'FAST ANCHOR FILM FESTIVAL enjoys suburb debut'
The inaugural Fast Anchor Film Festival (Saturday, February 4th) was everything its organisers could have hoped for and more.
Set up by brothers George and Edward Gray to celebrate the art of making short films from both the Manchester area and across the globe, it was hard to believe this was the first of its kind; so high was the standard, so compelling the productions and so full the theatre.
Indeed, to sell out the Savoy in Heaton Moor was testament to a project that promised much and delivered abundantly, and there could be few better locations for such an event. An audience captivated by the variety and intensity of the films on offer did so in a venue that offered both atmospheric intimacy and vintage style; a surround-sound immersion in cinematic artistry combined with the comforts of luxurious seats and marshmallow-soft sofas.
Each film took the viewer into a different world; from a post-apocalyptic Lake District to a toy factory with a deliciously wicked revelation, from the unravelling of family secrets in a Brighton bedroom to unresolved grief on the prairies of Canada. Much of the material was dark, with death a frequent companion, yet it offered a combination even the most discerning audience would have no complaints about.
For the connoisseur, there was the opportunity to admire the skills of directorship, the quality of the acting and the lofty technical standard of the camerawork. For the lay viewer, there was the capture of imaginations; for here lay the quality that makes a good short film - each of them a snapshot, a snippet of the lives of the characters, yet prompting a myriad of unasked and unanswered questions about how these situations arose and what might happen next; broad, open highways of innumerable narrative possibilities down which the mind could race with absolute freedom.
For all that, the winning film was something very different. Fils, by Cyrus Neshvad from Luxembourg, was a self-contained story in which the unanswered questions mostly lay between the two key scenes. A deftly crafted horror film, its genius lay not in reinvention, but in staying true to the genre while packing so much into so little time. It was a difficult balance to pull off, yet Fils achieved this with a brilliance that made it a worthy winner.
There were other awards, too, for the best Manchester short film: A Father's Day, directed by Mat Johns. This was a production that took the far from novel concept of a zombie apocalypse and gave it a truly original, quirky spin. There was also a prize for the best young filmmaker, with Kate Fleming picking this up for Cuttings, a compelling story that posed more unanswered questions than most.
These were the winners on a night of coruscating excellence, amid an atmosphere of revelry and celebration. Over 100 films had been entered from 23 countries, with the seamless juxtaposition of the local and international indicating that Fast Anchor has already found its niche.
This review has avoided plot spoilers and for good reason; there is an encore night on March 4th and the re-showing of all the films is sure to attract another big audience. If this is how good a festival can be in its very first year, the 2018 edition promises to be truly exceptional.
- CHARLES BRITTEN (audience member 2017)