I still remember the moment my director and I got back to our producer’s flat. We had just hauled what felt like a tonnage of equipmentup six hateful flights of stairs in order to finally deposit our booty. Shag, hassle, combined with a dollop of exhaustion; so began our odyssey into the OBA Easter project. Looking at some of the effortless professionalism on display at the OBA’s latest screening I came to the sad conclusion that this was perhaps just my own incompetence. The quality of the work on offer is truly impressive, both technically and artistically.
We opened with Isaac. Following in the Oxford mockumentary tradition of Genius before it, Isaac masquerades as a documentary detailing the challenges of integrating “the daylight challenged” (read: vampire) into Oxford life. Like Genius, behind the many laughs there is a cutting dissection of aspects of the student world. The real achievement of the film is how it manages to stay sufficiently generic in its premise to cover a variety of themes while still highlighting very pertinent and relevant issues.
In this regard, the figure of the vampire and his ‘integration’ could be substituted with any one of many other possible groups: racial, social, economic or sexual. What is revealed is a culture of self-satisfaction that relishes in its own sense of being ‘holier than thou’ at the expense of dealing with the issues at hand. In a brilliant ending, the filmmakers come to interview the vampire but end their film before the vampire can say anything.
Next, Dogs and Fags, directed by Archie Thomson and Will Stevens. A radically different story in both tone and style, this time we saw the disintegrating relationship between a mother and her son. Other than her son, there is only one other man in the mother’s life: Noel Coward. Not coincidentally, Noel’s regular scheduled appearances counterbalance the indifferent comings and goings of her son. Miserable and housebound, she eternally awaits the next visit. This somber piece suffered from being placed next to the hysterical Vampire and as such some of its atmosphere was lost. But at heart this is a very humane film that manages to be sympathetic to the mother without condemning the son. An excellent handling of a delicate drama.
With Tom Dillon’s The Pigeon and the Priest, we just had no idea what the audience would think. The film is about a troubled man asking for advice from a priest who in turn tells him a pointless and morbid story. The resolution of the story is left literally hanging. As an audience member, it seemed people liked how the dark humor interwove with the tinge of mystery that propelled the story, and the compelling performances by the actors.
Next up, A Chaste Soul by this paper’s own Anthony Maskell. I asked the good Mr Maskell whether we could describe the film as “what would happen if Tarkovsky made a thriller”, an idea he sort of agreed with. The film is about an assassination gone wrong involving a priest, an assassin and a pregnant woman. An eminently stylish piece shot in black and white and with a box aspect ratio, A Chaste Soul distinguished itself for its striking and highly thoughtful compositions, and its excellent performances.
For me, the standout piece was Sally. Directors Benedict Morisson and Ann Stelzer pull of the feat of telling the story through solely visual means. Given what an engrossing and mysterious piece of work this is,it is indeed no mean feat. A very promising showing for Oxford talent.