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SNACK Shorts: Is it Me

Welcome to SNACK’s new feature where we spotlight our favourite Scottish short films! There is so much energy, innovation, and creativity at work in Scotland’s film industry, and much of it goes into creating shorts rather than features. We want to provide a home for Scottish short films and filmmaking talent at SNACK.

We’re kicking off our first SNACK Short with Is It Me, a short that showcases all the qualities we love about our nation’s visual poems: arresting visual language; mood-setting soundscape; heart, humour, and charisma.

Body dysmorphia is something I knew little about before seeing Chris McGill’s short documentary about Emma Russer, a bio drag queen. Emma has body dysmorphia, an anxiety disorder relating to body image. In just under 10 minutes (the film’s running time is only 9.45) I felt enlightened and moved, as well as impressed by the visual style. It’s one that adds tons of atmosphere through naturalistic lighting and compositions that empower the film’s subject, and also links to film movements of the past.

She dresses up and hides her face, feeling more confident when controlling the way others see her. We follow Emma selecting clothing to make her costume for a club night, and she goes into the origins of her condition as a child and the support and love she experiences from her mother. All of this while retaining a keen, self-deprecating sense of humour; the short is peppered with Emma’s comic charm, which lends depth that isn’t forced.

The graceful and sympathetically framed compositions speak of a director growing in skill and maturity. McGill has been working as a freelance film-maker for some time and his previous short Crypsis is also well worth seeking out. Is It Me was officially selected for the BFI Flare and Fantasia Festivals, was featured on BFI Player, won the personal narrative award at the Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival and was shortlisted for a Grierson Trust Award last year – fitting accolades for a powerful short. The final shots of Emma dancing in a club are evocative images of empowerment, ending a short film that resonates long after the credits have rolled.

The lingering shots of Emma dressed up in inventive and surreal drag costumes are hugely evocative, and reach back to underground movies like those of the New York film movement of the 70s. Emma’s candid and confident narration sheds light beautifully on her condition, expressing that she feels uncomfortable in her own skin to the point of losing sight of herself.

Words by Martin Sandison

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