BFI London Film Festival Short Film Reviews: Summer Shade, Shagbands And Panthers


As well as screening numerous features during its run, the BFI London Film Festival 2020 also put online for free a number of short films for audiences to watch. Below are three shorts that were part of the My Time To Shine strand that I’ve taken the time to watch and give my reviews below.

 

SUMMER SHADE

DIRECTED BY: Shira Haimovici

STARRING: Netta Roe, Yuli Ildis, Tamuz Levi, Yehonatan Vilozny, Mendi Barsheshet, Yoav Bavly and Roni Shper Milo

 

SYNOPSIS

On a hot summer’s day, mischievous teenager Gal takes a dip in her favourite nearby pool and unexpectedly encounters a group of Hasidic boys.

 

Summer Shade is the fourth short film written and directed by Shira Haimovici, the short is set on a hot summer’s day in Israel, when young teenager Gal leaves her friends in order to go to her favourite spot, a nearby pool, alone when she encounters four young hasidic jews who arrive to use the pool and verbally abuse and chase her away. The film plays well within its fourteen minute duration (before credits) of showcasing Gal’s journey of youthful innocence in how her approach to this trip differs in interest to those of her older friends. As they look forward to a getaway from their parents and spending time drinking and spending time with their boy friends (boyfriends?), Gal is rather looking forward to spending time with nature, embracing the landscape around them, even pausing for a moment to pet with a tortoise, but by the end she’s more cautious and wary of the outside world that has now shattered her bubble when she encounters the bullish young boys who force her to flee from what was once her sanctuary. Netta Roe plays the role of Gal with the right amount of naivety and curiosity that makes you connected and feel sympathetic towards her, it’s a very good performance from Roe. The direction from Haimovici is very good and cinematographer Tamás A. Méder captures the summer setting very well within the frame, capturing all the sparkles of light through the leaves on the trees to reflecting off the water in the pool. I also enjoyed the mellowness of the score composed by Didi Erez.

 

VERDICT

Summer Shade takes a while to get going and though the central encounter may be uncomfortable, Haimovici provides a glimmer of hope in the end. Netta Roe gives an engaging lead performance. 

 

SHAGBANDS

DIRECTED BY: Luna Carmoon

STARRING: Ruby Stokes, Demi Butcher, Leila Katia McCalla, Alex Draper, Tommy Hunt, Juan O’Carroll, Frankie Wilson and Frankie Box

 

SYNOPSIS

During a sizzling summer in the noughties, a gang of South London schoolgirls face strange sexual awakenings, which culminate in a visceral fate.

 

Directed by Luna Carmoon, Shagbands focuses on four young schoolgirls in South London. The short is wonderfully directed by Carmoon, particularly in how certain sequences are shot, such as the moment Mona has a kiss with a boy underneath a big tree, the way the camera spins around and how it’s complimented by synth score works really well. It was just before my time at school (or I’m just being naive), I didn’t know about the existence/concept of shag bands so for any viewer out there, the short gives you all you need to know about what they mean. The friendship amongst the core schoolgirls feels authentic, and while the first half of the short focuses on teenage adolescence and friendship, the latter takes a more intense and mature turn that will hit close to home for a number of people. While I appreciated the concept of the story, and the time warp back to the noughties setting, even with the eighteen minute duration, I would’ve liked it to be a bit longer to further develop the second half of the story where we follow Chantelle and Mona.

 

VERDICT

A well directed short by Luna Camroon, with really good performances by Ruby Stokes and Frankie Box, Shagbands definitely left me wanting more. Perhaps we’ll get a feature as there’s a lot of potential here. 

 

PANTHERS (PANTERES)

DIRECTED BY: Èrika Sánchez

STARRING: Laia Capdevila, Rimé Kopoború, Lucrecia Buabaila, Sílvia Albert and Alba Mares

 

SYNOPSIS

Joana and Nina live trapped in the contradictions of female puberty in the first world. Both are women of their time and culture: social networks, immediacy and excesses. Today, Joana has decided to devise a game in which she will involve her friend Nina. That decisive moment of puberty will change something in each of them forever.

 

Written and directed by Èrika Sánchez, Panthers (also known as Panteres) focuses on two thirteen-year-old girls Joana and Nina, exploring the contradictions of female puberty, queerness and confronting social norms. Èrika Sánchez’s direction immediately captures your attention from the opening scene in which we see as Joana scans around the locker room, looking at all of the natural bodies on show, which plays into the films narrative of Joana and Nina discovering their own bodies. While the film initially takes a gentle approach to female beauty standards, we then focus on the relationship between Joana and Nina, with Joana being the more free-spirited one while Nina is the more reserved. There’s a particular moment that happens that causes a violent reaction from Joana that leads to a surprising conclusion, though a lot of the film is conveyed through action rather than dialogue. It’s well directed by Sánchez, with good performances from its co-leads, particularly Rimé Kopoború who conveys a lot of emotion with her expressions, but for me it felt like something was missing to make me emotionally connect with it.

 

VERDICT

Well-intentioned, Panthers is a decent short from Èrika Sánchez with its portrayal of queer femininity, with good performances from Laia Capdevila and Rimé Kopoború, but the concept isn’t as fully fleshed out for me to connect with it. Another short with an interesting concept and voice that can be further explored in a feature. 

½

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