Feature: North East Shorts Round-Up | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image by Richard Kenworthy

As we all know, the North East has set the scene for some pretty impressive box-office superhits. With a repertoire that ranges from the likes of Get Carter and Billy Elliott to the immortal classic Purely Belter, some might even say that Newcastle’s status as ‘a chillier Hollywood’ has been set in stone.

But, behind the bright lights and glamour, there lies an equally booming short film scene – one which many, sadly, have not had the chance to appreciate. While both the BALTIC and the endlessly dedicated Tyneside Cinema have tried their best to showcase this Northern treasure trove of shorts, there are still bucketloads yet to be discovered: with this in mind, here’s a brief selection of the finest pint-sized cinema the region has to offer.

Camrex (2015). Dir: Mark Chapman

Darkly intense, yet endlessly fascinating, Camrex is a dozen minutes’ trip beneath the unforgiving whitewash of a northern hostel environment. Here, jumbled word of mouth and hazily disquieting visuals knot, retelling a jagged circle of contradictory anecdotes from those who wrangle with their inner demons on a day-to-day basis. Director Mark Chapman has described the subjects as ‘actors in their own stories’: of course, this isn’t his first in-depth character study. His 2013 short TRANS utilises methods of slow transition and striking photography in an exploration of life for transsexual women. Both works stand out among mainstream cinema as sharply provocative: and thus, utterly unmissable.

Seabastards (2014) – Hot Gulp

If you’re yet to have heard about comedy collective Hot Gulp, now is the time to start listening. Bursting with gleefully unlikeable characters and a splash of unnecessary shouting, Seabastards isn’t technically a short film: rather, it appears as the crazed sitcom lovechild of Vic & Bob and the League of Gentlemen (if they were all Geordies). It is, however, more than worthy of a place among the other cinematic masterpieces- if only for the brief inclusion of the unnerving ‘Barry Grunt’.

Arrangement of Thorns (2015). Dir: Julian Lambert & Chris Davies

Fans of supernatural intrigue will struggle to tear themselves away from this sharp dose of gripping action. As with any fantasy thriller, Arrangement of Thorns follows a curious protagonist as he attempts to unlock a series of riddles set before him – only this time, they take the form of three seemingly demonic classmates. Despite its independent nature, nothing is done by halves in this stunning production: the visuals and actors live up to the highest of industry standards, proving Wooden Gate films as a force to be reckoned with.

Pig the Dog (2013). Dir: Maxy Neil Bianco

The work of Maxy Neil Bianco has been described as “film from somewhere that has fallen off the edge of the map”. Where Pig the dog is indeed teetering on the edge of realism, it is also quintessentially northern: providing a comforting medley of natural and industrial landscapes. It tells the story of a young man who, accompanied only by his animals, seeks the means to remain on the very margins of society. Following an initial release on Channel 4’s ‘Random Acts’, the film has enjoyed a truly befitting level of notoriety, including a period of exhibition in BALTIC.

Pig the Dog from Maxy Neil Bianco on Vimeo.

The Hen Men (2013) – Meerkat Films

Hidden among the impressive artistic and commercial showreel of Meerkat Films, The Hen Men is a short documentary that wastes no time in tearing at your insides. Three elderly subjects, each of whom represent their own personal struggles, reveal the effects of ageing in the modern world. Gently told, and yet completely unrelenting, this is a rare gem among the hordes of needlessly theatrical TV documentaries that continue to plague our screens.

Sebastian & Them (2015). Dir: Benjamin Bee

In just a few short years, Benjamin Bee has entered the North East film scene with all guns blazing and prestigious award nominations to spare. His latest effort – a darkly deranged comedy that borders The Mighty Boosh territory –faces the troubling existence of a seemingly normal man as he is hounded by two rather unnerving imaginary friends. When quizzed on the slightly surreal nature of the film, Bee explained: “The idea came about as I have a rather large cuddly toy collection for a man of my age – I have the real rabbit next to me right now. They always say don’t mix your genres, so I made a horror-comedy with some aspects of thriller. Just to fuck with everyone.”

Where this film might make you feel like you’re descending into a spiral of madness, it’s difficult to deny that it has solidified Bee as one of the most promising local names in film.

Sleepworking (2013). Dir: Gavin Williams

Sleepworking, a disjointed Sci-Fi chiller, is very much reminiscent of Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror Series: terrifying, disconcerting, yet endlessly enjoyable, it provides a snapshot into a futuristic human race of cold, animalistic worker-bees. The film is perhaps one of the most prestigious of its kind, as it has been showcased at 60 film festivals worldwide – and, with 8 awards under his belt, writer and director Gavin Williams requires little additional confirmation of his carefully calculated cinematic brilliance

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