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Oxford University Short Film Festival 2024 – Day 1

A steady stream of people has been filing into Keble’s O’ Reilly Theatre until, now, it’s almost full. 

It’s the first night of the Oxford University Short Film Festival, during which student short films are screened every night from Monday to Friday, culminating in an afterparty on Saturday.

‘It’s a really great turnout,’ one of the people scanning tickets on the door, Steph, tells me.

The passion for film in the room is obvious: the audience contains many of the cast and crew members of the short films being screened. They are keenly talking with others about their work, and are equally keen to meet other people who are passionate about film.

After a quick introductory speech, the lights dim and the first film begins…


Je Veux Danser

This is a wonderfully shot film made by the Oxford alumni production company Accidental Donkey, about a lovesick young Parisian. Of course, like any great romantic film, our young Parisian meets someone special, and the film follows their strangely sweet first meeting. It features a brightly coloured sequence – with notes of Hitchcock’s Vertigo – as characters’ faces almost seem to pulse with light. The shot composition is great, with a personal standout being some lovely shots of French streets towards the start of the film. Overall, a great start to the festival.

Playing With Fire

For the second short, we return to Oxford. The film follows two parallel storylines: both about a film being made; one set in ’80s Oxford, the other set in the present day. In the 1980s storyline, an actor struggles with sexism on set; in the present day, filmmaker Fallon examines the meaning of feminism and justice. The cuts at the end which attempt to combine the two storylines, with scenes showing film-stock combusting, is a great and punchy end to an engaging film.

Hardwicke Circus: The Prison Gig

This film follows a small jobbing band from Carlisle as they hold a workshop in a men’s prison. The film stands apart from the rest in the lineup for its use of a documentary style, with interviews with band members interspersed throughout the first part of the film, and use of lighting and cinematography reminiscent of old documentaries or home video footage. The second half of the film features some great musical performances.

Project: Engine

This follows a self-educated engineer as he tries to pitch his invention, a hydrogen-powered car engine. What follows is an engaging exploration of one man trying to pursue his dream in the face of big business, with some almost thriller-like elements – especially towards the end.

Pursuit

This short follows a student at a formal being stalked. This is combined with an excellent soundtrack, especially during the scenes where the student is followed around, which excellently ratchets up the tension. Equally interesting is the film’s exploration of the after-effects of stalking: we see first-hand how the incident can profoundly affect someone.

Overall, the first night of the festival was a great showcase of student filmmaking across Oxford and beyond, with films from a wide range of genres.

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