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Finding the Light: Reviewing a Beeston Film Festival Variety Pack

Holly Cromwell

Saturday, 27 April 2024

Hamster, Tethered, Luminarians, Light of My Life, Shaking Hands with the Devil, Free Spirits. A quickfire review of the Finding the Light variety pack at the Beeston Film Festival.

In the midst of coursework season, in final year no less, a trip to the Beeston Film Festival was the perfect thing to break up the days of typing and get out the house for a bit. As delightfully random as a variety pack should be: two drama shorts, two documentaries, an animation, and a comedy; it was also beautifully curated with each one making some measure of sense next to the one before. I initially thought the title itself was predominantly literal, these films nearly all involved scenes with light, fires, fairies, ghosts, or candles, but looking deeper, each involved reaching through dark times to make an improvement. Beyond that, the sense of community was unparalleled.

Let’s do a quick run through:


An Iranian drama, this short was truly a filmmaker’s film. I thought it was beautifully shot and edited, the acting was perfection with cinematography and storytelling used to full potential. My plus one was disgruntled to see a spelling mistake in the subtitles, was equally displeased by the sudden shift in tone at the halfway-point, and even less so with what I found to be a suitably ambiguous ending. That tone shift was jarring but that is so completely the point. On contrast, I thought this was an incredibly well-made film, a definite portfolio piece, and a beautiful rendition of friendship and emotion that was universal as much as it was rooted in Iran. . You can tell it comes from a deep sense of community both in the opening scenes and in that, as the film started the first thing I heard was not the soundtrack but “did you like my intro?” from behind me. After the (bilingual!) credits I heard again something that sounded a lot like “how’d you like my hamster?” and muffled giggles.


An ode to Irish storytelling, with an added love letter to 1980s fantasy film and women’s experience of family. I loved the detail of the Old Woman, preaching an awareness of your history and your stories, speaking Gaeilge. The aesthetics of this film were on-point, from the soft, hazy intro to the animation and home videos so authentic I forgot I was watching a short film. The animation looks like something I’ve seen before, I know it’s not Wolfwalker or Secret of the Kells…I cannot name it, but whatever it was brought up happy memories. The special effects were also on-point. The one criticism I can make is what the filmmakers refer to as the ‘Dream Ballet’, beautiful as it was, felt more like an unexpected music video that didn’t gel well with the polished film we’d just watched. Hopefully the feature film they’re hoping to seed will manage to integrate it a little better with a longer run time. Honestly one of my favourites of the bunch: sweet and nostalgic.

The Luminarians: Making of the Luminary Loppet

The first of the documentaries. It felt like the best possible end of a YouTube rabbit hole; something I’d never have chosen to watch – this is the reason we go to local film festivals. It was well-made; every shot was beautiful without being too contrived and undermining the factual aspect of documentary. Each interview was earnest and charismatic and there was such a deep-rooted sense of family and community it made me want to go to Minnesota to see the 'Luminary Loppet’ myself. Comment from my plus one: its so very Minnesotan.

Light of My Life

The love story of two candles set on a windowsill overnight. Just a two-minute animation but sweet, gently funny and sad by turns. There’s something of Ghibli about the whole thing and it’s not the animation style, although that is very story book. A bittersweet palate cleanser to lead into the second half of the variety pack. I loved it.

Shaking Hands with the Devil

A documentary showing the stigmatisation of people with Parkinson’s Disease in Kenya. The presenter, wildlife filmmaker David Plummer, has all the subtlety of a fist in the face – but there’s no indication that he’s trying to be anything else. This is a documentary, but at 14 minutes long its more of a campaign video. Plummer is earnest: he chose to go off-meds to speak on a level playing field with other sufferers who didn’t have access to medicine. It’s very empathetic; the interviews were inter-woven with skill to tell the story with little intervention from Plummer except to scaffold together different arguments. I will always support documentaries that allow interviewees to speak in their own language, to express themselves in the most natural way they can, and the subtitles were very well done. It could so easily be condescending, describing the way communities in Kenya watch out for witchcraft and the assumptions they make around illnesses like Parkinson's. But, whilst the documentary takes a definite stance, it isn’t sneering, more hopeful that they can make some change.

Free Spirits

Moving from suspected witchcraft to a paranormal comedy was whiplash in the funniest way possible. This is the story of a young priest being pressured into an eviction vote at the parish council by local busybodies who gets called out to the local nudist camp to deal with a prudish poltergeist, with all the cheeky, gleefully immature humour that implies. It was five minutes into this one when my plus one started sniggering and by the time we got home she was still randomly giggling and humming ‘Son of a Preacher Man’. This film was exactly what it wanted to be, an ode to the very cheapest of the paranormal films of the '80s and ‘90s. I’m sure I missed half the references, but I definitely got the joke. It never took itself seriously, except to seriously dedicate itself to being silly. You’ll never guess quite how it ends, and do stick around for the end credit scene, it got a proper reaction from the audience! I immediately recommended this to my dad. 5 stars, ending on a high!

I highly recommend making your way to Beeston Film Festival if you have time, for as much fun as I had the audience was way too small. I also got a very good hat out the deal.


About the Author

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Image provided by Beeston Film Festival.

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Barbara Dawson

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Lovely tasty dish. Try it you won’t be disappointed.

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Aunty Liz

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Very tasty and cheap. I often have this for tea!

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average rating is 3 out of 5

Being a bilingual family (French mother and British father,) living in France I thought your article was extremely interesting . Have you research on bilingualism ? It seems that when the mother is British and the father French and they both live in France their children seem to be more bilingual than when the mother is French and the father is British . This is what we called mother tongue , isn't it ?

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average rating is 3 out of 5

Such an interesting article!

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