AMPLIFY! Film Festival 2020 Round Up


Similar to my London Film Festival Round Up I wanted to share my thoughts on the films I watched at AMPLIFY! this month, which is a an online film festival in the UK. Four regional film festivals - Cambridge Film Festival, Cinecity (Brighton), Cornwall Film Festival, and FilmBath came together to collaborate on the programme so that people can watch a wide range of amazing cinema from their homes.


Full disclosure: I have links with FilmBath because I've been volunteering with them for a few years now! I also ran a competition on my Instagram page for someone to win an AMPLIFY! pass, and I'm so glad I could help promote the event in some way. Normally I would be stewarding, giving out tickets or distributing (physical) programmes so it was fun to do something a little different this year.


The films I watched were all brilliant so kudos to the festival programmers and organisers for bringing brave cinema to our living rooms this November! Here are my thoughts on some of them (in no particular order) along with the trailer for each title:


Falling

Falling is Viggo Mortensen's directorial debut. When I read that he wrote it and stars in it too I was interested to see how well he would balance such a heavy undertaking. However, once you realise how delicate the subject matter is, and then how personal of a story it is to him (the film is dedicated to his brothers), it makes total sense that he would want to be central to every part of the production. The narrative hinges around an extremely trying father-son relationship, wherein John (Mortensen) hosts his father Willis (Lance Henriksen), who is a California-hating old man embittered by homophobia, racism and general nastiness. While simultaneously being a successful storytelling device and mechanism for characterisation, the cross cutting between John's upbringing on a farm and his current life with his husband and daughter in California worked well to provide more context on the sort of upbringing he had. Heartbreaking and painfully full of vitriol, Henriksen's performance was a total knockout. I started this film already a huge fan of Viggo Mortensen, and ended it with even more respect for him as a creator and artist. I can't wait to see what he does next and would love to see him directing more projects.


I Never Cry / Jak najdalej stad

I adored this film. It's about a seventeen year old girl from Poland who has to travel to Ireland on her own to bring her dead father home. So off she goes to Dublin - reluctantly. Though this might sound like a really depressing synopsis for a film, there is a fair amount of black humour throughout and Ola is such an streetwise girl that you don't often find yourself worrying about her being on her own in a new country. Nothing seems to phase her except the idea that she might not be able to get the car that her father promised her. Zofia Stafiej, who plays Ola, is such a talent and carries the entire film with a nonsense-free tenacity. The further she delves into her father's past as she roots around in corners of Dublin for leads and clues about his life, the more we get to see of who she really is too. She may be stoic but she definitely isn't completely void of empathy. I particularly enjoyed the narrative arc featuring a character called Sara (Cosmina Stratan). Seek this one out!


Cocoon

Cocoon / Kokon is a German film set in Berlin during one of the hottest summers on record. For the protagonist Nora (Lena Urzendowsky), it's a summer of transformation. A certain cluelessness surrounds her and an over-reliance on her sister means that she doesn't really have her own social circles to rely on. When a kind new student named Romy (Jella Haase) comes to Nora's rescue as she experiences getting her period for the first time, everything changes and she has room to explore who she really is. Realistic and liberating, Cocoon is everything you could want from queer cinema.



Cornwall Film Festival International Shorts

This collection of shorts was superb. There was only one 'dud' for me, and it wasn't because it was a badly made film, but the content was just too much of an uncomfortable watch for me. Here are the four I enjoyed the most!


Adnan - https://www.adnanshortfilm.com

If you have ever wondered how refugee mothers and children cope after they've fled their home country, you need to watch this film. Actually, even if you haven't wondered that you should watch this film. I would particularly like to see the people who don't consider refugees welcome (i.e. the anti-immigrant people who protest in Dover) to watch this so that they can see what they are doing to further harm humans who have already experienced more trauma in their lives than most people can bear to imagine. This short film is beautiful and heartbreaking - even more so when you acknowledge the reality beyond the film. Adnan (the lead character) is played by Ayham Kabi, whose own neighbourhood was destroyed in Aleppo (there is more about his story in the link above). I was blown away by how much this short film managed to convey in just 15 minutes.


Sticker - https://www.sundance.org/projects/sticker

This short captures the essence of snowballing frustration. What starts out as a a small niggling issue about a sticker for his car, protagonist Dejan's day goes from bad to black eye quicker than you would think it possible. I found Sticker hilarious and especially enjoyed its tone.


Appreciation - https://www.tomisinadepeju.com/appreciation

This short presented grief in a way that I have never seen before. It lovingly considers the experience of a Nigerian-British woman who is caught between feelings of sorrow and her faith. It felt to me like there was a very distinct voice behind this film, and I was very happy to listen and learn from it.



Clean - https://www.howdirtyareyou.com

This is story of a man who loses his clothes at a laundrette and his journey to get them back. It takes some unexpected turns and I really don’t want to spoil it so you will have to watch for yourself! Winner of Best Short Film at Amplify 2020. Congratulations to director Richard Paris Wilson and the team!


Chumbak - https://nrff.nl/chumbak

Finally... Chumbak is the story of a young girl who innovates to make money in order to help out her father. This short was made by a couple from the UK and Holland, but is filmed in India. I found it a heartwarming story, if a little whimsical. Similar to Adnan in the way that a child comes to the rescue of an adult in desperate need of intervention, it was great to see a thoughtful, creative young girl problem solving, being entrepreneurial and resourceful with the things around her.

 

You can read more about AMPLIFY! Film and see the whole programme for 2020 here: https://www.amplifyfilm.org.uk.