Anyone who knows me know that I love food, and if I’m well fed then I’m generally predisposed to enjoy myself. The offerings at No/Gloss Film Festival certainly fulfilled that side of things – I had delicious pulled pork (Saturday) and burnt ends/beef brisket (Sunday) sandwiches from Crowder Barbecue, as well as a lovely slow cooked pork burrito provided by Barburrito. There was tea and cakes, craft beer and on Sunday morning I was even handed a bag of free tortilla chips and salsa.
The good news is that there is absolutely no reason for me to spend the rest of this review focusing solely on the food, because the festival as a whole was just as impressive and well organised as I’d hoped.
Returning for a second year, No/Gloss is a Leeds based independent film festival dedicated to films created on a limited (or in many cases zero) budget. The final line-up included a massive variety of films with different themes, styles, country of origin and ranging in length from 1 minute to 104 minutes. There were a good number of full length features scattered throughout the programme and the phrase ‘something for everyone’ definitely applied.
Many of the submissions came from overseas – glancing back over my programme guide there are listings from Argentina, Israel and Bolivia alongside the numerous films produced in the UK and USA. It made it all the more impressive how many of the film-makers were able to make it to their screenings. If I had a minor quibble about anything over the weekend it would be that it was often hard to see over people’s heads to read the subtitles on the foreign language films. It made following along difficult if you weren’t sitting in the first couple of rows, but once I figured that out I made sure to snag myself a seat further forward!
The festival ran for ten hours on Saturday and seven on Sunday and with two screens running simultaneously both days it was impossible to see everything. I’d picked a few must-see selections from the programme in advance and took in as much as I could, though I wish I’d been able to see it all. There were so many films on display I’ve chosen my top five instead of trying to say something about everything I saw – Tim wouldn’t have received this write-up until well after Christmas if I attempted to do that!
The Compositor (32 minutes)
The Compositor has won a number of awards, including a Student Oscar, and it’s easy to see why. Despite being a sci-fi story it’s also semi-autobiographical, created by real-life film compositor John Mattiuzzi. We follow Paul as he struggles to keep his real life separate from the digital realities he creates for a living. The visual effects are impressive throughout and that’s really the film’s main focus and the reason it was one of my favourites. Paul’s life outside of the computer and his personal issues are in many ways of little consequence when it comes to how enjoyable the film was.
Frau Schwein geht in die Scheissedisko (8 minutes)
The synopsis in the guide describes this as something that will ‘either make you laugh in total bemusement or wonder what the hell just happened’, and that’s absolutely accurate. It’s 2D animation created entirely out of felt, making the experience of watching a pig eat, digest and excrete various items for eight minutes strangely compelling. The film-makers were on hand to tell us a little about the animation before we saw it, and even they admitted that they’d started animating without a story in mind so I don’t think it’s a slight to their talents to say that two days later, I’m still left wondering what the hell just happened!
Qui a tue Cendrillon? (85 minutes)
‘Who Killed Cinderella?’ is, surprisingly, a comedy. It opens with a news bulletin telling us of the death of actress Coralie Bonnet, best known in France for her role as Cinderella, and then takes us back through key moments of her life including the reality television programme that won her the role. Her life story is told via a True Crime-style documentary investigating her death and trying to solve her murder and despite the dark title the film is thoroughly enjoyable and very funny. It even succeeds in throwing you off the scent with a couple of unexpected twists before we finally find out who did kill ‘Cinderella’.
Kenneth (72 minutes)
Kenneth is, to use production company Monster Island’s own description, “a film about love, friendship and an invisible ear goblin”. It’s a heartfelt quirky tale about love and loss and star Duncan Casey is great as Kenneth, confused about how his life became such a farcical mess so quickly. Going in, I was expecting something that was a mixture of the League of Gentlemen, Harvey and the TV series Wilfred, and while I wasn’t a million miles away Kenneth is actually a lot deeper than any of those. There are plenty of laughs but the comedy of the goblin and his new homeless friend Peter blends well with the drama of Kenneth’s recent unemployment and problems with his girlfriend.
Two thirds of the way through I’d already decided it was one of my favourite films of the weekend, even before I realised one of the scenes had been shot around the corner from my house. I probably shouldn’t have been so surprised and excited to recognise part of Yorkshire at a Yorkshire based film festival, but considering it came hot on the heels of a short film from Mexico it sort of felt like I was in a weird little locationless bubble – not Leeds.
Lad: A Yorkshire Story (95 minutes)
Lad was the last thing I watched at No/Gloss 2013 and it was a perfect way to end. We had a brief introduction from the film’s teenage star Bretten Lord, and I was impressed with his confidence in front of the audience! The film had a feel of something like Calendar Girls – family-centric, heartwarming and with some lovely Yorkshire scenery to boot. When Tom Proctor’s father dies suddenly of a heart attack he’s forced to grow up quickly, and after stealing a tractor and covering the local bank in slurry as part of a mini rebellion, he’s slapped with a Community Service Order and sent to work with Yorkshire Dales ranger Al. What follows as Tom gets to grips with the changes in his life is a joy to watch, and I’ve never enjoyed watching something involving dry stone walling as much as I enjoyed this!