Oxford International Short Film Festival Highlights: Part 1

logoOver the next three days, I’m reviewing some of the highlights from the upcoming Oxford International Short Film Festival on Saturday 23rd March.

Sara – This Italian film directed by Mario Cordova features a strong central performance from Elizabetta Rosa, whose birthday includes a message from her deceased father, giving her advice about life. This isn’t necessarily anything new, concept wise. Indeed, a viral video last Christmas explored a similar idea. But Sara is ravishingly shot in Rome locations, and put together with a vivid technical prowess that gives the film a poignant edge of Malick-esque magic realism.

b7-03-shamasShamas – Writer/director Myriam Raja’s dystopian drama Shamas is set inside a refugee camp in a future Britain, following an implied economic catastrophe (graffiti glimpsed at one point reads “Britain has fallen”). The film follows a young man  (James Downie) unable to get out of said camp due to his “non-priority” status, who finds unlikely help from an older, wheelchair bound man (Pano Masti). The film is well acted and directed, with the simple plight front and centre, relegating the bigger questions of what exactly has led to this (presumably) exodus from Britain to an implied background.

a3-05-paris-you-got-meParis: You Got Me – This a delightful variation on a couple of memorable set pieces from Mary Poppins (the chalk paintings and the chimney sweeps) is also a unique and charming musical romance in its own right. Boasting fine chemistry and dancing from leads Rsenia Parkhatskaya and Liam Scullion, with technically assured direction from Julie Boehm, along with some vivid animation, it’s a joy to watch. There is even a slightly surreal German Expressionist sequence near the finale, which for a moment made me wonder if the film was about to veer into Dr Caligari territory. A gem.

Beautiful Cake – A teenage couple unwisely wander into the house of a mentally disturbed man who has, let’s just say, a rather unique form of madness. Said teenagers end up locked in his basement in fear of their lives. Depending on your point of view, this is either darkly funny, disturbing or downright silly. However, it is unarguably well directed by Brian McWha.

The Mouse – This is light-hearted, oddball Israeli gem sees a husband’s adulterous shenanigans undone by his genuinely charming children. Writer/director Liat Akta gets good, authentic performances from her cast, and the punchline is rather clever.

Check back tomorrow for more highlights.

The official site for the Oxford International Short Film Festival is here.

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