Review – Short Sighted Cinema Present: WHAT MAKES A MAN?

Rumsey’s Christian Robshaw takes a look at this short film programme…

Having previously marked the United Nations International Day of Older Persons with their short film programme Short Sighted Cinema Present: OLDER, Short Sighted Cinema now return to The Proud Archivist to mark International Men’s Day with the previously-presented programme WHAT MAKES A MAN?

The programme was made up of six shorts, kicking off with Good Boy Wolf’s “Kid”, an intense and sweary piece consisting entirely of a monologue to camera by a young thug played by Jonathan Stephenson, who discusses his troubled upbringing and his hopes for the future.

Next up was Brian Fairbairn and Karl Eccleston’s “Putting on the Dish”, a short and mostly fun little piece exploring the world of 1960s gay counterculture through the use of Polari, a gay argot that doesn’t sound dissimilar from A Clockwork Orange’s nadsat – a tongue-in-cheek connection made in the film itself, with one of the characters reading the paperback.

Jonathan Schey, Luke Barnes & Jodie Brown’s “Toby” was the best film of the lot, a mild tragicomedy following a vaguely pathetic co-op employee played by Luke Barnes, who has a plan for greatness.

After two mildly pleasant films in a row, we were thrown straight back into misery with Aaron Dunleavy’s “Throw Me to the Dogs”, in which a slight teenager must deal with the fact his father would rather coach his bullies in football than spend any time with him. There’s not a note of hope in the whole thing, and the note of shocking violence it ends on is made to feel depressingly inevitable.

Ana Stefaniak’s “I May Be Some Time” is a surreal animation and, I must admit, one that either I failed to follow, or that is genuinely as pretentious as it comes across.

i-may-be-some-timeAfter a fifteen-minute interval, we resumed the programme with its longest entry, Manfredi Mancuso, Louise Cooke, Ingrid Charles and Cristof Hackl’s “Hard To Lose”. The film sees yet more bleakness as an underground fighter tries to find love. It’s all harsh city lights and realistic violence, and is also the film, of the whole programme, which comes closest to achieving the kind of reflection on manhood promised by the event.

“Hard To Lose” was followed by a debate on masculinity with three speakers: performer Dave Pickering, youth counsellor Zack Polanski, and techie Tim Macavoy. I say debate, but there was very little debate involved, all three speakers settling on the familiar – and, in modern times – uncontroversial opinion that traditional masculinity is bad and damaging. Possibly that is the case; certainly it can be at times, but given that the unrelentingly destructive male norms of the films had already, by that point, broadcast the same message six times, it would have been nice to have seen some joy in masculinity, or some comfort, some kindness, some satisfaction – if only for balance.


And that wraps up our look at Short Sighted Cinema’s What Makes a Man event! What did you think? Let us know in the comment box below!

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2 comments

  1. Sorry that you didn’t enjoy my film Throw Me to the Dogs! A bleak portrayal of northern childhood might not be the most cheerful of topics, but I have to say that out of all of the reviews I’ve read, yours tops the charts for being, ironically, the most miserable!

    1. I’d feel a bit strange claiming to have “enjoyed” it though, wouldn’t you? I thought I was praising the film – as a “bleak portrayal of northern childhood”, it succeeds.

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