My Fat Arse and I

A surreal animated short film about dealing with fatphobia and its damaging internalisation. Managing to be funny and adventurous despite also doing justice to the all-consuming impact physically and mentally of negotiating misogynistic diet culture, it has a healing message. Watch out for goose-stepping arse-angels and an eight-bit fight scene with a Sauron-esque gigantic scale.

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Posestry (Sisters)

A kind of humorous send-up of anti-feminist women, their activism, and their demonisation of feminism and feminists. There is a sort of revelling in it all, having fun instead of feeling the cut, but the way it is shot is kind of confused and confusing. I respect the ‘fuck you’ feel of the film, but found its message got lost a little.

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Ukraine: Three Years Of Truce

In this short documentary the filmmaker presents us with images of people on the Ukraine’s border with Russia, where Russia’s initial invasion almost 8 years ago led to an unsteady ceasefire. The film speaks up for victims of war, people who are not vying for geopolitical influence, but just trying to live their lives and protect their loved ones in a state of perpetual precariousness. Mothers hug their children, kids play in defensive sites, and people try to cope with the damage to their homes and the militarisation of their neighbourhoods.

The film also speaks to the rest of Ukraine, who were at the time as yet untouched by the war. It reminds them these are not some people in a far-away land whose war has been forgotten. Despite the truce, they are daily injured and sometimes killed by the ongoing spates of violence. They live in a warzone and need aid.

Prescient film.

The Fall Of Lenin

With a sardonic bemusement, this short documentary looks at the removal of statues of Lenin from Ukraine. In snippets throughout the film is interspersed footage of a séance taking place in the 80s Soviet Ukraine, where people sit very seriously around a makeshift ouija board and try to contact Lenin’s ghost.

Archival footage shows the erection of these statues, to the gaze of crowds of thousands, onlookers packing public squares to see, wrapped in red and pinned with badges, some holding up their own framed portraits of Lenin. While from this time and this place, there is the temptation to see it as entirely a product of Soviet authoritarianism, that obscures the genuine public emotion which brought many people to the streets, and led to hundreds of Lenin statues being erected across the country.

Similarly, contemporary scenes of their removal show crowds of people on the streets, people jockeying to see, desperate to get close. Only this time it is to stamp and break the iconographic monument. People are just as sincere in their rejection as they were in their embrace.

Lacking narration, editing makes the director’s point. While it would be easy to set the rise and fall of the statues as a rejoicing in the demise of Soviet hold over Ukraine, the film chooses to contrast the demolitions with archival images of crosses being pulled off churches, stars being pulled off synagogues, portraits of Christ being burned in the town square. It highlights a repetition of the need to erase the wrong thinking of the past, obliterate the mistakes of history, in a cycle which seems to just go round and round. Even in the shots of the Lenin statues coming down, you see swastikas spray-painted on the plinths, anarchist flags being flown alongside Ukrainian national flags, and it seems to ask, in the overthrow of the old ideology, what new one comes next?

Meanwhile the medium at the séance uses her upturned saucer on her sheet of paper with the letters spelt out in biro. She asks Lenin’s ghost if the country ever know peace, if its people will ever be free of hardship and suffering. Lenin spells back, “No”.

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Misha

Sweet little short film about a woman talking to her grampa about coming to her wedding. He’s elderly and in a wheelchair but she is trying to encourage him to fly from Ukraine to England for her wedding to her English man. He jokes around with her, and when she tells him the English word for gran, he uses it to call to his wife, laughing. Just a lovely film that lets you sit in the home of a family with the filmmaker.

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Weightlifter

A short film about a professional Ukrainian weightlifter preparing for a major championship. The film contrasts his increasing physical mastery as he loses his grip on his inner turmoil and up-ends his life.

At the beginning of the film, he shares a flat with his happy, beautiful girlfriend, who is devoted to their fluffy, pregnant cat. Now, like I said in my review of The Dinner, whenever you see a beloved pet in one of these things, ding ding ding! The clock is ticking on it.

Then he gets a phone call from his mother informing him that his father has died. Despite her tears, he refuses to come home for the funeral. He tells her he has to train for the championship, but it’s obvious there’s a history of trauma there. He doesn’t even tell anyone about this, including his girlfriend. Instead he just becomes more intense in his training, more erratic in his behaviour, and eventually lashes out violently against his partner and their pet.

The final shot is of him practising his lift in the mirror, the flat dark and empty, him alone with this dream of strength. Well acted and well made, it is a grim story about toxic masculinity and how damaging it is for all involved.

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Love Is Just A Death Away

A beautiful little animated short about a wee grub finding another like itself to love and grow.

The film manages to be surprisingly beautiful despite being quite gross, and surprisingly tender despite being quite morbid. The grub inhabits the corpse of a decaying dog, like some kind of Pickle Rick. He lives in a garbage dump, and tries to make friends with the other animals there, a junkyard dog, an injured bird, a scavenging rat. Alas, they are either scared off or killed by his touch. Inhabiting a rotting corpse has its downsides.

The wee grub gazes up at an eclipse of moths, dancing together against the pinks and blues of the beautiful sky. His loneliness and yearning is palpable.

Things go from bad to worse, as the corpse deteriorates into a skeleton, leaving the grub vulnerable to the dangers of the garbage dump. Just when all hope looks lost, the injured bird returns, now dead but animated by a grub of its own. Together they make a connection, join, and grow into the magnificent moths they were destined to become.

Really sweet.

Hungry Joe

Hungry Joe is a short horror film about a mother whose son’s appetite knows no cessation.

The film starts with Laura, happy with her husband in a new home with a new baby on the way, but that quickly changes once her son arrives. He screams constantly, needs fed nonstop, and has chewed her breasts until they are bruised and bloody. When Laura raises her difficulty with the health visitor, she is immediately shut down with shame, that she must put in the effort to breastfeed him, it’s the best for the baby so she is selfish if she wants to stop, and it is important for bonding, as though any complaint about the process must be some unnatural rejection of her motherhood entirely. The sense of failure and shame instilled in her as a new mother is all too recognisable.

Then, as he grows, she is unable to keep up with his demand for food. Her husband has left her, and she struggles with the financial burden of feeding Joe. She has to turn to food banks to cope with his ravenous demand. When the school draws her in, it is to accuse her of neglect, as Joe always seems underfed and desperately hungry at school. To her disgust, she finds he has started to eat out the bins. The school say they have no option but to refer her to the social to be investigated as an unfit parent.

When he has grown into adolescence, he no longer goes to school, but is almost entirely confined to the house. Neighbourhood cats are going missing, and Joe seems to be creeping out to catch and feast upon live animals at night. He has become a local legend, and children dare each other to post rotting food through his letter box. The kids sing, “Hungry Joe! Hungry Joe!”

Laura too almost never leaves the house. They are pariahs. Having exhausted avenues for help with medical and social services, and met with nothing but condemnation, she faces the prospect of being chained to Joe for life. She dreams at night of throwing him into a fire as a baby, and while waking hopes he will one day choke. Finally at the end of her tether, she kills herself.

And so Joe comes full circle. He consumed his mother’s body to build his own, fed from it insatiably through infancy, and upon her death, he devours her entirely.

Cool idea, perhaps imperfectly executed. I feel it could have been shorter, tighter, with less repetition.

One thing, if you have an eating disorder, this might not be the film for you. I mean, I know that’s obvious from the everything of the plot, but actually there is one particular aspect I found quite effecting. The foley is superb, and perfectly conveys the horror of eating. Like, every scene where Joe or anyone else was eating, I just wanted to close my eyes and cover my ears, coz the sound of it is just unbearably gross. Take it from me.

A Safe Place While It’s Raining

A Safe Place While It’s Raining is a short film encompassing a conversation between a brother and sister.

It’s clear the talk takes place after the loss of their last parent. They discuss their mother’s illness and how they coped. It has the air of exhaustion, like a quiet and intimate time after the rigours of the most intense and public parts of grief. I imagine the sister climbing under the covers of her mother’s bed at the end of a very long funeral tea, and her brother coming to find her after the final guests are gone.

Underneath what they are saying seems to be a tentativeness, like they are checking with each other, after this devastating loss, that they are still a family. The brother’s tone is slightly coaxing, slightly comforting, but the biggest kindness is that neither one asks the other to leave the canopy of their mother’s blanket.

As the rain starts to fall outside, the sound is muffled behind the glass, beneath the bedding, to the point where even it can sound comforting.