A massive congratulations to OWN IT!’s DEREK OWUSU for winning the 2020 Desmond Elliot Prize for his powerful novel-in-verse That Reminds Me.
That Reminds Me is the story of one young man, from birth to adulthood, told in fragments of memory. It explores questions of identity, belonging, addiction, sexuality, violence, family and religion. It is a deeply moving and completely original work of literature from one of the brightest British writers of today.
Anansi, your four gifts raised to nyame granted you no power over the stories I tell…
This is the story of K.
K is sent into care before a year marks his birth. He grows up in fields and woods, and he is happy, he thinks. When K is eleven, the city reclaims him. He returns to an unknown mother and a part-time father, trading the fields for flats and a community that is alien to him. Slowly, he finds friends. Eventually, he finds love. He learns how to navigate the city. But as he grows, he begins to realise that he needs more than the city can provide. He is a man made of pieces. Pieces that are slowly breaking apart.
We stand in solidarity with our Black brothers and sisters in America and we will do all we can to support the work happening on the ground there. We want to amplify the letter and petition from The Movement for Black Lives(a collective of Black organisations from across America including Black Lives Matter) to defund the police in the United States. In their letter they state:
According to the Urban Institute, in 1977, state and local governments spent $60 billion on police and corrections. In 2017, they spent $194 billion. A 220 percent increase. Despite continued profiling, harassment, terror and killing of Black communities, local and federal decision-makers continue to invest in the police, which leaves Black people vulnerable and our communities no safer.
Read their letter in full and sign the petition here
By signing the petition you are joining our American family in demanding local American officials take the pledge to:
Vote no on all increases to police budgets
Vote yes to decrease police spending and budgets
Vote yes to increase spending on Health care, Education, and Community programs that keep Black people safe.
It’s also important that it is acknowledged that systematic and institutionalised racism against Black people is not just an American issue.We have our own longstanding issue with these injustices in the UK from racial profiling to police brutality and murders.
Alongside this the UK government repeatedly fails us from allowing Grenfell to happen to more recently delaying the report with findings about why COVID-19 is disproportionately causing deaths of Black and Brown people.
This is a time for us to speak out, support the organisers on the ground and educate ourselves and each other. Art has always been one of our most powerful forms of protest and activism and we will always use the OWN IT! platform to shine a light on the voices working to make our world a more just and equal place for all.
We want to show our support with more than just words so we will be donating all of our publishing profits for the month of June to George Floyd’s family.
We are also open to hearing from any UK Black owned organisations fighting against police brutality and racial injustice about ways we can support.
Production Company(s): Passion Pictures, Fulflood Film
Composer: Azel Phara
In a bleak home, Nigel, an elderly recluse, wallows in debris of an accumulated past and the weariness of being unkempt throughout it. We do not know how long he has trolled in this setting, or the age of the day, though the brilliant storytelling builds a futuristic picture of family ties, relationships and the struggle in maintaining them, and such kept me engaged.
Played by the immense and legendary actor Timothy Spall, Nigel sheds an installed bitterness, evident in a disgruntled face and defiant tone of yearning to be alone. With a wave of his finger, a TV monitor changes channel, until an array of loud children disturbs his peace in which he intends to keep. In doing so Nigel meets an anonymous Robot that intrudes on his own passion for refuge.
Nigel donning dejection, a beautiful still
Timothy Spall is clearly an integral part of this film, and Magali noted how much she appreciated working with him. “I love his natural charisma: there’s something about him, a little ‘grumpy’ and really loveable at the same time.” She said in her interview with Stash Media about the Short. “I was very intimidated at first but when you start rolling… it just goes away, it’s just about making the best film you can.”
The walls are dressed in depression, tired paint and a dreary palette. Unwashed plates, mugs, and retired bottles of wine crowd the sink, and mice think this is an adequate home. The scenic shots crop moments where I think this truly could be my own, the homey feeling is booming within the set, aside from the hoarding of dirt which is usually curbed by a care no longer there. Hence it is picture perfect to summarise how Nigel exists. A visit from his daughter, Louise, played by Jessica Ellerby, trips over and alludes to a unified past, but it is a mere blast of memory lane. The compact cast also encouraged me to see the home as a character, which is all so important to me in a great short film.
This Time Away was written and directed by Magali Barbé. A multi-award winning short that captures an essence of her own difficult relationship with her Father. Magali stated “This film is a way to express that … and a sense of nostalgia too.” – all in which is captured within this turbulent short film.
It brings to life animation, stunning virtual effects so greatly worked into the short it feels a near distant reality where we could have such a true model of emotionally astute robotics. Having worked at the animation studio Passion Pictures before as an animator, Magali allowed them and a talented concept artist Ronan Le Fur to instil life into Max, the intrusive Robot. “it’s all the ‘CG magic’!” says Magali. “Modelling, rigging, animation, texturing, lighting/rendering, compositing. It was well prepped, so it went actually quite smoothly.”
I found this film enlightening in a sense of the future and an ability to care. Sci fi is often seeped in dystopian affairs and oversteps the agency of being Human and susceptible to change, as well as engaged with their own emotional and character flaw shortcomings. In this vein, I saw Nigel as a dishevelled man, battered by circumstances which in some ways could be claimed as unavoidable – this is the way of life. Nevertheless, one does not have to abide by the propensity of pain. Though the sentiments in the story and the vibrancy of empathy was truly heart-warming and kept me saying to myself there are other ways to react, other ways to be, in the darkest of moments.
Strange Beasts is another critically acclaimed short film written and directed by Magali, another sci-fi inspired film that does not linger on the dangerous velocity of technological advancements. You can watch This Time Away here – and check out her other work too:
The simplicity of some shorts boasts an earnest intricacy that swells my appreciation of the film. In this case, Brush is a stirring animation by Garrett Lewis, an obsessive filmmaker who works as a Character animator for Walt Disney Animation Studios. Clearly, from his animation reel, Garrett is a pretty incredible animator – and seemingly has a grasp of emotional tales, a perfect ethos for Disney.
I managed to get a few comments from Garrett regarding the conception of his short: “What made me think of this film, I thought it would be interesting to tell a story of someone’s life through one of the most monotonous routines we do in our everyday life – brushing our teeth.”
In brief, Brush compiles a multitude of feelings projected on a mirror which acts as our vantage point into this young boy’s livelihood. It shows the lifelong adventure of this boy in the act of brushing his teeth. “It posed an interesting creative challenge of how I can tell a full story through this seemingly insignificant lens.” Garrett adds.
The mirror captures reflections and recognitions of an everchanging attitude infected by the imposition of time, while showing the little things which matter in growing up too. I found myself pausing the short at moments, to grasp the scope of the animation. It was consistently colourful, and very detailed – as you can see with the debris lingering of the mirror.
I really appreciated the lovely sentiment of growth, the vivid scope of objects surrounding each short scene, and it hosts an endearing soundtrack, composed by Marc & Landon Akiyama, to the intense changes evident within this boy becoming a man. The little shifts of homely objects, the expansion of space and the race of emotions it evokes in every flick evoked something gentle within, and I was left wondering – how does my mirror see me.
I am so immersed in my mirror sequences that a few days or even a week blend into one, I rarely get to recall visions from another time. Though it is an incredibly reflective space, and even considering my past seminal moments facing the man in the mirror. “When I brush my teeth, I tend to reflect about stresses/anxieties in the future, but I rarely stop and appreciate where I am now in the moment.” explained Garrett. I believe, I was caught in a similar thought throughout.
You can watch Garrett Lewis’ short film Brush here:
Production Company: Pinzutu Films, Sona Films, Storyhouse, Cameraworks
To wantaway from the phenomena of the self, and project the inner reaches of our minds ideal self, is the alluring premise of Kate Cox’s VERT – a short film based on the insightfulness of virtual reality through the lens of a couples quiet 20th anniversary.
The film starts with a homey feeling, cosy, easy-going and spatially crammed, with Emelia (Nikki Amuka-Bird) and Jeff (Nick Forst) toasting to their 20th anniversary. Two bags sit on the table and Emelia reaches for them to briefly coach Jeff through its contents. A virtual reality visor, attached to the eyes and clasping the head, the futuristic tech could manifest the appearance of one’s ideal self. The shades of colour are
Having tried the device before, Emelia is ecstatic to enter this world, which acts like a dream space interconnecting the minds of those who wear it, in which she encourages Jeff to enter the world with her. As they both prepare to enter the dream world of this virtual reality, the concept of being able to replicate the ideal embodiment of yourself evidently worries the inexperienced Jeff, and such a feeling also came across me.
The light-hearted plot stocks a sense of everyday realism despite the Black Mirror’ish feel of the concept and ground-breaking technology in whole. Especially in our world, which is subjugated by imagery of beauty, identity, the politics of existing as a human being amounted with roles assigned before your existence.
With imposing interaction and impressions filtering our true selves every day, it all brings into question a comfortability in which we won’t be able to entirely articulate. Much goes untold, and VERT seems to be asking a question of its watchers regarding such thoughts, about their true selves and the acceptance of it.
I considered what my inner self appears to be, and even if mild changes to my everyday self it is still an idea of betterment beyond this first layer of reality. Whether I have some innate reservations of me, such as lingering fat around my body, an attention to the disturbed habitat of my lungs, and even what I would wear, where I would be, are all things I can only entertain within myself. The possibilities of technology and how it could help someone accomplish this vision goes untold, also bringing into question the propensity of imposing on privacy.
Would it be imposing to produce technology that accesses the dormant wishes of the mind? Will we be so accepting of what we would perceive in such a space, if ever possible? And are we truly far off such technology, with the haste of advancements evident in the world?