Da Humbug

A grumpy old man is irritated by everything to do with Christmas, from the incessant Christmas music, to the wholesale takeover of the telly. Unable to escape it even in his own home, he’s jostled by the snowballs hitting his window. He runs outside to chase the weans away, not realising they were actually hitting pelters at the wee girl next door. In return for his unintentional act of kindness, she gives him a Christmas present which reminds him of all the happy Christmases past.

A sweet wee film.

Running With Trains

Ronnie, a young autistic student, has his whole life disrupted by the Covid pandemic. He finds it very difficult to be out his routine, and is isolated from friends at his college and his club. He finds an outlet by combining his two passions – running and trains. Making this film with his family, Ronnie shows his adaptability, racing the local trains. That’s one way to keep fit during lockdown!

If you like this…

Down

Grim. Down is an animated short film about a hole that gets bigger the more is put into it, and which has a morbid attraction for people.

An analogy for the Covid pandemic, the narration is in the form of emails back and forth between two workers, one of whom was initially sent to assess the hole, and the other who is responsible for escalating any requests to management. In contrast to the otherworldly and inexplicable hole, these emails remain flatly mundane. When the guy on site reports how the hole is not obeying the laws of physics, the office worker responds by telling him to put some cones up.

Their lack of urgency and deadened reactions are mirrored by the behaviour of the general public, who take picnics by the hole’s edge, and generally treat it as something that is livening things up a bit. The ever-increasing numbers of people who are throwing themselves into the pit, never to return, causes the hole to expand until it looks set to engulf the country.

While initially determined to keep others out, if only for the sake of procedural compliance, both workers begin to express a draw towards the pit. The on-site worker becomes convinced he can help stop it if only he can get close enough. The office worker becomes curious for details, expressing a fascination to know what is at the bottom. But the final shot shows us that what is at the bottom is simply a giant mount of the all the dead bodies of the people who have thrown themselves in.

Bleak, it clearly parallels the initial lack of interest by authorities and the lack of seriousness by the public about the Covid threat. The needlessness of all those lives lost and the danger posed to the whole country is emphasised by its stark ending.

If you like this…

Filters

Filters is a short film about Kira, a woman whose insecurities are increasingly exacerbated by image filters.

Kira has years of work experience in admin, but struggles to find a job. Doing interviews over Zoom, she notes a distinct drop-off in interest when potential employers see she has Down Syndrome. Her friend suggests she use a filter, something which will alter her appearance to be more within society’s ideals. (Don’t worry, I’ll kick off about it in a minute, let me tell you the rest of the story).

As, depressingly, the filter trick works, Kira becomes evermore obsessed with her appearance, and starts to weigh herself, and look critically at her body in the mirror. She eventually messages her favourite Insta star, asking for weight loss advice, and how she can be more like her.

The Insta star sees how fucked up this is, and makes an announcement saying she will be removing her profile, as all the photos are manipulated through filters, and it is effectively a persona account and none of the content is ‘real’. She apologises to anyone hurt by her actions.

As a result of this, Kira gains the confidence to reveal her true appearance to her new employer, and is relieved when they offer her the contract regardless.

Right. Let’s start with the rage-inducing elements. Kira’s fears about her employment prospects are, unfortunately, very well founded. Disabled people are much more likely to face discrimination in the job market, and have higher unemployment rates. What can be obscured by even these dismal stats is the difference between people with a visible or invisible disability. Visible disabilities carry a whole host of their own challenges, and are more easily subject to bigotry. While some might point out laws protecting against employment discrimination, it can be really difficult to quantify the cooling of someone’s attitude towards you, once they clock your disability. To Kira and the audience, it’s obvious, but it would be really hard to capture it in writing.

The intersection between gender and disability here is an aggravating factor. Much more than men, women are judged on their appearance. Women face employment inequality challenges all their own. So as a disabled women, Kira is in a double-bind.

The solution of the filter is fucked up. While all women are forced to compete as objects, certain criteria like disability, race, or fatness can permanently exclude you. For some women, societal objectification might come at the cost of some make-up and uncomfortable shoes, but for those whose physicality immediately discounts them, the costs can be far more damaging, in the form of skin-lightening creams, unnecessary surgeries, and denying and hiding your stigmatised self.

Kira initially bristles at the suggestion, and states, “I’m not ashamed”. She doesn’t have a problem with her disability, its the employers that have the problem. But when the filter works, and she gets a job, she starts to internalise the message it sends. It’s one thing to suspect that if you didn’t have your disability, your life would be easier and you would be treated better, it’s another thing entirely to experience it. It’s like glimpsing a world where, ironically, with the use of the filter, people can actually see her for who she is. That’s something very tempting to chase, and that is why she internalises such a damaging lesson.

Then it starts to infect everything. It doesn’t stop at the job, and she starts weighing and critiquing herself. She goes from having no shame and confidence in herself, if a bit knocked, to actively seeking out strangers for guidance on how to change her appearance in real life.

The lassie who runs the instagram profile, I feel she is unfairly scapegoated. It’s sometimes simply fun to play with your appearance in photos. Adding dog-ears or looking like a chipmunk doesn’t mean you are feeding into patriarchy. The problem’s not looking different in your photos, the problem is how a set margin of appearances are unduly favoured and valued in our society, and those are ableist, racist, fatphobic, queerphobic, and misogynistic standards. The lassie takes down her profile, like that’s gonna change the world. Like that’s gonna make Kira’s employment prospects any better, or remove the pressure all women are under. She also apologises, as though this is a situation of her own creating. She identifies her behaviour as harmful, but is her behaviour harmful? She’s not turning anyone down from jobs, or stopping them from being on tv or models, or just normalised within the course of representation. If anything, she’s just doing what Kira’s doing, and she’s just as much a victim as Kira.

Regardless, I understand what her action is supposed to mean, a rejection of bullshit objectification and an embracing of being your true self. It’s a healing message, and an attempt at solidarity. Overall, I like it.

A good wee film focusing on the harder parts of intersectional oppression and its new manifestations and challenges in the technological sphere.

Mattricide

A horror-comedy short film. It’s like Hitchcock’s The Birds but with fly-tipped mattresses. Gotta say, I really enjoyed watching the ominous lurking of a dingy tartan mattress. Full to the brim with horror tropes, beautifully reworked for a ludicrous threat. Just when you thought it was safe to emerge after the pandemic, little did you know, the streets now belong TO THE MATTRESSES!

Dancing To Art

Really liked this one. 4 people select a work of art of their choosing in the Tate galleries, and express their reaction to it through dance. Some of the dances take from the meaning of the artwork, some the form, some simply from the emotion it evokes.

The first dancer takes Maggi Hambling’s 2016, a painting of a sinking boat from above. It is an image emblematic of so much of what was happening in that year. In the literal sense it is a familiar image because we saw every day the images of desperate escapes by refugees on sinking boats and rafts in the Mediterranean Sea. Climate change increasing became the focus of concern, as more and more events, such as severe hurricanes and cyclones, provided tangible proof of it already in motion. And also that sense of us all in the same boat, all pulling in the same direction, that notion of society, felt like it was breaking down, with the rise of the far-right, and their successes in mainstream political discourse, such as the election of Trump and the vote for Brexit. The first dancer expresses the urgency and anguish of the image by embodying that sense of the choppy, devouring sea, and the desperation of rowing descending into more and more frantic actions as they are tossed about on swells, before finally sinking into stillness beneath the waves.

The second dancer takes on Gillian Ayres’s Distillation, an abstract painting that rebels against the conventions of composition and form. The dancer is inspired by this freedom, using their body to mimic the swirls and curves of the painting, while also bursting free with spontaneity and creativity.

The third dancer picks Victor Pasmore’s Square Motif, Blue and Gold: The Eclipse. While focusing on the base geometrical shapes, Pasmore conveys the sense of an eclipse. The dancer enjoys embodying these shapes, engaging the pleasure they are experiencing visually with the participation of their whole body.

The last dancer chooses Henry Fuseli’s Titania and Bottom, depicting the scene from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It is a painting packed with purpose, telling the story of each character, the scene, and its place as a whole within the play. The image is at once filled with motion of interacting characters, but also still, frozen in one deliberate pose. The dancer tries to convey that mixture of movement and stillness.

The film also shows the dancers interacting with architecture of the galleries. Sliding on the floor, dancing down the halls and up the stairs. It was really interesting to see the space used in that way, and kinda made me wanna go and dance there myself.

I loved this. There used to be shorts like this on the telly, where they would talk about an artwork for 5 minutes or read a poem, and it would give you an idea of what you might to see or borrow from the library. I remember being told they were part of the Channel 4 Schools programme, I didn’t know that, I was just catching them when I flicked channels between episodes of Doctor Quinn, Medicine Woman. I loved catching them, and I don’t get why there isn’t more stuff like that. In an ad break, just take one gap to read a poem, or show some art, or put on something like this. I like just happening upon art.

Anyway, great stuff.

The Secret Life of Tom Lightfoot

Tom Lightfoot works at a call centre that is essentially Google over the phone. He has the answers to everything except how to deal with his secret. Inside his heart is a flutter, and over the course of this short film, he finds the courage to set it free. A beautiful design appears on his chest, and at the hole in the centre, out flies a flock of birds. As he stares at their beautiful patterns in the sky, he begins to dance with the murmuration. A call to celebrate what is inside of you.