Super Shorts Hackney

The Others, 6 Manor road, Stoke Newington, N16 5SA

The old saying don’t judge a book by its cover sometimes comes into splendid poignancy. Not a person by their designer handbag, or a play by its assumed budget, and certainly not a super short film festival on its snooker-hall-grotty-locale.

Wandering down an unfamiliar and neglected road in Stokey, closed shops galore, we pulled up to the aforementioned hall. Panic sets in, I’m not going to lie, ball sports and film critics rarely mix well. Thankfully The Others is perched neatly in what I assume used to be the venue’s function room. Climb the slightly sticky steel stairs, and you surface in a sanctum I can only describe as looking like a regional gay bar in the 1970s. Complete with a cash-only bar and 5-year-old drink prices, hey I’m not complaining… much. “Kooky” art, deep mauve Chesterfields and utterly repulsive toilets give this place a dilapidated but cozy feel.

Adam and Davin are in many ways the Brothers Grimm of the film world, mining not the backwaters of Bavaria for ancient tales, but instead obscure film schools, River Action and Milton Keynes council. During the terrible when-we-all-got-sick period they banded together to try and throw a lifeline to a diverse range of early career, and established film-makers while the industry languished with lacklustre governmental support. They have roundly succeeded, and Super Shorts Hackney was born, a bimonthly film sensation.

Normally a features girl, super shorts at first worried me. How short are we talking boys? Raises eyebrow in best Mae West impression. But as a lover of tiny written tales, the same skill applies. When effective these snapshots of life require immense editing, ruthless vision and silk thread storytelling. They must hurtle through the envisioned tale, rollercoaster-like, yet never let us the audience know what breakneck speeds we are travelling at. Clicks and claps to all involved.

Winner of the digital public vote was Simon written and directed by Ben Conway and Peter J. McCarthy, which very neatly surmises the beauty of the super short. A domestic drama, where a young man (Simon) upheaves a neat relationship looking for his birth father. Things have a comic flip, in a tale of mistaken location and a spinning door sign. I will say no more. Fantastic, light-hearted, a rightful victor.

Comedy lends itself very well to the mini-medium. Joe McGowan’s P is for Penis is a gloriously infantile story (don’t try and google it for cast names/information, you’ll have to bleach your eyeballs) about three men in a pub and some very odd-shaped genitalia. Zippy writing that is either very clever or very stupid but either way very funny. Similarly, Samuel Dore’s Midsummer Boulevard parodies the film noirs of LA, writers such as Raymond Chandler, by setting his tale of sex and violence in…. Milton Keynes. Jaw achingly tongue in cheek, but with nice pacing.

Horror thrives as well in the inky form of Black Samphire, one of the few that I feel could easily be super-sized into a feature. Alexander Vanegas Sus’s atmospheric folk thriller follows a lesbian couple’s mini-break from hell along the River Action. Cathy Wippell plays a workaholic neglecting her botanist-obsessed partner (a banshee-looking Ishtar Currie-Wilson) who begins foraging on the sludgy banks of the river, with predictably oozing results. Stephen Fry is the demanding faceless boss on the phone keeping the couple apart, and an ancient rhyme chants, but we feel there is more rope that could be wound out of the concept. Obscurum by Dir Tenisha White proves that length isn’t everything (I refuse to work blue again) in classic hounded-on-the-ride-home, but with a flare of self awareness unusual in the genre.

Considering the amount of sewage pumped into this island’s waterways has got so bad we have to track it by time not volume, it’s unsurprising that many films referenced this. Peter Kehoe’s Water Week has a nicely British play on the current Emmanuel Macron/Anne Hidalgo’s doomed swim in the Seine. Nice use of sound (lots of dripping, gushing etc), and speedy phrasing tells the story at a sprint, building in tension neck twitchingly until the dreaded dip in the infected waters. Ankit Bhatt stands out as a very watchable cowardly environmental minister.

Branko Tomovic’s The Smell of Petrol is an utterly shocking tale of people trafficking, reminding us of the humanity of all involved, but with some odd music choices. Rahel Peker’s Make Me Murder is an ungainly tale of two psychopaths colliding.

Sci-fi as a genre is a little more difficult to accomplish in the limited budgets and time frames, but valiant efforts to pop up. Goodbye World introduces us to a one-to-watch Leanne Henlon, who grapples with digitising her congruousness in Kimia Ipakchi’s (writer/directors) intimate near-future. Idle Man directed by Joshua Christian makes use of a claustrophobic bedroom, giving us a 2020’s version of The Ring mixed with inspirational self-help videos and a disturbing twist.

A personal favourite is Exchange Rate directed and starring Emma Stansfield, and blisteringly written by Chloe Banks. Acting and directing is a risky business but with occasionally exceptional results. We have an exacerbated mother addressing the camera as she takes care of her child. Who she really is addressing is the government, the people in power, this country in all its gold-leafed inequality. In an increasingly expensive and unsure world, her scrimping, budgeting, teary tired eyes, and “the endless excuses” needed to give her daughter a better life is a heartrending state of the nation piece. Asking us all, what are we exchanging, and what do we get in return?

With the average film ticket pushing £20 in some parts of the city, £7 will provide you with a charcuterie board of comedy, horror, sci-fi and more, a crowd pleaser. Yes, there are light leaks from the flapping curtains, noise and smoke leaks from the snooker players having a cheeky fag on the stairs, and yes, the stairway to heaven isn’t quite the Curzon. But inside you will find talented people, showcasing a fanatical and fantastic love of film. Grab a 6-pound wine in a plastic cup, settle into your personal leather cocoon a sink into the sensational swamp of super shorts.

Grab you ticket HERE!