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Bare Knuckle (2014)

July 29, 2014 0 documentary

Bare Knuckle is a documentary from VICE magazine about the underground sport of bare knuckle boxing in the UK. Clive Martin interviews and follows various fighters and finds out what drives the men who choose to go toe to toe in the ‘ring’ (actually just a pit encircled by of bales of hay) with no protection other than a referee. What surprises is the differing backgrounds of some of the fighters – we see the build-up to, and actual fight between, a young gypsy and a qualified solicitor twice his age. What seems to unite them all is a sense of something being incomplete – as if they find solace for their troubles in the blood-spattered hay arena.

The focus of this short film is the first transatlantic bare knuckle fight for over a century and a half (since 1863), organised by budding bareknuckle promoter Andy Topliff, who is keen to see the sport brought into the mainstream.

In the finale, we see itinerant challenger Jason ‘Machine Gun’ Young from the US go up against Newcastle’s James ‘Gypsy Boy’ McCrory for the transatlantic bare knuckle belt. The fight footage is excellent, with slow-motion used to devastating effect. A fascinating glimpse into a hidden world.

The Accidental Sea (2011)

June 29, 2014 0 documentary

Written & directed by Ransom Riggs
Music by Michael Picton

The Accidental Sea is a short documentary about the Salton Sea, a large lake created artificially when a 350 square mile section of the Colorado desert was flooded by accident over a century ago by a man-made irrigation canal carrying water from the Colorado River. The Salton Sea now constitutes the largest body of water in California, a basin lying several hundred foot below sea level.

In this engaging short documentary, narrator Ransom Riggs explores this ‘Accidental Sea’ which fascinates him and leads him to ponder whether the place is a heaven or a hell. Once popularised as a holiday retreat, with hundreds of holiday homes and permanent residences lining the banks of this ‘riviera’, the Salton Sea is now a ghostly, deserted place. Like the town of Pripiat close to Chernobyl, there are clues and signs everywhere that the area was once inhabited, but now it’s barren, an eerie and vast wilderness populated by nobody. Well, almost nobody….

The Machine (2010)

June 23, 2014 0 animation

Directed by Rob Shaw
Animated by Rob Shaw and Sarah Hulin (Bent Image Lab animation studio)

The Machine is a story about a mechanical being built and released into the world by a bored human. Like a malevolent Pinnochio, greedy with power, the Machine takes everything he finds, destroying obstacles and people along the way. From a lowly farmer to a mighty king, the machine asserts his superiority and power over everyone he encounters. The film is a stop-motion animation using puppets, with backgrounds and cut shots of moving parts designed to appear like the interior workings of a nickel slot machine.

This short film is highly allegorical and carries various potential warnings about developments in today’s world – the risks posed by giving machines too much power (drone warfare, autonomous killing machines, the increasing automation of everyday life and functions). The consequences are borne by humans and the planet we inhabit. Andrea Schuch provides the nicely stylised voiceover. The composition was done in Aftereffects.

Jacked (2012)

June 22, 2014 0 comedy

Director – Aaron Kheifets
Written by Lenny Platt, Jamie Falkowski and Aaron Kheifets

Jacked is a comedy short film about an underconfident man (Greg, played by Daniel Silver) looking for a girlfriend in Brooklyn. When a sassy friend encourages him to stop being a ‘pussy’ and talk to a girl in the street, Greg ends up with more than he bargained for as the mystery female repeatedly takes advantage of his gullibility,  naive kindness and desperation for love.

Brown Paper Bag (2003)

May 26, 2014 0 drama

Written by Geoff Thompson
Directed by Michael Baig Clifford
Produced by Natasha Carlish

Brown Paper Bag follows Reggie, an alcoholic man who, despite attending an alcoholics’ support group, is in denial. While the other members of the group bare their souls, he refuses to admit he has a problem. “I’ve earned a drink”, is his justification to himself. A working man, he feels his habit amounts to little more than a well-deserved outlet to unwind.

We finally learn that behind his drinking is the legacy of his painful childhood, a childhood as dysfunctional as his present relationship with a woman who seems to have a bigger booze problem than he does, coupled with a violent, jealous temper. It’s a toxic combination, and in one particularly horrific scene, we see the havoc and long-lasting consequences of fuelling these psychological issues with alcohol.

This BAFTA winning film was written by Geoff Thompson, martial artist turned bouncer turned writer. It is based on a subject close to his heart – his own brother’s struggle with alcohol abuse.

Geoff Thompson’s other writing and film projects can be read about here: http://www.geoffthompsonwriter.com/

Our Time Is Up (2006)

May 11, 2014 0 comedy

Written and directed by Rob Pearlstein
Produced by Pia Clemente and Loren Mendell

Kevin Pollak stars as Doctor Leonard Stern, a very jaded psychotherapist who, learning that he is terminally ill with 6 weeks to live, decides upon a new approach in his therapy; being brutally honest with his patients. Stern’s patients exhibit a range of neuroses – fear of turtles, obsession with germs, a problem with a girl’s dress being the wrong colour. You can’t help wondering if Stern’s new type of ‘therapy’ wouldn’t also be a lot more effective in real life. Our Time Is Up has a tight script, memorable performances and slick production.

Gibberish (2011)

April 23, 2014 0 comedy

Written by Benjamin Hodge
Directed by Felix Harber
Produced by Christopher Bevan

Gibberish is a short, low-budget comedy film with a lot of heart. Dom, played by Ben Jewell, is a young man who commutes to work daily by bus, preoccupied by various discussions on the phone with a girlfriend. He soon finds himself saddled with a travelling companion – a talkative and somewhat crazy-seeming elderly lady, played by Margaret Jackman, who joins him each day on the journey. At first he is keen to avoid her, treating her simply as a stranger who’s lost her marbles. With time though, the old woman begins to make an impression on Ben. As he listens to her more, his preconceptions change.

Shot by DOP Grant Murphy, Gibberish screened at several films festivals including British Shorts in Berlin 2012.

Co-produced by YSP Media and Jerry Dog Productions.

Vasily (2013)

April 16, 2014 0 documentary

Directed, shot and edited by Alexander Khudokon
Produced by Lev Maslov
Based on an idea by Dmitry Golubovsky and Maxim Nikanorov

Vasily is a short documentary about Vasily Ilyn, a retired farmer from the small rural village of Ryshkovo in the Kurksy Oblast (province) of Russia. Vasily has rarely set foot outside his village, and accepts an offer from Russian Esquire magazine to see more of the world outside as part of a series of ‘ordinary lives’, accompanied by a photoshoot. He goes first to Moscow and then to New York City. As well as all the main sights the city has to offer, he visits the ‘Russian’ district and chats to a couple of the 80,000 Russians who settled there many years ago.

As we see things for the first time through Vasily’s eyes – skyscrapers, huge bridges and the ocean – there is a wonderfully childlike quality to the way this very likeable character reacts to what he sees – not with excitement or fear, but simply wonder. Along the journey we gain a little insight into Vasily’s views, his politics and his character as he talks about growing up through communism and a series of ‘idiotic’ leaders whose tenure he is proud to have outlived.

Towards the end of his trip Vasily is left with ambiguous feelings. Having seen the level of progress and prosperity in New York City he feels a sense of sadness about the condition and fate of his own country. And yet he couldn’t look happier as he returns to his country life and his family, who welcome him with love and a table filled with hearty food.

Although Vasily may come from a simple background and, as he puts it, ‘smell like farm’, the rural scenes we see at the beginning and end of this documentary are as beautiful as, perhaps even more so than the cityscapes he explores. Any big city dweller can relate to Vasily’s observations that life in cities like New York carries a certain sort of inherent stress, with people rushing around as if there is no tomorrow.

Placed in the middle of these overwhelming, fast-paced modern environments, Vasily seems to have a certain inner tranquility about him which we can  guess results at least partly from the essential wholesomeness of the life he has led, closer to nature and family, as opposed to the stress, atomisation and isolation that can result from living in large and hectic cities where technology increasingly seems to govern, rather than assist life. There’s more to it than that though; as Vasily points out, he never takes anything too seriously. That, if nothing else, is a message worth taking away.

Changeover (2014)

April 4, 2014 0 documentary

Directed by Connor Lynch & David Ketterer

Changeover is a short documentary about a Pennsylvanian 35mm cinema film projectionist, Bill Frankhouser.  Having spent his whole life working with the 35mm cinema film format, Bill is facing the reality that the cinema industry has now moved irreversibly to digital technology. With no feature films any longer produced in 35mm , the skills he learned from a young age from his father and honed over a lifetime are now obsolete. For small, independent cinema owners like him, the transition will be very costly and means overhauling all the analogue reel-to-reel projection equipment with expensive digital replacements. Changeover is a poignant story, seen from one  perspective, of the end of an era in film.

Yama (2010)

March 15, 2014 0 music

Music written and recorded by Dead Skeletons (Ryan Carlson Van Kriedt & Jón Sæmundur).

Dead Skeletons are an Icelandic psychadelia band. Yama is a song from their debut album Dead Magick, recorded in 2010. The official video for Yama doesn’t really have a narrative as such – rather it’s a montage of imagery, mostly of Tibetan monks engaged in various rituals, prayers and meditations. Parts of it are repeated, looped and spliced with other images, such as driving along a desert road. We end up with a video that combines with the music to take us on a journey, the images and sequences well matched to the droning, hypnotic rhythm of the song. There is something genuinely striking about the faces of these young and old monks – a serenity and detachment that suggests perhaps a different way of thinking, a different way of life.

Yama is the Hindu deity of death, and closely related to the concepts of karma and reincarnation. The Sanskrit word Yama (यम) can also mean self-restraint, self-control and discipline. Yama also features in Buddhism and Chinese, Korean and Japanese mythology.