David Cottis reveals his ten favourite films from this year’s online Wicked Wales International Youth Film Festival.
The Wicked Wales International Youth Film Festival has been running since 1996, providing a showcase for work by young (6-26 year-old) filmmakers from across the world, programmed across cinemas in North Wales. This year, it went online, taking place over the weekend of October 30 to November 1, and ended with an awards ceremony from the festival’s home base in Rhyl where young filmmakers from 21 countries including Canada, Austria, China and Sweden made gracious speeches as they accepted their awards, putting us to shame with their perfect English.
Certain themes emerged over the seventy submitted films; the twenty-first century is clearly a tough time to be young, with worries about the pandemic, the environment, and the state of the world creeping into unlikely places – even the music video Right from the Start had an eco-theme. Although the festival stresses the importance of collaboration, often the most interesting work was the most individual – documentaries and animations produced by bedroom visionaries.
What follows is a list of ten films that impressed me; sometimes (but not always) the same ones that caught the eyes of the judges, in alphabetical order.
- Anogi/The Wind (Winner, Music Video, 19-26). One particular virtue of the festival is the insight it gives into different communities, in this case the indigenous Inuk people of British Columbia. This short music video celebrates the culture’s traditional throat-singing.
- The Balloon Catcher (Joint Winner, Animation, 13-18). Animation produced some of the most striking work of the festival, covering a range of styles from paper cut-outs, models, hand painting, through to full-on CGI. This film uses a scratchy, uncomfortable style to tell the allegorical story of a character with an axe for a head, in a world where others have balloon-heads.
- Becoming (Runner-up, Video, 19-26) Unsurprisingly, the pandemic played a star role this year, with several video essays produced in, and musing on, lockdown. This video poem considers a young woman’s online relationships, and the importance of the various languages in her life.
- Faces (Third prize, Documentary, 13-18). Young people’s documentaries can often be preachy and on-the-nose. Faces is an example of what can happen when the film-maker is willing to take a back seat – a group of students in their last year at school talk honestly, and straight to camera, about their wishes and anxieties.
- Home Sweet Home (Joint winner, Animation, 19-26). Aesop’s fable of the town mouse and country mouse, told through detailed model animation.
- Hotdog (Winner, Fiction, 6-12). This section produced some of the festival’s quirkiest work, with a boldness that can often go missing in later life. (See also Ail Law/Second Hand, a surprisingly creepy piece of Welsh-language horror.) This is the story of a mysterious hotdog seller, moving into Lego animation for its climax.
- Hunger! (Joint winner, Animation, 6-12). A cut-out animation about a robin that finds a literal cuckoo in the nest.
- Little Swallow Coming Home (Joint winner, Fiction, 13-18). Family featured significantly in this section, whether supportive, fractious, or absent. In this film, memories and tensions are revived by the death of a grandmother.
- Sole (Third prize, Experimental, 13-18). A witty, rhythmic film, told entirely through pictures of trainers, and asking the question (an important one to this age group) ‘what shoes do you wear, and how many pairs have you got?’.
- What Happens After Death (Runner-up, Documentary, 19-26). As with Faces above, the simplest methods can produce the best work. Seven people, from different backgrounds, of all religions and none, try to answer the question in the title, intercut with outdoor shots that remind the viewer of the beauty of the life that comes before.
All of the above, together with the rest of the films, are available to watch on the festival’s YouTube channel until November 15th.