Tag Archives: Encounters 2016

Encounters 2016: Day 5

Fish Head DJs

Director of Programming James McNally is attending this year’s Encounters Short Film and Animation Festival from September 20th to 25th.

My plan for today was to attend some or all of the special European Film Awards shorts screenings, but I got a late start and they all sold out. So purely by chance, I decided to attend the 1:00pm Depict! screening. Depict! has been a part of Encounters since 1998 and is a dedicated competition for super short films. Limited to 90 seconds or less, these films have to tell a story in just a tiny slice of time, and I was extremely impressed with the shortlisted films. Among my favourites was the Roy Andersson-esque Living by Ben Mankin, and Thomas Lucas’ hilarious and accomplished Death in Space, which packed more laughs into 40 seconds than most comedy features. I’m definitely excited about trying to show a few of these films at future Shorts That Are Not Pants screenings.

Living, by Ben Mankin

Death in Space, by Thomas Lucas

Later I got to meet up with my friend Katie Baldock, whom I met at Sundance. She lives and works in London, but is originally from Bristol, so she was taking the opportunity to visit Encounters and her parents at the same time. After our drink together, there was just time for me to sneak home for a nap, which I considered essential preparation for the rest of the evening.

Earlier, I’d finally introduced myself to festival director Rich Warren, and obtained a coveted ticket to the invite-only Awards Ceremony at 7:00pm. It was great to be in the audience as more than 20 awards were handed out. And I ended up sitting next to Alison Sterling, a film producer who serves on the festival’s board of directors. Among the many highlights of the presentation was Latvian-Swiss animator Anete Melece, whose film Analysis Paralysis won the Grand Prix Award for Animation. Her bubbly personality couldn’t contain itself as she almost danced off the stage with her award. I was also delighted that Brady Hood’s Sweet Maddie Stone won the Live Action Grand Prix Award.

The closing night party began directly afterwards, with a glass of prosecco being offered to us almost as soon as we left the cinema. I’m very glad that I stayed, since I got to speak with a lot of people I hadn’t previously met, including animation programmer Kieran Argo, Watershed programme coordinator Clare Leczycki, and several more filmmakers and animators. And as you’ll notice from the photo above, the DJs were wearing fish heads, so that was also something.

Encounters 2016: Day 4

Don Letts

Director of Programming James McNally is attending this year’s Encounters Short Film and Animation Festival from September 20th to 25th.

This morning I forced myself to go a 9:30am “networking breakfast” where filmmakers could meet festival programmers. I wasn’t sure whether there was any official presentation, but I thought I could meet some other festival people at the very least. It turned out to just be a room full of people and some coffee, but I ended up talking to a whole bunch of people, and that made me feel immediately better. I’ve been really tired and that makes my introvert tendencies dominate, so I’ve been in a bit of a social cocoon. Meeting people always makes me feel better, though.

Ticking Away

The only film screening I attended today was the 12:00pm Animation 5: A Look Inside where the strongest films were Ticking Away by Michael Sewnarain, in which a clockmaker encounters the Grim Reaper, and Sean Vicary’s The Nose, a mesmerizing stop-motion tale of memories triggered by the fragrance of flowers.

The Nose

I took some time off for a nap before returning for another networking session at 6:00pm. This time, there was free booze (yay, free booze!) and I finally met up with Philip Ilson, director of the London Short Film Festival, with whom I’d been messaging over the past few weeks.

At 8:30pm, I attended one of the most anticipated events of the festival for me, a wide-ranging conversation with filmmaker and DJ Don Letts. Over nearly two hours, he talked about his life and his friendships and collaborations with many of the pioneering punk musicians, including The Clash. He’s a fascinating and generous man whose contributions to music and film shouldn’t be overlooked.

A couple of pints after that in the cinema bar, but conversation proved impossible due to the presence of Bristol legend DJ Krust, who was spinning an energetic and bass-heavy set.

Encounters 2016: Day 3

Watershed Cinema

Director of Programming James McNally is attending this year’s Encounters Short Film and Animation Festival from September 20th to 25th.

Thursday in Bristol and the sun was finally shining. I was also feeling slightly more energetic, though I skipped the 10:00am screening to make sure I had some coffee and some food before watching any films. The noon screening was Animation 3: Top of the Class and there were indeed some top-notch films in this lineup. I’d very much enjoyed Reka Bucsi’s graduation film Symphony No. 42 back in 2014, and her latest work, LOVE (image below), retains much of the earlier film’s whimsy while adding depth as it explores the phases of falling in and out of love. I also very much enjoyed Volker Schlecht and Alexander Lahl’s animated documentary Broken: The Women’s Prison at Hoheneck which used a spare style to expose a history of forced labour at a notorious East German prison.

LOVE by Reka Bucsi

I enjoyed a cheap (3 pounds!) sandwich deal from the local Sainsbury’s and ate sitting in the sun by the Cascade Steps. Then it was time for a little exploration. I found one of Banksy’s works, called “Well Hung Lover” and browsed the local FOPP, where I bought some books, DVDs, and a CD. I headed back to the Watershed for the 4:00pm screening, which was Short Film 6: Modern Love.

A Night in Tokoriki

Highlights from this programme included Toby Fell Holden’s Balcony, a sweet tale of cross-cultural attraction with a nasty sting in its tail. I also really enjoyed Andrei Cretulescu’s slow burning Seven Months Later, about a couple desperate to have a baby. But my favourite had to be the mostly-bonkers A Night in Tokoriki by Roxana Stroe. Cheesy music to go with male posturing at its finest, this short had me laughing until things got serious.

Wellington Jr.

I stuck around for more animation at 6:00pm, in the Animation 4: It’s Only Natural programme. Best here was Cécile Paysant’s Wellington Jr., a stop-motion puppet tale about male vanity played out in the context of a hunting competition.

By this point my eyes were closing involuntarily, so I thought I’d head home for some food and a rest and then maybe head back to the bar for a drink. But after waiting 30 minutes for a takeaway curry, I thought it best to head to bed early.

Encounters 2016: Day 2

Encounters Mirror at Watershed Cinemas

Director of Programming James McNally is attending this year’s Encounters Short Film and Animation Festival from September 20th to 25th.

I had an ambitious day planned. Every day at 9:00am, pass holders can go online and choose their tickets for the day, and I planned to see five 90-minute programmes today. It didn’t quite work out that way, but I shouldn’t feel too bad.

The 10:00am Short Film 1 programme (SUX2BME) was very strong. I particularly enjoyed Gigi Ben Artzi’s E.W.A. a bold and stylish coming-of-age tale about a young woman with a constant nosebleed (still image below), and Brady Hood’s Sweet Maddie Stone, which featured an indelible character and a fearless performance from Jessica Barden. I’m glad to hear it’s being developed into a longer feature.

E.W.A. by Gigi Ben Artzi

At noon, I caught the Animation 1 (The Weight of Humanity) programme, and it was also very strong. My favourites were Uri Kranot’s How long, not long, a lovely painted piece that takes on the heavy theme of xenophobia, and Mihai Grecu’s The Reflection of Power, an eerie piece that combines striking imagery of North Korea with some clever VFX.

How long, not long

The Reflection of Power

Finding myself starving, I skipped the 2:00pm programme for which I had a ticket, and consumed an enormous burger at Small Bar, a great craft beer spot just a ten minute walk from the Watershed Cinema, where the festival is based. Of course, I had a beer, too. I also had a ticket for 4:00pm but decided to head back to my guest house for a nap. I’m still feeling pretty fatigued and thought I’d recharge for the evening. Before I left, I attempted to get a ticket to the 7:00pm screening of comedy shorts, but it was completely sold out. Luckily, I’d grabbed my ticket for the 9:00pm Sci-Fi shorts earlier this morning.

I came back to the Watershed around 7:30pm, hoping to mingle in the bar/café, but I was still feeling too shy to strike up a conversation with anyone. I just sat and had a beer and tried to absorb some of the atmosphere.

The 9:00pm programme of science fiction shorts (Close Encounters of the Short Kind) was a bit of a disappointment. Lots of the films were either too reliant on visual effects, or used shopworn sci-fi tropes without bringing anything new. The best of the lot was Croatian animator Veljko Popovic’s Planemo which was admirably ambitious even if its reach exceeded its grasp of animation technique.

All in all, a good day of screenings, though I was disappointed in myself for not talking to anyone. I’m hoping that with more rest, I’ll be a bit more energetic tomorrow.

Encounters 2016: Day 1

You Still Look Tired

Director of Programming James McNally is attending this year’s Encounters Short Film and Animation Festival from September 20th to 25th.

I’ve been excited about this trip for quite a while now, but I’ve also been working for TIFF, and the 16-hour days were beginning to wear me out. Normally, I’d have written a “Before I Go” post but I was just too busy and exhausted.

TIFF ended Sunday evening and my flight was at 10pm on Monday night. After a reasonable attempt at sleeping in, I had to clean my apartment and do laundry. I barely had time to grab some pizza slices before having to leave for the airport. A new TIFF friend had given me a sleeping pill but it was almost two hours into the flight before I got any water to wash it down with. As a result, I might have slept a couple of hours on the plane but was becoming very groggy by the time I landed. From Gatwick I had to take a train to Reading and then change for Bristol Temple Meads station. I made the train with only seconds to spare.

I got into Bristol around 3:45pm and got a taxi to the Southville Guest House, a newly opened bed and breakfast about 15 minutes walk from downtown. I’d intended to have a 45 minute nap but ended up sleeping until after 6pm. Still a bit groggy, I walked to the Watershed Cinema to pick up my pass and my ticket for the Aardman Animations 40th Anniversary Celebration. After a quick dinner at a restaurant called Pieminster (which served savoury pies), I returned for the event. Peter Lord and David Sproxton founded Aardman in 1976 and each took a turn in telling some stories from its history. The event culminated in the first showing of the newly remastered video for Peter Gabriel’s song “Sledgehammer” which Aardman worked on in 1986.

I’d been eager to see and hear everything and sat right up front, but then had some trouble staying awake, which was slightly embarrassing. I realized that the best thing to do afterwards was to head straight home for a proper night’s rest, which is exactly what I did.

My first impressions of Bristol have been good. It’s a very pretty town with lots of canals and boats everywhere. I’m looking forward to exploring much more this week. The graffiti in the photo above is on one of the many footbridges that commuters must take on their way to and from work. It certainly made me smile in recognition.