‘Darklight’ and ‘Strings’ by Richard Turley in USA premiere
by Bradley Donalson
WorldFest is the third oldest competitive international film festival in North America, and it is the oldest independent film festival in the world. This year, it will be held at AMC Studio 30 Cinema on Dunvale through April 19. WorldFest started in August 1961 as Cinema Arts, and it has stayed true to its indie roots. Unlike Cannes or Sundance, WorldFest puts a special emphasis on premiering films that are seeking distributors rather than high-budget films produced by the indie-imprint of the major studios.
This year, out of the 125 shorts chosen for screening, two belonged to openly gay British filmmaker Richard Turley. The shorts are Darklight and Strings. Turley is a BAFTA-nominated director who has more than a decade of broadcasting experience in television and film. He claims that, for him, story is key, and this is obvious from the shorts that he will be premiering.
Darklight will be receiving its U.S. premiere on Saturday, April 18, as the penultimate offering in the 3 p.m. slot for Horror and Thriller Shorts. The short explores the relationship between a mother and her blind daughter who are living together. They’ve reached a quiet contentment with their slightly insular lives, but when the mother has an accident, the daughter begins to realize that things might not be as they seem. She eventually uncovers her mother’s sinister plan to keep her at home under her wing.
With attention to detail and cinematography, Turley provides a complete story that isn’t overly obvious. Little elements like a dilated iris or a well-placed label enhance the sinister aspects of the overall plot without being forced. Darklight shows that Turley is a master of the concept of “show, don’t tell,” with his controlled use of dialogue as exposition. The short will leave you with conflicting feelings and a desire to know more.
Turley’s other offering, Strings, is having its world premiere as the final entry in the 1 p.m. slot for Dramatic Shorts on Sunday, April 19. Strings tells the story of a young boy, Luke, who goes around town with his father, Dean, in 1970s England. Dean retired from the army after his wife died in order to take care of Luke. Their relationship is more like a friendship rather than a father-son dynamic as they make up stories and pretend with one another. While Dean is off on his jobs, Luke counts the seconds while he waits in the car. Luke is curious about what his father does for a living, but Dean always dodges the question with an outrageous tale. When he finds a pamphlet from a spy museum they visited together, Luke decides that his father must be a spy. After one of his toys blows out of the car, Luke goes on his own spy mission that leads him to see his father chatting with strange men and the uncomfortable realization of what his father actually does for a living.
The same attention to detail and story that Turley has shown us in Darklight returns in Strings. He provides setting and backstory with little obvious narration, and the story of a struggling father and his relationship with his son is clear and heart wrenching. The short is an exploration of what it was like for the unemployed, as well as the secrecy employed by homosexual men in Thatcher’s Britain. At just over 13 minutes, Strings provides a snapshot of a time not far in the past and a relationship that might have to change.
WorldFest receives over 4,500 category entries from as many as 37 countries. Unlike other festivals whose competition aspect only covers features and shorts, WorldFest is actually 12 film and video competitions with over 200 subcategories. The award given at WorldFest is called the Remi, and some notable people who can call a Remi their own include the Coen brothers, Ang Lee, Spike Lee, George Lucas, Ridley Scott, Steven Spielberg, Oliver Stone, and Robert Townsend.
Tickets are available for WorldFest at worldfest.org.