BAFTA Shorts 2016

Review by Sophie Monks Kaufman @sopharsogood

Directed by

Callum Rice Caroline Bartleet Richard Williams

Starring

Kate Dickie Robert Fullerton Vicky McLure

Anticipation.

The BAFTA 2015 bunch were largely interminable.

Enjoyment.

Some are better than others but the bar is impressively high. The great ones stay with you.

In Retrospect.

Scottish talent mined.

Who Framed Roger Rabbit animator Richard Williams is one of seven directors featured in this excellent short film compendium.

“Finding. That was a word that I had in one of the sonnets. I’d written ‘finding’ and then I had ‘searching’, ‘looking for’, all these words. It turned out to be ‘Mining’ – what a word. ‘Mining’. Imagine going down into the dirt to find a word that you’re going to elevate up into poetry, that’s ‘mining’ for me.”

Mining Poems or Odes, directed by Callum Rice, is one of the seven remarkably high-quality shorts in this year’s 75-minute BAFTA compendium. The three animated and four live-action shorts all have a rich strain of existential sensitivity contained within clever premises. For Prologue, Who Framed Roger Rabbit animator Richard Williams draws scenes from an ancient war, as viewed from a horrified child, into life. The audio of his busily scratching pencil provides a reminder that this is artful interpretation rather than bloody realism.

Caroline Bartleet’s Operator, the winner at this year’s BAFTAs, is an example of a simple idea executed to perfection. Kate Dickie is an emergency operator for the fire brigade. She takes callers’ information, sends help and then stays on the line to advise them in the panic-filled minutes before fire engines arrive at their address. The finale of the film shows the hysterical screaming of a caller replaced by the stultifying quiet of an office environment, as Dickie is disconnected. She takes a breath. The contrast between high drama and nothingness is expressed in this shockingly powerful tonal discrepancy.

Mining Poems or Odes is the richest offering in show – at least from the perspective of one who loves words. Robert Fullerton is a bridge between physical labour and the human soul. Once he was a shipyard-welder, now he is a poet. He credits the former vocation with enabling the latter. (“It’s the perfect thinking laboratory.”) The film is Fullerton talking. It is a feedback loop of wordplay. We watch him looking for the right language to describe looking for the right language; he uses metaphors that literally describe the job he held from the age of 17.

Glasgow is where he grew up and his thick but perfectly audible Glaswegian accent perhaps informed the filmmaker’s decision to run subtitles. They don’t harm the film as they emphasise the precision of all word choices. Imagery of steel sparking and scenes from the city break up footage of the poet’s wonderful worn face.

Published 25 Feb 2016

Anticipation.

The BAFTA 2015 bunch were largely interminable.

Enjoyment.

Some are better than others but the bar is impressively high. The great ones stay with you.

In Retrospect.

Scottish talent mined.

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