NETWORK Favours the Bold

BFI NETWORK announces new short film awards available to filmmakers whose work is chosen as a NETWORK Pick.

11 April 2017
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By David Kimbangi
David is the Development Coordinator in the BFI Film Fund. He transferred over from the BFI Southbank and has previously worked for the London Film Festival.
Last week BFI NETWORK announced it will now be making short film awards. It marked the occasion with a special event celebrating three stand-out filmmakers whose films have previously been a monthly NETWORK Pick. The level of excitement in the BFI’s Stephen Street lobby on a Tuesday night usually peaks with impromptu chess games, so I welcomed the sight of free pizza and a mix of friendly faces from the industry. 
  
NETWORK manager Matimba Kabalika and Jemma Desai from the British Council kicked off the night with a speech to a packed-out reception. Jemma works in collaboration with Matimba and offers travel funding to short filmmakers who have been accepted to various festivals. The British Council also put together a 2017 UK Shorts Catalogue of which many of the emerging filmmakers featured were in attendance, and it was a pleasure to meet them and hear them speak so passionately about their future pursuits. 
 
Every month, Matimba and her team pick one stand-out short film from the dozens submitted via the Postroom to showcase on their website. On Tuesday night she announced that, going forward, NETWORK will be making an award of up to £10,000 to the creator of each NETWORK Pick. In honour of this new initiative, Matimba also revealed that the BFI will be working with three of the boldest previous NETWORK Pick directors on their next short films. 
 
a crowd of people clapping
 
Dear Mr. Quistgaard - director of Radical Hardcore
 
The London based emerging director, who goes by the alias Dear Mr. Quistgaard, grabbed the NETWORK’s attention with his carpet-shop set romance, Radical Hardcore. I got chatting with the very funny DMQ himself about the importance of standing out and how he came up with something so alien. 
 
“The starting point should come from a point of interest. I’ve never once sat down and thought - I have to make something distinctive”, he elaborated. This is encouraging to hear, coming from the creator of one of the most distinctive short films I’ve seen in some time. It all originated from a very niche fascination in the Carpet Right shops of Slough – of which there are apparently two on the same road.
 
“Patterns and then carpets are just something I love, so I ended up spending probably more time than is normal in those shops - I’ve actually accidentally been locked in one once” he half joked/confessed. I can’t help but think that’d make a decent short film itself.
 
a woman with red hair lays her head on a carpet
 
Hector Dockrill – director of RAJAI 03.05.16.
 
Hector was one of the first filmmakers I was introduced to during the event and his enthusiasm for everything NETWORK-related was harmonious with the general energy felt throughout the night. Having seen his thought-provoking short RAJAI, and his music videos for Ray BLK (winner of BBC’s Sound of 2017), I was excited to meet the man behind the camera. 
 
“What NETWORK is doing is such a positive thing,” Hector said to me just before Matimba tapped her glass to make the introductory speech. “It sped up the process of getting me to where I am now and pushed me to do things I otherwise wouldn’t have thought of doing. I was only making music videos when Matimba approached me and now my sister Laura and I are developing a narrative drama starring Rajai which will fictionalise some of his real life story”.
 
Hector’s NETWORK Pick, RAJAI 03.05.16, recounts the details of his mate Rajai’s near death experience after being stabbed. The incident happened just six months prior to filming, which made it all the more inspiring to hear about the positive effect it had on his friend. 
 
The short film explores Rajai’s thought processes during and after the stabbing and his revelations about how much he had yet to accomplish in his life. Instead of giving in to the pressures to retaliate, he used the experience as motivation to get on with achieving some of those goals. This short stuck with me for much longer than its five minute running time.
 
 
the back of a boys head in an off licence
 
Cecile Emeke – director of Flâner
 
Honesty and individuality are major themes in Cecile’s online documentary series Flâner, which gives voice to many differing identities within the black diaspora across the globe. Episode one presents a conversation between Gaëlle and Christelle who, as black French women, feel invisible. They provide an interesting and often funny insight into their lives in Paris and how women like them aren’t represented in the media.
 
Cecile’s advice to emerging filmmakers – “Just be yourself” – mirrors the process by which she approaches the subjects in her series. "I don't necessarily have a connecting theme throughout the series and I wouldn't ask them all the same questions. Through conversation I discover what is important to them all individually and then explore that," Cecile explained. "I'm interested in the unique voices within the black diaspora and how they manifest themselves differently from person to person and from city to city".
 
All three fantastic shorts can be viewed online, for free, at network.bfi.org.uk/postroom/network-picks
 
two girls walking down the street in the day in paris
 
For those worried that anything with the word network in the title automatically means an awkward night of forced conversation with industry folk while trying to make contacts, it’s worth saying that this was one of the most natural and relaxed events I’ve been to in a long while. After half a beer, conversations had already covered pitches for The Truman Show 2 and VR childbirth simulations (to provide empathy lessons for men). 
 
Everyone seemed to end up in conversation with everyone else throughout the night as they rotated groups like some sort of industry speed dating. I even bumped into the very first NETWORK Pick director Jason Bradbury who has built an ongoing relationship with the team and regularly attends events. We all outstayed our welcome in the lobby long after the lights came on and the music stopped, and I’m looking forward to seeing everyone at future events. 
 
I hope everyone will be encouraged to submit their films to the Postroom to get their work on NETWORK’s radar, and also for the opportunity to be selected as a monthly NETWORK Pick.
 
two boys in a group looking at a magazine