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!