REVIEW: Shorts Showcase & Regional Voices

Shorts Showcase & Regional Voices both provided opportunities for emerging filmmakers to present their films to a wider audience. Nathan Hardie attended both for Freestyle Bristol.

Words: Nathan Hardie, @hardiewrites

On back-to-back evenings this September, I was treated to a collection of short films produced by exceptional emerging talent from the South West.

Homegrown, Corinne Walker

In preparation for the Encounters Film Festival (running this year from 27th September to 1st October), BFI Network South West hosted the Shorts Showcase at Watershed. These nine great pieces ranged from exploited migrant workers in Corinne Walker’s Homegrown to overcoming grief in Frankie Fox’s transgender science-fiction Goodbye Python. 

Such protagonists fit among a mix infrequently shown in cinema, including Jacob Anderson’s struggling firefighter in Tommy Gillard’s Slow Burn. Following a work-related accident, Tug (Anderson) tries to bury the trauma and return to work. A narrative often reserved for soldiers or police officers, it’s an intense reminder of the stresses emergency service workers face alongside how crucial mental health management is.

Slow Burn, Tommy Gillard

Another example is Thomas (played by eight-year-old Oscar Payce) in Joseph Inman’s heartwarming Spines. Characters on the spectrum are often exaggerated for dramatic effect, making the narrative of a bookworm and a footballer forming bonds over storytelling a refreshing change of pace. 

Furthermore, Inman shared his experiences of being autistic, directing an autistic child, and the thought process behind Spines through a case study, hoping that future projects will be more accessible. Such care and attention to detail attests to the collaborative culture BFI Network South West promotes. From the same crew members appearing in different credit sequences to celebrating each other’s films in the bar afterwards, teamwork creates cinema.

Spines, Joseph Inman

Having that support for each other also became the crucial takeaway from Cable and Cameras‘ latest event: Regional Voices. Following a similar format to their Inspired Takeover in June (my article coverage here), we had five fantastic shorts and a Q&A with some of the directors at CUBE Microplex. Much like the Southwest Showcase, the stories are authentic, providing an extra punch of emotion to each film.

Fifty Four Days, Cat White/Thomas Wood

Opening the evening was Luke Fresh’s A Conversation About Fatherhood, interviewing the Plummer brothers from Gogglebox on their lives as dads. Casually chatting to the camera about growing up in St. Paul’s, alongside how their relationships reflect their parenting styles, portrayed an image of healthy masculinity. As host Junior Saunders emphasised, it’s a cinema-quality documentary. 

Next, Cat White courageously shared her process of handling a loved one’s death by suicide in Fifty Four Days. The short strikes a poignant balance between the cathartic nature of swimming in a lake plus frustration with how relatives have handled their emotions. The powerful journey on-screen is matched off of it, with White going from “choking on my grief” during the lockdown period to writing, directing and starring in the piece.

Fifty Four Days, Cat White/Thomas Wood

Also leading the line alongside creating the idea behind it, Nikki Fagbemi provided her account of living with sickle cell disease through Why Me? Playing Naima, Fagbemi showed the spiralling emotions and pressure of trying to be an efficient employee and supportive daughter through chronic pain. Depiction of overwhelming phone activity and an unsympathetic boss produced an anxious atmosphere, building the pressure until Naima’s breaking point.

The representation of diverse voices is a significant factor contributing to the success of these short films. Topics such as grief may repeat but never feel stale when approached from unique perspectives. Therefore, I echo what Luke Fresh stated during Regional Voices’ Q&A about implementing further developmental infrastructure in Bristol and the South West. Allowing a range of fresh talent to flourish is how the industry can produce more authentic and entertaining stories.

Fifty Four Days, Cat White/Thomas Wood

 Nathan Hardie is a member of our team and is developing a career as a film critic. Find out more about Nathan and the projects he’s been working on here.

Cables & Cameras is a hub for POC filmmakers and creatives in Bristol, you can find more about their work here.

BFI Network SW support film culture & talent in the South West, more info here