Continuing in a similar vein to last year’s event, the films on offer at the 2023 London Film School Graduate Showcase display both a great sense of narrative inventiveness and a precise craftsmanship. Ranging from surreal hospital asylum-set dramas through to mockumentaries about cockney exorcists, it’s great to see the students push the boundaries of their imaginations for their final projects and impressively realise them with the skills they’ve accumulated throughout their studies. The showcase itself is taking place in person at Curzon Bloomsbury and Curzon Soho in London from January 23rd through to January 27th in addition to being online for a further few days until February 6th so there’s no excuse not to watch the eclectic work on offer. As always, the work recommended below is aimed at being somewhat of a taster, a selection of ten short films we’ve been particularly taken by from the programme, but we urge anyone watching to venture further into the catalogue of films produced by this year’s cohort.
Cold Water – Leanne O’Neill
Leanne O’Neill’s short drama is an impressively mature look at a career barmaid struggling to find time for herself amidst her care for those around her. When she finishes her working day she’s met with confrontation by her children which is followed by interactions with her boyfriend who needs her help smuggling cigarettes late at night. O’Neill’s film is at its best when the camera just rests on her protagonist’s face and you can see everything going on without the need for it to be said. An impressively mature piece of filmmaking that exemplifies the classic film school adage of ‘show don’t tell’.
The Gallivant – Rory Baynham
As a Kelly Reichardt fan I’d be remised not to compare Baynham’s short film to Old Joy, Reichardt’s take on the strange subtleties of male relationships. Baynham’s drama is about two men, both seeing life from different perspectives, one more traditional with fatherhood imminent and the other a more spiritual searcher who’s reflecting on his sobriety. Whilst the comparison to Old Joy is there on the surface through plot, The Gallivant carries a more British sensibility with a layer of straight-laced repression, in addition to a few moments of dry comedy, thrown into the mix.
Wetsuit – João Salgado
Tonally Salgado’s film plays like a hangout movie, following a group of young surfers as they talk over one another, smoke in abandoned bathrooms, and get up to no good. The wide-angle cinematography of Salgado’s short is immediately distinctive and gorgeous to look at but more importantly, it feels indicative of his characters’ widening, coming-of-age perspective. The real joy however lies in its naturalism and the organic, relaxed performances Salgado is able to glean from his young ensemble cast.
Un Dia – Nathan Legger
With the success of 2022’s Boiling Point and The Bear, the restaurant drama seems to be in vogue right now. That trend continues with Nathan Legger’s short about a restaurateur who finds herself pushed to her limits by aggravating customers, declining reservations and her brother’s continued unreliability. One of the most impressive aspects of Legger’s film is his production design as everything is captured in a fully functioning restaurant that feels lived-in and alive which gives the subtle story of hardship a strong sense of authenticity.
Dance with the Devil – Tim Khvan
A comedy/horror mockumentary about an exorcist and his intern travelling around London performing exorcisms for those in need. It’s all held together by a really witty script with a lot of dry cockney humour and equally entertaining performances from its two leads who have strong chemistry as they bicker and argue with each other in the face of supernatural threat.
Soul Asylum – Yuke Hu
Set in a dreamlike hospital Yuke Hu’s psychological drama Soul Asylum is about Rampo, an inmate who uses his imagination to cope with life in his challenging environment. The short follows Rampo’s journey as his inventive mind is taken by the addition of a new roommate with whom he develops a bond that may or may not be real. Filled with stately shot compositions, every frame feels thought through with purpose which makes for a gorgeous and wonderfully surreal watch for the viewer.
Waiting for Kalki – Nimay Goswami
Nimay Goswami’s film is the story of Vishnu, a labour worker who finds himself in a state of limbo whilst waiting for a special guest. What’s so gripping about the short is its maturity, from the still yet vibrant camerawork through to the reserved and precise screenplay, everything feels tight and austere with a real sense of grounding in its narrative of a man caught in a place of longing and melancholy fighting the cycles of poverty and monotony.
Unders – Bert Dijkstra
Becca and her friends head to an under-18s club night but after an altercation in the queue, they’re forced to find fun elsewhere. From start to finish Dijkstra’s short is from Becca’s perspective as she meanders through her male-dominated social spaces. It’s an excellent portrayal of a young woman navigating the toxic masculinity of her peers, even the ones she feels she can trust the most, and the relentlessness she faces in every interaction. Despite this, there’s an optimism in the film’s climax which offers a pertinent sense of catharsis.
Pupa – Jiaxin Zhang
It’s hard to pin down a genre for Zhang’s short film. At times it’s a fantasy, then a romance, then a drama. If I were to broadly categorise it I would describe it as a visual poem as the narrative feels led by the carefully constructed and interpretive shot compositions that showcase her characters, and the intimacy they’re exploring, in various luscious environments such as a windswept beach, a quaint park bench, or a theatrical parlour.
Sparare alle Angurie – Antonio Donato
Donato’s Italian family drama is a wonderful exploration of the traditions and dynamics that permeate from generation to generation. It centres on Federico, the shy protagonist, who resembles a young Roberto Benigni, as he navigates his father and brother’s overt but broken masculinity. There’s also an optimism and sense of humour to the film too as everything that has been bubbling under the surface comes to fruition in a tender moment during an awkward family dinner.