Cannes, Tribeca, Berlin...Just a few of the most significant international film festivals that I never seem to get an invite to. Thus, I am forced to join the ranks of those not privy to the cinematic offerings from the leading film makers and innovators in the world.
Or so I thought...
Tucked away on a cobbled side street in the heart of Bloomsbury, is The Horse Hospital, a 215-year-old unspoilt example of a two-floor, purpose-built stable that has transformed into a progressive arts venue for film, fashion, music and art. And on one, chilly April evening, the stable doors were cast open to present the spring season programme of Future Shorts, the biggest global pop-up film festival.
The brainchild of Future Cinema - the events company behind Secret Cinema and Future Cinema Presents Bugsy Malone - Future Shorts is about giving anyone, anywhere, the opportunity to set up their own mini-film festival. To the Founder and Creative Director, Fabien Riggall, Future Shorts is kind of a big deal:
"The Future Shorts festival [allows] filmmakers to reach the largest global audience for their work. With over 25,000 attending and 2 million watching the FS channel online, this is the next generation film festival where anyone can take part."
Every three months, a feature-length programme is put together featuring some of the world's best classic, cult and award-winning short films. The festival programme is then made available to a global network of screening partners who book, organize and host the festival in their local community. So far, their spring offering has popped up at Liverpool's Re-Dock, Birmingham's Electric Cinema and Swansea Museum, but The Horse Hospital was where I arrived for a night of film appreciation.
Proceedings began with Nash Edgerton's Cannes and Sundance hit Bear, the brilliant follow-up to the sensational Spider. Both films play out the tangled relationship of Jack (played by Edgerton) and his girlfriend of the moment with unexpected twists you'll never see coming.
Next up, Amy Grappell's documentary Quadrangle, an examination of a four-way affair between two "conventional" couples living in a group marriage on Long Island during the 1970s. Based on Grappell's own parents, and presented as a split screen of her mother and father, they alternately and separately unveil the boundaries of society, marriage, monogamy and desire in a very Alan Bennett, Talking Heads kind of way.
The first animation feature comes in the form of Tor Fruergaard's Venus a 7-minute Claymation film that would certainly have Wallace & Gromit feeling hot under the collar. An erotic comedy about a couple trying to rediscover the spark in the least likely of places (that place just so happens to be a swingers club). Congrats to Tor for making clay sexy for the first time since Ghost.
Spike Jonze's tragicomic stop-motion animation Mourir Auprès de Toi(To Die By Your Side) was created from 3,000 hand-cut pieces of felt. The action takes place in an old, Parisian bookshop where at night the covers come to life and a skeleton finds love with a "vampy" vixen. A whimsically sweet but weak storyline, Mourir Auprès de Toi is not as enticing as the former animation but the intricate details of the felt action is beautiful to watch.
Following this, we're taken back to the 1978 with Sam Taylor-Wood's multi-award winning and BAFTA nominated Love You More. Inspired by the Buzzcocks' hit song by the same name, and produced by the late Anthony Minghella, this short is the tale of two punk lovers in London. Not as self-contained as the other features on the line-up (it could easily be an abstract from a larger script), but still just as affecting in its tender but graphic portrayal of young love. Taylor-Wood's directorial debut shows just why she was later chosen to bring Nowhere Boy to the big screen.
The programme finished with The Arm and L'Homme Sanse Tete (The Man Without a Head) which, admittedly, were my least favourite of the 7 shorts. The former, directed by Brie Larson, Sarah Ramos and Jessie Ennis, tells an up-to-the minute social commentary on teen love via SMS. The latter was created over four years by Juan Solanas, and presents the surrealist story of a headless man living alone and searching for love.
The Arm was acknowledged with a Special Jury Award for Comedic Storytelling at Sundance this year, but for me, although the narrative journey was quirkily funny, the destination had a lot to be desired. The same goes for L'Homme Sanse Tete. Visually stunning, however, the story did not impress the same enjoyment as felt with Bear, Quadrangle or Venus.
Revitalising the cinema experience, the Future Shorts Festival proves to be an original and inviting event worth a visit, even without a red carpet. This season's programme will be playing through to May 31st 2012, and you can find your nearest venue at www.futureshorts.com/screenings.