Super Shorts Hackney, Stoke Newington, film review: ‘A sensational medley of short films’

The filmmakers on stage for the end-of-night audience vote. Photograph: courtesy Super Shorts Hackney

The old saying, ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover’, sometimes comes into splendid poignancy.

Don’t judge a person by their designer handbag, for instance, or a play by its assumed budget, and certainly not a super short film festival by its gritty, snooker hall locale.

Wandering down an unfamiliar and neglected road in Stokey, closed shops galore, we pull up to the aforementioned adult ball pit.

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 hall’s function room.

Climb the slightly sticky steel stairs, and you surface in a venue I can only describe as looking like a regional gay bar in the 1970s, replete with a cash-only bar and outdated drink prices.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 throw a lifeline to upcoming and established film-makers while the industry languished with lacklustre governmental support.

Super Shorts Hackney, now a bimonthly film sensation, was born.

The name worried me at first. How short are we talking? (Raises eyebrow in best Mae West impression.)

But as a lover of tiny 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 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.

Samuel Dore’s Midsummer Boulevard parodies the film noirs of LA and writers such as Raymond Chandler by setting his tale of sex and violence in… Milton Keynes. It’s jaw-achingly tongue-in-cheek, but with nice pacing.

Horror thrives 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 botany-obsessed partner, 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 Tenisha White proves that length isn’t everything (I refuse to work blue again) in a classic hounded-on-the-ride-home tale, but with a flare of self-awareness that is unusual in the genre.

Considering the amount of sewage pumped into this island’s waterways, it’s unsurprising that many films reference this.

Peter Kehoe’s Water Week has a nicely British take on Emmanuel Macron and Anne Hidalgo’s doomed swim in the Seine. A nice use of sound and speedy phrasing builds tension before a 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.

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 can produce exceptional results.

We have an exacerbated mother addressing the camera as she takes care of her child.

She is really addressing the government, the people in power of the country in all its gold-leafed inequality.

In an increasingly expensive and unsure world, her scrimping and budgeting, her teary, tired eyes, and “the endless excuses” needed to give her daughter a better life is a heartrending state-of-the-nation piece.

It asks us all what we are exchanging, and what we get in return.

With the average film ticket pushing £20 in some parts of the city, £7 here will provide you with a charcuterie board of comedy, horror, sci-fi and more.

Yes, light leaks in from the flapping curtains, along with noise and smoke from snooker players having a cheeky cigarette on the stairs.

But inside, you will find talented people showcasing a fanatical and fantastic love of film.

Grab a glass of wine in a plastic cup, settle into your personal leather cocoon, and sink into the sensational medley of super shorts.

The next edition of Super Shorts Hackney takes place on Sunday 4 August, with tickets available here.

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