In it’s third year, Birmingham Film Festival (20th-25th November) has relocated to Millennium Point and is bigger than ever!
With over 50 films screening over the five days ranging from clay-mation to documentaries and full length feature films, there is plenty of variety and talent to keep an eye out for.
My first visit to the festival was on Wednesday 21st, the second day of the festival.
Each day is arranged into two hour blocks of screenings where anywhere from five to nine short films are shown. These screenings all have a similar theme or motif – freedom, gender, for example – but there is a wide diversion and the films aren’t constrained by these categories.
See the Man
dir. José Miguel Jiménez
A football club in icy Northern Sweden is promoted to Allsvenskan, the Swedish premiere league. The secret to Östersunds Fotbollsklubb’s success? The entire club, including staff and management, take part in a unique cultural programme, painting, watching and creating theatre and dancing.
A mixture of observational camera work and direct-to-camera interview with the players sets the scene of an inviting, inclusive and hardworking community that want to not only grow as footballers but as people. Jiménez’s camera sits quietly in the local village hall as the dancing and lifts develop from awkward movements and schoolchild-like nudges and smirks to a group of people full involved and enjoying the movement and action of dancing.
The interviews provide a nice insight into the life of the club, which is made up of people from all over the world – the former English footballer Graham Potter is the manager, and players have moved to Sweden from all over the world – including refugees from Bosnia and immigrants from Nigeria.
It’s a light film, but that’s just what you’d expect from a documentary about a arty football club. An interesting, different watch.
Between the Notes
dir. Kathy Kasic
Another documentary, this looks at the relationship between a musician and a sound engineer as they record a piano album together in a plain but intriguing wooden structure somewhere in the countryside.
It felt like something was missing in this film – a discussion of the composers and their work maybe, or more of an interrogation of the relationship between the two men – but it was well filmed and the static camera on Julien Brocal as he performed the music complete from memory allowed his artistry to flow.
The title card for the film was also beautifully simplistic, and reminisicent of the Phantom Thread title, showing the musicality and the strange beauty of musical text.
Tubgate: Cunningham’s Scrap
dir. Fraser Murdoch
The first animation of the festival was something of a let down. A man in a wheelchair jumps up to celebrate scoring on his game console, unaware that the Fraud Detectives are watching him from outside his house in an attempt to catch his deception in the act.
The murky, green interiors and the clunky animation that moved either to fast or slow for the voice acting looks like something from a cut scene on that old PS2 game you’ve got lying on your shelf somewhere.
There was also no attempt to examine or explain a story within the narrative, and more information about how and where the film was taking place was only made clear through the programme provided by the event itself.
A clunky, disappointing animation that doesn’t live up to its potential.
That’s Not Ours
dir. Leon Oldstrong
In a year in which knife crime and violent crime has reached record levels, a frank and vital discussion is needed about the attitudes of society towards both the perpetrators and the victims of assaults. The director’s younger brother, Ethan, tells his experiences with hospital staff and the general public after he and a friend were stabbed in 2017.
The film is unwavering in it’s examination of knife crime, showing the vivid scars that Ethan now carries, as well as the bias that society hold towards young black men – a nurse victim-blamed Ethan, and many people did not stop to help in the aftermath of the attack. There is also a vital, but uncomfortable conversation that Ethan holds with his mother – who is white – about how the experiences he has faced aren’t because he’s a young man, they happen because he is a young, black man.
It’s a timely documentary that I’d like to be developed in a longer feature, and hopefully be shown more widely.
Part 2 coming soon!