SCREEN DIARY: NEW HEIGHTS, part of Smartphone Film Festival at Leytonstone Loves Film (28 SEP).

Smartphone Film Festival 2019: Part One – Best Challenge Doc

Earlier this autumn, RADIANT CIRCUS spent a happy time as a judge for the second Smartphone Film Festival (28 to 29 SEP 2019). Following that event, we had two jobs. First was to screen some of the short films as part of our LUNCHTIME FILM SOCIETY pop up (done!) and then we had to post a writeup of the award-winning shorts (here we go!). PART ONE.


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Working with the brilliant London Documentary Network, festival organisers Last Frame Club (aka Cheap Cuts) issued a challenge to filmmakers – create a documentary around the theme ‘thrill’ on a smartphone in just 36 hours (from brief to submission).

All of the resulting entries were crammed full of strong visuals and appealing subjects, access to whom must have been one of the biggest adrenaline rushes of getting a film made in the time available. After careful deliberation, the winner went to…

NEW HEIGHTS (Crew: Xin Fan, Hyder Habib, Alex Hyndman, Bethan Stacey, UK/2019 5min).

The RADIANT CIRCUS view: NEW HEIGHTS is a simple tale of one young man tackling – if not conquering! – his fear of heights. In a rapid 5 minute ascent, we meet Adrian on his apartment balcony (terrifying enough…), quickly appreciate the extent of his anxiety (“Even a movie I can’t deal with…”) and then plunge headlong into facing one of his worse fears with him, a fairground ride (“Holy shit! Fuck…” indeed).

Speaking like someone who’s startled by his next thought (“Maybe it’s because I’ve got an overactive imagination…”) let alone a plunging precipice, Adrian’s agreement to take part seems almost as random as the glimpses we have into the rest of his life (“I really need to get a kettle…”). Throughout, it’s his participation that keeps NEW HEIGHTS grounded: he’s an incredibly engaging documentary subject, a willing lab rat centrifugally spun in his own perspex-caged experiment.

NEW HEIGHTS stood out as the winner because its creative crew’s whip smart editing perfectly captures the kinetic energy of Adrian’s character and his up and around journey where he breathlessly narrates every awful moment. The facility of their smartphone filming also shines, quickly capturing a far more confident fellow rider who echoes our connection and concern as Adrian dismounts: “How’s your arsehole? Is it alright mate?”

Ultimately, it’s Adrian’s preparedness to tackle the things he’s most afraid of that catapults NEW HEIGHTS into, well, new heights. These quickly improvised 5 minutes thrillingly reveal universal concerns about how we all upgrade and go beyond what we feel we might be capable of. After all, as Adrian asks, “what if…?”

RUNNER UP: PASSING THE BATON (Crew: Harry Roth, Oliver Halls, Alex Wilding, 2019/UK 3min)

SCREEN DIARY: PASS THE BATON, part of Smartphone Film Festival at Leytonstone Loves Film (28 SEP).

The RADIANT CIRCUS view: PASSING THE BATON pastes a punning smile on your face through the sheer joy of watching its subjects – the children of a Tower Hamlets nature warden – as they wander through a city park at night, holding their perpetually clicking bat-tracing sonar gear aloft. A surprising subject and location, PASSING THE BATON stands out for presenting its nocturnal setting as some kind of expressionist SPRING WATCH Kiddie Rave. And we loved its entirely spontaneous sense of awe.


SCREEN DIARY: KARAOKE, part of Smartphone Film Festival at Leytonstone Loves Film (28 SEP).
KARAOKE, part of Smartphone Film Festival at Leytonstone Loves Film (28 SEP).

See all of the films over at London Documentary Network:

  • SPEAK (Crew: Danny Concha, Toru Kubota, Sancak Tevfic, Geoff W), GOAL (Crew: Susy Castro Silupú, Anais Sánchez Gómez, Ananí Yolanda Reyna Zavaleta, Karoline Pelikan), KARAOKE (Eleanor Lindsay-Fynn, Joe Lee), PASSING THE BATON (Crew: Harry Roth, Oliver Halls, Alex Wilding), and NEW HEIGHTS (Crew: Xin Fan, Hyder Habib, Alex Hyndman, Bethan Stacey).

[> All links to YouTube]

And that’s the meat of it… PART TWO to follow!


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