Saturday, March 29, 2014

Busby Furball: life, birth, death, experimentation, extinction ... and fur

Originally shot in 2009, it has taken five years for Busby Furball to reach the screen of a cinema. Earlier this evening, it had its world premiere in the QFT as part of Belfast Film Festival.

As I expected, the Factotum arts collective excelled themselves with a surreal masterpiece that combines life, birth, death, experimentation and extinction into 30 minutes of fantastic cinema.

It’s the story of three Busbys who lived together on an isolated peninsula. A little like the gorillas in Dublin Zoo. Except they’re more erect, a lot more colourful, and speak in native Norn Irish. It would be genuinely difficult to spoil the plot.
  • Giblet (red fur) is the boffin, tinkering in his square brick house and trying to understand how sounds relate to thoughts. He uses his steampunk “metal” detector to analyse rocks and bottles.

  • Offal is his “guileless” friend: the type of friend you look down on and wish to experiment on. Offal becomes pregnant after picking up and playing with an oversized fungi. He gives birth to Oscar, an oversized slug.

  • Poylp (black fur) stands in the middle: helping Offal overcome the taboo of experiencing the hallucinogenic effect of eating his own furball. Yet Poylp is also willing to collaborate (in the Nazi sense of the word) with Giblet to use a brain portal machine to get right inside Offal’s head.

The film is replete with Blake’s 7-style sound effects, grunts, groans and local vernacular. While the busbys’ eyes don’t move, they’re still very expressive. Their hair moves in the wind mirroring the swaying and swirling grass.

The props are amazing, particularly the rotating ornamental cake stand. And Oscar’s sluglike movement across the grassy fields is straight out of the K9 manual and worthy of the creation of an Oscar (award) category for animatronics.

Having been made in quite a rush [ahem!] the film is still a little rough around the edges. There’s only one camera angle where it rains: maybe Giblet has successfully applied a polaroid effect to precipitation? And the chapter introductions that partition the film nearly reveal too much about the otherwise totally surreal and imagineering plot.

From the giggles and wails of laughter across the QFT tonight, the actors and crew obviously had a (fur) ball making the short film.

A film that questions how clever the self-appointed wise people in society really are. Are we really open to appreciating who is in charge of our destiny? And who is experimenting upon whom? Perhaps there are some spiritual insights in there too: “Verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Matthew 25:40).

Busby Furball’s creators commented before the film that they had created a new genre in Northern Ireland cinema. They certainly didn’t disappoint. Yet it will be quite a challenge to grow the genre. Perhaps it’s time for Factotum to embark on another film

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