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Wednesday 8 July, 2020

Whilst the future of COVID-19 in the UK looks somewhat uncertain right now, July 4th was welcomed by many in England as an almost cathartic day of regained freedoms. 

Thousands thronged in Soho, and across the UK a sizeable 15 million pints were drunk, as a nationwide sigh of relief in the warm summer sun seemed to take place. Many undoubtedly feel little safer now than they did a week ago, but there has definitely been a tangible shift.

That got us thinking back to just how many highs and lows have chequered these last few months, and how it felt first going into isolation. It occurred to us that during our three ‘Creative Responses to Self-Isolation’ filmmaking competitions, the filmmakers who entered had captured a profoundly moving record of the last few months.

So here’s 12 short films which we think everyone who has been living through lockdown will be able to relate to somehow. Let us know how many resonate with you. And if you’d like to make a film like this too, keep an eye out for our ‘Re-emergence’ themed competition starting on Wednesday 29th July.

New Horrors & Oddities: Near and Far

1. Mask Shop Shop by Piers Sanderson

At first, COVID-19 was something we watched with horror from afar. British filmmaker Piers Sanderson caught the haunting reality of the ghost towns that became the norm in Italy right at the start of the pandemic in Europe first hand.

Using a hand-held camera, Sanderson turns his lens on himself and captures the spooky beauty of Italy’s deserted streets, as he tries to do something as simple as buy masks to protect himself from the virus.


2. Human by Behzad Zeinalli

Next came something a little closer to home: the start of huge runs on the supermarkets, leaving shelves in food stores across the UK looking ominously empty. Behzad Zeinalli turned his attention to how the results of panic buying revealed the distances that exist in society.

Using a fly-on-the-wall style, Zeinalli frankly captured the reality these actions had on some of the more vulnerable members of our society, as he filmed a blind couple trying to find supplies on the now-empty shelves they were used to navigating.

3. Self-Isolation by Mordecai Watson

For some, the opportunity to self-isolate at home came as a welcome treat: a well-earned chance to not have to go to school for a while, and work on perfecting their Dorito-to-salsa ratio instead.

The brilliantly talented twelve-year-old Mordecai Watson burst onto our film competition scene with a wonderfully humoured and self-reflexive YouTube-styled piece, that left some of our followers declaring he was the next Alain de Botton. The short was an uplifting reminder that some productive positives could be found closer to home too.

Keeping It Together

4. Evading Stagnation
by Shannon Tarbet

As the realisation slowly sunk in that the lockdown was here to stay for the foreseeable, people began having to do mental health gymnastics the likes of which they’d never done before, as they adjusted to the huge change in their lives.

'Killing Eve' star Shannon Tarbet took our first competition’s top prize with her mix of charming creativity and inspiring, caring words on how to “evade stagnation” whilst stuck at home, in another YouTube-advice-style short film. 


5. Touching Myself by Alana Moreno

Putting her finger on an extremely important topic, Alana Moreno made this playful discussion of the deep-seated feelings of “skin hunger” that some people were starting to feel.

In total isolation, as we all battled to ‘protect the NHS’, some people were starting to feel the huge absence of physical, human interaction with others, and the ecstasy of brain chemistry that comes from something as simple as skin-on-skin contact with another human being.

It was a very timely, and insightful look at an emptiness that many people were feeling at that time.

6. Checking In by Orla Smith

In the absence of being able to go out and fulfil our social interaction needs, millions of us took to FaceTime, Zoom, Messenger and countless other communication tools to catch up with our friends and loved ones - often, rather beautifully, with people we wouldn’t have perhaps thought to “check in” with normally.

Orla Smith’s short is recorded as though through a video messenger app, as she dials in to her friends to ask how they’re doing. Filmed in 9:16 aspect ratio, we hear Smith’s often tickled voice as she elicits confessions from them, but tapping into some playful social media trends, she uses a robotic voice to convey her friend’s words.

It's a beautiful exploration of both how uplifting connecting with people remotely can be, whilst simultaneously ensuring that we never forget how glitchy, artificial and frustrating it often is.


7. Day 3 by Ahmed Moghazy

Capturing with absolutely delightful left-fieldness the bizarre and inane things we would all do to try to keep sane whilst unable to leave the house, Ahmed Moghazy’s daily film diary was an absolute triumph of lockdown creativity.

Day 3’s entry catches him counting the absurdest of things in his flat, and staging funny contests between kettles in his kitchen, all in the name of staving off boredom. But it also acknowledges the importance of taking time to go outside sometimes too.

Filmed in scratchy footage that looks rather like old Super8 home videos, this short was a perfect mix of art-house pretences and hilarious tongue-in-cheek humour.

Realities Beyond the Pandemic

8. Box of Strawberries by Marina Shupac

It soon also became apparent that whilst some of us could stay at home in safety, the realities of life meant that many people had to keep risking their lives in order to keep us all going.

This irony was certainly not lost on Marina Shupac, a Moldovan documentary student who studies in London and was the winner of our second competition. Mixing stripped back close-ups of her eating a box of strawberries, and a smart mix of snippets of footage from the outside world, she perforated a number of double-standards that were circulating British society at the time.

On the one hand, she shows a rather peaky-looking Boris Johnson telling Brits to stay at home, and on the other she shows the Moldovans and Romanians who were being told to leave their homes to come pick British fruit. Against a backdrop of Brexit, this film is a must-see.


9. Long-Ball: The Folly of Statistics
by Bryn Thomas

Nicely coinciding with what the Tory MP Oliver Dowden rather botchedly referred to as “football coming back,” Bryn Thomas’ eccentric passion piece reminded us all that there were still joys beyond the pandemic - especially if they could distract the public from having one of the worst COVID-19 death tolls in the world.

Mixing classic football archive footage with astute, theoretical statistical analysis, Bryn scored our approval with this tale of a very British love story: namely, Charles Reap’s longstanding ambition to use statistical analysis to unlock an unbeatable football formula for winning matches.

It’s a very nostalgia-inducing piece, filled with the oratory warbles of Des Lynam and the like, and a fun deep dive into everything that went wrong with the English game in the last 50+ years.


10. Two Nations by Kunyalala Ndlovu

When images of George Floyd’s death were burned into much of the world’s collective consciousness, and the Black Lives Matter movement was compelled to restart its protests in the midst of the pandemic, it was difficult to know how to process what was going on in the world.

Kunyalala Ndlovu's Two Nations laid side-by-side the two faces of American (and global) society that seemed to erupt into conflict with each other. This black-and-white short moves between full screen and split screen footage, taken both from the present moment and from American archives.

What it reveals is a world of patriotic ambition and institutionalised racism ion one side, and another side where many Americans, often from minority communities, are fighting to not have acts of transgression carried out on their rights and their physical person.

Fear of What Comes Next

11. Third Wave
by Caroline Mawer

With her first ever film (impressive, we know), trained epidemiologist Caroline Mawer bagged herself a runner up prize in our third filmmaking competition.

This short was a talented mixed bag of emotions, moving from the gently mocking to a genuine grief for what our futures would be like. It drew from television snippets of archive to emotive and carefully explained screenshots of what medical professionals were telling us.

Her in-depth expertise into the realities of pandemics no doubt gave Mawer the insight that maybe it isn’t even the second wave of the virus we need to fear the most, but the third wave: a desolate tsunami of prolonged austerity and economic recession that could prove just as lethal as the virus itself.


12. Let Me Stay Blue
by Behzad Zeinalli

Winning first prize at our third competition, was this slightly more optimistic, but equally thought-provoking short, the second on this list from Zeinalli.

One of the incredible, bitter-sweet ironies of the lockdown was that whilst the restrictions might have been laying waste to our social and professional lives, the vast drop in carbon emissions was also offering hope that a brighter future of drastic improvements for Earth’s ecosystems might be possible.

Zeinalli’s almost dialogueless mix of street-view footage, drone shots, nature documentaries and more expertly stitched a patchwork message of hope. Using multiple layers of sound, the film brilliantly interacts with its visual footage, creating a soundscape of a planet defiantly wailing for a greener future. 

Let Me Stay Blue definitely taps into that niggling fear that this is one positive that could be unwritten, if life goes completely back to normal. It’s a piece of subtle filmmaking at its best.


If this collection of shorts has inspired you to respond to current events, and perhaps try your hand at making a film for the very first time, be sure to join our newsletter and keep an eye out for our ‘Re-emergence’ competition, launching at the end of July. 

We’ll be offering free workshops on how to hone your filmmaking skills from home in early August too. Watch this space.