As I said in my blurb for last year’s National Film and Television School Graduate Showcase, the high level of production design afforded by the school to its students is remarkable. It gives these young filmmakers, many of whom are experienced directors by the time they enter their studies, the grounding to take their filmmaking to new heights, an aspect that always makes these showcases so exciting is you’re getting to see exciting, prodigious creatives expand their ideas onto a larger canvas. This year’s event, which is supported by the BBC, takes place in London at the BFI Southbank from February 19th – 22nd, and from having a look at the work being presented, we can safely say it’s bumper year. With that in mind, we’ve tried once again to narrow down the work on display into a helpful starter guide, aiming to navigate you through some highlights from the showcase’s Fiction, Animation and Comedy programmes. So, without further ado, let’s jump in to the recommendations.

Death! – Matthew B.C.

What starts off seeming like a symbolic scene from outside heaven’s gates soon shapes into a dark tale of existential crisis. Death! directed by Matthew B.C. and written, starring and produced by graduating student Abi Tedder, throws the audience right into the middle of a far-too-relatable questioning of one’s entire existence. With saturated lighting, extreme close-ups and a woman manically making you think twice about why we eat tiramisu, Tedder’s short is a fever dream in all its glory. Certainly a tense watch, the anxiety-inducing nature of the film only gets stronger as it plays out but when the comedy fades, the sinister reality for all on board culminates.

Adios – José Prats

The animated work produced at the NFTS is always of such a high standard and this year it’s certainly no different with the first of our animated highlights Adios, José Prats’ sun-drenched stop motion short about a father’s fear of letting go. Prats’ film is beautifully realised through scratchy and wispy material textures along with a sombre, guitar-driven score. It’s these creative choices that give the short a personal aura that carries through into its classical narrative of familial anxiety and the knotty emotional territory of letting children fly the nest.

Jester – Harry Sherriff

Set in plague-ridden England, a depressed jester must set out across the land to rescue the Queen’s nephew in order to prove he’s more than just a fool. Director Harry Sherriff is no stranger to DN’s pages, having been featured here numerous times including most recently when we premiered his nightmarish Kafka-esque short Jeremy: A Nightmare. Jester is another notch in his filmmaking belt, a pertinent and gloriously dark comedy about a man witnessing the reality of a kingdom in neglect.

Remains – Theja Rio

Theja Rio’s thriller is a mood-driven tale of colonial past and present. When Abraham, a Windrush migrant, obtains a job working as a servant for an elderly wealthy gentlemen he finds himself as part of a deep, dark cycle of terror and possession. Rio’s short does such a good job of filling every frame with atmosphere and tension. As Abraham walks the halls of his employer’s manor, each nook and cranny is filled with a sense of dread and history that hints towards his potential future.

Seed of Doubt – Daniel Daniel

The last time Daniel Daniel was mentioned in DN’s fold was back in 2020 when we highlighted his single-shot short Sauce at Aesthetica Short Film Festival. It was a film that displayed a real confidence in visual storytelling, a feat which is built upon in his latest film Seed of Doubt. Constructed in the Yiddish language, Daniel’s new film tracks a young pregnant Jewish girl who is beginning to lose faith when a Rabbi is called in to help steer her back on the right path. It’s a film which confronts faith and religion but does so with a bold, stylised aesthetic that begs to be seen on the big screen.

Borrowed Time – Ewan Newbigging-Lister

Borrowed Time, Ewan Newbigging-Lister’s light-hearted comedy feels reminiscent of Spike Jonze’s Her with its delicate colour palette and heartfelt message communicated through technology. Using an app called Death Calls, Liam is given the chance to talk with his passed father for a sweet five minutes. Playing with an endearing idea, this well-put-together story touches on aspects of family relationships, sexuality and the forever haunting fear of going bald, all on one park bench.

Rock Paper Scissors – Franz Böhm

An excellent example of the high production value NFTS offers its students combined with a prescient story of war-torn struggle, that’s based on a factual account. Franz Böhm’s drama follows Ivan who, along with his father, is managing a makeshift hospital in Ukraine but when Russian troops begin to approach he’s forced to make a decision to protect his family and their patients. The way Böhm and his team realise the interiors and exteriors of the hospital is very impressive, that combined with the way they tell Ivan’s story makes this short the real deal.

Bunnyhood – Mansi Maheshwari

I’m such a fan of Mansi Maheshwati’s illustrative style, it’s like watching the scribbled drawings etched onto an old school desk come to life. The film itself is pure nightmare fuel too, in the best possible way. A surreal animated journey into one girl’s anxiety following his severe stomach pains. The way each frame blends into the next through malleable and frightening character design showcases a strong grasp of the craft too. Excited to see what she makes in the future.

Us Four – Alex Peake

Blending documentary with fiction and animation, Alex Peake’s short Us Four is a look back at the memories that formed her relationship with her sisters. It may sound nostalgic on the surface but what Peake is able to do through her recollection is find something universal amongst the personal, telling a tale of time that has passed. What’s so eye-catching about the film too is how Peake uses multiple animation styles alongside live action footage to weave her story. One minute you’ll be looking at delicate minimal, hand-drawn linework, and then the next something more dark and abstract.

Tapeworm – Daniel Rands

Daniel Rands is a filmmaker who first caught my eye back in 2022 when his comedy short Black Peter played The Shortest Nights. It was a brilliant film that showcased Rands’ adept skill at writing an entertaining and carefully constructed screenplay. Tapeworm marks a tonal shift from Black Peter, shifting from comedic territory into the realms of the gritty, Fincher-esque, underground thriller. I won’t go into plot details with this one as it’s best watched knowing as little as possible but I will say that it’s definitely an intense watch, and one you won’t be able to look away from.

You can find more unmissable films, like the ones featured in the NFTS Graduate Showcase 2024, in our Best of Fest collections.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *