ECA (Animation and Film and TV), Napier University, Telford College

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Exams were bloody horrible, but it must be just as nerve-wrecking to be judged on a short film. Given how much can go wrong, and despite occasional dodgy editing and overwrought symbolism, this year‘s crop of graduation screenings from Edinburgh colleges maintained a remarkably high standard.

Telford’s output was the least polished, but contains a few real gems. Some of their documentary makers had the chance to film in Finland, although Lee Archer’s Nemo’s Emporium proved that the bizarre can be found rather closer to home. The film’s technical japery makes the gloriously tacky Grassmarket shop seem surreal, but the star of the show is the shop assistant, ever alert for thieving ‘numpties’. The bewildering strangeness that can lie beneath what passes for normality was a common theme in the dramas as well as the documentaries. Ed Boughton‘s The Eternal was the best of the lot, a twisted, existential rejig of Groundhog Day.

Edinburgh College of Art’s Film and TV course trod a still darker path through the world. Stephen Tebbutt’s The Drowned Woman retold the haunting legend of a witch who was murdered off the coast of Calasaigh, while Robin Fox’s wonderful New Words Learnt Today presented the story of an artist with visual amnesia who sees the world as a collection of disjointed images - and proved that it’s hard to eat soup that isn’t soup when you’ve got fish for hands. Elsewhere, Ruth Barrie‘s Travelling Light was effectively fey, providing an easy route into a thoughtful and

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The Art College‘s Animation pieces provided the laughs. Ever wondered if a town could be saved from a ravaging pack of dogs by a cat. a hairdryer and a vacuum cleaner? Carly Lawson's High Voltage shows them doing it in style. Amid a clutch of decent pieces of Plasticine animation, Aine Woods‘ lipsmackingly grotesque Spidered was the tale of a man sharing his prison cell with a large web-weaving beast. It was these narrative- driven shorts that held the attention more effectively than the conceptual films, whose vivid tones were less well suited to the cinema expenence.

Perhaps the best of the lot came from Napier's School of Design and Media Arts. One man can‘t build a cathedral, but Zac Copping showed him having a damn good try in the over-long but fascinating The Peasant Who Believed In God. Unrequited love was a sizeable force in Mark Ash’s life-affirming Wannabe, a kind of portrait of the artist as a young randy would—be mechanic, as well as Heidi Vickman‘s enchanting Machine Dreams. about a boy with an unseemly fascination for washing machines.

With its missing lovers, fathers and tennis partners, Napier‘s output was characterised by its absences. Minttu Mantynen’s Nine Lives showed how a few charitable actions can compensate for loss. The degree shows illustrated how student filmmaking can be a spiritual exercise as well as an esoteric one. (James Smart)

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ls Austrian filmmaker Michael llaneke l/l/llll‘,’(3t'1/7l08l the master of til)()(i£l|\,’l)ll(2 rectitude'? Millennial art house cinema is not without its metaphysical pessimis s iBela Tau. Bruno Dumont. Edward Yangi, hut Haneke seems less interestt-xl in metaphysical elsewheres than tangihle here and nows. With Code Unknowns fragmented tales of the alienated “HES of Parisians. he asks how can we start to think and feel more about others and less about ourselves?

Haneke's answer lies in showmg us ssnm-atommed modern liVing, focusing on a handful of characters whose actions have chain reactions but who are ()hllVlOtlS of their effect on others. For example. in one early seguence a young man iAIexandre Hamidii tosses an empty paper bag into the lap of a homeless illegal immigrant iLuminita Gheorghiui It's an incident that in\o|\ies \Hl'IOLlS other characters including a COllllllLllilf\' music teacher iOna Lu Yenkei and Juliette

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In Fur: l‘. (3g mes Haneke took issue With action cinema that suggests there's alx'xays a simple and ‘.'l()l(?llt resolution to a problem. Here he's more obviously £1lltf)l\'£tl(?llf. aware that rectitude in relation to citi. lining demands not the sledge hammer certitude of thuggish filmmaking. hut the subtle prohing of a fretting moralist. Code Urtk'mgz n is (IIOle'l‘, in the tradition of. say Short Cots and Beat/3m Peone. and might he the most ethically complex of the lot

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