The Phoenix, Tue 2nd March 2010
If you're not part of the Giant University Family, then it's easy only to meet students as a drunken riot in a curry house, or cycling furiously in rugby kit. Going to Film Cuppers is a very civilised way of seeing another side of student life, taking the temperature of the university, and seeing some excellent filmmaking. And the best of any student endeavour will have glimpses of genius; these guys aren't settling for amateur; they're pros on the way up.
This year's films were good and varied, as ever. It's easier to make a funny film than a serious one, as ever. I sometimes wonder if they draw up a list of genres first and then dole them out, to make the shorts as different as possible. A short is an artform all its own, and is harder, not easier, than a full length feature. But you can pack a lot in...
He Who Owns The Space was a mockumentary about aspiring theatre director Adrien Fairhurst. The script's acuity suggests writer Ben Williams has met a goodly number of aspiring theatre directors in the student drama scene. One of the problems with filmmaking without a budget is finding good actors, but Chris Thursten managed to embody Fairhurst convincingly while still keeping a straight face.
Swings went for a much more serious approach, achieving some good exchanges between the characters and building tension in the later scenes. Same Roof and Last Night both took the approach of plunging the audience into the middle of the drama, leaving them to work out the back story. I found both a bit bewildering, but the locations were used very well.
Hit The Spot and Faustus divorced sound from visuals, telling stories without dialogue. Both worked very well, in very diverse genres. Hit The Spot presented a Nouvelle Vague Oxford, love among the botanic gardens. It was a very coherent and authoritative film, with some subtle use of effects at the start. Faustus starred Merton College and imitated the silent film era of Méliès and co perfectly. The main (human) actors were very good, the chiaroscuro arresting and the overall effect professional and witty.
The evening rounded off with some horror: in Bad Copy mad printers take over the department and eat its occupants. It was a glorious romp, tapping into all office-dwellers' ambivalent and stormy relationship with technology.
I really recommend Film Cuppers as a good evening for anyone, student and non-student alike. Of course it's a mixed bag and some films look slicker than others. But all have enough in them that is delightful and watchable to make the evening a real sucess. Unfortunately if you weren't there last night then you've missed it for this year, but there is the rest of the OUFF Film Festival to go. It's on until Friday this week. On Thursday 4th it's the award ceremony for the Cuppers Films - go and see which of the above won, and if you're in luck they might even be screening the entries again.