KINO Film Festival took Manchester by storm at the end of February. Quays News entertainment reporter Will Stevenson reviews the Comedy Shorts event…

The opening Kino Film screening of the year is the first of two comedy screenings from the week long event. The first screened to a roomful of film aficionados looking to get their funny bones tickled in the performance space at Manchester’s Central Library, to a great reception.

There were 10 short films on display, with a total running time of 96 minutes. From broad Japanese oddball “Sumo Road” (dir. Ken Ochiai), in which a budding sumo wrestler learns humility through a combination of laxatives and singing, to deadpan British affair like the “The Girl in the Dress” starring “Uncle” alumni Nick Helm or “How I Didn’t Learn to Play Piano” which features narration from the “Harry Potter” series Tom Felton, the film festival caters for every taste in humour.

Each film gets its fair share of sputtering laughter from the thirty strong crowd, with some of the strongest belly laughs coming for “Waking Up Jed”, a heart-warming affair about a man who frequently passes out for no reason.

Waking-Up-Jed-Screengrab-1Director Steve Sale is in attendance and answers questions directed to him from host ACTORS NAME. Surprisingly, given its strong acting, it turns out “…Jed” was filmed in just a few short days in his friend’s apartment on a shoestring budget. Sale is shocked by the vast amount of crew present on some of the other productions displayed today, remarking his film was made by him and just a few friends. When asked how he found his actors, he explains that he put out adverts into newspapers to find his leading men and women

“After the Argument” (J.D. Hampton) is a short, sweet romantic tale about a young man confused with his other half’s seemingly uncalled for ignorance that has a lovely twist in its tail that leads to a roomful of chuckles. Next up, “Strings” (Richard Turley) is a shocking adventure that goes from childhood fantasy to something quite remarkably different very quickly. The film throws you a few hints as well as red herrings at the resolution but it still manages to be equal parts unexpected, horrific and hilarious.

“How I Didn’t Become A Piano Player” (Tomasso Pitta) is an adaptation of a short story from British author David Nicholls a friend showed the story to Pitta, who immediately fell in love with the story.

“I liked the story of coping with failure and loved that it’d allow me to use a lot of music,” Pitta commented.

When adapting a book to film, the original author can sometimes be overly protective of their original work. Not so with Nicholls, apparently.

“Before making the film we talked to him only to ask for the rights, he was very kind and gave us permission straight away. He said he looked forward to seeing the film. We sent the finished film to him and met him afterwards. He seemed very pleased with it!,” Pitta added.

The star power on display in several of these short films might seem somewhat surprising given the small size of the event and the length of the films, but Pitta explains that with the right contacts, it can be fairly easy to net some celebrities.

Nik Powell, the director of the National Film and Television school put us in contact with his casting director who helped us get into contact with Tom Felton’s agent. He liked the film and accepted straight away and was very kind and easy to work with.”

For the other characters, Pitta went through a similar casting process to Sale. He put out a casting call and held auditions, finding the supporting actors quite easily, though it took “ages” to find the films lead actor, the boy. In fact, the final actor Logan NAME was found just “a few days” before the shoot, which took just over a week.

After the critical success of “Piano”, Pitta explained to Quays News what he plans to do next: “It’s great to have your work recognised, because awards can help get the film seen by producers who take it more seriously, but I don’t think they make that much difference; it’s more important to keep coming up with good ideas,” he says as encouragement to new film makers.

“I’m currently working on my first feature film and I’m preparing a play that I will direct in Italy next autumn.”

With a comedy screening featuring consistently funny content including Hollywood faces and films from all around the world, Kino Film sets itself a high bar early. Lucky then, that the other screenings were just as good.

Highlights: How I Didn’t Become A Piano Player, The Girl in the Dress, Strings

By Will Stevenson

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