University Professors reflect on short films and long life

The first weekend of May saw the much anticipated return of the Sunderland Shorts Film Festival which features screenings of a diverse genre of short films from all across the world. This is the festival’s third year of screening and, as usual, showed just how innovative, moving and entertaining short films can be.

Amazingly, some films are as short as 1.5 minutes (for example Dots directed by Jody Oberfelder and Eric Siegel), with the longest film this year being 20 minutes (Four Day Weekend directed by Nicole Jones).  Each screening lasts for about 90 minutes during which time you can watch as many as nine different films (depending on the length) for a bargain price and with free popcorn thrown in as well!   We opted to go to the third screening on Friday evening 5th May at 19:00 and were enthralled by the stories in all seven  films.

These ranged from a light-hearted view of teenage underachievement (One Under, directed by Ruth Pickett) and a four-minute animated film about a traffic jam on the A19 (The Slow Lane, directed by Fin McMorran), to a moving story of the way grief can tear apart a family, in Heather’s Painting (directed by Freddie Connor).  The last film of the night was one that sparked our interest more than any of the others, as it presented an unusual account of old age.  Mismatched Eyes (a drama directed by Nathaniel Hill) showed an elderly lady, Mrs S (played by the excellent Margaret Jackman) who lives on her own.  Rather than the usual trope of lonely old age, the film showed the twinkly Mrs S enjoying the company of her home-made soft toy collection (her ‘companions’), who we find out have been made from stolen fabrics and buttons.  When home-help Claire arrives on the scene, she sees only an elderly lady who is living on her own in a large flat, and soon hatches a plan to persuade Mrs S to swap homes with Claire’s daughter who lives in a smaller flat.   Mrs S is wise to this and so plays up on her ‘dotty old dear’ reputation to wreak revenge on Claire for what was essentially a blatant attempt at bamboozlement of a seemingly vulnerable old woman.  Leading actor, Margaret Jackman was present in the audience on the night we were there and she made time to answer some questions.  She said that it was refreshing to be given a part that was active, as parts for older actors tend to be of the passive sort where things are done to them or for them.  This is especially so for older women who are often portrayed as ‘little old ladies’ – Margaret in her role as Mrs S certainly disabused us of that notion!

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Professor Angela Smith and Professor Donna Chambers

sunderland shorts

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