LBB’s Ben Conway rounds up the top ten most read LBB Film Club features from 2021
Whilst we focus on the world of advertising for the most part, we all know that production companies do more than just commercials. Just one of their other offerings are short films, which are often some of the most creative and experimental projects you'll see and usually come from a place of deep passion and personal connection to the filmmaker(s). Although these films regularly contain outstanding work and innovative ideas, they can be overlooked by the public and press alike. LBB Film Club seeks to highlight the deserving short films from production companies across the world and this year's releases certainly didn't disappoint.
With some truly stunning and award winning films featured, here are the top ten most read LBB Film Club features from 2021.
When it comes to conversations about workplace culture, microaggressions are an unfortunately common experience for people of colour within the advertising industry. Speaking with LBB's Nisna Mahtani, Great Guns director Meena Ayittey revealed her own personal experiences with workplace microaggressions that inspired this film that was created in partnership with the Racism at Work (RAW) initiative. Released during Black History Month in the UK, the film follows the protagonist through a day of mispronounced names, mistaken identities and ‘too urban’ comments, each of which is seen to leave physical scars on his body. The film has an important message and an inspired concept, landing itself as this year's most read LBB Film Club feature.
This BAFTA award nominated film from director Stefan Hunt is described by LBB's Natasha Patel as: "A refreshingly honest take on what growing old means to a selection of New York’s elderly." The film combines extremely stylish visuals with dancing youths and narration from elderly New Yorkers - resulting in eight minutes of wisdom, reminiscing and visual splendour that you simply have to watch. Stefan explains to Natasha that the film is all about bringing people together over their shared thoughts and experiences across generations and shares that the film even struggled to be accepted by some film festivals, whilst being awarded by others. What we can all agree on however, is that the film will leave you grinning from ear to ear and just a little bit wiser than before.
The title of this film says it all. COLORFORMS, from director Ezra Hurwitz, is bursting with colour. Created to raise money for the arts, which were especially suffering during the COVID pandemic, COLORFORMS blends the impressive location of San Francisco's Museum of Modern Art with performances from the San Francisco Ballet and music from iconic minimalist composer Steve Reich in a vibrant colourscape of art and dance. Reich's music and Myles Thatcher's hypnotic choreography come together to produce a film that is dynamic, bright and which really draws you into the performance. Director Ezra Hurwitz, previously a professional ballet dancer himself, directed the film remotely during a period of strict restrictions in San Francisco but used his expert ballet knowledge to create a film that supports his beloved performing arts.
Sugar Daddy is Scheme Engine director Wendy Morgan's debut feature film which tells the story of a talented but struggling musician who signs up for a sugar daddy paid-dating website in a bid to make money. Speaking with LBB's Addison Capper, the directing debutant Wendy highlights the significance of the film, which raises questions about sex work and artistry, in a post Me Too era. Wendy describes the film as a 'gory excavation of womanhood' - an exploration into 'the imperfect, the harsh, the bloody, and the obscene sides' of a woman's experience, which are rarely portrayed in media. The feature is an insightful read, with Addison and Wendy discussing the all-female production crew behind the film, the big jump from directing music videos to feature films and showing an artist's 'inner world of vision and creativity'.
“This isn’t your typical ski film," says Vagrants director Jack LeMay. And he's right! Vagrants' first project Made Back East is a love-letter to New England's back country skiing which follows everyday people, all united by their passion for zooming through mountain forests, and not a group of energy drink-repping extreme sports professionals doing the usual backflips and death-defying stunts. In the feature, Jack discusses the perilous conditions they were faced with, creating a 'uniquely North Eastern ski story' and how the project allowed the newly-formed crew to open doors and begin relationships that will serve the production company going into the future.
Blue Zoo Animation and PAPYRUS UK highlight that all-too-familiar 'sinking feeling' in commemoration of World Suicide Awareness Day and Suicide Awareness Month. Sinking Feeling features the work of 60 talented artists, under the direction of Mark Spokes, to produce an animation in open-source software Blender that encourages people to reach out to others and engage in a 'potentially life-saving conversation'. LBB's Nisna Mahtani speaks with the director about creating a strong metaphor to capture the feeling of depression whilst maintaining an important tonal balance for the sensitive subjects of mental health and suicide awareness. The film carries a vital message about ending the stigma surrounding talking about suicide, which is communicated beautifully and respectfully by Blue Zoo's animation and the music that their staff's virtual choir provided for the film. The film is also clearly a deeply personal film for Mark Spokes' directorial debut, as he tells LBB that several of his friends attempted suicide as young men - which comes through in both the film and his interview with us.
The next most viewed LBB Film Club feature is an interview with Stink director Netti Hurley about her film that builds on a discourse around the media’s portrayal of women’s bodies. LBB's Alex Reeves, who interviewed Netti and wrote this enthralling feature, explains that the two-minute short film "deconstructs the contemporary idea of glorified female body norms and presents us with women unafraid to be themselves on camera." The film features a series of black and white vignettes of women performing domestic activities - sunbathing, walking, watching T.V - owning their bodies in bikinis, lingerie or even fully nude. Netti says the striking visuals and the poetry voiceover aim to "challenge any potentially rigid perspectives that exist towards women and beauty ideals", hoping that the audience feels 'represented, understood and relieved'. Check out Alex's interview with the director, which deservingly makes its way onto our top ten Film Club features of the year.
In this LBB Film Club feature, C41’s directors Stefano Usberghi and Giovanni Corsi tell LBB’s Nisna Mahtani about the creation of ‘ISMA’, a short film visualising the life of percussionist Ismalia Mbaye. Originally from Senegal, Ismaila Mbaye is Europe’s leading African percussionist and his story is captured in this psychologically charged visual poem from C41. Stefano and Giovanni describe to Nisna how they wanted to communicate the 'internal conflict' of an artist that feels they have reached a creative dead-end. It also tackles deeply emotional topics that come from Ismaila's own story - from the permeating pain of losing his brothers to the difficulties faced as a migrant.
Produced by LA-based production company Station Films, this short film from filmmakers Mathias Hovgaard and Christophe Dolcerocca tries to capture young love and brutal heartbreak. Just read this synopsis from Americas Editor Addison Capper, who interviewed the filmmaking duo about the film, and tell me you're not invested:
"Heartbreak 101 has experimental nods to French New Wave Cinema and is an unsentimental mashup of the private lives of the teenagers it portrays, in a one-liner odyssey of emotional turmoil as they try to figure out love. It speaks to young lovers with a tender yet chaotic collage of human (in)experience, yet leaves no promise of unbroken hearts."
The documentary style collides with a visual explosion of character and style that winds a series of love stories in a gripping but very real way. In the interview, Mathias and Christophe reveal how they brought everything to life on a next-to-nothing budget - creating an energy that will make people 'feel 17 again'. The feature is just as exciting as the film it's about, and well worth a read if you have a spare five minutes whilst you recover from the Christmas festivities this year.
We've come to the end of our most read LBB Film Club features of 2021 - for me it's been a movie marathon, collating and writing this round-up, and a genuine delight to revisit all of these amazing projects. To finish off the list, we have a feature from LBB's Josh Neufeldt and a second entry in the top ten for production company Scheme Engine.
Nearly 500 vessels were shipwrecked during the transatlantic slave trade and with that in mind, a diving team consisting of Black scuba divers carved their own special space in maritime archaeological history by exploring these remains and bringing light to the events. The project, headed up by Scheme Engine director and creative director Charles Todd, seeks to find empowerment in traumatic history and shows a group of volunteers who are diving with a really significant purpose. In the feature, Charles discusses with LBB about using Black skin against the ocean background as 'a source of strength and light' and fitting the film into the larger narrative of Black identity.