Leeds International Film Festival and Fanomenon are the UK affiliated member of the European Fantastic Film Festivals Federation which organises the Méliès competition to champion European genre films throughout the world. The shorts were screened over LIFF26’s Méliès weekend, including Day of the Dead 6 at City Varieties. The Jury consisted of Dr Patricia MacCormack, Dominic Brunt and Dave Bryan. This year’s winners are:
Eddie the Sleepwalking Cannibal (Dir. Boris Rodriguez, Denmark/Canada, 2011, 90 mins)
Sightseers (Dir. Ben Wheatley, UK, 2012, 95 mins)
Thale (Dir. Aleksander L Nordaas, Norway, 2012, 76 mins)
The Fright (El Espanto) (Dir. J.J. Marcos, Spain, 2012, 15 mins)
Blinky (Dir. Ruairi Robinson, Ireland / USA, 2011, 13 mins)
Photo (Dir. J Enrique Sanchez, Spain, 2011, 7 mins)
Jury Statement for the Leeds International Film Festival 2012 Méliès Awards
The feature section of the competition provided not only hot debate among the judges but also with the wider audience present at the screenings. What was not in debate however was the overall quality of the features which all had elements to be commended.
In the end Eddie the Sleepwalking Cannibal pipped the others to the post by virtue of its sheer charm and, in the grand traditions of ‘anti-hero’, introduces a character with whom you are happy to invest your emotion and time into. The movie perfectly balances that very difficult task of mixing horror and dark comedy and as such will have appeal to a wide variety of genre fans. Expertly crafted by first time feature director Boris Rodriguez, the movie is well paced with great characterisation and a climax which will give even the most hardened horror fan that sense of sentimental satisfaction that is so often missed.
Special mentions go to Sightseers and Thale, which in their own ways could both have won this competition. Ben Wheatley’s Sightseers slams together two dysfunctional characters embarking on a caravanning road trip around the picturesque Yorkshire hills and Dales and very quickly descends into the darkest of journeys, not just for our two protagonists but anyone who crosses their warped path. A huge character driven piece with a sparklingly dark script, the locations are beautifully shot and laugh out loud moments come thick and fast. Don’t expect to see it in the top ten of the Caravan Club of Great Britain’s movies. Probably no bad thing as everyone else will love it.
Thale is a beautifully crafted fantasy movie based on a Norwegian folklore tale which captures viewers from the start. The story of a mysterious young woman held hostage unfolds before your eyes in the exceptional locations of the Norwegian forests. First time director Aleksander Nordaas, who also wrote and edited, delicately weaves a modern story in the best traditions of a classic fairy tale. There are underlying sexual tensions, ‘real’ world issues and a constant threat of good versus evil throughout the movie. The overall impression is one of redemption and the sense that human kindness will always have its rewards.
The winning short was again decided by a majority decision after much debate.
Our winner The Fright (El Espanto) mixed a perfect balance of horror, desperation and humour with a climax that had the whole audience blowing a collective sigh of relief. This captivating 15 minute film managed to create more empathy with the lead character than many feature films can do in 90 minutes plus. Even the unfortunate typos in the subtitles did nothing to diminish the impact of the visuals and the wonderfully simple story of a very ordinary ‘Joe’ battling his demon to the end. A real triumph of the human spirit.
Special mention Blinky, with exceptional production values and convincing CGI, is a real crowd pleaser. The simple story of disintegrating relationships is ramped up to the max when the titular robotic star is shunned by his young owner after the novelty of his ownership begins to wear off coupled with his parents’ constant arguments. While the concept of machine mayhem is not a new one we all agreed this delicious slice of robotic rampage is a brilliantly crafted piece with strong performances and a climax which literally cuts to the bone.
Also receiving a special mention, Photo is a seven minute Spanish gem. While the story concludes with an immensely satisfying pay off, the dialogue bristles with humour and the edgy tension of the piece fills the screen from the get go. The punch line will smack you right between the eyes and getting your passport photos done will never be the same again.
It was a real privilege to be members of the Jury and to be able to see a collection of such high quality of films in competition. The fact that we seriously struggled to find our winners is indicative of the overall quality of all the movies on show.
With exceptional organisation and inspired programming it’s easy to see why Leeds remains an outstanding contributor to the European network of film festivals.
Dr Patricia MacCormack