By Jacob Rose, Third Year, Film and English Literature
It’s strange to me that the Cube Microplex’s end-of-the-year Bluescreen, their monthly screening of audience-submitted films, was my first time in the building. The building itself is a wonderfully compact intersection of places, culminating in the cinema itself - a fantastically theatrical stage with a great screen. What better place to see ten films, all made by Bristol based independent filmmakers, all packed with care, unique voice, and the passion to create? It was an evening to remember, and an experience I’d urge any filmgoer (or maker) in Bristol to experience at least once.
The first two films of the night came in part thanks to Sam Downie and Michael Smith, two autistic filmmakers who received funding from the BFI to make a full-length film. Their joint venture, titled Meet the Metahumans, explores the uncanny valley of the cyber-punk world, beginning with an intensely intimate conversation with Cosmo, an Unreal-Engine generated AI talking through a list of favourite video games. With production beginning in 2020, the work is infused with the presence of the pandemic, mingling a virtual techno-world with locations in Bristol and London. An interjecting behind-the-scenes segment emphasised the interests of the two filmmakers, lending a personal element that retained through the night
It was enhanced by the second film, a personal project by the same Michael Smith. Titled A Moment of Your Time, the short film hits upon the a similar arthouse self-reflexity as Barney Gumble’s award-winning Pukahontas - Smith, an autistic digital artist whose art veers into Furry territory, is rarely centred in the light of cinema, and it would be typical to see characters like him as the butt of a joke. To see him centred as the voice of a film, to see him declare that he wants to be known, that he wants to have films out there, was a moving experience. It spoke to what Bluescreen offers - an evening of artistic variety, and a dive into the amount of people who want to make art. It’s mass art, even third cinema, in a wonderfully pure form - art that, in its intimacy, becomes whole, encompassing of a unifying local identity.
Luckily, plenty of the subsequent films aimed less for this poignancy - if they’d have all been as emotionally affective as Smith’s, it may have wiped me out. Plenty of films relished in the absurd, ranging from the surreal interjecting characters during a tense photography shoot in Seeking Julie Ann Moore Type, or a strangely uncomfortable standing interview for a bottle sorting job in Unsorted.
An absurdist audience-favourite was the 2-part Gruel Britannia, an early draft 2D animation set in the grimy streets of Bristol created by Thomas Hall and John Mctaggart. It’s turf warfare on the streets, where our hero Chester (Jester?), an uptight vegetable subscription deliverer, is fighting against Nick Nicotine and his “(v)oi”-driving gang of (literal) dog shaggers. Stacked with all sorts of comedy, from filmic references to Gladiator (2000) and Braveheart (1995) to all sorts of gross-out slapstick, there was plenty to enjoy, even with the film in the early stages of development. With a clear vision and distinct style, I’m excited to see where the project goes, especially in terms of its connection with its vision of Bristol.
A personal favourite of mine came from Animator Ruby Black’s one-minute The Week Before: Halloween. The title references the week off she took from work to make the piece (and you’ll never guess when). Taking clear inspiration from Creature Comforts, the film simply features a rat interviewed about a crisis of sewer blockage (the cause itself looms in the background, a much larger rat, trapped by its size in the sewer).
The amount of animation in the screening spoke, again, to the desire of art. The air didn’t feel contaminated with an air of networking, or a desire to flex - instead, it felt like a collective entertainment in recognising the joy of a big screen. The last film of the night, Scrambled by Captain Grimace, exemplified the focus on multimedia, showing the creation of an egg sculpture; of course, following the absurd turns of the night, this egg peers with a macabre centre eye, and narrates the story of its life through encounters with the British music scene. On the big screen, these sculptures gain a new size, again speaking to the power of Bluescreen, in creating a space where these individual efforts are collectively experienced, creating a local identity. Combined, they felt like an atlas of Bristol, each film a personal, distinct map that still intersected with a cultural artistic identity.
It’s easy to see why this Bluescreen was sold out - the ways in which it provides an entertaining evening as well as a celebration of local art should prove as inspiration to any space like it. After this experience, there’s new hope and excitement in 2024, at least for me, in the potential new gems that could come from the cinema’s (hopefully everlasting) monthly showcase.
A live recording from the event can be found here.
Featured Image courtesy of Arron Kennon
Will you be attending the next Bluescreen at the Cube?