Salon des Refusés is a culmination of those short films that were forgotten and those anomalies which simply didn’t suit any other slot. Curators Chloë Roddick and Kristy Dootson collated eight short films hand-picked amongst five hundred which didn’t make the cut to be screened at some of the major international film festivals. Rather than simply discarding these rejects, for the reason that they don’t seem to ‘fit in’ with the rest, the event showcased the best of them to the public in the comfort of a cosy darkened room adorned with an array of furniture ranging from deck chairs to sofas.
The first film, Uncle Fran by Mike Forshaw brought the audience to the character of Fran, a fifty-something alcoholic. The film follows Fran on the day of his mother’s funeral, and watches his failed attempts to reconcile with his estranged daughter and grandchildren, of whom he doesn’t even know the names. Fran makes an effort to fix his wrong doings as he engages with his grandchildren for the first time. The scene progresses and the speed increases as we watch him interact, giggling and playing spinning the children around. However, it all ends very abruptly as he swirls and knocks a glass of red wine off a nearby table, resulting in a smash and splash alarming the rest of the crowd in the pub. The granddaughter of no older than six or seven bursts into tears and Fran’s moment of joy turns suddenly sour. The film explores the themes of isolation and emasculation and alienation, and the crippling effect it has on this one man.
Moving away from Uncle Fran and a bleak area near Liverpool, the next film Distant Thunder, by Venetia Taylor, was set in a beautiful Australian suburban area following the life of well-to-do Pam, a middle aged divorceé who enjoys cheese and a little too much wine. Her former husband Richard arrives at her luxury apartment and Pam’s wry humour and her clearly forced nonchalance result in a comic effect, especially when she jovially tells Richard ‘you’ll be dead soon’. Their meeting is interrupted by the desperate screams of a man on a faraway mountain, whom Richard jokes maybe meditating. One can’t help but parallel the desperate screaming man to the jolted awkward relationship of repressed emotions and unsettled histories between the two protagonists.
The next two film short films shall be grouped together for the only reason that they are both truly chilling. Brotherhood explores the relations between two Muslim brothers who have immigrated to the UK. They choose two very different occupations. Through the moral righteousness of one brother, both their lives become extremely dangerous. Nina Please revolves around a young Polish couple, in which Nina epitomises the oppressed woman who has to give up work to care for her baby.
Thankfully, in-between these harrowing yet thought provoking films was a delightful Canadian piece, Two Men, Two Cows, Two Guns (Pardis Parker) which is available to watch on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=POcGENMfL_M
My personal favourite was The Trip, a piece set in the Polish countryside exploring the relationship between a girl of thirteen and her elderly grandfather. They go on wonderful camping excursions and the footage of the vast green landscapes are breath-taking. Her grandfather pokes about in trees, digging around, slips and falls down a grassy knoll whilst Asia watches and giggles, in-between playing with her mobile phone. They walk to the top of a hill where they sit and watch the sun set, where her grandfather offers Asia a priceless nugget of wisdom that time is more precious than any gold or silver. The sun is just about to set as Asia fiddles with her phone; the polyphonic tones rudely interrupt the tranquillity. She grabs for her digital camera as the sun drops below the horizon and takes a snap.
Words and photography by Natalya Paul