about regret and loss, carrying a simple message: ”seize the day”.
British Short Film Competition – Part 1 and Part 2
You have to love a well-made short film. Such a beautiful and contained snapshot of a life.
A good short film does leave you wanting more but not in a way that leaves you unsatisfied with the delights you just witnessed. There is an idea that they are somehow lesser features made by unskilled students. That simply isn’t true (well – sometimes it is).
To state the obvious, one can’t squeeze a massive David Lean-esque epic into the short format (believe me, people try), but equally a tried and trusted short couldn’t work as a feature, unless it is used as a launch pad for further world expansion.
At the Leeds British Short Film Awards, which was across one slightly crisp weekend in November, I saw a plethora of the sad, funny and the weird. Documentaries, dramas, animations, all were welcome in this feast of short films.
READ MORE: Blood in the Snow 2022 – Round-up Review
Black Sun (2005)
Gary Tarn’s remarkable, 2005 award-winning documentary is probably one of the most visually stunning films I have ever seen.
It tells the story of Hugues de Montalembert, a New York-based artist and filmmaker who was blinded in a vicious attack in 1978. Told entirely from Montalembert’s perspective, it makes use of voice-over with surrealist imagery.
We see Montalembert coming to terms with his disability, we see Montalembert struggling to connect with his loved ones, we see Montalembert going travelling on his… OWN! Yes on his own. Disabled people can.
In these dark times, it is touching to hear about someone who is “vulnerable” in the eyes of many, living his life to the absolute full and not being taken advantage of. Proving everyone wrong. My faith in humanity was restored.
READ MORE: Access All Areas – Documentary Review
Charlotte Wells’ directorial debut is a study of memory.
Sophie (young Sophie Frankie Corio and adult Sophie Celia Rowlson-Hall) reflects on the shared joy and private melancholy of a holiday she took with her father Calum (Paul Mescal) twenty years earlier.
Memories real and imagined fill the gaps between, as she tries to reconcile the father she knew with the man she didn’t. The organic script has implications that Calum killed himself shortly after the holiday and therefore it is Sophie’s last memory of him, but it isn’t fully clear.
Wells’ direction is excellent, with moments of pure joy underlaid with a sense of foreboding. The film is carried by its two leads, the relationship between Corio and Mescal feels genuine and is truly heart-warming in a way which is reminiscent of Mike Mills’ Com’on Com’on (2021). Shimmering like an untold swimming pool of delights, Aftersun offers a window into childhood memory.