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OxFilm: “An hour—and a £3—very well spent”

A follow-up to the Summer Showcase, the Oxford University Filmmaking Foundation’s Easter Projects consisted of the screening of four films—most of which had been shot over the Easter Vacation with funding from OUFF.

Once again, event organiser Oscar McNab had to battle against the inherent reluctance of filmmakers to meet such arbitrary things as deadlines, as well as some serious technical issues in order to put the showcase together.

One wouldn’t have realised this from the event itself, however, which ran, on the whole, rather smoothly. Despite some problems with sound engineering—which did have a minor impact on the more dialogue-oriented productions—the overall quality of the screening remained very high.

The first film, entitled Windows, was a quiet meditation on death and the abruptness of loss. It is easy to overlook, due to our habituation to cinematic and narrative conventions, the fact that a character death is usually part of an arc—occurring at a particularly timely (or conveniently untimely) moment in a story. Here, the conspicuously absent character leaves behind only rather banal reminders: a text conversation and a potted plant. (The plant plot device reminded me very much of a similar symbol used to great effect in Léon: The Professional). The focus of the film is the character’s efforts to reach some kind of internal resolution.

The second short film shown, Object Permanence, was my favourite of the evening. Its camerawork, lighting, and shots were all relatively simple, but very effective nonetheless. It follows three friends as they drift apart, driven by the emotional fallout after they discover one of the trio’s eating disorder. The film offers a series of visual metaphors for the characters’ emotional landscapes, including the eponymous concept of ‘object permanence’. The acting was impressive, especially during the scenes in which one of the protagonists is seen staring into a bathroom mirror in bleak colour, fighting a lonely battle with the difficult emotions which have arisen in the wake of this troubling revelation.

Intelligence Quotient, the third offering, was meanwhile particularly adept in its manipulation of visual language, making excellent use of symbolism, particularly in its considered use of a cinematic colour palette in various sequences. Written by Elena Malashenko, its premise was an interesting take on a dystopian film, depicting a future in which the wealthy rent the intelligence of the impoverished. It is a shame then that the poor sound quality of the showcase was felt most keenly during the showing of this film: with exposition being necessary to establish the premise, it was very easy to miss important information at the beginning of the film.

The final film was a sci-fi thriller called Yellow Grass. Written by Sam Zwolinski and directed by India Opzoomer, Yellow Grass was a short film grappling with time travel and shot in desolate settings, reminiscent of classic examples of post-apocalyptic cinema. The actors perfectly conveyed the characters and their deep distrust and discontent while the impressive sets and general bleakness of the mise-en-scène contributed to the piece’s grim, gloomy atmosphere. A disorienting chase scene and chilling twist book-ended the tautly made film. It was a worthy ending to the showcase, making it an hour—and a £3—very well spent.


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