Review: The Wharf Film Festival

wharf

The first ever Wharf Film Festival took place yesterday at the Wharf Music Academy, a converted church in Oak Street, Norwich. With all proceeds going to EACH (East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices). The one night event presented some of the brightest unheralded filmmaking talent in Norwich.

The Festival opened with a moving speech by actor Jack W. Gregory. Gregory talked candidly about his struggles with addiction, in a short but wonderfully moving speech that in essence captured the tone of the films that were featured at the festival.

The running order was eleven short films that preceded a special showing of George Moore’s ‘Ragged Trousered Philanthropists’. Moore’s ambitious forty five minute film lacked the necessary powerful acting performances to deliver his overt socialist message. You could also pick holes in the fact that despite the film mostly being set in a 1904 workhouse the actors all seemed rather pristine in their appearance. But his use of folk music from the band Lau at least created some evocative moments.

Mark Mountford, who submitted three short films, opened the event with ‘I Dreamt of You’. Certainly this was the strongest of his three contributions. Mountford, whose work seemed to be more style over substance, failed to connect with me. Paul Strutt’s ‘The Key’ was another short that didn’t particularly float my boat.

Jamie Warmsley’s ‘Minds Eye’ was a brilliantly claustrophobic short about a man trapped in a dank bedsit. The protagonist was equally trapped in his own head, disturbed by visions of the past, happier times which he seemed to have lost. Warmsley’s film was the sleeper of the night, a film that definitely made a big impression on me.

There were two music video entries. Eleanor Crews’ minimalist but artfully captured film ‘An Alchemist’s Heart’ which showcased singer songwriter Damien Flynn and Bulsh ‘n’ Scribe’s avant-garde Post-‘Nathan Barley’ + Die Antwoord meets Alejandro Jodorowsky directed disasterpiece ‘Elephants on Crack’, the video seemed to divide the opinions of all those present, but I get the impression that was the intention of the filmmakers. It is better to get a reaction rather than none at all.

The highlights of the night came from Mellissa Lo’s dystopian ‘Black Mirror’ influenced ‘Free Falling’ which took home the big prize of the night, and the festivals runner up ‘Woodwoo’, a gripping tale of two tree surgeons by Jonathan Blagrove. These films deserved their plaudits, but for me it was Paul Cook’s ‘Piano and Soul’ about a grieving emotionally distressed man, and his ill-fated trip to his local pub, and Gareth Moore’s post-apocalyptic ‘Sleepy Norfolk’, which turned the fine city of Norwich into an eerie deserted wasteland, that were the best short films of the night.

Here’s hoping that the festival continues next year.

– RJW

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