After the success of 2003’sscreening, OxShorts, acollection of four shortstudent films, is back.Bollocks, some mightthink: more pretentious ‘ooh lookI’m filming a pidgeon flying over theRad Cam in black and white’ crapfrom English students who’ve beenwatching too much Tarkovsky andTruffaut. Hallelujah, others wouldsay (including myself ): finally, wehave another event outside of FilmCuppers in which student film is represented,however pompous or howeverstunning it turns out to be.The most eye-catching of the filmsis Sam Leifer and J van Tulleken’sdazzling animation, The UnsteadyChough. When at Oxford, MontyPython’s Terry Jones wrote a shortcomic poem about a boozing bird(an avain version of Sebastian Flyte)from Teddy Hall, animated here withCGI, cut-out photographs and cartoonbackgrounds. The quirky resultcomplements the rowdy tone of thepoem, read to us by none other thanJones himself. An infectiously funnyshort, which was deservedly shortlistedfor the 2004 BBC Best Newcomerin Animation award.Thomas Maine’s mockumentaryPunters focuses on another eccentricindulgence of Oxford life: thatcurious pastime of lazily propellingshallow boats down a river with bigwooden poles. Maine injects a humouroustwist by parodying TheBlair Witch Project. Four students,we read at the start, once attemptedto punt fifty miles up the Cherwellto its source. They were neverfound again. Featuring diary-shots ofsoaked Oxonians (“We’ve been tryingto outrun a storm for the last twohours”) Punters is as funny and idiosyncraticas the pursuit it follows.Equally eccentric, yet less amusinglyso, is Stephan Littger’s Memoriesof a Sick Mind. This black comedyfollows a mentally ill man forced tofind a wife before his mother’s death,or the fortune she holds goes to herbeloved cat. The concept is admirablyoddball and the film is well executed.However, it is peppered with tiredmotifs (albeit used self-consciously),such as the horrific cackling of anold lady, and irritatingly punctuatedby redundant shots of insects on thepavement or calendars moving ingusts of wind. Proof that the best studentfilms are the simplest ones.Matt Green and Duncan Brown’sLe Cauchemar de l’Homme Noiret-Blanc (which won the 2004 FilmCuppers) is the exception to thisrule, being as complex as it is inventiveand hilarious. Shot in the styleof a 1920s silent film, it follows ayoung wannabe film-maker who getsembroiled in a sordid tale of murder,obsession and furry animal torture.If this sounds bizarre, that’s because,well, it is. But with fantastic visualsand a darkly comic undertone, this isbizarre in the best possible way.OxShorts is exactly what our studentfilm scene needs: a non-competetivescreening environment thatencourages student film-making ofall sorts. The evening will also featurea talk by director and Oxford alumniKen Loach, and a fifth ‘surprise’ filmthat was tantalisingly withheld fromme. The only thing that the Oxfordfilm scene needs now is an appreciativeaudience. Yes, that means you.ARCHIVE: 3rd week MT 2005