No/Gloss Film Festival 2014 – Festival Debrief

5 Ways 2 Die

This weekend saw the third annual No/Gloss Film Festival, and for the second year in a row I went along as Mild Concern’s Northern Correspondent. No/Gloss is very much a festival about the whole experience rather than just the films; while the selected features and shorts are obviously what ultimately drives whether or not the weekend is a success, the choice of venue, artists and food vendors all play a big part in that.

This year’s festival had a very different feel to last October. Where last year’s Canal Mills venue kept the whole thing contained under one roof (plus an outdoor area for food), this year at Templeworks things were split up a little, making the festival feel more epic and giving us more to explore.

The introduction in the programme guide reveals that the festival directors felt “a distinct dark theme” throughout the 700 titles submitted for consideration. Reading that at the start of play on Saturday and knowing there were two full days ahead of me, I’ll admit I was a little concerned that it might be a bit hard work. I needn’t have worried. While naturally some of the selections were definitely just dark, dark, dark, many of them made great use of black humour to keep up the energy across both days. There were even one or two happy endings!

Pictures of Superheroes

Like last year there were two different screens to consider and I know I made some tough choices when deciding where to go and when. I managed to catch a little over half of the selections – 31 out of 58 – and there are certainly things I missed that I’ll be keeping an eye out for in the future.

By lunchtime on day one I was starting to notice the dark themes I’d heard so much about – zombie apocalypse, schizophrenia, social anxiety, OCD – and they continued into the afternoon, evident in my day one highlights.

Pictures of Superheroes is a completely absurd and totally enjoyable seventy minute comedy that’s essentially based on the main character’s life falling apart. When Marie is dumped and fired on the same day, she’s quickly employed by overworked businessman Eric to take care of the house he can’t seem to keep clean on his own. Marie discovers that’s mostly down to Joe, the room-mate that Eric has forgotten ever existed, and she quickly becomes completely entangled in their ridiculous lives.

Triangles of Happiness

My second highlight from Saturday was Triangles of Happiness, which I’m fairly confident is the funniest comedy about the financial crisis you’re likely to see. This one is a Danish production and I loved the extremes that Hanne and Carsten are willing to go to in order to keep up the appearances of their happy, wealthy, suburban lives.

I mentioned before that No/Gloss is about the whole experience and not just the films. Another memorable choice from day one was the chicken and chorizo paella from Las Paelleras who were sadly only in attendance on Saturday. Then on Sunday I sampled the delights of a Streatza woodfired pizza. I opted for the meat feast (one-third American ham, one-third pepperoni, one-third Napoli salami), and my only regret is not having the chance to buy one of their Shakshuka festival breakfasts. I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled for Streatza at future events!

Back to the films. For day two I’d planned my schedule around Reception, as I was keen to see the story of hotel night receptionist Victor and his unpredictable foreign guest. As a former night duty receptionist myself I was drawn to it, and I’m glad I managed to catch it – a lot of it was very familiar!

Pebble Moon

There were two wonderfully quirky animations vying to steal the crown from last year’s top pick Frau Schwein Geht In Die Scheissedisko, On Loop and The Missing Scarf. I particularly enjoyed the way the fragmented animation (and a little live action) of On Loop made it easy to see through the eyes of the insomniac protagonist. The Missing Scarf was narrated by the delightful George Takei and his soothing tones were perfect for the black comedy that played out while Albert the squirrel looked for his missing scarf.

Another favourite from Sunday was 5 Ways 2 Die – in which Makis explores different ways to commit suicide. Despite the worrying synopsis, this is a black comedy that looks great and will keep you chuckling right up until the surprising ending. And finally, I couldn’t end without a mention for Pebble Moon, a successful Kickstarter project and final year dissertation project for six students from the University of Leeds. Pebble Moon is a story told through the eyes of Lily, a young girl who is happy to tell anyone who asks that she has no mummy, just two daddies. There’s a bittersweet contrast between the world as Lily sees it and the things that we see as adults looking through a window into her life.

I could go on – each of the thirty-one films I saw had clearly earned their place at the festival and I’ve got good things to say about all of them, even those that weren’t to my taste. It was great to hear that No/Gloss received so many submissions and I can’t wait to see what 2015 brings!

No/Gloss Film Festival 2014 Update

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With just a month to go until this year’s No/Gloss Film Festival in Leeds, the announcements are hotting up. The festival takes place on the 11th & 12th of October and has moved from last year’s trendy Canal Mills venue into the just as trendy, just as exciting Grade 1 listed Temple Works.

This year’s line-up includes some very cool things that set No/Gloss apart from other film festivals. Fancy going to a social media workshop led by Jon Morter, the man behind the Rage Against the Machine Christmas number one campaign? You can! How about an Indiegogo masterclass? Yep, they’ve got that covered. A super ace panel featuring film-makers who have done it themselves and are sharing their knowledge? Sorted.

Delicious food offerings? Absolutely. Temple Works have designed a very tasty looking menu of their own ‘awesome noms’ to complement already announced food vendor Streatza‘s wood-fired street pizza. I will definitely be bringing plenty of money to spend on food.

SERIES-BANNER-1

And all of that before you even get to the films. The full programme is now available for your perusal – I’ve had a good look through and there are going to be some hard decisions for me to make when it comes down to it. One highlight that sticks out for me is Danish short Reception. As a former night receptionist in a well known budget hotel chain, it sounds like this particular selection was included just for me!

Tickets are still available at £20 for entry to all films, workshops and more across the whole weekend, but they’re selling fast and won’t be available on the door.

No/Gloss Film Festival 2013 – Festival Debrief

No Gloss Film Festival

Anyone who knows me know that I love food, and if I’m well fed then I’m generally predisposed to enjoy myself. The offerings at No/Gloss Film Festival certainly fulfilled that side of things – I had delicious pulled pork (Saturday) and burnt ends/beef brisket (Sunday) sandwiches from Crowder Barbecue, as well as a lovely slow cooked pork burrito provided by Barburrito. There was tea and cakes, craft beer and on Sunday morning I was even handed a bag of free tortilla chips and salsa.

The good news is that there is absolutely no reason for me to spend the rest of this review focusing solely on the food, because the festival as a whole was just as impressive and well organised as I’d hoped.

Returning for a second year, No/Gloss is a Leeds based independent film festival dedicated to films created on a limited (or in many cases zero) budget. The final line-up included a massive variety of films with different themes, styles, country of origin and ranging in length from 1 minute to 104 minutes. There were a good number of full length features scattered throughout the programme and the phrase ‘something for everyone’ definitely applied.

Many of the submissions came from overseas – glancing back over my programme guide there are listings from Argentina, Israel and Bolivia alongside the numerous films produced in the UK and USA. It made it all the more impressive how many of the film-makers were able to make it to their screenings. If I had a minor quibble about anything over the weekend it would be that it was often hard to see over people’s heads to read the subtitles on the foreign language films. It made following along difficult if you weren’t sitting in the first couple of rows, but once I figured that out I made sure to snag myself a seat further forward!

The festival ran for ten hours on Saturday and seven on Sunday and with two screens running simultaneously both days it was impossible to see everything. I’d picked a few must-see selections from the programme in advance and took in as much as I could, though I wish I’d been able to see it all. There were so many films on display I’ve chosen my top five instead of trying to say something about everything I saw – Tim wouldn’t have received this write-up until well after Christmas if I attempted to do that!

The Compositor

The Compositor (32 minutes)
The Compositor has won a number of awards, including a Student Oscar, and it’s easy to see why. Despite being a sci-fi story it’s also semi-autobiographical, created by real-life film compositor John Mattiuzzi. We follow Paul as he struggles to keep his real life separate from the digital realities he creates for a living. The visual effects are impressive throughout and that’s really the film’s main focus and the reason it was one of my favourites. Paul’s life outside of the computer and his personal issues are in many ways of little consequence when it comes to how enjoyable the film was.

Frau Schwein geht in die Scheissedisko

Frau Schwein geht in die Scheissedisko (8 minutes)
The synopsis in the guide describes this as something that will ‘either make you laugh in total bemusement or wonder what the hell just happened’, and that’s absolutely accurate. It’s 2D animation created entirely out of felt, making the experience of watching a pig eat, digest and excrete various items for eight minutes strangely compelling. The film-makers were on hand to tell us a little about the animation before we saw it, and even they admitted that they’d started animating without a story in mind so I don’t think it’s a slight to their talents to say that two days later, I’m still left wondering what the hell just happened!

Qui a tue Cendrillon

Qui a tue Cendrillon? (85 minutes)
‘Who Killed Cinderella?’ is, surprisingly, a comedy. It opens with a news bulletin telling us of the death of actress Coralie Bonnet, best known in France for her role as Cinderella, and then takes us back through key moments of her life including the reality television programme that won her the role. Her life story is told via a True Crime-style documentary investigating her death and trying to solve her murder and despite the dark title the film is thoroughly enjoyable and very funny. It even succeeds in throwing you off the scent with a couple of unexpected twists before we finally find out who did kill ‘Cinderella’.

Kenneth

Kenneth (72 minutes)
Kenneth is, to use production company Monster Island’s own description, “a film about love, friendship and an invisible ear goblin”. It’s a heartfelt quirky tale about love and loss and star Duncan Casey is great as Kenneth, confused about how his life became such a farcical mess so quickly. Going in, I was expecting something that was a mixture of the League of Gentlemen, Harvey and the TV series Wilfred, and while I wasn’t a million miles away Kenneth is actually a lot deeper than any of those. There are plenty of laughs but the comedy of the goblin and his new homeless friend Peter blends well with the drama of Kenneth’s recent unemployment and problems with his girlfriend.

Two thirds of the way through I’d already decided it was one of my favourite films of the weekend, even before I realised one of the scenes had been shot around the corner from my house. I probably shouldn’t have been so surprised and excited to recognise part of Yorkshire at a Yorkshire based film festival, but considering it came hot on the heels of a short film from Mexico it sort of felt like I was in a weird little locationless bubble – not Leeds.

Lad A Yorkshire Story

Lad: A Yorkshire Story (95 minutes)
Lad was the last thing I watched at No/Gloss 2013 and it was a perfect way to end. We had a brief introduction from the film’s teenage star Bretten Lord, and I was impressed with his confidence in front of the audience! The film had a feel of something like Calendar Girls – family-centric, heartwarming and with some lovely Yorkshire scenery to boot. When Tom Proctor’s father dies suddenly of a heart attack he’s forced to grow up quickly, and after stealing a tractor and covering the local bank in slurry as part of a mini rebellion, he’s slapped with a Community Service Order and sent to work with Yorkshire Dales ranger Al. What follows as Tom gets to grips with the changes in his life is a joy to watch, and I’ve never enjoyed watching something involving dry stone walling as much as I enjoyed this!

Girl Most Likely – Film Review

Girl Most Likely

The last time I guest reviewed a film for Mild Concern, it was Cabin In The Woods and all the review said was “Holy Shit”. Similarly, this time I could have submitted a review for Girl Most Likely that just said “Darren Criss is hot”, but I thought I’d try to use my words.

Girl Most Likely is a comedy that revolves around Imogene, a role that sees Kristen Wiig basically replicate her character from Bridesmaids. Imogene is recently single, even more recently unemployed, and the once-promising former playwright finds her life spiralling downwards and out of control. So obviously, like any normal person would, she fakes a suicide attempt to try and win back her dull socialite boyfriend. When her plan backfires she ends up on the psychiatric ward with doctors only willing to release her into the care of a family member. Enter her mother Zelda (Annette Bening) who drags an unwilling Imogene back to New Jersey and back to her childhood home.

The change in location introduces us to all of the movie’s entertaining characters. We meet lodger Lee (Darren Criss), a member of a 90s boy band tribute act who now rents Imogene’s old room, and her brother Ralph (Christopher Fitzgerald), whose sweet innocence and obsession with crabs leaves you hating Imogene a little bit for abandoning him with their mother in the first place. Lastly there’s Zelda’s boyfriend George Bousche (Matt Dillion) whose CIA agent sub-plot is so ridiculous it should be completely out of place but ends up being one of the highlights of the film.

Girl Most Likely 2

The problem with Girl Most Likely is that there’s no real problem with Girl Most Likely – it just doesn’t elicit much reaction of any kind. By the end of the 103 minutes of film, Imogene comes to some fairly predictable conclusions about home and family that we’ve all seen before.

It’s not all bad – the undeniably talented cast are all given moments to shine, and they take a middle of the road script and make it into something better than it probably should be. The evolution of Imogene’s relationship with Lee, from her initial dislike of him into something romantic, was well done and pleasingly independent of Imogene’s own character development. It wasn’t used as the resolution to all of her problems and that was refreshing to see.

If you’re a fan of Darren Criss and like the idea of him wearing eyeliner, singing Backstreet Boys songs and playing a character who is well out of high school for a change, then I’d definitely recommend seeing it. Everyone else? It’s a harmless way to pass a couple of hours, inoffensive but ultimately only okay.

At least one of those stars can be attributed to Darren’s hotness. Maybe two.

Girl Most Likely is in UK cinemas on 27th September 2013

The Cabin in the Woods – Review

I have a film theory degree so I should probably be able to form actual words about that, but, holy shit.

The Cabin on the Woods is released on Friday 13th April 2012

Special guest review courtesy of Rach from nph-fan.com