By Mel Melcer
Nominated 2012 – Best Short Film
9-year-old Henry is scared of monsters lurking in the dark. The only thing that keeps them at bay is the decree from Henry’s father, a Royal Marine to be reckoned with. But when his father is killed, Henry must find the strength to cope with the loss – and to face the monsters alone.
About the director
Born in Poland, Mel has lived in the USA, The Netherlands and in Belgium before finding her way to London. She studied English literature in Poland and in the USA. A storyteller at heart, Mel started off writing fiction (one novel and several short stories) and then screenplays, which placed in recognised international competitions (a finalist in Page, USA, semi-finalist in Austin, USA, short listed in Euroscript Screen-Story competition).
Mel moved into directing in 2008 with her first short film, the black comedy Guns, which she also wrote. The film was well received and screened at several national and international film festivals, including London Short Film Festival, Radar Hamburg Film Festival and others. This was followed by a drama, Like Daughter, in 2009 (“a beautifully acted short” in the words of Bradford Int. Film Festival), and The Shepherd in 2010. Mel is currently developing her first feature. She has recently participated in high-profile, Branchage Directors’ Lab organised in connection with the Edinburgh Film Festival, where she worked on developing the story with tutors like Kate Leys, Rebecca Mark-Lawson or Tony Grisoni.
“The original script for The Decree, written by an American, Keith Blackwell, was set in the USA. We took it through several development rounds, including work shopping with the actors, to give the script a British feel. Some viewers still say that the film “feels” American – a comment that makes us happy as we want the story to transcend one country’s setting and have a more universal appeal. The message in the story is certainly not limited to the UK – or the USA.”
“I found Keith’s script on Ink Tip and was immediately attracted to its premise: the basic humanity of the story and the subtle but unequivocal anti-war message. There are many films made about war and its impact on those immediately affected – but what I loved about The Decree was the fact that it talks about those who will never hear a single shot fired and yet will forever bear wounds which cut as deep.”
“Equally, what attracted me to the script was that its message transcends present day politics – though the setting may let us guess which particular war the film references, it is never explicitly mentioned in the story. I wanted the film’s message to be universal and not limited to here and now, to one particular conflict our nation is fighting at the moment. There are other ways to protest any government’s politics; for me, I wanted to show the unseen and unpublicised impact of those. We may argue about “just” and “unjust” wars – but we must all agree that around the world many little Henry’s will have to face their monsters alone as they grow up without their fathers or mothers. And that is the true price of the decisions we, and the governments we vote for, make – and the message I wanted to send in The Decree.”
“As the film was self-funded, we had limited means available for the locations. While the church and the lake were offered to us at charitable prices, we had no lead whatsoever on a house. Desperate, the producer, Kaushik Bhattacharya, and the director, Mel Melcer, put on their Sunday best and went knocking on doors around the village. To our astonishment, within three visits, we had two great location candidates! While the shoot itself certainly overwhelmed the landlords (their idea of “a small crew” didn’t translate into 20 plus people and a truckload of equipment), they held on bravely and even joined in as extras for the funeral scene. We’re not sure they’ll ever volunteer their house as a film location again, but they claim we left them with fun memories of a house invasion to share with their friends!”
This is beautifully lit and shot. The writing is delicate and full of simple weight. Made by someone who really understands the language of film. The acting is perfectly poised. The story is told with elegant simplicity and is extremely moving whilst still avoiding the pitfalls of sentimentality. Reminded me of Spielberg at his best. – Tim McInnerny
First-class anamorphic cinematography and some winning performances lift this little film that would have been mawkish if it weren’t so charming. – Jim Field Smith
A very close second in my opinion for this category. A simple tale of a boy who loses his father in the line of duty and how his mother finds a way to bond with him. Great performances but it’s the lush photography and beautiful lighting that really shows The Decree off as a class act. – Steve Furst