The ICA’s monthly Uncut Film Forum is an all too rare opportunity for members of the public to see short films by up-and-coming directors and film school graduates, with the chance to get the inside scoop from the filmmakers themselves. Programmed and presented by Joel Karamath, the Forum was founded fifteen years ago in response to the demise of repertory cinema: ‘A lot of the art-house cinemas were closing down when I was at college, so there were fewer places to see films by new directors. I wanted somewhere to show films and have them discussed, so when the ICA offered me the opportunity to set up a film forum, I ran round the student shows to pick the best films and the monthly event grew from that’.
June’s Uncut featured eleven incredibly eclectic short films covering a broad range of subject matter and styles, from challenging documentaries, to touching dramas, fantasy with live action mixed with animation to more abstract takes on filmmaking. ‘There’s no point programming two hours of avant-garde cinema’, says Karamath, ‘you want the audience to be drawn in. So by showing a variety of films, including a couple of more abstract pieces, you really hold their attention’.
Many of the filmmakers tackled tough subject matter, providing balanced arguments. Hamish Mek Chohan’s Boots and Braces – The Night Southall Burned is the story of the clash between skinheads and Indians in Southall in 1981, with interviews from both sides providing a compelling investigation into a forgotten issue. In Monsters of Miami, Nick Ahlmark talks to paedophiles forced to live under a bridge with no running water or electricity, due to a law that means they can’t be less than 2,500 ft from anywhere children gather. Their story is sympathetically told, and the viewer feels sorry for these men while simultaneously horrified by what they’ve done.
Death was a dominant theme in June’s event, as demonstrated in the poignantly funny drama Roaring Heaven, which is set in an old people’s home and tackles the way British people are able to handle and talk about death. In stark contrast to the film’s sad subject matter, the colours are Technicolor bright, representing the heightening of the senses due to grief.
Death receives a more abstract treatment in Niall Thompson’s Six Million Ways To Die where an actor is filmed straight to camera, reciting stream-of-consciousness monologue in one take, listing every conceivable way to die. The monologue features everything from ‘heart attack’ and ‘stabbing’ to ‘ill-prepared fugu‘ and ‘eaten alive by a whale’.
To put together the programme of the Film Forum, Karamath (a college lecturer) searches for the most outstanding work from an international assortment of student filmmakers. Yet, he also looks beyond the confines of film school: ‘I’m most interested in the first film out of college, where the filmmaker is no longer restricted by college but they haven’t yet been disillusioned by the industry’. If the standard of shorts demonstrated is as high every month then the future is certainly bright for the British Film Industry. Uncut resumes in the autumn after a short summer break.