Youth Review - Derby Film Festival

21 May 2015

This year Derby Film Festival was a 10 day extravaganza of motion pictures, interviews and performances. Youth Review attended three screenings associated with the festival and so this is a retrospective collective look back at the highs and lows of Derby’s flagship film fest.

Girlhood - This time around the festival focused on previews and boasted over 30 films that have yet to hit the cinema circuit. And so it is fitting that Youth Review’s first viewing was a preview of the French coming of age story Girlhood. 

Set in the outskirts of Paris, this is the compelling and surprisingly feel good story of a young girl struggling with the harsh realities of life. Divided into several acts, the audience is invited to observe the passing of time and the piecing together of protagonist Vic’s past, which will make up her present and future. 

But if all this sounds a bit dull then don’t worry, this film certainly isn’t. But what is does manage to do is avoid many of the clichés of a film set in the ‘hood.’ Drugs are not a major issue, there is no sign of any police presence and many of the characters seem relatively happy. 

One group member found this aspect of the film quite underwhelming and felt it may have lacked the narrative force it needed because of it. Another group member felt that the motives for many of Vic’s choices were not made clear, however also agreed that this is quite true to life, as often we make decisions based on who we are at that moment in time and not always because of outside influence. 

24 Hour Film Challenge Screening – Up next came the local film makers equivalent to Ready Steady Cook, in which film makers are set the task of producing a film in 24 hours with two key ingredients - a set line of dialogue and a short scenario. As part of this screening event the audience was also treated to the winner of the Eat My Shorts competition, which took place earlier in the festival. This year the winner was a fantastic film of local origin called Beverly, which was both emotionally charged and very funny. If you ever get the chance to see this film then please do. It is excellently realised and full of the quirky idiosyncrasies of the Midlands.

Anyway, the winner of the competition this year was Cuddling a Monster, a beautifully crafted insight into the shifting dynamics of a mother and daughter relationship after the father figure leaves the household. This was a truly touching short and deserved its place the top of the podium. 

Other highlights for the group included The Dress and The Simple Art. Both simple and well executed, these two in particular are worth a special mention. 

Rosewater - And so we finish up on a high and with another preview screening. Rosewater tells the true story of a journalist imprisoned in Iran for a crime that doesn’t exist. Much like Girlhood this film shies away from many of the clichés and instead opts for comedy, surrealism and some truly feel-good moments. Many of the group thought that it was going to be far more gruesome than it actually was, but all agreed that this was a good thing, as it drew attention to a continuing problem in a quite innovative way. 

Of course the film does have some infuriating moments of injustice and these are heightened by the first 50 minutes of the film, in which we get to know and love the characters. But perhaps because the film is told from the perspective of the charismatic and good hearted protagonist, the narrative has quirks that are joyful as they are unexpected and this really is the strength of the piece. 

So overall Youth Review have had a fantastic time at this year’s Derby Film Festival. Each screening has been something different and truly special and there is nothing quite like the onstage antics of Carl and Sam to cast off those Sunday evening blues! Thanks QUAD and Youth Review look forward to next year!

By Collective Review by QUAD Youth Review