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BFP15 – Screenings (Part 2)

// Featured, Reviews (Event, Festival)

Wrapping up our coverage of this year’s Bristol Festival of Puppetry is New Visions, a series of mini-screenings clocking in at around a half-hour each, curated in association with Bristol’s leading animation events organisers Show Me The Animation and free to the public. The focus of the screenings is standout student film work, where comparatively limited resources outside of, say, a major studio, have been overcome by visual ingenuity and brilliant storytelling.

The NFTS is well represented by sterling work, going as far back as Tim Reckart‘s 2012 graduation film Head Over Heels, a deservedly-lauded film about marital conflict that has served as a springboard to what’s sure to be a fine career. Amongst the school’s latest graduates are recent podcast guests Daisy Jacobs (The Bigger Picture), Nina Gantz (Edmond) and Simon Cartwright (MANOMAN), as well as Steve Warne‘s tense psychological drama Pombo Loves You and Fulfilament by Rhiannon Evans, a film about the highways and byways of the mind and the formation of a strong idea told through a lost lightbulb wandering a tremendously-constructed industrial maze, striving to find where it belongs.

The RCA’s output is also a strong presence in the series of screenings, and all of them boast tremendously strong visuals if, on occasion, sound design and voice performances fall a bit short. In the case of the Coraline-tinged Tenderfoot (Jessica Ashman) and The Thing Under the Tree (Lily Fang) the puppet design itself is truly masterful. The inventiveness of the latter’s story in particular allows for some wonderful visual concepts that are sure to give youngsters nightmares, something I heartily endorse. Carla McKinnon’s quasi-documentary short Devil in the Room, if not quite reaching the same high bar of visual execution, certainly hits home on a personal level as a frighteningly accurate portrayal of sleep paralysis, combining animation and live-action in its depiction of hypnopompic hallucinations. Dealing with an altogether different type of nightmare, Sam Steer’s The Beast I Am is a nicely paced allegory dealing with impending pubescence, using a young boy’s exploration of an art museum to allegorical effect, throwing in some Grecian puns (‘Minos must not be accompanied by an adult’) that would doubtless make certain Skwigly colleagues weep with joy. Other films of note include offerings from UWE – such as the nightmare-fairytale Fragile (Dir. Elizabeth Anne Stone) and the expertly-observed avian character animation of Moonbird (Dir. Roos Mattaar).

Moonbird (Dir. Roos Mattaar)

Ainslie Henderson‘s now-classic Edinburgh College of Art piece I Am Tom Moody surely needs no introduction to Skwigly readers and serves as fine companion viewing to his recent professional film Stems, which screened earlier in the fest. Doug Hindson’s DIS \ CONNECT, though live-action, is worth a mention for its contemporary design style, translating the appealingly stark minimalism of modern digital animation to hand-crafted puppetry to highly satisfying effect. Though a touch jittery, Sam Barnett’s Operator makes very effective use of the space and set design. In truth the non-smoothness of the animation contributes in some measure to the increasingly unsettling atmosphere as the film builds toward its grim conclusion. Other artists to watch out for include Falmouth University grad Adam Taylor (Rufus and The Island) whose design style shows serious commercial potential, as well as Jasmin Hedger of the University of South Wales demonstrating tremendous visual invention in Dr. Mandala.

Coupled with the festival’s retrospectives and film programming (not to mention the variety of workshops that have proved a resounding success), this assortment of half-hour windows into the world of puppet animation have been a fantastic way of engaging a broader audience and reinforcing the vitality of stop-motion at a crucial stage of a young professional’s creative development. Many thanks to the team at BFP15 for accommodating Skwigly and hats off to curator Joseph Wallace who has brought a clearly well-informed voice to the festival.

For more on the festival and the work of Puppet Place visit

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