Here are Spling's Top 5 short films from the 2016 AFDA Graduation Film Festival held in Cape Town at the Labia Theatre... to watch these student short films online, click on the link below each review to be redirected to their official page on AFDA's website and then click on the 'View Production' button towards the bottom right.
Christmas Spirit is a dark comedy about an abrasive family, who are anticipating a visit from their Christmassy yet much-hated "Grandpa". This madcap short film has a similar tone to the BBC sitcom, My Family, yet takes the Christmas motif to new depths of dysfunction as the festive decorations become a symbol for their disdain for "Grandpa".
The filmmakers have cleverly balanced horror and comedy that recalls the work of Sam Raimi and Edgar Wright through their knack for irreverence and surprise. While ambitious, they manage to deck this Christmas tree with some sparkling comedy and over-the-top horror. Smart writing, great timing, relatable themes, convincing special effects and sharp comedy performances make this despicable laugh fest truly special as "Christmas Spirit" takes on a whole new meaning.
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The Fall is a gripping psychological thriller about an award-winning photojournalist who suffers a nervous breakdown. By means of aerial photography and CBD backdrops, Cape Town becomes a character in this elegant and epic film, which broaches social alienation, the grey area of photojournalistic integrity and its repercussions as addressed in The Bang Bang Club.
Two excellent co-leads drive the intensity of this dizzying drama, which seems to have taken inspiration from films like Fight Club. The hard-hitting soundtrack, unorthodox cinematography and surreal flashbacks whip up a frenzy of emotion, which spirals upward to the big lump-in-the-throat reveal. Sleek visuals, seamless special effects, pangs of turmoil and a complete story, this short film could easily be extrapolated into a feature film.
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DARLING, YOU'RE MINE
Darling, You're Mine is a powerful period piece drama that goes behind-the-scenes to reveal the dark underside of Hollywood. The industry has a shady history of discrimination, encapsulated in biographies like Trumbo, where social injustices become the norm. Elegantly shot and sensitively scripted, this harrowing drama shows the disgusting abuse of power and inherent gender inequality of the system as experienced by a young starlet trying to forge her film career.
Solid performances, authentic sets, wardrobe, make up and impressive production values make it seem like an excerpt from a much broader work. A real-life human nature horror, this immersive drama ends on a poignant note with a statistic that makes this '50s short film haunting and powerful. The ambiguous title, Darling, You're Mine plays into the sweet etiquette of the era and leaves you with a bitter afterthought that brings you back to the here and now.
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Numb is an intimate drama and portrait of a long time couple whose relationship is put to the test when one of them is relegated to a wheelchair and crippled even further by his feelings of inadequacy. We journey with Griffin, a gregarious, go-getting downhill biker with a big future as he is quickly reduced to an uncertain, self-doubting and pitiful husk of a man.
While the cinematography is beautifully composed and silky, Numb will be best remembered for two thoughtful, nuanced and sensitive performances. It's a heartbreaking and all-too-real drama that provokes thought and evokes emotion, making every second count in completing a convincing character transition. Mature writing underpins this honest and restrained short film about a man dealing with post traumatic stress disorder.
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It's no secret, Blue Midnight has been inspired by Nicolas Winding Refn's Drive. A commanding lead performance makes this a compelling watch. While sparsely scripted, stylised shots keep it moody and visually-stimulating, reinforced by the oppressive air created by the soundtrack. The familiarity carries over into other films like Crash and Taken as elements involving father and daughter coincide.
Diners, bars, gas stations... it exists in a universal Edward Hopper dimension, where the bakkie is the only real thing that anchors it in South Africa. The naming convention parallel with Blue Velvet is no accident. This film imbues a sleek, surreal and seething tone with sound design that seems on the cusp of tripping into Lynchland. While heavily influenced by other filmmakers, it plays into its enticing title, making you wish there was more...
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While they didn't quite make the Top 5, these short films deserve a special mention: the classy social issue drama Full Service, the Hollywood horror Alice, the maniacal What Goes Bump in the Night, the ethereal Crisis at the Summit and visually compelling character portrait, Tom.