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Galway Film Fleadh 2021: Shorts

No point in dawdling, let’s get into it:

World Shorts: Programme One

Heaven Reaches Down to Earth" [Short Film] - Cinema Chicago

Tau Reaches Down to Earth: Excellent blend of spirituality and sexuality with absolutely stunning cinematography to boot. 8

VO: Well done sensual exploration of self-driving cars and what they say about the future, even if it overstays its welcome for me. 6

Undercut: Harrowing and emotionally fraught exploration of the communal nature of young femininity in sadly some of the worst circumstances this can be in. Strong final shot too. 7

Una Canción para María: Story of the dream of the immigrant told in a way that questions the foundation of that desire. Powerfully told with a devastating ending. 9

Leylak: Well made, but I wasn’t as drawn as this one. Probably a bit too soon for me to get absorbed in COVID-related dramas like this. 5

Don vs Lightning: Cute and funny little story with a cynical edge, though nothing amazing. 6

Irish Talent: New Shorts One: Family Friendly Fiction

Belfast actor Gerard McCarthy's short Just Johnny wins family award at  leading children's film festival - BelfastTelegraph.co.uk

The Dog Who Lost His Bark: Cute and empathetic story about a girl coping with random changes in her life with a dog sharing some similar burdens. Got seriously invested in this one. 8

Just Johnny: Adorable and seriously endearing flick about gender nonconformity and family bonds. Real and irrefutably charming. 9

The Wake: Liked this one a lot. Plays against type by being a funeral story about two living brothers and is just really funny and droll with a sweet conclusion. 9       

Ruthless: Charming Northern Irish drama about the rise in the Glam Rock scene and finding your place even in devastating circumstances. Not terribly standout, but strong. 7

Scrap: Sweet story that doesn’t take any easy answers about discrimination and class divides, really strong emotional resonance in the time they have. 8

Cherry: Hilarious, bursting with personality and charm, entirely at the drum of its own thing and colourful in so many ways. One of the most entertaining shorts of the festival. 10

Silence: Great little story about quiet prejudices and challenging masculine roles. It won’t light your world on fire but it’s strong and well produced. 7

Actor As Creator: Programme One

Inherent | Galway Film Fleadh

Foxglove: I really dig the atmosphere and build up here, and it leads to a really strong climax. Good stuff. 7

Inherent: Great premise really well executed and quietly emotionally cutting with a solid lead performance. 9

Round Boxes: Well performed and has a killer reveal, but overall not very memorable. 6

Sparkle: Hilarious and well presented story with a surprisingly sweet core, was grinning throughout. 8

I got your letter, John Bauer: Really strong treatise on culture, trauma and letting go of your past. It’s a bit much for my own taste, but well made and effectively told. 7

Shifting Sands: Ending’s a bit predictable, but it’s hard not to get emotionally invested in this couple dealing with the fallout of dementia. Quaint but strong. 7

Do I Know You?: Wasn’t as into this one. Cute premise, but it hypes up the awkwardness and some of the dialogue just didn’t flow for me. Eh. 5

Dash: Liked this one a lot. Struggles with the conflict of femininity and gender variance in a hypermasculine environment in a way that’s effective and well told, if a bit jarring in places for me. 7

Irish Talent: New Shorts Two: Documentaries

This Is Easy Documentary Trailer - YouTube

Portráidí Criathraigh (Bog Portraits): Really well compact and fascinating as Gaeilge doc about bog art of pictures of famous Irish figures carved into Conamara wetlands. 8

 Ben’s Departure: Poignant and heartfelt rumination on loss, both in terms of the people you know and the culture that slowly dies along with them. 8

Pointe Black: Nice mood piece combined with commentary on racism in art form, good blend and really strikes out and stays memorable. 7

System: Really powerful reading of a letter from a man who has lived in Direct Provision for nearly a decade. Striking, articulate and frustratingly, angrily relevant. 9

Feed: Interesting little piece on breastfeeding and the various struggles around it. Presentation is a little flat for me, but I can imagine it’s striking for those who have gone through this. 6

This is Easy: Without fail one of the best shorts in the Fest. The escalating tension is great and truly shocking, it plays the true crime aspect so well despite it being comprised of just one interview and B-roll/archived footage. 10

A Haiku to My mind Via Limerick: A short snappy piece about reflections and self-fulfillment that sadly landed with a thud for me. Maybe you’ll get more out of it. 5

Sit Down and Shut Up: Great reflective story about the time Limerick played Real Madrid. Great banter about the little team that could with a touch of solace on the aftermath. 7

Irish Talent: New Shorts Three: Fiction

The Black River of Herself — Patrick Hough

John Boy: Powerful and relevant film about suicide figures amongst the Travelling community, acted by travellers which gives an authentic feel to the story. I wasn’t a huge fan of the out of character interviews with the cast, but understood their purpose. 6

Another Happy Ever After: Twisted and really engaging story about a woman reflecting on her past and how it contextualises her broken present. Good twists and turns here and has a decent coda. 7

Where Have You Been: Jesus, I felt this one hard! About discovering lost loves and the painful attempts to rekindle that spark after it’s way past the time. Excellent acting from the two leads as well. 8

The Black River of Herself: I really loved this one, ethereal and strange but has a potent theme of nature and humanity’s search for meaning having self-destructive tendencies. One of the creepiest and most effective shorts of the fest. 9

Terrible Things: This one kind of just didn’t live up to the expectations of its setting. It has some fantastic visuals for a short, but that’s the only thing that really stuck out for me. 4

Sentinel: I’ve seen almost exactly this kind of story done so many times that it sadly affected my enjoyment of it, but it’s decently acted and has some fun off-kilter direction, worth checking out if you can get passed how overdone the premise is. 5

Actor as Creator: Programme Two

Locked In | Actor As Creator: Programme Two | Galway Film Fleadh Ireland

The Colour Between: Excellently acted, though I felt it didn’t reach the potential the premise outlined. Still some strong stuff here. 6

Locked In: The slow build and the tension is IN-TENSE and it tells a bleak reality of a lot of people in Lockdown in a way that felt genuine and reflective. Excellent stuff. 9

Funeral Song: Poignant and well thought out (mostly) two-hander about brothers awkwardly reconnecting after their father passes away. Well-paced and has a perfect ending. 8

Guard Up: Saw this in another fest so skipped over it for time. Nice story about father/son dynamic threatened as discovery of the son’s identity could lead to disaster-nothing groundbreaking but well executed. 7

Dovetail: Cleverly made and suitably emotionally depicted by the actors, it just didn’t do a lot for me. I connected more with the wordless presentation than the story, though the former is enough for me to recommend it. 6

Boxed In: Emotional an intensely resonate story about a trans man coming to grips with his relationship with his brother as they adjust to this change in their relationship. Sweetly told and has a really satisfying ending. 8

The Lock Up: Intense and really sad, but another that didn’t grip me as well as I would hope. Mother acts the hell out of it though. 6

The Rest in Jellies: Man did I…painfully relate to this. Really strong short about the pangs of growing up, revitalised by the unwavering optimism and cheekiness of children. 8

Ghost Light: This film was a bit too much for me and it felt a little underbaked. Still nice to see The Bard recited with conviction having said that. 5

World Shorts: Programme Two

The Danger in Front - h264

MAMA: Excellent film about the healing properties of conservation both for the animals being rescued and the humans doing the rescuing as a Congolese war survivor works with chimpanzees. The structure can be a little scattershot, but it’s a worthwhile doc. 7

Bad Shagun (Bad Omen): Decent film, really showed the harsh realities of living as a woman in Afghanistan. Nothing wholly memorable, but strong and well made. 6

Scars: Really well constructed short about self-harm told through imagery and musings. Great use of visuals to tell a really emotive story. 8

Chienne (Bitch): This one just kind of sucked, I didn’t feel it built up naturally and just kind of relies on poorly thought out progression and the end just doesn’t hit as it wanted to. A miss for me. 3

Le Danger en face (The Danger in Front): This is kind of amazing and so utterly all over the place, hit by a frantic narration and note perfect black comedy. One of the most entertaining shorts in the fest. 10

Les grandes claques (Like the Ones I Used to Know): This was pretty well produced, but utterly meandering and I could not get into the emotion or drama it was looking to unveil. Hit with a crashing dud. 4

Generation Fleadh: Disney Live-Action Launchpad Short Films

Growing Fangs | Images | DMED Media

(Note: Launchpad is an umbrella title for a series of shorts aiming to promote diverse visions and filmmakers that is marketed funded by Disney. If these sound interesting to you, you can check them out on Disney Plus)

American Eid: A young Pakistani girl tries to reconnect with her sister over the Muslim celebration of Eid. The two young girls are great here and have a believable bond, and it’s a sweet way of teaching children about different traditions while it tells its own little story. 7

Dinner is Served: A Chinese student in a boarding school tries to impress. There’s some pacing issues here and I’m not crazy about the message it’s getting across, massive dud for me. 4

Growing Fangs: Hilarious and cleverly thought out film about a half vampire half human trying to juggle that balance. Whip smart well constructed, has really casual queer rep for the lead and I could honestly see a series made focusing on this concept. Great work! 8

The Last of the Chupacabras: This one implements the cultural aspects the best where a Mexican-American woman battles her cultural malaise in an inspired way. Great effects and surprisingly enthralling right to the end. 8

Let’s Be Tigers: This one was sweet and emotional (also more casual queer rep!), but I wasn’t wowed, it tells the concept with not a lot of surprises, but it’s well shot for being a one-location piece and the acting is great, even from the kid. 6

The Little Prince(ss): This one looks at gender norms and confronts them in a kind of telegraphed but sweet and sincere way. The friendship between these kids is honestly adorable enough to get an enthused recommendation. 7

Irish Talent: New Shorts Four: Fís Éireann/Screen Ireland World Premiere Shorts

Hedy | Irish Talent: New Shorts Four: Fís Éireann/Screen Ireland World  Premiere Shorts | Galway Film Fleadh Ireland

Hedy: Well produced and incredibly inspired little sci-fi premise told with heart, surprises and fantastic speculative tech all in 11 minutes, one of the absolute highlights of the Fest. 10

Signal: This one was muddled and a bit hard to gel with even with the reveal of what’s motivating the characters. Not terrible, just not something I had as strong an investment it wanted me to have. 5

Lady Betty: Perverse, fascinatingly designed and full to the brim of Irish wit and scorn, fabulous little ghost story with such a fun structure. 9

Bardo: Short, sweet, gorgeously animated and quite introspective short about moving on from a part of your life to enjoy the quieter things. I liked the ethereal feel and lack of pretence. 8

Pork: Quirky, fun and uniquely stylised piece about a pig and how his remains are processed while observing the relationship of his slaughterer and girlfriend. Worth checking out for the ingenuity and stark presentation. 7

When Neon Meets Argon: Well made and surprisingly warm piece about a cantankerous sign-maker and his would-be apprentice. Really sweet ending too. 8

Memento Mori: This one was great, using the real life practise of propping up corpses for photographs to tell a horror story dripping with atmosphere, compelling and potent. 9

Nightlink: This one gets points for being creepy and insanely creative, even if I don’t think it quite comes together in terms of tone and story progression. Still worth the rec for creativity. 6

Animated Short Films: Programme One

O BLACK HOLE! by Renee Zhan on Vimeo

(Note: This has a lot of crossover with shorts in the previous programme, so of course I’m skipping over those)

Homebird: A sweet film about nostalgia and leaving what you know behind in a fog of better memories. The splotchy animation really captures the inviting blur of the past. 7

Tenant: Short, sweet, weird and distinctly designed. Doesn’t leave much of an impact, but isn’t really aiming for that, just takes you on a short, strange ride. 6

Nuevo Rico: Starts off strong, but just descends into white noise for me. I found this obnoxious more than creative and endearing. 3

Husky: Excellent use of rotoscoping and chalk drawings to absorb you in and give this historic feel in this no-holds barred depiction of the horrific history of the American frontiers. 8

O Black Hole!: I kind of want to hate this, but this is so deeply uncomfortable, mesmerising and potently memorable that I just kind of love it. Not an easy watch, but an effectively engaging one. 9

Umbrellas: This one’s cute, has great visual texture and is just boundlessly wondrous while telling a simple and effective story about facing the fears of the unknown without our parents’ protective eye. 7

Irish Talent: New Shorts Five: Fiction

Bugaloo | Irish Talent: New Shorts Five: Fiction | Galway Film Fleadh  Ireland

Bugaloo: Madcap little detour from the law that gets more madcap as it goes along. Game night will never be the same again. 8

Cave: Tries to be this journey to depravity and exploration of a man who breaks the mould, turns into an elongated Diageo commercial. Hard pass. 3

Calving: Probably goes a bit too hard into the freaky territory? Wasn’t that wowed by it, fell a bit too flat. 4

Gloaming: A really tepid short that kind of just tested my patience rather than wowed me. Some decent atmosphere helps here but not by much. 4

Saul & I: This was just kind of poorly structured and I found it difficult to get invested. Really boorish and forgettable. 3

Harvest: A poignant and effective piece about coping with mortality and the push time has on you and your future. Excellent performance too. 7

Ship of Souls: I wasn’t too wowed by this, but it’s an effective piece on how loss can bring new horizons and the healing of culture. 6

Broken:  A Lockdown Story: Cute little divergent segments that come together in a fun way. Nothing earth shattering, but very entertaining. 7

Irish Talent: New Shorts Six: Fiction

Spirit Level | Irish Talent: New Shorts Six: Fiction | Galway Film Fleadh  Ireland

The Winner: Haunting and effortlessly effective mood and character piece exploring a broken man faced with the fact that he cannot repair everything even with a big break. Heartbreaking and memorable. 9

Debutante: This has some decent build up, but it just kind of falls apart for me. I like the message it’s going for, it just kind of wore off me too quickly. 5

The Passion: this one had weird vibes all around and did little to compel me. I got what it was going for, but it’s just jarring and a bit too overdone for my taste. 3

Spirit Level: Shit this was great! An evocative and slow building marriage of art and violent trauma, very contemporary and excellently performed. 9

Faitíos (The First Fear): This one is severely, achingly cute and it’s such a great resolve. Also all in Irish so that’s a bonus! 8

Bump: Whip smart and really knows how to turn on a dime and play with your emotions while also feeling truthful and evocative. Also great sense of humour and ending. 8

World Shorts: Programme Three

Everyman | Glasgow Short Film Festival

Everyman: A bold, astute and cleverly thought out visual and narrative essay following a trans man exploring his gender identity tackling the interesting topic of how he was socialised as different genders. Fantastically thought out and a great subject for exploration. 9

The Tide: A great exploration of dying industry and the bonds of friendship as we explore two fishermen’s reactions to the loss of their captain. Thoughtfully shot and brilliantly acted. 8

Les Criminels (The Criminals): An absolute frenzy of a story about cultural barriers and the terrifying reach of patriarchal structures. A bit slow in places, but kept me guessing and has a great final scene. 8

Good Thanks, You?: Strong and devastating depiction of the aftermath of a terrible attack. Expertly depicting the anxieties and fear of everything changing by a small confession. 9

The Letter Room: This one goes on a fun well built up ride, and while it doesn’t quite have the gutpunch you’d expect, it’s decently thought out and very watchable. 7

Stephanie: I enjoy the quiet anguish as this young girl navigates success as a gymnast. Well constructed and with a solid emotional core, great  stuff. 7

Animated Short Films Two: Kid’s Programme

The Weather is Lovely (2020) | MUBI

Sol: Another really strong Irish language feature, great emotional core and fantastic exploration of loss and the permanent bonds that guide even after those we loved are gone. 8

Sounds Between the Crowns: I loved the bouncy visual texture this has, it’s a simple story but effectively told. And appropriate for a dialogue-free film without music the story is great too. 7

Pop!: Cute, just a nice bit of visually splendid nonsense for you, but not much else. 6

Forgot your password?: This one’s great fun, really gets that video game aesthetic and vibe to it. Doesn’t aim too high for its ambition, and I enjoyed what it had to offer. 7

The Weather is Lovely!: Fantastically compelling and visually awe-inspiring piece using weather gadgets and giving us wondrous settings and characters to root for with no dialogue. 9

Le Cri (The Scream): Fun little piece that has a cute resolution, not much really beyond this. 5

Latitude du printempts (A Tiny Tale): Really fun and cleverly handled piece utilising its format so cleverly and having so much charm and warmth packed in less than 10 minutes. 8

Irish Talen: New Shorts Seven: Documentaries

ARMOUR OFF - Carlow Arts Festival

Armour Off: A fantastically creative way to express the pains of living with disability combining interpretive dance. Gets across so much in such a simple and striking format. 9

The Trust Machine: A lot is going on here, but it really doesn’t tell its story as effectively as it’s trying to. I get the points it’s trying to get across, but it’s in a muddled and really haughty package. 3

For Emergency Use Only: This is great, tracking the source of childhood fears and their sources, unravelling to explore children’s absorption and processing of the world around them, especially during COVID times. 9

The Application: This one felt like it was made for the vents and frustrations of artists trying to secure work in the Pandemic, not really for anyone else. Interesting topic, feels a bit too insular for me. 4

In Between Lands: Wonderful and emotional tale of finding your roots after being adopted, and coming to peace with what that means about your own identity. 8

Nothing to Declare: Loved this, absolutely hilarious madcap story about two Irish children who smuggled away from Dublin to end up in New York. It’s a crazy tale you should track this down to see, and it’s great to get the two lads perspective in their 40s as well as where their lives ended up. 10

Nothing to Declare | Irish Talent: New Shorts Seven: Documentaries | Galway  Film Fleadh Ireland

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