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Tommy Hodgson’s Encounters TOP 5

Thursday 1 October 2020, by Tommy Hodgson

Writer Tommy Hodgson offers his own top picks from this year’s Encounters Short Film Festival.

Breadline (UK, director: Carol Salter): Breadline displays intimate footage of a food bank in a Northern town through the gaze of an elderly volunteer and, in doing so, serves as a damning indictment of the austerity state which the Conservative Party has manufactured and sustained within the UK. Carol Salter’s short tale is a personal, and soul-searching look into the ordinary people who have chosen to help other ordinary people because their government has neglected them. Through basic conversations and mundane day-to-day tasks, Breadline is disarmingly successful in adding a layer of humanity to the political choices of this country. Understated and simplistic in its execution, Breadline gives a more realistic glimpse into modern Britain than a passive news report ever could.

Calvario (Spain, director: Lluís Margarit): From Spanish director Lluís Margarit comes a delightful gaze into insecurity and male fragility, specifically the perils of balding before one’s time. As funny as it is tragic, the picture takes the toxicity of our self-image to hilarious extremes, within an easily digestible and relatable reality. Margarit’s success lies with tapping into a male fear often assumed but not dwelt upon, and offering misdirects as to whether this supposed slight is real or imagined. Well-acted and not at all self-indulgent, Calvario is sure to produce a hearty laugh in its audience, regardless of their hairline.

Christy (Ireland, director: Brendan Canty): Christy is brilliant in its display of the often uncomplicated bonds of male friendship, and further how comradeship cuts deeper than job rejections and other setbacks in life. A fascinating depiction of life for the working-class youth in Ireland, it resonates with anyone who has ever been young and broke, faced with the anxiety of a job interview when you do not even know yourself yet. Director Brendan Canty’s piece is ultimately positive in its message that there are rays of sunshine in friendship and petty revenge to counter the very adult drudgery and mundanity of a working life.

Christy (Short Film Trailer) from Brendan Canty on Vimeo.

Exam (Iran, director: Sonia K Hadad): When a teenage girl is pressured to deliver a package before school, her patience and limits are severely tested. An extremely tense and gripping short tale, Exam offers a simple premise but with unthinkable consequences. The build-up of tragedy is layered from the beginning, with intriguing use of over-lingering shots, often sticking closely and relentlessly to the back or front of the character’s head to make the suspense more personal, and the fallout more dramatic. Touching on themes of authority, the black market and the perception of vices in Iran, Sonia K Hadad’s refreshing direction and execution is simply masterful.

Soup (Russia, director: Inga Sukhordukova): Soup is a dark and dramatic piece, building layers of tension, guilt and the inability to articulate one’s emotions into a tight eleven minute journey. The cost of success is apparent when a father and son are re-acquainted, and the unsaid strains on the relationship only infect the plot from there. Both actors successfully use subtle body language, micro gestures and erratic speech patterns to communicate the deep wounds of the relationship in question. It is fitting that the surroundings are sparse and empty, so only emotions cloud the set. Ultimately, Inga Sukhordukova’s directorial debut is impressive in crafting a nuanced narrative - with overtones of political commentary about Russian family life and society, especially the state of LGBTQ rights in the country.

Check out more of Tommy’s recent work: "Why Tearing Down Statues Is Tackling Britain’s Racist History" & "Belarus’ young photographers are capturing a country in flux".

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