Gemalogia at The Cambridge Film Festival
Reviewed by Localsecrets, Peter Topping
‘Everyone needs someone’ is a telling line from one of the six memorable short films on the theme of love that made up the closing afternoon of this year’s Cambridge Film Festival. From a highly polished fable set in a diamond assessment centre in Madrid, (Gemalogia) to an eerie tale of lust in Beijing’s nightclubs, (One night stand) the audience was treated to different takes on the human condition. These strong international shorts formed the final set of a series that has run throughout the Festival taking in different themes.
Short films, like short stories, need a strong central idea to grip the audience. Gemalogia’s Director is Huntingdon-born Rick Limentani. Rick explained to localsecrets that his film about a young diamond specialist who claims to have found the perfect stone originally came out of a letter he wrote to a girlfriend. “I couldn’t write a love letter but I could tell a story,” says Rick, “and I took this story and turned it into a film about perfection and imperfection, about seeing what is unique in people, and about taking chances.”
Gemalogia won awards at Los Angeles this year and is being screened at film festivals from New Zealand to New York, but the Cambridge festival has a special meaning for Rick, who remembers the Arts Picturehouse from his first film-making days while studying at university here. Rick wanted his crisply-paced film to capture audiences’ imaginations as “a modern romantic fairy-tale – it’s an allegory about love,” he explains.
From the beginning the film focuses on handsome gemmologist Erick (Alex Barahona), contrasting his clinical world of jewel assessment with the real-life conversations he has with on-off girlfriend Gemma, played by Spanish actress Rebeca Cobos. Gemma is honest about her own failings, physical and emotional, at the same time littering Erick’s pristine car with her drink cartons and wrappers - real life intruding into his thoughts and the diamond laboratory.
Erick finds himself unable to focus on a dispassionate scrutiny of the gemstones he holds between tweezers, attracting the attention of his supervisor, who exercises total control over both rocks and people, and whose darkened office and menace contrasts with the bright-lit orderly rows of white-coated analysts.
A faux voice-over offers a calm, reassuring commentary on the faultless logic of the science, even as Erick sets about leaving it all behind, sure in the knowledge that it is the blemishes and imperfections that give true character and uniqueness to both gems and people. In brilliant sunshine, amid swirling leaves, he seeks out Gemma, asking her to commit to love that comes unexpectedly and all the more powerfully for that.
Chinese short ‘One Night Stand’ is a film of shadows and mystery, beginning in a sleazy pick-up bar and ending on the banks of a river. Would-be playboy Liu is haunted and unsettled, unsure if the woman who so hungrily kissed him a few moments ago exists or not. What started as a hunt for adventure in modern neon-lit Beijing becomes embroiled in a darker, older China, full of temptations and passions dragging him in too deep.
Another bar offers the setting for a quirky, humorous take on Dublin drinkers from Irish film-maker Cian McGarrigle. His film ‘No Messages’ is about a young barman’s attempt to seize a chance for new love, against a backdrop of chaos, spilt pints and the craic of the regular boozers. These and the other short films that the Cambridge Film Festival has brought together from around the world - including Puerto Rican ‘The other side’ and US shorts ‘And if tomorrow’ and ‘Prattle’- show that love in all its elusive forms still offers a rich source material for aspiring film-makers.