The ‘Future’ lineup took us on a journey of self-awareness and reflection

This year’s Long Distance Film Festival lineup showcases short films focused on themes of ‘Past’, ‘Present’ and ‘Future’. We’ll be looking at the films dealing with the theme of ‘Future’, which introduces us to subjects such as loss, grief and humanity. This festival lineup asks, “What do we give to the world and what are we going to leave behind?” How do we go forward and what do we take with us?

Camille Pueyo’s Trouble depicts her mother’s struggle with bipolar disorder, the path that led to her late diagnosis, and what this pathology took from her. The screen comes to life with archive footage from the director’s mother, while she, in her own words, looks back on the distortions that came with her suffering, and the rifts caused by misunderstanding. Her reflection on these moments is tainted with acceptance, of what we can take away from such experiences, in spite of all the pain that could’ve been avoided. 

A similar sentiment is replicated in Ziyao Susan Xie’s eerie First Love, a short film in which the creator, rose in hand and pearls around her neck, emulates images of her mother in a moving tribute.

Family ties, and human connection seem to bind all these pieces together. In Phoenix Logan’s You are my son, the young man grows cynical when he turns eighteen, and realises that he doesn’t know much of anything, wondering about his dreams and purpose. He is faced with his future when he puts on a mask of an older man’s face and starts limping around with a cane, a vision of his appearance changing overtime, and his body failing him. In the end, he finds comfort in opening up to his father, who tells him that family is all we have. An anchor to hang onto throughout everything that life throws at us. 

Gillian McKercher similarly deals with family dynamics, in With Feeling. We witness the human drive for love and intimacy throughout generations, with a young couple announcing their engagement, and the parents of the future bride rekindling old flames for one night after being separated for many years.

That same drive is present within Christopher Bell’s protagonist, in search of human contact in Trammel. He repeatedly visits his pharmacist, sharing intimate parts of his past, including his tumultuous relationship with his family, revealing estranged ties and olds wounds that were never truly healed.

A screencap from the short film Carpe Diem, directed by Eddie Silva. Image courtesy of the Long Distance Film Festival.
Carpe Diem, directed by Eddie Silva. Image courtesy of the Long Distance Film Festival.

In Raghav Puri’s The Test, a couple is trying for a baby, and it propels us into the anticipation of waiting for the pregnancy test result. The characters navigate uncertainty, and the intimidating prospects of a future they don’t always feel ready for. In the end, when faced with these imminent changes, they find peace and comfort in each other, and the knowledge that they will eventually figure it out together. Following this piece is Eddie Silva’s Carpe Diem, which gives us a glimpse of the joys that new life can bring, with laughter-filled clips of a father playing with his baby.

Fatherhood is also explored in Joe Lueben’s Close your eyes and see purple stars when the narrator tries to see the world through his son’s eyes during quarantine, isolated from the brutality of social injustice raging outside. The narrator tries to uphold a world of possibilities for his young child, while also knowing all the bad that this very world can offer. And his efforts to preserve the peace in his household resonate with our personal attempts at normalcy during such dreary times.

In Jenny Dinwoodie’s The Village, we explore a more hopeful side to lockdown. The director inspires us to take a moment to reflect on what, and who, is around us, as she stops time and dedicates this short film to her home. Infused with gratitude and appreciation, this film melts together spontaneous interactions and peaceful scenery. The project feels very personal, so much so that the faces of the villagers, unknown to us, start to feel familiar.

A woman with shoulder-length brunette hair wearing a t-shirt, shorts, and boots. She stands in a street while walking two goats on a leash, looking over at one of them.
The Village, directed by Jenny Dinwoodie, winner of the Audience Awards in the ‘Future’ category. Image courtesy of the Long Distance Film Festival.

If this lineup is to reflect our reality, and the reality of familyhood and humanity, it has to deal with grief. It’s first piece, Edwin Mile’s Shadows in a Landscape does so brilliantly, transporting us to the foggy countryside where the narrator grew up. He walks us through his feelings when confronted with a place he knew intimately long ago, but which now seems foreign. He finds familiarity in an unfamiliar place, the semi-mythical Four Stones. When visiting he comes across a myth of his own, encountering his late father, who appears as a ghost wandering through the mist. Death greets us again in the first few seconds of Julian Doan’s Raspberry, and follows us all the way to the end, when the son of the deceased father struggles with navigating and expressing his own grief.

The Festival’s final short film, Still Processing, looks back on the past, no matter how difficult, in an attempt to clear a path for the future. Director Sophy Romvari trusts the audience with her pain, her trauma and her doubts. This piece showcases pictures of her childhood as artefacts. We see her reflect on those moments – frozen in time, locked away in fading memories – knowing what she knows now about the way her life would turn out. While the grief surrounding the death of her two brothers is prevalent, what we take away is her efforts to reach out to her parents, and move on as a family, despite the rawness of their wounds.

The ‘Future’ lineup took us on a journey of self-awareness and reflection with these vulnerable, creative pieces, taking lessons from the past and all that it can teach us about the future.