The red carpet was rolled out, prosecco was poured, wrist bands were fastened – the day was Friday March 16th and the third annual University of Southampton Film Festival had begun. The audience poured into Union Films, drinks in hand, full of expectation… and oh boy did this year’s contenders deliver. Twenty six submissions were whittled down to twelve, films awaiting our laughter, our tears and our applause.
To kick the evening off, hosts Ben Hughes and Jordan Andrews took to the stage, microphones in hand, ready to kick of this years accumulation of creative intuition and talent. Ant and Dec had better step aside, as the duo provided a first class-shine to a very well orchestrated evening. The curtains parted, the blank canvas of the cinema screen awaiting to display a range of films all worthy of the awards to come.
First up, a story line every student in the room (and the lecturers too) could relate to at at least one point in their academic career. The humorous truth telling of what a student night out usually amounts to: The Liability, directed by Callum Quinn and Chris Plank. This gave the audience quite the chuckle, as the group of friends shoved their bevved mate into a nearby supermarket trolley so they could reach the nearest club (we’re all thinking Jesters). In a complete turnaround, Tom Pethick’s Live Your Life had everyone in the crowd with their tissues at the ready, as he flawlessly captured the heartbreak of an older married couple’s struggles as they reach the end of their lives together. The skill Pethick displayed with the camera was clear as although there was little dialogue, we were all in touch with the main protagonist’s thoughts and his memories of his younger days with his wife. Another thought provoking piece was to follow: Experience directed by Iman Bahmanabadi, implemented current affairs and reminded us of how cut throat humanity can be. As images of Grenfell Tower flickered onto the screen with the words, “Don’t cut the weeds / Cut the roots,” it was clear that Bahmanabadi had something to say. To keep us on our toes, Steven Potter’s Moirè left the audience stunned as the lights blackout and the conversation cut by a blow to the head dealt by some strange masked figure. Potter left us all on a cliffhanger we are not soon to forget.
If all of that excitement was too much, next up was a fact-filled documentary of Southampton’s history with Pollution. Whilst figures indicating that Southampton produced near enough pollution as London shocked us all, it was the powerful dictation of those presenting that really drove it home. Maia Sherwood-Rogers wanted to reveal this dirty secret and we all heard it. Away from the seriousness of damaging the planet’s O-Zone layer, Red O’Sullivan had the entire audience roaring with laughter at his comical Rush. Who knew that getting from Avenue to Highfield Campus could be such a traumatic ordeal? This kind of slapstick was refreshing, clever and downright hilarious. We turned another sharp genre corner with Julien Mathus’ The Man With The Bowler Hat, which had the audience perched on the edge of their seats as the suspense became unbearable. Shot in the beautiful city of Prague, Mathus brought something else to the narrative with his choice of location. In contrast to the picturesque scenery, Parallel directed by Leo Barton, explored various beliefs and opinions of the divide between North and South Korea. A dark background and key lighting really emphasised these thoughts, all told from one Korean actress miming the words.
Next up was a film made up of entirely one creative mind – Aimee Lewis. Lewis demonstrated her many talents with great lighting, various shots and a soft but dramatic voice over, her flare for the poetic really emerged. With a content advisory given before the film began, who knew what to expect at Liam Beazley’s We Love You Very Much. We know from past experience that Beazley keenly explores elements of the human psyche, (winning Best Director last year for Concrete Paradise) he didn’t disappoint with his disturbing portrayal of a twisted family dynamic which ended in suicide. To brighten the mood however, Julien Mathus returned to the screen with his music video feature Dreadlock Holiday. A contrast to his black and white suspense driven earlier entry, filming in the heights of Prague and in the Jamaican themed bar Kenny’s Island, the colourful dynamic had everyone wanting to dance in their seats. Last but not least, Leo Barton and Iman Bahmanabadi returned with their thriller, The Hollow. Here, we are given an insight into the mind of an insomniac, as he ventures from his city life to try and find an answer to his troubling sleep problems in a dark cave (Not exactly where I would want to take a mid day nap!)
As the screening came to an end, the audience piled out, voting for the Audience Award and refilling on prosecco in the process, before returning for the giving of this year’s awards. Judges Dr Michael Williams, Dr Beth Carroll, Dr Corey Schultz, Pippa Short (who co-founded the film festival), Edge Film Editor David Mitchell-Baker and Union Films Cinema Manager Max Hayman all huddled in to decide the destination of each award, which were distributed as such…
Best Sound: Moirè – Jamie Howatson
Best Actor: The Hollow – Iman Bahmanabadi
Best Editing: The Hollow – Iman Bahmanabadi & Leo Barton
Best Actress: Rush – Xafsa Mohamud
Best Screenplay: The Man With The Bowler Hat – Julien Mathus
Best Cinematography: Live Your Life – Danny Rickard
Best Director: Live Your Life – Tom Pethick
Best Film: Rush – Red O’Sullivan
Audience Award: Live Your Life – Tom Pethick
It’s very clear how much Pethick’s Live Your Life moved the audience through the majority voting for the film to receive the audience award. There was not a heart in the room that wasn’t touched by the sincere and original story that Pethick brought to life with the camera.
The third annual University of Southampton Student Film Festival was held at Union Films on Friday March 16th, for more information and photos from the night, check out the official Facebook page here.