Kino Shorts International Film Festival 2014 – Comedy

Continuing our feature on the recent Kino Short Film Festival, this selection of Comedy shorts boasts a truly international flavour, with the final eight shortlisted films originating from no less than seven different countries. Spain is the only nation to be represented more than once. (a bit like The Champions League Final, doh). The majority of this select handful hail from Europe, but both USA and Australia are represented also. 

Opening with Melvis, which featured in the preview screening that we posted about yesterday, this is quickly followed by Bradford-Halifax-London, a nine-minute short written and directed by one of West Yorkshire’s most promising talents, Francis Lee. The film focuses on a small portion of a train journey for a young and somewhat volatile family. Mum, Dad and Daughter. Using a fixed-point perspective and filming the entire movie in one take is a novel idea, but is full of potential pitfalls. Seemingly improvised to a greater extent, those this may simply be the skills of the actors present, the niggles of a well-worn and jaded relationship between husband and wife are evident and will be recognisable to those that have been there themselves. Ably performed by Katy Cavanagh and Paul Barnhill, this bickering back and forth is often interjected by well-timed, awkward silences, giving the cast a moment to draw breath, before inevitably coming out with something to make the audience chuckle. Kirsty Armstrong plays the daughter in this three hander but doesn’t actually say more than a couple of words, preferring to retreat into the background, as would any teenager, positioned uncomfortably in the middle of a family argument in public. And if you’re wondering if that laugh was scripted, I’ve asked Francis personally, and I’m assured that it was rehearsed and organic, further reflecting the enviable talents of the cast.
Next up in the comedy category was The Heebie-Jeebies, a shortlisted entry from the USA, written and directed by Todd Slawsby, which introduces the audience to a young girl and boy as they are having a bedtime story read to them, entitled (wouldn’t you know it) The Heebie-Jeebies. The nine-minute short then concentrates on the scare value as viewed from the perspective of the children’s imaginations and subsequently, the fun that can be had with these furtive young minds. Enjoying relatively few actual laughs as such, this short balances precariously between potential horror and playful bedtime baiting, with a denoument that will leave you asking questions about exactly what, if anything, is lurking under the bed.
Bernabe Rico’s Libre Directo (Free Kick) is the first of the two Spanish entries. The story of a sixty-year-old woman, Adela (played by Petra Martinez),  who whilst depositing some money in her bank account, wins the chance to shoot from the halfway line in a Spanish Premier League football match at half-time during one of the games. If she can manage to score a goal into an open net, then she wins three hundred thousand euros. The thirteen minute short follows her preparations as she goes about the business of training for what will be the biggest moment of her life. This includes buying new (and expensive) football boots, not to mention a ball, which she takes to the local municipal pitch and it is here that she strikes up a warm and poignant friendship with a man that tries to ensure her dream becomes reality. Again, lacking in comedy per se, this beautifully shot film makes up for its lack of chuckles with a heavy dose of emotional depth. Could she kick her way to the life she always wanted?

Directed , produced and written by the clearly multi-tasking Bernhard Wenger, Austria’s With Best Regards really is a blink and you’ll miss it short. Weighing in at a flighty four-and-a-half minutes, with one solitary giggle going for it, Wenger takes the simple premise of making up an excuse for striking up a conversation with someone you fancy to a whole new level, with results that you may or may not see coming from a mile off. Nonetheless, by the time you’ve finished watching it, you will be left wanting either more, or simply to see it again. Quite some feat for a film that is so very, very…well, short.

Ralf Beyerle’s Alles Super!  the German entry is sixth on the bill, with a story of a listless and directionless thirty-year-old who secretly dresses up as a superhero and comes to the aid of the public, assuming it’s not too dangerous or life-threatening. Belittled at home for having no income by a wife that thinks she is pregnant, this twenty-two minute short is probably the most hard work for the audience. Beyerle’s idea of humour is probably not as finely in tune with some of his audiences as he would like and despite some often very fetching shot choices, the humour was lost on this reviewer, at least. Given some of the excellent examples of really short films on display, this does make Alles Super! stick out like a sore thumb in a selection of healthy fingers.

Our penultimate offering was the second Spanish entry, El Bicho (The Bug), a seven-minute short seen from a first person(?) perspective, as if viewed through the eyes of the titular bug. Captured by a couple of office workers, El Bicho becomes the object of initial fascination, then potential scientific benevolence, followed by possible profit and then downright terror. As is the lot for all surburban bugs, it probably isn’t going to to end well. The script is rattled out at breakneck speed and if you’re not fluent in Spanish, you may be more than grateful for the subtitles. Fast, furious and mostly fun.

Last on the list, Piove (It’s Raining) is an occasionally delightful fifteen minute short from Italian director, Francesco Zucchi. Concerning itself with the story of Doctor Bianchi and the events of his day, which include a trip to the barbers, a visit to see his brother, getting caught in the rain and conversation with the enigmatic man that paints the sky blue and add stars to the sky, all from his ladder in the middle of the town square. As we prgoress through the Doctors’ day, truths about his life slowly unfold and we realise that our assumption may not be a cut and dried as we first thought. Elegantly shot and suitably cast, Zucchi’s film feel more like art than story but is no less captivating for it.



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