Reflecting on Short Sighted Cinema’s Transform

TransformWe reviews Short Sighted Cinema’s first cinematic night out of 2016…

After previous successful short film nights based on the themes of “WHAT MAKES A MAN?”, “OLDER”, and “HACKNEY”, Short Sighted Cinema returns with their new programme “TRANSFORM”, which includes not just short films, as previously, but, for the first time, live speakers as well.

Taking place in Shoreditch’s Rich Mix, the event kicked off with the half-hour documentary “Epicly Palestine’d”, which was also, for my money, the highlight of the programme. Documenting the burgeoning skateboarding scene in Palestine, the endearingly low-budgeted film follows a small group of teenage boys over a loosely plotted few months, culminating in the opening of a new skate park. On the surface of things, the film’s subject matter is of no great consequence – it’s only life, and friendship, and growing up, and pain, and joy, and disappointment, and even a little politics. There’s also an enjoyable bit of mirroring going on here with the feature-length documentary Speed Sisters, which also focuses on the growth of a niche sport in Palestine, uses many of the same Bethlehem graffiti as establishing shots and also features a main character being traumatically shot at roughly the same point in the plot, though in both cases they luckily recover and are able to continue with their sport. This was followed by an interview with the director, who was passionate, intelligent and also really nice.

Next up was the first of the spoken-word acts, Northern poet Dominic Stevenson, whose poetry even managed to tell a couple of stories between all the articles of left-wing doctrine. Equally political but more human was fellow Northener Laura Rae, who performed a long-form poem – more of a short story in verse form – highlighting prejudice of different sorts in a way that will sound more trite in writing than it did in performance.

3d99c280-bea6-48b2-ad7b-afe8ed2ea104After a brief intermission, the programme continued with the rather superb documentary short “Sleepers’ Beat”, a hypnotic little piece with wintry electronic music providing the railway rhythms for the Trans-Siberian Express, while interviewees talk about life onboard. It’s a great little exploration of a place which is neither here nor there – in the literary world, the word is “liminal”. Cinematographer Jacob Robinson was in attendance, giving a nice but brief interview about his time aboard the train.

Next up was Amy Butterworth, a performance poet whose act consisted of an explanation of why she gave up comedy writing due to no longer being funny – first having her heart broken, then falling in love – which was baffling, as the act was very funny indeed, and the highlight as far as the performative pieces went.

Finally, there was the documentary short “Prick”, which focused on the queercore tattooist Henry Hate, who set up a little tattoo place in Shoreditch and became an underground smash hit. The documentary was interesting enough – especially in its early scenes documenting the American queercore scenes of the 1990s – though, as with many a portrait of a “local celebrity”, seemed to lack any sort of point in a wider context. The post-film interview with Henry Hate, along with director Jake Narang and producer Maria Shrigley, was a bit of an unmitigated disaster, with a drunken, belligerent Hate and a drunken, unresponsive Narang, leaving the poor producer trying to field questions and cover for her two colleagues. And after that, it was time to go already! The night had been yet another finely-put-together event from Short Sighted Cinema, with all the traditional trimmings – interesting films, interesting speakers, and a vague thematic focus.

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