KTV Film Festival 2019

Steps of Detachment, reviewed by Hal Kitchen

The opening film of the Kent Television Film Festival, Steps of Detachment is a character study of Frank, a young man struggling with bulimia and social anxiety, increasingly detaching himself from those around him as he struggles with his efforts to care for his abusive, terminally ill stepfather

(professional actor Robert Francis-McCrea), the loss of his mother, his history as a victim of bullying and his immature longing for a female companion.

In an interview with KTV, director Elliot Bowden described his film as: "basically your average edgy student film." As ironic as his comment was, there is a certain degree of truth to the statement as the film gravitates towards themes that typically preoccupy college-aged artists: depression, eating disorders and personal isolation, here refracted through the prism of psychological horror. In Frank, Chidi Ekwe-Ekwe portrays a character trapped awkwardly between youth and maturity.

Although the film was shot on location among the student-populated homes of Hales Place, Frank is importantly not here as a student, he is living at home and has not been attending college for some time. He is here in the town where he grew up, living with his father and daily running into those who knew him as a socially awkward youngster.

There are seemingly influences of the J-horror films of the late 90s in cinematographer Victor Chan's mocked-up videotape aesthetic and in a device not unlike the crosses used to convey social isolation in A Silent Voice, real human characters are surgically replaced by mannequins as Frank shuts them out of himself. More than anything else it is the film's ability to tap into that kind of psychological coherency that ensures this is more than "your average edgy student film".

Sending to the Sea, reviewed by Hal Kitchen

KTV's first non-English language production, Iris Perovic's melancholy period melodrama follows Giulia (Alessia Cardarelli) an Italian tourist set adrift after being ghosted by her fling and left to reflect mournfully on their relationship. The film has no direct dialogue and is told entirely through its immaculately composed images and an interior monologue. This style, to which Cardarelli's delivery contributes immeasurably, lends the film much of its distinctly European wistfulness. Producer Amelia Mundy described director Iris Perovic as a perfectionist and it shows in her impressive eye for detail. This is especially noticeable in Rumen Russez's editing work with excellently matched-cut transitions of setting and time, as in two superb shots where a string friendship bracelet seamlessly moves from her boyfriend's wrist to her own. It's fantastically economical storytelling. Cinematographer Bianka Hars' use of natural lighting and the many exterior locations divorces it from the kind of colour palette that is used as the mundane shorthand of many other period films and gives Perovic's film a clean immediacy. Serendipitously or not, the film hits a perfect balance of realism while still capturing the aesthetics and timbre of a 60s nouvelle vague product giving the film with an almost strained sense of sadness. It seems almost as if Giulia is retrospectively romanticising events, in an effort to invest the relationship with more meaning in order to justify her bereavement. Nearly every film at the festival surprised me with its degree of quality, and although Sweet Child of Mine and its devastating final shot was definitely the right choice to end on, for me, the professional standard of Sending to the Sea raised the bar.

You Won’t Remember Me, reviewed by Hal Kitchen

The third screening of the festival was a strange one, a preview of 10 minutes’ worth of clips from of a work in progress, Victor Blaho’s You Won’t Remember Me, an ambitious feature-length project scheduled for completion later this year. The story will be about an amnesiac (played by Eloise McCrohan), who owing to a traumatic experience in her past has lost all memory of her life after the age of 19, which she now believes herself to still be, the same age as her estranged grown-up son (Charlie Frazer).

Blaho’s production ran into problems, with approximately 40% of the film having been shot. There is something of an irony in this as the film bears a lot of the stylistic hallmarks of Lynne Ramsay, whose last film: You Were Never Really Here (which could well have been this film’s alternate title) was also unfinished when it premiered at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival. The film has a lot of similarly brutal subject matter and themes of memory, trauma and regret and Rumen Russev’s unchained close-range camerawork and Blaho’s editing mimic her style exactingly.

It’s too early to say much about the film itself but there is a clear style and tradition Blaho is working in. One cannot fault the bravery or ambition of the project and we are looking forward to see the clear efforts of the cast and crew come to fruition.

Waiting for Certainty, reviewed by Grace Pulford

This short film tells the story of two friends who have just returned from the funeral of their friend. While one friend wants to head out to another friend’s party after, her other friend is clearly grieving and somewhat traumatized at the plans of his friend. The storytelling in this short was well-thought out and almost resembles a crime film more than anything. There was not a mention of the word ‘funeral’ anywhere but when one friend said, ‘do you know where we were less than an hour ago?’, I was on the edge of my seat. That phrase impressively and creatively said enough about the tension between the friends. The acting at the beginning wasn’t all that convincing for two teenagers leaving their friend’s funeral. I only saw the realism of frustration and tension in the actors about halfway through, when they were almost accepting their friend was no longer around.

Cigarettes and Alcohol, reviewed by Grace Pulford

More of a film in itself rather than a short, this 50-minute piece not only had the whole cinema cracking up in laughter, it managed to turn a story with many components to it easy to follow and entertaining. When a group of hungover friends are held hostage by a criminal wanting his wallet returned to him, there are perfect representations of a typical teenage house party, struggles to remember that evening followed by phenomenal acting from the terrified group being held at gunpoint. As with many comedy films, there always that one idiotic character and with the addition of two of them here, ‘Cigarettes and Alcohol’ had a great balance of serious crime and was hilariously impossible to take seriously at the same time.

Sweet Child of Mine, reviewed by Grace Pulford

An emotional journey of a mother fighting the courts to not have her child taken away from her is a story well and truly jam-packed with heartbreak and tears. The acting, yelling and cries of despair in this short film are highly impressive and what one would definitely feel if their child was at risk of being taken away. Camera angles are effective and clear when specific sequences are taking place including close-up angles which emphasise the immense distress on the main character’s face as well as the supporting cast. ‘Sweet Child of Mine’ definitely has its moments of realism one would expect from a similar scenario and these are excellently delivered with emotion and passion from the cast.