Smartphone Film Festival 2019: Part Two – Best International Film

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 are!). PART TWO.


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The second Smartphone Film Festival (28 to 29 SEP 2019) projected a brilliant programme of shorts combining documentaries and narrative fiction, judged in three categories: Best Challenge Doc (with London Documentary Network), Best International Film and Best British Film.

RADIANT CIRCUS was delighted to sponsor the Best International film category. We’ve also had the distinct pleasure of showing the eventual winner at our encore screening event, Lunchtime Film Society – SMART PHONE where it went down an absolute storm.

Here’s our view.

SOMETHING’S WRONG WITH DAD d: Cooper & Nate Torrence, USA/2019 16min


The RADIANT CIRCUS view: A real life family film project, SOMETHING’S WRONG WITH DAD is a found footage horror where a son’s vlog takes a turn for the worse when his dad becomes ill on a school break camping trip.

Playing out over 16 minutes the short trades engagingly on the relationship between the two cast/family members, something that tips over into infectious giggles come the ‘making of’ snippets folded into the end credits. Here we discover exactly how much of a DIY – bordering on endearingly dumb! – project this really was.

The camera and sound work is completely convincing, with wind on the microphone, redeye at night and a humorous introduction of the tripod needed to get such a great looking mix of handheld and static shots… “Why is it so far away?” The only downside is that all too familiar found footage trope – “are you filming?” – which stutters self-consciously throughout the film. We’ve seen enough of these to get it guys!

Sharply edited, SOMETHING’S WRONG… moves along at a cracking pace but isn’t afraid to indulge in moments that cement character and camaraderie, from the initial boredom of being in the cabin (“It’s hot out there…”), to a low-carb fireside cookout (“We have no condiments!”), to bunking up after a suspected insect bite that neatly triggers the horror at the halfway point.

From there it’s a descent into hilarious hell as Dad’s initial recovery – with the aid of a microwavable Hot Pocket – falters and he plunges into a feverous rage. The mounting horror is beautifully staged, brief clips of their rural isolation requiring calls back home (“Mom, I don’t think this is an Epipen situation.”). The climax – a breathless chase seen from their dual smartphone perspectives – shocks audiences out of their seats.

We’ve seen this several times now, and the feel-good factor comes from how much fun the two filmmakers are having on their well-realised home project. There’s genuine laughter and tenderness between the two as well as a subtle parental control that asserts itself throughout: Cooper might be chased by his murderous father on film, but he’s still only allowed to exclaim “gosh” and “shoot”. A winning collaboration.

And that’s the meat of it…


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