For two years running, the task of choosing the short films that make up the London Film Festival programme has fallen to Simon Young from the distribution company Shorts International and Philip Ilson, founder of Halloween and organiser of the London Short Film Festival. Out of the thousands of films that were submitted they had to select just over 40 shorts, which are organised into six themed programmes.
Young and Ilson come from two different sides of the short film world, which means their programmes are very complementary. Young likes well-structured, well-written films: ‘Too many filmmakers make very downbeat, inconclusive, open-ended type films. I think it’s just lazy.’ His favourite film in this year’s selection is I am Bob, starring Bob Geldof, not only because it’s well-made but also because it will appeal to everybody: ‘I like films that people who aren’t necessarily involved in the short film world will enjoy. I am Bob is a very rounded piece, it’s very funny and accessible because it has one of the most famous faces on the planet basically sending himself up completely.’
While Young likes shorts to have ‘a beginning, a middle and an end’, Ilson, by contrast, likes things to be left up in the air: ‘A lot of short filmmakers seem to think they have to have this sort of ending with a twist, or a definite sort of point where the film finishes. I was looking for stuff that was a bit looser, a bit more genuine than that.’ In order to showcase those shorts that don’t fit the ‘short film genre’, Ilson has created the ‘Death to Short Film’ section, which this year includes such works as Hinterland, an understated drama centred around a mother and her two children walking through a remote part of the French countryside. ‘It doesn’t hit you with any kind of quick, easy answer or any quick, easy plot. Not much happens but it’s really powerful stuff, there are so many emotions in that film.’
Ilson also programmes ‘Mondo Mayhem’, a selection of very short, low-budget and generally bizarre material. Aside from music videos, surreal shorts and strange documentaries, it includes the horror-tinged Belgian drama Anémone. Says Ilson: ‘It starts with this little girl, and there’s obviously some strange things going on with her. It’s got the feel of something like Don’t Look Now, or Japanese horror films, little hooded kids in a corridor as in Dark Water, but it’s not so obviously horror. It’s shot a bit voyeuristically so it might make people feel uncomfortable but it’s the whole point of this programme, trying to find the slightly disturbing, freaky stuff that’s out there.’
One thing the two curators do share is a love of beautiful photography. For Young, one of the most visually impressive films in the programme is an American short entitled Left. ‘It’s inspired by a painter called Andrew Wyeth, so it’s really about the visuals, there’s no dialogue at all. It’s a poignant end-of-a-relationship kind of thing and it’s set in the rolling landscape of the Midwest, with this incredible light and amazing photography.’
‘It really deserves to be seen on a big screen’, is something both Ilson and Young say again and again. Starting October 18, they get their wish and London audiences will get a chance to appreciate these films in their full cinematic splendour.