Colin Hambrook reports on Day One of the Oska Bright Film Festival 2015 at the Corn Exchange, Brighton
I’ve been going to Oska Bright Festival since it started. It’s a place to catch up with some of the best quality short film from the UK and around the world. As the only film festival managed and promoted by learning-disabled artists as a showcase for their creativity and skill as filmmakers, it presents a unique outpouring of expression on film offering a very different vision of the world to the kinds of perspective we are used to on our television screens and in the cinema. It’s that uniqueness that gives Oska Bright its energy and pizzazz.
This year is the 7th Oska Bright international festival of short films made by people with learning disabilities since 2004. With each festival the evidence of growing confidence and the strength of the disabled voices coming through, grows more compelling. With a series of screenings across three days including Music Videos, Animation, Comedy, Documentary, Video Art and Horror interspersed with longer films and showcases from film festivals from around the world, the programme is impressively broad. Even more impressive is the fact that Oska Bright has reached 28,000 people worldwide since the last festival in 2013, which is truly phenomenal.
Kicking off with a screening of music videos we had The Fish Police setting the tone with a bright, lively, slick ode to the delights of coco butter. Moving from the sublime to the ridiculous we hear Carousel’s very own Zombie Crash giving us heavy metal humour in Hardcore Productions on Tour. The storyline is that a banal boy-band have taken over their slot and the Zombies simply aren’t having it. Hamming it to the max with staring eyes and long tongues the film typified much of the kind of aspiration that underlies a large portion of the Oska Bright films.
Whether it is aspiration to be in a band or to go somewhere exotic on holiday as in Kairo by Barnet 16 and Aron Krause, there is a mix of wry humour and reflection. The camel that leads Aron around signifies the search for something different from the norm. Both are enjoying the ride.
Jez Colborne’s Soldiering On was originally one of the Channel 4 Does It Matter? World War I shorts. Jez’s enormous musical skill is evident in giving us a tub-thumping tune with a strong narrative relating to the exclusion of learning-disabled people from the army during the First World War. The song presents the testimony of a man drawn to the army, asking a serious question about what it means to fight for your country.
Animation has been a staple of Oska Bright since its beginnings. The scale of vision of the films and the sophistication in the methods of creating animation, have developed exponentially with the festival. It was delightful to see Matthew Eggert get up and talk about his film Out of the Hat prior to its being shown.
Hearing the voices of the film-makers direct from the stage is a new development and another example of the increased confidence in their skills that Oska Bright has nurtured through the workshop-process, touring and training projects that have inspired a global community of learning-disabled filmmakers.
Eggert’s film tells the story of his wish to be a magician and presents his drawings of rabbits escaping in a frenzy and suggests how filmmaking itself is a form of magic.
The animation that had me laughing the most of all those screened was Eric Bent’s Whinster Norville – a film I’d seen previously at a presentation within Creative Minds. The film works as a satire of pretentious attitudes, parodying a well-to-do ‘Gothic’ restaurant where the food comes alive to devour the diners in hilarious graphic detail. There was an extra refinement to the film playing several extra cartoon frames to break up the credits at the end, leaving the audience hanging on in shock hilarity.
Two films that caused a ripple of laugher were the short shorts, Paw Prints and The Nasty Neighbour, both of which deliver a punch line in the traditional meaning of the word. The variety of film shown at Oska Bright is a hallmark of the festival’s success. Amongst snippets of dark humour with exploding pies and bullies we see some beautifully constructed animation.
Drip by Stuart Maiden is a simply but elegantly drawn and digitally constructed piece of art film that tells the story of an icicle that comes alive in winter but disappears with the coming of the Spring. The film leads you gently, frame by frame, using devices like the Golden Mean to take the viewer by the hand.
Day one of Oska Bright ended with a 25-minute drama set in Belfast: A Crack In Everything by Ablevision Ireland. ‘Crack’ is operative here as a play on words meaning both ‘fun’ and ‘division’. Nicola Cowan plays Maeve with lively gusto. She is fearless and funny with a liking for bright-coloured clothes and a boy who lives on the other side of the religious divide. She turns to basketball in an effort to win her love and to break entrenched sectarian values. When her attempt fails she turns to activism to bring her point home. The film is made using lots of low angle shots, so you see the characters in a position of power.
Like most, if not all, of the films in the selection, A Crack In Everything deserves a slot on mainstream television. There is a strong sense that the direction that Oska Bright has taken and the influence it is building worldwide is the beginning of a rollercoaster movement that will refuse to be stopped no-matter the impact of cuts and austerity measures.
Oska Bright has come into its own and the community it has brought together with it is unstoppable in their bid to get their films shown at mainstream festivals, galleries, presentations and on television.