Directed by: Ruda Santos
Starring: Rob Tofield, Katie Porter and Peter Edwards
Short Film Review by: Annie Vincent
A BFI Film Academy production, Clown in a Church is a short film with a clear question: is it morally right to exploit people for TV? A clever little short film, this entertains you and then turns on you right at the end so that you’re left questioning yourself (and the very activity you’re engaged in) and that, surely, is what makes great film.
Katie Porter plays Liz, the TV documentary director hell-bent on finding something juicy for the screen. She drags a reluctant soundman, Rich, played by Peter Edwards, and a cameraman along to a church and directs them all up the stairs. The cinematography at this point is effective as you start debating what sort of genre this film is going to turn out to be. With the handheld camera work, low lighting and use of shadow, the film is reminiscent of other docu-horrors you might have seen. However, the dead silence is broken by Michael the clown, convincingly played by Rob Tofield, asking for someone to turn a light on.
From here, the hallmarks of a amateur documentary are used as we’re sucked into the life of the clown. Wobbly shots and the camera turning to capture the reaction of the cynical Rich add to the light humour the clown wishes to convey in his answers. The script implores us to see the simple beauty of this clown who only wants to bring a smile to people’s faces, despite his hatred for balloon animals. One major flaw of course is that no one really likes him and he’s been out of work for some time. Could his slightly menacing smile and relation to a famous ‘killer clown’ be a part of it?
Sadly, when Michael asks Rich his view of clowns, he doesn’t get the answer he’s expecting: clowns are weird, unnerving, ugly and plain scary. In despair, Michael terminates the interview and throws the crew out of his garret. As they head downstairs, Liz scolds Rich, before they hear painful wailing from above. Insistent that whatever is happening will make great TV because ‘this guy is messed up’, she grabs the camera and heads back upstairs, grinning in wild delight as she captures Michael on the floor, clownish possession all around, as he cries and yells, and we are left to ponder who the real menace is.
An enjoyable 8 minute film, Clown in a Church is thought-provoking and certainly worth the time.