No/Gloss Film Festival – The Film Reviews

No Gloss Logo - Cultoid

So we just got back from the cinematic marathon that was the No/Gloss Film Festival. Over the last couple of days we have taken in more films than is probably healthy in a 48 hour period, but it has been great!

The essence of No/Gloss is independence. All the films at the festival were made on a low/no budget and thus everything on show had a very handmade feel. Not only does this give exposure to films that may not normally get it, but also provides inspiration to any people who feel that making a film is beyond the realms of possibility; it most certainly is not.

Though we did watch a heck of a lot of films there wasn’t enough time to see everything. So what follows are reviews of the movies that stood out/grabbed out attention for one reason or another.

The Compositor

This was the first film we saw at the festival and was certainly a stylish way to get going. Written and Directed by real life film compositor John Mattiuzzi this somewhat paranoid, very much hallucinogenic film sees Mattiuzzi struggling with separating his real life and the worlds he is creating digitally. As such he melds both and begins quickly spiralling in a world he has no control over.

Visually the film is stunning. This is a hugely talented guy making full use of all the tools at his disposal. Therein lies the issue with the film. It feels like it has made it’s point and told it’s story within about 9 minutes, but then continues down the same road for another 20 or so. Whilst this does add emphasis to the insanity of the situation, it kind of makes the film play as more of a visual effects sizzle reel, with less onus placed on the story.

What cannot be faulted however is the sheer effort and the incredible execution of the film; that it has recently been rewarded with a student oscar is really no surprise due to it’s technical prowess.

Brighouse to Cannes – Le Tour de Tan

A guy from West Yorkshire decided to ride a bike to the Cannes Film Festival to try and raise awareness and funding for his dream feature project. Sounds pretty straight forward right (as a concept not a 700 mile ride)? Nice risk taking strategy? Shows focus on his dreams?

All of the above is correct but what this film gave us was so much more. As Filmmaker Dom Stables took on this task he certainly was focused and was aware of what he wanted, but what he discovered whilst on the road was the joy of the journey; the initial drive to arrive at the end destination became a series of amazing experiences that not only opened his own eyes, but helped to open more doors to him than he ever expected.

Though the version of the film we saw was only 5 minutes in length, it was an incredible, life affirming piece that captured the incredible highs that come with taking such a positive risk. It was truly inspirational and showed that these guys have what it takes to go on to make many great movies in the future.

Also with such a short running time to fit such a great story, it left me wanting more; that’s the best kind of praise for any filmmaker.

Dr Whooligan

I was drawn to this film because I had heard it was shot on DV cameras and made on a completely zero budget. Given that this style of filmmaking is what No/Gloss is all about I felt I should give it a spin.

On the positive side this film felt like it was made by a group of friends who were obviously having a really good time. It has a great sense of fun and plays as a kind of mashup of The Mighty Boosh and Shane Meadows.

As I’m sure you can guess from the title, the film tells the tale of a chavvy version of Dr Who, taking on a gang of alien Bag Men who are causing havoc in West Yorkshire.

The problem with the film, for me, is that it isn’t really very funny. There are a couple of colloquialism based jokes that were worth a chuckle, but overall it was pretty laugh free. I’m assuming that these guys are the funniest in their group of friends, as they seem like they’d be great to hang out with. But I think you’d have to know them to get why what they are doing is actually funny.

It made me think of RedShirt Films’ I Am Tim web series, which is actually a lot better and contains a much more accessible/universal style of humour.


First Lesson in Love

Using music as a metaphor for love, this interesting short shows a chance encounter between a young girl and a street musician. It deals with the awkwardness of doing things for the first time; the first flirtatious exchange, first time smoking, first time holding a guitar etc.

The enjoyable thing about this film is the subtext. From their first meeting to the musician giving the girl a guitar lesson at his home, every conversation is soaked in hidden messages. It reminded me of the apartment scenes in Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive, where Ryan Gosling and Carey Mulligan tell us all we need to know through subtle glances and body language. Though these characters are conversing we see what each person truly thinks just by watching how they move and emote.

Though the film comes to an end rather quickly, it is a great reminder of the innocence of youth and a lesson in the way love always affects the inexperienced more than it does us seasoned old cynics.

Pie Money

A very intimate story that tells of a newly widowed pie maker whose wife won £500,000 as part of a lottery syndicate before she died. He struggles to decide what to do with the money, and whether he wants it at all.

I love how this film was shot. It felt very much like a Paul Thomas Anderson film. In fact, given the very symmetrical shots of the factory it was particularly similar to Punch Drunk Love (which is certainly no bad thing).

The performances, particularly from the lead actor are great and let the film feel both naturalistic and quite surreal at the same time.

I was slightly disappointed with how the film ended. I won’t spoil it here, but sufficed to say I was expecting a touch more drama or emotion rather than the punchline we were given.

The opening scene of the film can be seen here.

Mi Ojo Derecho

This incredibly moving tale of a relationship between a boy and his grandmother was easily the most emotional film of the festival.

The story showed us how a special relationship becomes equally tragic and beautiful as it nears it’s end. The early scenes show the main character as a child, learning a trick from his grandmother and as the film progresses we see the transition; the boy becomes a man and his grandmother ages significantly. He comes to see her for what he fears will be the last time, and in these moments their relationship comes full circle. He is now the one showing her, and through this magical event she is able to see him as he used to be.

It is beautifully shot and wonderfully performed. It really feels like an intimate and personal portrait of a relationship; so much so that I was left thinking that this may have been autobiographical.


This nightmarish animation showed the spiral of an average man who struggles to deal with being witness to a railway suicide.

The animation itself is incredible and hugely inventive. All the events that befall the man (complications at work, at home, in public) are unified be the imagery of the train. It becomes a stripe of blood, a heart monitor, a ghostly presence that haunts him constantly.

It feels like a true exploration of the horrors some people find in their mind. It is also a candid examination of the banality of modern day life; how the repetitive grind of society is of no comfort to those struggling with mental anguish.

So those are the films that grabbed us the most. Of course there were more that we saw and even more that we missed. If you are interested/excited by any of the above you can checkout the No/Gloss website here. You can read this year’s full programme and access trailers and information about all of the screened films on the site.

James is a movie obsessive with a particular love for scores and screenplays. He has written for numerous blogs, sites and cinemas and has been involved in several screenwriting projects. He can usually be found in front of a large plasma screen devouring Westerns, 80s pulp, Jimmy Stewart movies or anything by the Coens.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *