Review: the OBA Easter Projects

Louise Howland dissects Sunday’s OBA student film screening, praising their indie feminist zeal

Mary Higgins in The Monitor

The Oxford Broadcasting Association (OBA)’s Easter Projects debuted five shorts from Oxford’s student filmmakers, made at pace over the vacation. At the UPP, the energy was electric as directors, writers, producers, editors and actors gathered to see their creations come to life.

The first was the charming Monitor. It used conventions of the archetypal rom-com as a template for exploring modern love and its dangers. Behind the laughs, it posed questions about the compatibility between ‘true love’ and social media, and how Facebook stalking encourages unhealthy monomania. Maddy Walker was impressive as our tragic hero’s cynical co-worker.

Next up was Bench. It starred Imogen Allen as a girl with mental health problems who, after chatting to a stranger, is given a reason to leave the safety of her flat. Credit must be given to Bench’s refusal to play into common stereotypes concerning mental illness. The approach to autism was sensitive throughout. This film best exemplifies why the ‘Easter Projects’ were endorsed by the organisation ‘F-Rated’ – which seeks to further women in film. Bench gives us hard intersectionality, while retaining a tenderness that is moving and thought-provoking.

The Tie, about a man mourning his late brother, showed flashes of brilliance early on. Characterised by a dark gallows humour, it provoked the most lively audience laughs of the screening. Its flaws – lingering transitions, or the flippancy between cutthroat comedy and melancholic grief – are not reflections on the writer and directors. Instead, they remind us the Easter Projects are the OBA’s annual endeavour to encourage amateur filmmaking: choosing deliberately inexperienced crews to foster indie cinema. The intelligence and shrewdness of The Tie was powerful enough to look beyond its mistakes.

Moving the tone from bereavement to a complicated LGBTQ love triangle was Ensemble. Script revision turned it from heteronormative to female same-sex heartache, as teacher and student battle their way through the minefield of power-relations and love. The premise was interesting, and the performances strong, particularly from Rebecca Hamilton and Seamus Lavin (who dazzled as a clueless drama student), but the loose plot disappointed.

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For me, last certainly wasn’t least with Shannon Britton’s The Arbor standing out. A colourful, violent piece on youth in revolt, this enthralling dystopia took ambition to be realised on the big screen – and boy, did it pay off . The striking visuals and slick style made for an intense experience. Praise is due for Rosa Garland, whose harrowing, energetic performance as the flawed heroine was a promising debut and should not go unnoticed.

These OBA films highlight the power of creative ideas communicated via cinema. On top of this, all five short-films featured female directors, highlighting an active and self-consciously feminist approach to film-making. The film industry should take note.