As we’ve said over the past few years, the films being produced by the students at the London Film School are always an apt barometer for the standard of budding filmmakers based across the UK and Europe. The school offers its cohort industry-leading tuition alongside professional equipment to make great work but both those elements are nothing if you don’t have a strong idea and a talented filmmaker to utilise them. Fortunately, as demonstrated in this year’s graduate showcase, the crop of promising talent and fresh ideas are in abundance. It’s been incredibly tricky to narrow down the shorts this year into a tight list of ten as the standard across the board was so high so if you’re able to get across to the BFI Southbank this week (22nd – 26th January 2024) to catch the programme in its entirety, you won’t regret it. However, if you are looking for a place to start your viewing read on for our top picks from the lineup this year.
Poet – Kun Sun
One worth watching for the cinematography alone, Kun Sun’s story of a lonely stone-cutting labourer navigating her way through life is a captivating tale of self-discovery. There are certainly echoes of Jim Jarmusch’s Paterson here too with a passive, working class protagonist grappling with the world through poetry. If slow and carefully constructed character dramas are your thing, definitely add this to your watchlist.
Trapped – Semyon Voinov
When an outbreak of a deadly virus dramatically escalates, a scientist finds himself barricaded inside his laboratory with the rat he was experimenting on. Semyon Voinov’s comedy horror Trapped appears like your typical zombie movie on the surface but it’s really a story of small-minded human arrogance. Witty, smart and well-made, it’s also welcomingly pro-rat which more films should be!
Dream of Train – Ruoyang Zhao
Much like its name suggests, Ruoyang Zhao’s Dream of Train is a smooth, hypnotic film with careful and considered camerawork that moves along, drawing you into its story of a fractured relationship on the edge. It’s a great example of a short where a gripping script, subtle performance and melodic form all come together and intertwine in a way that shows a real filmmaker’s eye for drama and tone.
Scorched Earth – Markela Kontaratou
Markela Kontaratou’s thriller Scorched Earth plays like a Mediterranean Brian De Palma movie, a sleuthy noir about a young woman who observes a crime in her hometown neighbourhood and feels a compulsion to investigate it. The shady, investigative tones aren’t the only atmospheric textures in this however as its final moments offer plenty to chew on once the short is over.
Passerby – Benjamin Sivo
A portrait of grief through the imagination of a young Hungarian boy who has just lost his grandmother. The 4:3 aspect ratio, carefully deliberated framing and tight edit of Benjamin Sivo‘s short drama Passerby give the contemplative film a strong melancholic, haunting texture. At only eight minutes long, it’s one of the shorter films playing the showcase too so it flies by, leaving you keen to see what Sivo makes next.
A Splinter In The Eye – Harry Hayton Iles
A Splinter In The Eye is a tense, frenetic political drama that follows Darren as he finds himself on his first shift as a Junior Debt Enforcement Officer in East London. Director Harry Hayton Iles does an excellent job of capturing the sheer intensity and brutality of an eviction with impressive handheld cinematography and emotionally acute performances. But it also finds time to breathe and allow the audience to ponder the real-life ramifications of these all too common situations.
Quelques Nuits D’Hiver – Jules Thin
If late night Parisian conversational movies are your preferred tipple then it’s definitely worth checking out Jules Thin’s Quelques Nuits D’Hiver, about Raphael, who finds himself questioning his relationship with intimacy after a chance encounter with an older man on the streets of the French capital. It’s easily the kind of short that could become pretentious in the wrong hands but Thin tells his story with a maturity and confidence that allows the truth of his knotty emotional narrative to shine through.
The Bull – Victor Nauwynck
One of the more off-kilter picks from this year’s cohort, Victor Nauwynck’s The Bull follows a childless couple living on a remote rural farm who bring in a bull to impregnate their cows. What begins as a straightforward task needed for the productivity of the farm soon brings out a suppressed nature within the couple that will change their relationship for good.
Ten Days – Anastasia Savinova
As the Russian invasion of Ukraine breaks out, Lena tries to convince her Russian parents to see the reality of the forthcoming war. The smartness of Anastasia Savinova’s familial short is in how she displays the family’s everyday activities and conversations, and how the ramifications of the war are continuously present throughout them. The performances are deftly naturalistic too, which allows the nuanced conflict present in the screenplay to come forth.
Saving Art – Remi R.M. Moses
We’re rounding off our highlights with Remi R.M. Moses’ beautiful film Saving Art, which presents a tender depiction of the circumstances faced by children and their parents in a pediatric cancer ward. Moses’ short (which also recently screened at Slamdance) is so impressively rendered, never veering into sentimentality, always searching for the truth. It’s a tough subject matter to capture on screen but Moses does a sterling job with a careful, respectful edit that has a sense of patience and honour.