FEATURE: Regus London Film Festival

The short films featured at the Regus London Film Festival were of a high standard. They didn't offer too many laughs but gave accurate insights into aspects of real-life.

"A short film should be like a short punch - a small jab that you don't see coming but really fucking gets you," announced Ewan McGregor at the Classic Shorts 2001 Awards.

Part of the 45th Regus London Film Festival, the awards sponsored by Turner Classic Movies, received 237 entries.

Judges included actor McGregor, writer/directors including Ridley Scott, Ismail Merchant and John Madden and producers such as Stephen Woolley and Richard Jobson.

Jobson stressed the importance of the short format claiming: "Short films represent your last chance for experimentation and freedom, before you get involved with studios and the tyranny of collaboration."

The judges also professed to be overwhelmed by the quality of the entries and certainly, the standard was impressive.

As Woolley pointed out: "The trend this year seemed to be stories about kids and teens. In many ways, biopics work well, as they are from the heart. Previously we have seen a lot of gimmicks, but this year, everything was much more real.

"There was an electic mix of raw, non-preachy slabs of life rather than slices of life."

Comedy, certainly was noticeable by its absence.

The winning film About a Girl, is a story of a girl with the hopes and dreams of a working class teenager. The film, produced through Silver Films, features a fantastic performance from its 13-year-old star, Ashley Thewliss.

Thewlis gives poignant insights into her life, which are at once hilarious and miserable. Often talking direct to camera, Thewliss holds our gaze and attention with a fast and confident delivery, the pace aided by skilful editing. The powerful ending drew a shocked silence from the audience.

About a Girl, which also won at the Edinburgh Film Festival and Raindance was written by Julia Rutterford, produced by Janey de Nordwall and directed by Brian Percival, a freelance commercials director. The team are currently working on a feature.

Second prize went to The Last Post, the true story of a British soldier who is captured by an Argentinean. Again the film has some fine and moving performances, this time from Kevin Knapman and Gayel Garcia Bernal, who starred in this year's Mexican hit Amores Perros. Its ending is also incredibly hard-hitting. Its writer and producer, Lee Santana, says the film is about the possibilities of friendship and not, as some see it, as an anti-British film.

"I never set out to shock or be political. What it means to me is friendship," he says.

The film was directed by Santana's brother Dominic. The pair attended film school with Dominic going on to produce and direct for Granada TV's This Morning, while Lee concentrated on producing and writing. They formed Danny Boon Productions in 1996 and are currently in production on their next short and are scripting a feature.

Third prize went to Skin Deep. Romo, a mixed race teenager, passes for white in his run-down white neighbourhood, until he is forced to confront the conflict of his identity.

The powerful and moving story is based on the life of its writer and director, Yousaf Ali Khan who says: "People can cope with poverty but the stigma of social exclusion is very damaging."

Khan's film also won the Kodak Shortfilm Showcase award last month which secures him a place at the Cannes Film Festival.

Another film which was a hit at the festival was Dog, which also won the Jameson award at the recent Bristol Brief Encounters festival which attracted more than 1,000 submissions.

Directed by TV director Andrea Arnold, Dog is a powerful look at life on a depressing council estate. Unlike many films of its kind, it feels refreshingly accurate, aided by a realistic storyline, a documentary style, and convincing performances from its mainly non-actor cast. Hard-hitting and moving, the film makes a deep impression.

Finally, we feature some impressive and unique-looking animation from cartographer-turned-animator Robert Bradbrook.

Using a technique combining computer animated backgrounds with real people, Bradbrook has created an amusing, moving and captivating film in Home Road Movie. It took one-and-a-half years to make and a two-day shoot with actor Bob Patterson proved challenging. Patterson had to act against a bluescreen and imagine the entire set, with Bradbrook marking the wall to ensure that his eye-level and actions were accurate.

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