This Wednesday saw @UNDRLNDN bring together a range of earnest and talented filmmakers for the first of three screening events this month at the Chapel Cinema in East London. Caroline Wilson, who founded UNDRLNDN with director, editor and writer Shelana Azora (@shelazora), has a clear passion for nurturing homegrown talent, and being a platform for artists to express, discuss and showcase their work. Wilson said the aim of these film screening events is unity; ‘I want people to have that connection and feel at home here. If people come here and are touched and moved, that’s all I want for’; and she provided an intimate space for people, who in their own similar and different ways are part of the film/arts industry, could come together to enjoy others’ work.
The theme for this one was championing the underdog – the evening hosted films from upcoming directors and producers, a music performance from Big Nate @bignatednv and first ever performance from newcomer Ys Tek Dinner @ystekdinner_12, as well as bookending the night with expressive and passionate spoken word poetry from @Russeni. Every artist on the busy line up brought something exciting and valuable to the night and I’d be sitting here writing all night if I said what I had to say about them all, so I’m going to keep the focus of this post on film, as a medium to bring people together and explore issues and emotions like the producers, directors and UNDRLNDN intended. I’ve chosen my 3 favourite films of the night to highlight, but be sure to check out all of the links below!
‘Cracked Screen: a Snapchat Story’
Director: Trim Lamba @trimlamba
Producer: New Clear Films
Selected for the Cannes Lion International Festival of Creativity and Saatchi and Saatchi 2017 New Directors Showcase, Short of the Week’s Best Short of the Month (February)
This film was really interesting to me, my studies in the social sciences have always had me thinking deeply about the influences and implications of social media platforms, and technology in general, on the relationships we form with everyone around us, and also how we engage with the entity of social media itself. This film invokes the same questions in the minds of the audience as we follow the journey of a young woman in London before and after she is subject to a life-changing attack. Cracked Screen cleverly uses the format of a snapchat stream to display the narrative of the main character, played by Chantelle Levene, Lamba takes this everyday form of videography to engage the audience with the character from the first to last ten seconds.
Chantelle Levene @Chantslevene
We see Levene’s character go from a fun, confident and relatable graduate to seeing her present her most vulnerable self on the snapchat platform. As an audience, we go through what she does – excitement, amusement, frustration, success, pain, loneliness, betrayal, suffering and overcoming. Lamba’s ability as a director to depict this in a short and be able to take the audience on such a rollercoaster of an emotional journey is commendable.
‘Cracked Screen’ brings together social media and narrative-based cinema in a troublingly authentic synthesis.’ comments Lamba. ‘Today we ‘perform’ versions of ourselves online- often these personas are attractive or enviable- what happens to the digital avatar when faced with tragedy? I felt a snapchat-based film could be quashed as bubblegum or trivial. It became a challenge then to produce something blistering and urgent that would gnaw at the viewer (as well as bring integrity, and filmic merit, to this unconventional format). Chantelle and I feel very moved by the tremendous support we have received.’
Director: Moses Ssebandeke @mozzie_ssebandeke
Producer: Lionstooth Films
Winner of Roundhouse Online Film Fund, Funded by the Ex Animo Foundation; Worked with BBC 1xtra on a documentary with @stormzyofficial and with CBBC and Cbeebies
With a title like ‘Artificial Romance’ and beginning with a young couple who are planning their wedding, you assume this is going to be a film about a young man having doubts swiping on a Tinder-style app, who will go on to realize their unfounded nature and return to his true love. Which it is, but with an unexpectedly sinister twist in play. This with a focus on the unrealistic – in terms of a dating app as a way of meeting a potential love, in terms of marriage as a lifelong commitment, and in terms of the supernatural consequences of men engaging in ‘looking around’ – which is so cleverly explored through the very literal portrayal of ‘til death do us part’ in the story.
‘The film is a retelling of, I’m from Uganda, so like a folklore about this guy called Gauna, a trickster god who kind of found ways to trick people and get their souls back to the afterlife, a whole story that people used to tell in Uganda, back in the day. And I wanted to modernize that with technology. So, this kind of god, is using this dating app to get people souls.’ explains Ssebandeke, who is able to thrill, entertain and invoke the thoughts of a generation of an audience whose romantic interactions can be so driven by media and technology.
Do we love intimately and privately for ourselves and our partner, or is the display in the window of our relationships driven by how other people will see it? Can people say with faith they can be fully happy in a long term monogamous relationship for all their life? Are we so consumed with technology, even in relationships, that it’s a part of our emotional soul? This Black Mirror style satire homage is weirdly unrealistic and close to reality at the same time, and the ability to take on the style in a short is brave and admirable.
Ssebandeke also spoke highly of the Roundhouse Online Film Fund as a starting point for upcomers, which helps 18-25-year-old filmmakers with a fund they hand out twice a year. Their support includes mentoring, help with access to equipment and showcase opportunities.
See more about the fund here. http://www.roundhouse.org.uk/young-creatives/summer-2017/online-film-fund-2/
See the Artificial Romance film here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gYvdGZeDzjg and support Moses’ crowdfunding for his next film here https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/short-film-about-british-hero-mary-seacole#/
Director: Donny Johnson @donnyjohnsondop
Producer: Kate Fleming @katealexfleming
Winner of ‘Best Factual Film’ at Hackney Shorts Festival, and an official selection for East End Film Festival 2017
As a documentary, this short is so much more than a fact check. After Hours tells the story of the Stratford Centre after business hours and the community that thrives in the space after sundown. From skaters and dancers, to a considerable homeless populace and the charitable locals that help them, the film opens our eyes to the space as a vacuum of love and comfort for the community to engage with each other. The centre stops being a commercial hub and turns into a space and platform for people to express themselves, and the joy of sharing their talents with friends and members of the community alike.
‘The director couldn’t be here today but the film came from him really, he was in Stratford and he walks through there most days and just sees what’s going on and thought he wanted to make a film about it. I don’t know anywhere like that, that’s a public space that anyone can use – it’s not just one group of people everyone goes there. We just wanted to talk to people and find out why they go, why they like it. I think one thing I found through making the film is everyone who goes there loves it, so when making films before and you want to talk to them about it, people can be hesitant but because everyone loves it they wanna talk about it.’ says Fleming about engaging with the skaters. A very different film style to Cracked Screen and Artificial Romance, Billy Dudley, the editor, talks about working on structuring the documentary: ‘I used to do it all the time, but it was kinda unusual for me, usually I do fiction stuff but doing this was such a nice refreshment and Donny, the director, has done loads of documentaries so he reminded me how to edit doc because it’s so much harder than fiction film. If you write a script, that’s basically the template for your edit right there, but with a doc you shoot whatever – then you have to carve the story in post. We scribed the audio recordings of the interviews so we had text, then had to work out as text , like oh maybe that would work there.’ Kate adds it could have come out a hundred different ways, but this way was great – check out Kate’s showreel, other work and the After Hours documentary here https://vimeo.com/kateflemingfilms
Other films screened on the night:
Director: Addie Akinrinade @addielena
Producer: Four Faced Films @fourfacedfilms
A film about a young man, struggling with his identity as the son of a devout Muslim and his own passion for contemporary dance.
Stills of Lead Actor @ramzan_miah in ‘Naca’
Director and Producer: Anna Marie Descartes
A film exploring the meaning of London’s famous Notting Hill Carnival to the people involved and attending.
Film coming soon – stay updated on Anna’s channel. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCZ9D5sTUAWgG5X_Lw0EqnCw
A 6-year-old instagram and cool kid pro (@coco_pinkprincess) with 279,000 people following her fashion and cuteness, posted by Broadly.
Also if you want to be involved with UNDRLDN’s upcoming events, see below.
As always, thanks for reading!