As usual from the 225 Film Club, this year’s shortlist offered up a fabulous mix of funny, moving, intriguing and — of course — entertaining short films. The depth of stories that can be told in a short film, ranging from quarter of an hour down to a short sharp minute, is testament to the talent, tenacity and storytelling of the writers, directors and performers.
Created in 2018 by director Rita Osei to promote female excellence in film direction, 225 Film Club showcases current and past narrative and documentary short film work by female and non binary filmmakers, introduces directors and producers and supports women in film. The audience at the 4th event — held on Friday 9 December 2022 at the BFI — included writers and collaborators of the films screened, Joshua Osei, Edwin de la Renta, Melanie Light, Edward Apeagyei, writer, producer and co-star of Stephanie Boateng’s entry Locked In Kwame Augustine, star of Faye Jackson’s Snowflakes Sharon Duncan-Brewster, and Cleo Sylvestre.
The screening directors had the opportunity to speed date producers Kate Kinninmont MBE, Esther Springer, Dominique Unsworth MBE, Lea Gimpel, Molly Murphy, Isabella Speaight and Nadine Marsh-Edwards before the event.
Find out more about the short films, including available trailers, below (all running times are approximate)… and scroll down for more images from the films, and the night itself.
The BEST SHORT FILM winner is Bebe AI, Directed by Rebekah Fortune Smith. The BEST MICRO SHORT FILM winner is Puff, directed by Zara Symes.
The winners were chosen by a panel of outstanding industry judges: Brenda Gilbert, Co-Founder and President BRON Studios, Esther Springer, Creative Director Film & TV Creators Inc, Producer Dominique Unsworth, MBE and Sire Ramos, Head of Development at Lipsync. The panel was Chaired by Rita Osei. Post production prizes are sponsored by Lipsync. 225 Film Club 4 is supported by BFI Inclusion.
Locked-In, Stephanie Boateng, 2021 (11 minutes)
An entertaining, sharply acted look at the complexities of modern-day exploitation, from director Stephanie Boateng. Mike and Kwesi, two young British Black men, are in Ghana looking to close a land deal — though what starts off as a witty culture shock short about stranded friends trying to hustle their way to a better life, while finding themselves out of their depth in a place they barely know, turns into a different kind of shocking, as the men’s attitudes are laid bare. Starring Eric Kofi Abrefa as the more knowledgable Mike, and Kwame Augustine (who also co-wrote) as the initially more diffident Kwesi, theirs is a neatly judged friendship with its own surprises.
We’ve Only Just Begun, Meneka Das, 2022 (10 minutes)
“Would you judge me if I tell you my story. The things we do, the secrets we keep.” Rumi (Meneka Das, who also co-wrote and directed) is a talented singer songwriter, living with her sister Nina (Sheenu Das) and Nina’s abusive boyfriend in London while helping out in his restaurant. A local musician befriends her and offers a glimmer of light, when he tells her of a music venue where she might be able to perform, but she holds back. Can she and Nina find their way to freedom on their own? This is a moving story with lovely songs (also written by Das) about a form of captivity in a bustling city that never stops.
Watch the We’ve Only Just Begun trailer:
BEBE AI, Rebekah Fortune, 2021 (12 minutes)
One of my favourites: this is a slick and timely comment on technology, fertility, and society’s assumptions around what constitutes “perfection”. Michaela (Bethany Asher) and Jonny (George Webster), both of whom have Down Syndrome, apply for an AI baby. Head honcho Amanda Abbingdon is horrified, but a nurse, who is also AI, offers the young couple a possible route to family happiness. Asher and Webster deliver pitch-perfect performances in an expertly put together short film — Asher in particular is extremely moving as a young woman with so much to give as a mother.
Watch the BEBE AI trailer:
Eksponert/Exposed, Anna Fredrikke Bjerke, 2021 (11 minutes)
Ingrid (Vilde Moberg) is the lead in a graduation play, though rehearsals are derailed when their director Magnus, older and more experienced, starts a discussion with the ensemble as to whether Ingrid should appear nude. This is a sharp and witty study of power and modern feminism, and whether empowerment is simply exploiting women under the guise of calling out exploitation. The discussion, batting back and forth as a tennis ball is thrown to the person who wants to speak, is a darkly humorous study of modern social and artistic discourse: when a Black actress points out that putting a conventionally pretty white woman naked on stage reinforces stereotypes, her white colleague pipes up that poor Ingrid isn’t actually conventionally pretty. Everyone is incredibly earnest, and often awful, and there’s a twist that also leaves Ingrid wondering if her exploitative moment has actually been stolen from her.
Snowflakes, Faye Jackson, 2019 (13 minutes)
“Don’t worry about your cat. People like cats.” So says Miriam, realistic about the likely outcome for Esther’s pet left behind in her flat, versus Esther’s own pleas to the guards that she has indefinite leave to remain and it’s all been a mistake. This is a beautifully acted and gripping drama about power, freedom and crumbling under pressure. Two women, Miriam (Cherrelle Skeete) and Esther (Sharon Duncan-Brewster) are en route to a deportation flight which is to take them to Jamaica. Miriam coolly quotes the Book of Job at her abusive guard; while Esther discovers that for a Black woman the rule of law only works one way. The white guards are bored and indifferent or delighting in mockery and insult. A new drug Asylponon is now available to pacify the women, but it has an unusual and deadly affect on their guards. Miriam believes it is God’s work, but was it?
Watch the Snowflakes trailer:
Don’t Look, Sophie Littman, 2018 (3 minutes 30)
Littman’s anxiety-ridden short is funny and excruciating at the same time, with the protagonist’s fast and nervy voiceover reminding us of a tendency to constantly do ourselves down, making ourselves into outsiders when we don’t need to be. A young woman hits the gym for the first time in ages, but finds the changing room scarier than the machines she’ll be working out on later. Everyone else there knows exactly what they’re doing… and everyone else is also almost certainly wearing the right bra.
Watch Don’t Look now:
Voices, Abbie Lucas, 2022 (11 minutes)
A young couple, Tara (Amanda Clapham) and Drew (Omar Khan), moving into their new house, hear raised voices coming from next door; while she wants to investigate, already convinced their neighbours are physically fighting, he is more reticent. Soon next door’s argument is illuminating major faultlines in their own relationship. Khan and Clapham are terrific as a couple who find themselves dealing with a situation more eerie and frightening than they could have imagined when they venture next door, with a funny if horrifying twist at the end.
Watch the Voices trailer:
Isodate, Mary Mulan, 2021 (8 minutes)
Social distancing comes up against attraction in this witty short. Belinda (knows what she likes, loves herself) and Alan (knows what he likes, loves himself) meet on a dating website during lockdown, though despite (because of?) the restrictions their relationship goes from strength to strength. Which is a surprise as both are extremely self-centred. Do they have a future once the world opens up? Or is socially distanced love best for both of them? All goes swimmingly until real life intervenes. Both leads make the most of their roles with Rachel Watts, who plays Belinda, supremely engaging as a woman who knows exactly who she is and what she wants. (Don’t miss the mid credits seen either!)
Watch the Isodate trailer:
Fishwife, Beth Park, 2021 (17 minutes)
There must be something in the water! We’re by an isolated lake in 17th century England, where a lonely young woman (Scarlett Brookes), steeped in the old ways, lives alone in a cottage. Everything is rainy and watery. A stranger takes a particular interest in her menstrual cycle; a few nights later she’s disturbed by a young traveller asking if he can sit by her fire. A nerve-tingling short film from Beth Park, Fishwife is a beautifully bleak and haunting tale of fear mixed with longing, with more to see on every subsequent viewing.
Watch the Fishwife trailer:
Ama: Women Of The Sea, Georgie Yukiko Donovan, 2019 (14 minutes)
For me this fascinating and humbling documentary short was the most captivating of them all. Filmmaker Georgie Yukiko Donovan, a young woman who herself feels she exists in two worlds (she is of Japanese heritage, and a fluent Japanese speaker, but grew up in the UK) investigates the world of the Ama divers. With a history and a community going back thousands of years, the Ama are women who freedive in Japan’s coastal waters for pearls, seaweed and shellfish. It’s a community that women used to be born or married into, but now if their traditions and way of life are to survive they need to welcome outsiders. The small community of Ama that Donovan visits live near a town colloquially called “The town where women shine”, though their way of life is under threat; ironic considering the sustainable way they live is one many of us claim to want. Donovan’s enthusiasm, perception, keenness to listen and understanding of Japanese life make this a wonderful watching experience.
Watch the Ama: Women Of The Sea trailer:
A Walk Home, Louise C Galizia, 2021 (1 minute 30 seconds)
A scenario familiar to most women surely? A short walk home from a night out, a chance to listen to music while walking briskly through the cold, becomes, for twentysomething Faye, a succession of threats to deal with, some imagined and some more real. This 90 second film, set over five minutes, suddenly seems much longer. Frustratingly for Faye, salvation comes from another man.
Watch A Walk Home now:
Tunnel, Aleksandra Czenczek 2021 (1 minute)
An unnerving micro short that initially brings to mind An American Werewolf In London, as a lone woman exits a clanking London Underground lift and makes her way through a deserted tunnel. The colour palette is red and beige — the commuter’s raincoat blending into the institutional shiny tiles of the tunnel — though it soon becomes clear there’s a reason her senses are so heightened. But is she in danger or facing another woman’s fear?
Watch Tunnel now:
Perfect Ward, Jo Southwell, 2021 (1 minute)
A tiny film that tells a much bigger story of loss, longing and the perils of escape, from Jo Southwell. A woman twirls around a kitchen — brightly lit at one end, darker at the other — her red nails picking up the props of a small but perfectly formed birthday party, presumably for a child. There are toddlers’ cuddle toys, and a small birthday cake, and balloons. But her delight is short lived, and her pain seemingly more intense now it follows such joy.
Puff, Zara Symes, 2021 (1 minute 47 seconds)
A stunning micro short about women’s fear, what we do to calm ourselves and where we can be safe. A young woman can’t sleep, and starts focusing on the dangers around her, making her home secure from prying eyes outside. Starring Victoria Emslie and Sam Benjamin, tension is brilliantly punctured by wit, though there’s a twist in this tale of anxiety, insomnia and intrusion.
The 4th 225 Film Club event
Actors Edwin de la Renta and Joshua Osei
Producer Esther Springer
Producer Nadine Marsh Edwards
Cleo Sylvestre and Sharon Duncan-Brewster
BEBE AI: George Webster, Bethany Asher
Voices: Omar Khan, Amanda Clapham
BEBE AI: Amanda Abbington
Eksponert/Exposed: Vilde Moberg
Snowflakes: Sharon Duncan-Brewster
Stephanie Boateng and Nadine Marsh-Edwards
Kate Kinninmont and Abbie Lucas
Edwin de la Renta, Joshua Osei, Edward Apeagyei
Anna Knight, Rita Osei
Rita Osei, Lilia Pavin-Franks (Events Manager at The BFI)