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Top 5 - AFDA Graduate Film Festival 2016 (CT)


Here are Spling's Top 5 short films from the 2016 AFDA Graduation Film Festival held in Cape Town at the Labia Theatre... to watch these student short films online, click on the link below each review to be redirected to their official page on AFDA's website and then click on the 'View Production' button towards the bottom right.

CHRISTMAS SPIRIT

Christmas Spirit is a dark comedy about an abrasive family, who are anticipating a visit from their Christmassy yet much-hated "Grandpa". This madcap short film has a similar tone to the BBC sitcom, My Family, yet takes the Christmas motif to new depths of dysfunction as the festive decorations become a symbol for their disdain for "Grandpa".

The filmmakers have cleverly balanced horror and comedy that recalls the work of Sam Raimi and Edgar Wright through their knack for irreverence and surprise. While ambitious, they manage to deck this Christmas tree with some sparkling comedy and over-the-top horror. Smart writing, great timing, relatable themes, convincing special effects and sharp comedy performances make this despicable laugh fest truly special as "Christmas Spirit" takes on a whole new meaning.

Watch Christmas Spirit Online


THE FALL

The Fall is a gripping psychological thriller about an award-winning photojournalist who suffers a nervous breakdown. By means of aerial photography and CBD backdrops, Cape Town becomes a character in this elegant and epic film, which broaches social alienation, the grey area of photojournalistic integrity and its repercussions as addressed in The Bang Bang Club.

Two excellent co-leads drive the intensity of this dizzying drama, which seems to have taken inspiration from films like Fight Club. The hard-hitting soundtrack, unorthodox cinematography and surreal flashbacks whip up a frenzy of emotion, which spirals upward to the big lump-in-the-throat reveal. Sleek visuals, seamless special effects, pangs of turmoil and a complete story, this short film could easily be extrapolated into a feature film.

Watch The Fall Online


DARLING, YOU'RE MINE

Darling, You're Mine is a powerful period piece drama that goes behind-the-scenes to reveal the dark underside of Hollywood. The industry has a shady history of discrimination, encapsulated in biographies like Trumbo, where social injustices become the norm. Elegantly shot and sensitively scripted, this harrowing drama shows the disgusting abuse of power and inherent gender inequality of the system as experienced by a young starlet trying to forge her film career.

Solid performances, authentic sets, wardrobe, make up and impressive production values make it seem like an excerpt from a much broader work. A real-life human nature horror, this immersive drama ends on a poignant note with a statistic that makes this '50s short film haunting and powerful. The ambiguous title, Darling, You're Mine plays into the sweet etiquette of the era and leaves you with a bitter afterthought that brings you back to the here and now.

Watch Darling, You're Mine Online


NUMB

Numb is an intimate drama and portrait of a long time couple whose relationship is put to the test when one of them is relegated to a wheelchair and crippled even further by his feelings of inadequacy. We journey with Griffin, a gregarious, go-getting downhill biker with a big future as he is quickly reduced to an uncertain, self-doubting and pitiful husk of a man.

While the cinematography is beautifully composed and silky, Numb will be best remembered for two thoughtful, nuanced and sensitive performances. It's a heartbreaking and all-too-real drama that provokes thought and evokes emotion, making every second count in completing a convincing character transition. Mature writing underpins this honest and restrained short film about a man dealing with post traumatic stress disorder.

Watch Numb Online


BLUE MIDNIGHT

It's no secret, Blue Midnight has been inspired by Nicolas Winding Refn's Drive. A commanding lead performance makes this a compelling watch. While sparsely scripted, stylised shots keep it moody and visually-stimulating, reinforced by the oppressive air created by the soundtrack. The familiarity carries over into other films like Crash and Taken as elements involving father and daughter coincide.

Diners, bars, gas stations... it exists in a universal Edward Hopper dimension, where the bakkie is the only real thing that anchors it in South Africa. The naming convention parallel with Blue Velvet is no accident. This film imbues a sleek, surreal and seething tone with sound design that seems on the cusp of tripping into Lynchland. While heavily influenced by other filmmakers, it plays into its enticing title, making you wish there was more...

Watch Blue Midnight Online

While they didn't quite make the Top 5, these short films deserve a special mention: the classy social issue drama Full Service, the Hollywood horror Alice, the maniacal What Goes Bump in the Night, the ethereal Crisis at the Summit and visually compelling character portrait, Tom.

 
Talking Movies with Spling - Moana, Maggie's Plan and Last Days in the Desert


Spling reviews Moana, Maggie's Plan and Last Days in the Desert as broadcast on Talking Movies, Fine Music Radio. Catch Talking Movies on Fridays at 8:20am and Saturdays at 8:15am every week on Fine Music Radio.

 
Spling, now the Galileo's Resident Movie Critic


This year, Spling has taken up the post of resident movie critic at the The Galileo Open Air Cinema in Cape Town for the 2016/2017 season. Widely regarded as one of Cape Town's most exciting summer experiences, "The Galileo" has become a firm favourite with Capetonians and tourists, who want to enjoy a social evening in a beautiful location and watch a movie under the stars. From 31 October until 29 April 2017, moviegoers will be able to attend outdoor screenings at 22 spectacular venues around town and the surrounding winelands.

Spling Galileo Resident Movie Critic

As resident movie critic, Spling has been entrusted with selecting his "Galileo Pick of the Week", which involves him identifying and reviewing what he deems to be the best film for each calendar week of the season. Born and raised in Cape Town, a long-time movie reviewer at Cape Town lifestyle and media portal, 2Oceansvibe.com, and presenter of Talking Movies on Cape Town's very own Fine Music Radio, Spling is ideally positioned to partner with the Galileo Open Air Cinema.

Check out his first Pick of the Week... and stay tuned for more!

Want to experience the Galileo for yourself, visit the SPL!NG fan page to stand a chance of winning a double ticket.

Check out what's showing and book tickets for the Galileo Open Air Cinema.

 
Movie Review: Maggie's Plan


Maggie's Plan is directed by Rebecca Miller, but you'd be forgiven for thinking it was Woody Allen's latest romance comedy drama. The New York setting, the quirky dialogue, the excitable performances and the many shades of love make it comparable with this filmmaker. Even the calibre of the cast makes you think that this could only be Woody Allen, but it's not. Maggie's Plan is like a blend of Before Sunrise, What Maisie Knew and Mistress America. While Miller may be tipping the hat to the veteran, arguably master of romantic comedy, it has a misguided quality to it.

This comes through in the characters and even in the storytelling. Maggie wants to have a baby, so much so that she's willing to enter single parenthood on purpose. Just as she thinks she has found the right donor, along comes John, whose work-in-progress novel gives them a shared goal and leads to greater intimacy. While you can appreciate the chemistry, John is a married man and after he requites his love for Maggie, it's not long before he's divorced and they are married with child.

Maggie's Plan would be pretty ordinary without its strange "romcom" plot and stellar cast as Greta Gerwig, Ethan Hawke and Julianne Moore form the three corners of this love triangle. Their range of interplay encompasses each aspect of the romance comedy drama genre quite beautifully with some poignant and funny moments reflecting on the nature of fidelity. While at first quite excitable, playing into the screwball dynamic, they mellow with time as we come to terms with the lighter and darker sides of their endearment.

"There's just one thing... I'm married."

Gerwig is a strong actress playing into the stoicism and fortitude of Maggie. Hawke relishes the opportunity to play head-in-his-book writer, John, whose narrow focus and passion becomes both a strength and weakness. Moore plays Georgette like something out of a Wes Anderson film, using a bracing accent and high strung disposition to block empathy for the stylish ice queen. The ensemble is reinforced by the presence of Bill Hader and Maya Rudolph, who inject some hilarity into proceedings as Maggie's friends, while Travis Fimmel is convincing as the bohemian nice guy and sperm donor.

While Miller establishes a curious and unusual tone, leaning on her actors and whiplash dialogue, the storytelling is scattershot. While it's easy enough to fill in the blanks, the bits-and-pieces come at us like a game of Tetris, making it a bit unwieldy. The overall experience is not unlike Greta Gerwig's previous film, Mistress America, generating spark from a talented ensemble and charging into the inner city screwball comedy with wit and reckless abandon. This finicky mix isn't a crowd pleaser by any stretch, but is easier to appreciate if you focus on the performances and have a soft spot for the films of Noah Baumbach and Woody Allen.

The bottom line: Entertaining


 
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