ESFF at the Aberdeen Film Festival 2014

The Edinburgh Short Film Festival visited the inaugural Aberdeen International Film Festival over the weekend of October 10th-12th 2014, where a selection of shorts from this year’s festival played at Cineworld in Union Square.

The critic Jonathan Meades famously described Aberdeen as a bit like Marmite – a city you either love or loathe, and it’s certainly unique, bolshie, noisy and in your face. A city you could say is either dull grey or sparkling silver and with everything from medieval dungeons where the animated faces of imprisoned Jacobites loom out of the darkness and the squat, modern oil industry office blocks proclaim the rule of  industrial modernity over large swathes of the suburbs. Aberdeen is where grimly stoical ladies feed petulant seagulls in windy park corners while the stiff, northern breezes snatch the crumbs from the shrieking gulls beaks and tosses them contemptuously across the grassy lawns, somewhat like the way the AIFF scatters arthouse cinema across Aberdeen.

Edinburgh Short Film Festival takes short film to AberdeenThe 15th Century Marischal College built in granite and looking like it opened yesterday.

The inaugural Aberdeen International Film Festival certainly shakes up Aberdeen for its lack of a vibrant, film culture -even though many outstanding short and low-budget films have been produced in Aberdeen – it’s fair to say it has never figured on the national film festival map in recent years. The AIFF is taking steps to change all that and has a wide-ranging programme that encompasses American Horror in the debut of The Redwood Massacre by David Ryan Keith, to Japanese Manga animation and of course the shorts selection provided by the Edinburgh Short Film Festival. So it’s a selection as bold, brash and noisy as the city itself and in that respect the festival is a good fit for the city.

Apart from being able to pick a selection of shorts that we could introduce to Aberdeen audiences, I was also delighted to meet director Damon Mohl, whose short film ‘The Diver’ was one of our favourites of recent years. The film-maker was nominated for the Student Academy Awards and I spoke to him at the festival about his artwork and the new shorts he is working on.
Short Film-Maker Damon Mohl with Edinburgh Short Film Festival at the Aberdeen International Film FestivalDamon Mohl at the AIFF

Damon’s new short ‘The Mysterious Disappearance of the Town’s Last Resident’ is steeped in American folklore, from the writings of Ambrose Bierce and HP Lovecraft, it evokes mystery and madness in isolated, remote and deserted rural American and does so with a slice of black humour and irony.
As with ‘The Diver’, Damon’s new short films are imbued with a deeply rich and beautiful imagery, part live-action and part animation, devoid of actors, Mohl’s films are highly expressive mood pieces.
The new short film was made in Bodie, California, a now-abandoned former gold-mining town, once a prosperous (and extremely violent) community of gold prospectors, the town sits, crumbling and forgotten in the midst of an arid desert and provides the perfect backdrop for a film about disappearance and this film, was for me, one of the highlights of the Aberdeen Film Festival.

Still from Short Film-Maker Damon Mohl's film, Mysterious Disappearance with Edinburgh Short Film Festival at the Aberdeen International Film FestivalStill from Damon Mohl’s haunting ‘The Mysterious Disappearance of the town’s last Resident’

So good luck to the AFF in bringing arthouse and underground cinema to Aberdeen and we hope the city takes to it’s brave new addition to the cinema scene. With a following wind, we can expect the AFF to hit the city every October like a bracing Autumn breeze off the North Sea and blow away the cobwebs, stir up the film scene and liven up the city’s screens!