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Review: Beeston Film Festival 2019

Passion and creativity stood out proud and clear as the fifth annual Beeston Film Festival transformed the small canal town into a welcoming home for filmmakers and film lovers.

The self- promoted ‘biggest international short film festival in the Midlands’ took off on the 13th of March this year. The annual event celebrated its fifth year in style, with short film showings spread around the Beeston area at various pubs and a couple of showings at one of the University of Nottingham’s auditoriums over a four day period.

The opening night at The Berliner was a night for drama as six of the eight films on shows centred around it. From exploring themes such as the Peter Pan Syndrome in ‘Play’ to tough life or death decisions in ‘The Life Inside’ to the poetic documentary of the protests for women’s rights in ‘America’, the night was one that hooked you prompting you to keep coming back for the festival.

The standout film from the opening night has to be the Greek short film ‘Play’. A brief synopsis, as to not give too much away, would be that the film centres around co-workers at an office who are given increasingly more leisure time during work hours and the chaos that comes with a lack of purpose and responsibility. The film for me played out like a religious metaphor, a visual representation of sin that views like a verse from revelations. Disturbing, but interesting and from a directorial perspective it was rather neat, with the start of the narrative wrapping up nicely with the end without it being completely obvious as to what you were going to see. You were certainly aware of a sense of impending doom, a theme that was in almost every film I saw.

From the second night onwards, the festival adopts different themes and ideas in its showcase. Taking place for two nights in University of Nottingham first comes the theme of taking risks centred on controversial, impactful topics such as sexual misconduct, Trump’s election and mental illness. Films played also include ‘Pendulum’ – which focuses on the idea of time manipulation and ‘The 100th Victim’ – about a killer and his 99 victims, as the time for the 100th inches closer, both suspenseful, but nothing new.

The third night takes you around the world bringing films from Japan, India, Germany and Iran to your screen. There are sentimental values of a family-owned cinema, gender disparity in urban India’s workforce, and even love stories are packed into the night.

‘Troubled Waters’ and ‘Spirit’ are ambiguous themes of the following nights. With films that focus on dizzyingly different spectrums of films: focusing on the death of loved ones in China’s short ‘Rest in Peace’ and ‘In Pieces’, dictatorship in Iran’s ‘Isolated Crows of Solitude’ and several other dark themes that deserve more exploration. A highlight across both nights is ‘Conversation With a Cigarette’ which focuses on the uphill battle of giving up an addiction- something everyone can relate to even if they aren’t smokers.

The biggest positive to take away from the festival is that there’s something for everyone. From sci-fi and comedy to the occasional animation, viewers get a sample of every genre – many common, and some uniquely unconventional – such as the stand out ‘Heather Has Four Moms’.  While a night is set aside for local talent, highlighting the brilliance of filmmakers in UK, other nights brought forth films from all corners of the world including Syria, Kosovo and Israel.

Understandably, the festival did lack professionalism at times, with the low battery symbol popping up a couple of times from the projected MacBook acting like a sobering reminder we weren’t at Sundance. And the pub kitchen and behind the bar ruckus often being quite the distraction when trying to focus on the dark disturbing tale of clown euthanasians for example.

That all being said we can without a doubt say the festival exceeded our expectations and at times genuinely impressed us with the films on show. I forgot the setting and were welcome to a treasure chest of gems.

What we have taken away from the Beeston Film Festival is a newfound appreciation for short films, genuinely impressing us with the film being showcased. We would without a doubt give it another chance and I’m sure it will be even better next year. This festival could easily continue to grow into a true cornerstone of Notts entertainment.

Beeston Film Festival is every film buff’s dream come true. It’s where talent meets inspiration and the love for an expansive art form blooms with no constraints.

By Charlie Duffy and Malvika Padin

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