The Shortest Nights returns once more for its 2022 edition with a breadth of impressive and distinctly British shorts. The proceedings this year take place on September 3rd at Rich Mix in London with a programme of films that range from war-room thrillers to screwball comedies. DN has covered the films at TSN for a number of years now and we find ourselves continuously enamoured by the talent on display from the directors currently rising through the ranks of the British film industry. Listing our recommendations for this year’s festivities was a tricky task but we’ve managed to whittle the great work available across the board down to a selection of ten shorts that we think are must-see.
Pops – Lewis Rose
In the aftermath of their father’s death two siblings must come to terms with his odd final request, he would like to send his ashes into space via helium balloon. Lewis Rose’s film is grounded by two wonderful central performances from Samantha Spiro (Sex Education, Game of Thrones) and Nigel Lindsay (Victoria, Four Lions), who are able to balance the subtle comedy and grief drama at the heart of the short. It also contains a beautifully constructed dream sequence and a finale that brings together its core theme of shared acceptance into a moment of pure heartwarming catharsis.
Waiting Game – Sam Chapman
Sam Chapman’s short film Waiting Game is a good old fashioned crime thriller. It begins with Wes and Tom, two small-time crooks patiently waiting in a car for their target to be confirmed but as the hit is revealed, and an awkward encounter ensues, the pair are forced to battle with their own morality in the face of a bigger problem. Chapman tells his story with plenty of exciting action but it’s the moments of comedic respite in between that allow the film to flourish as a well-formed piece of British gangster cinema.
Old Windows – Paul Holbrook
Paul Holbrook, whose short Hungry Joe we featured in our recommendations from the 2020 edition of The Shortest Nights, returns to our pages with another piece of gripping filmmaking in the form of short drama Old Windows. The scene is set in a run-of-the-mill cafe in east London, where the owner is cleaning her establishment to get ready for another day of business. Then a tall, older gentleman walks in holding a mysterious briefcase. A tension fills the room and a compelling meeting between the pair begins. It’s a predominantly conversational film brought together by Laura Bayston’s excellent and precise screenplay which ebbs and flows, keeping you fixated on this strange conference until its eye-opening ending. Holbrook displays a keen knack for tight drama with Hungry Joe which further exemplifies his impressive talents as a filmmaker.
Black Peter – Daniel Rands
My personal favourite from the lineup on offer. Daniel Rands’ Black Peter is a sharp comedy about a failing actor who, whilst waiting to hear back after an audition, discovers that an old university friend has an awkward photo of him appearing in black face from when he was younger. Rands’ short tracks the actor as he panics and paces his apartment conversing with his girlfriend about how to get his friend to delete the photo. It’s a wickedly funny piece brought together by a brilliantly performed screenplay that is subtly peppered with hilarious moments of white ignorance.
PRAGMA – Ellie Heydon
If you’re looking to get your genre fix may we suggest Ellie Heydon’s sci-fi drama PRAGMA? The title alludes to a dystopian programme of the same name in which post-graduates are placed into relationships through matching data sets based on factors that have occurred across their life so far. The plot centres on Willow who during the opening ceremony of the programme gets an eye for someone who isn’t necessarily her best match. Like any good piece of science fiction, it will have you asking philosophical questions about the world and our place in it, in particular how we define love and our relationships with one another. It also features Ted Lasso’s Nick Mohammed in a comedic supporting role.
The Rev – Fabia Martin
Fabia Martin’s comedy drama The Rev is about a local priest who’s stuck in a rut. Year in and year out he sees the same faces and tells the same old stories. But when he receives a message from an old friend with an energising song in it, something reawakens from within. Martin’s short, at its core, is about not forgetting who you are and realising when you’re in a place that needs challenging. It’s a truly joyful film with a dazzling dance number during its purgative finale.
A Woman Walks into a Bank – Tom Brennan
A Woman Walks into a Bank, Tom Brennan’s meta-short is a deconstruction of a recreation of a young, rich American women who is attempting to rob a bank. As a film, it plays and interchanges with the layers of narrative from the construction of a story to the assemblage of how that story then visually plays out. It sounds complicated but it’s told in such a playful manner and is edited and directed with such a clear vision that you never lose track of which part of the story is being told or deconstructed.
Pet Name – Dan Boaden
Dan Boaden’s short Pet Name is a comedy about a young woman who on her boyfriend’s birthday learns that he has called all his ex-partners the same pet name he calls her, Goose. The pair then spend a weekend away together in a seaside town where they reckon with the current state of their, now pretty tumultuous, relationship. It’s another great mix of light comedy and drama that’s told through colourful, vivid cinematography that reflects the vibrancy of its characters’ emotions that are shown in all of their colours in the end.
All These Men That I’ve Done – Lorraine Nolan & Mark Daly
An intimate and playful exploration of love, sexuality and virginity. Lorraine Nolan and Mark Daly’s short film All These Men That I’ve Done sees the sexual lives of women explored through a series of irreverent scenes where women recount their intimate pasts. In doing so, they have created a portrait of female desire that is both amusing and infectiously liberating with a distinctively British sensibility.
Fireworks – Paul Franklin
Two-time visual effects Oscar winner Paul Franklin’s Fireworks is a character-driven procedural thriller set in the war operations room of a remote drone team. Across a series of tense conversations surrounding the morality of their situation, the team must question their own values in the face of a threat which is constantly changing. It’s a thought-provoking short that asks prescient questions and is brought to life through the compelling use of widely impressive state-of-the-art visual effects.