The inaugural Students of London Film Festival, held at KCL’s Strand campus last Friday, was a great showcase of the city’s vibrant student filmmaking community. We were shown six films, ranging from the sublime to the delightfully ridiculous – which in this case is both a demonic exercise ball (‘Total Pilates’) and a trigger-happy man in a rubber duck mask (‘Zeus’ Punishment’).
First, ‘Girl’, an uncomfortably powerful portrayal of a day in the life of a young refugee woman who gets her period on the move. Director Lowri Roberts has managed to infuse the film with equal parts unsentimentality and empathy; it’s no wonder it has been spearheaded by a number of human rights charities.
Hyojin Yoon’s ‘Clearing Snow’ was next shown: an eerie, perverse portrayal of love (or lust) which borrowed from Freudian theory. The female lead is compelling in the same vein as Amy in Gone Girl, disquieting in subtle moments of incongruity. However, where the film is most successful is in its use of striking visuals to sensitively explore the psychological themes underpinning the narrative.
‘Triptych’ – my favourite film in the festival – is a beautiful exploration of history and memory by director Katia Lom. A whirlwind of live action, animation, and illustration, the film investigates the power of objects to retain and transfer experience. It’s the kind of piece you immediately want to re-watch; I think it would be impossible to grasp all of its many intricacies in one go.
Then, ‘Zeus’ Punishment’, a surrealist piece by the then first year film student Almira Guner. In the Q&A after the screening, Guner was refreshingly honest about the restraints of student film, working with a non-existent budget and sometimes flaky actors. However, even if the outcome isn’t quite what the director had in mind, I still thought it is an intriguing film that interestingly tread the line between comedy and tragedy.
More of a straight comedy, the next film ‘Total Pilates’ follows a student increasingly tormented by a red exercise ball. It delivered on the laughs and the structuring and shots were cleverly crafted – especially when you consider it was made in two weeks. I think though, with more time, the apocalyptic concept could have been developed a little further.
Finally, ‘Based on a True Story’, a journey through Cambridge with two aspiring photographers chasing an image of ‘Truth’. The film was extremely well thought out, down to a Wes Anderson-esque visual style and colouring (thanks in part to rather fetching ponchos worn by the cast). Its substance, though, was equally impressive. The stylistic elements effectively supplemented the central conceit of the inherent inauthenticity of art, helping to tease it out in a palatable way.
It was a great night, with a substantial turn-out, a great variety of films, and an informative Q&A session afterwards. There was a comforting understanding in the room that, while the films were not perfect, they were part of a larger learning experience for young filmmakers developing their craft. It left me with pride for King’s and, on a wider scale, London which encourage this cultural output and hope for the future of the film industry.