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Best of Rebel’s Saturday selection delivered on its promise, but lacked protagonist diversity

Rebel Film Festival showcases the best of the best from its five year run of short films.

By Milo Clenshaw, Second Year, Film & English

Rebel Film Festival showcases the best of the best from its five year run of short films.

Promising some of the organisers' favourite films from previous years, ‘Best of Rebel’ delivers everything from comedy and charm to the skateboarding French farm-boys of Le Skate Moderne (dir. Antoine Besse). With the festival's website boasting an impressive 239 films screened in competition, it must have been a labour of love to cut the programme down to just five, the total run-time lasting just over 45 mins.

The collection opens with One-Minute Time Machine (dir. Devon Avery), a film that bounces the viewer between moments of laughter and existential angst. It's an uncomplicated premise about the possibilities of a time machine which lets you rewind your last minute, but despite its simplicity, it’s well executed and doesn't try to achieve anything too ambitious.

One-Minute Time Machine _ Sploid Short Film Festival · Official Selection from on Vimeo.

Vimeo / / One-Minute Time Machine (dir. Devon Avery)

The second - and longest - film screening is I Used to be Famous (dir. Eddie Sternberg). What starts out as cringey Inbetweeners-esque humour quickly segways into a heartwarming and refreshing look at mental disability, the power of music and the importance of companionship. Its humour stops it from crossing over into the overly sentimental, and Tom Bacon's performance as washed-up musician Vince is its crowning feature.

Next up is The Fly (dir. Olly Williams), which manages to combine humour, high-stakes drama and thrilling moments of gore all with a single setting and actor. It gets the biggest reaction from the audience, with people laughing and wincing in equal measure.

While it is again a high quality and memorable film, it begins to expose the one criticism I would make about the collection. All of the films selected centre around white, cis-het male narratives, and while this is of course a symptom of the film industry in general, I believe in the responsibility of independent festivals like Rebel to exhibit diverse talent, especially from a choice of over 200 films.


Rebel Film Festival / Backstory (dir. Joschka Laukeninks)

I don't think this issue would have been as noticeable if the programme didn't end with Backstory (dir. Joschka Laukeninks), a film Rebel's website promises will take your breath away and have you welling up in the cinema. I do not want to detract from the film's value; on the contrary, I think it is an emotive and beautifully shot story and a great way to end the collection. However, after four shorts all focusing on a very similar kind of protagonist I couldn't help but notice that this film's supposedly intimate journey through someone's life is most definitely aimed at the kind of audience reflected in its main character.

This kind of issue is so frustrating to me because otherwise I would be recommending ‘Best of Rebel’ wholeheartedly. It is clear that the festival's organisers have put effort and passion into its curation, and the films flow from entertaining to affecting. There is more diversity to be seen in some of the other films on show over the weekend, so maybe next year Rebel's favourite picks will include some deviation from the white male lead. ‘Best of Rebel’ exhibits some of the best quality films from over the years on an independent, accessible platform; now all they need is a little more representation.

The first ‘Best of Rebel’ collection was shown at Bristol Rebel Film Festival on February 23.

Featured Image Credit: Rebel Film Festival / Le Skate Moderne (dir. Antoine Besse)

Are independent film festivals the key drivers of diversity in the industry?

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