The 23rd edition of the International Short Film Festival in Drama, which was celebrated in parallel with the 40th anniversary of the National Short Film Festival, presented a range of intelligent, carefully selected films. In the international section, the films tended to fall into one of two categories. The first used war and politics as background themes in the lives of the characters. The second explored the psychological and physical consequences of leaving one’s territory.
The German film Chuckwalla, by Korinna Krauss (one of many female directors in the competition), was in the second category, depicting abandonment and loss. On a Greek island, a couple must leave their home to make way for a new road. They begin to suffer from uncertainty about what they will have to leave and what will happen afterwards. The man tries to stop a group of strangers from stealing ancient stones from the property, but the woman (played by Krauss) seems indifferent. Eventually, the couple realise that they have become stranded from each other as well as their plans for the future. A double abandonment takes place: the evacuation from the house and the loss of love. The film is infused with the interplay of ancestral feelings.
Vangelis’ Liberopoulos’ Play won the national award, the Golden Dionysus. Five employees in a Greek industrial firm behave as if life is a game devoid of rules and constraints; however, in the end, reality intervenes. The film creates some wonderful, fantastic frescoes of freedom, before black humor is crushed by real loss.
The Cypriot film The Insignificant Life of Helen Pavli by Michael Hapeshis is far more nuanced in dealing with the meaning of loss, which in this case refers not to a sudden abandonment but a continuously crumbling identity. In London, a family of Greek-Cypriot immigrants live through three generations of struggle to preserve the balance of everyday life, particularly after the announcement of Brexit. We witness the problems of the new generation alongside parental love. Everyone seems to spend their lives wandering, a painful pessimism which is hard to reverse.
Giorgos Teltzidis’ Dam is more explicit about loss: the construction of a dam forces village residents to abandon their homes. In the final days before the move, a girl from the village must make difficult decisions. Although young and open to change, the girl does not want to lose her territory, and a crisis strikes her family. Leaving is just too difficult. The girl ends up killing her dog, so that he remains only in her heart.
In Stefano Paradiso’s Papillon, a woman in an African village dresses up her child, preparing her for a special day they must both face in order to secure a better future. In this case, there is still hope in the protagonists’ hearts – or at least, ten minutes of misleading optimism before what appears to be a sad ending.
Mounia Akl’s Submarine was one of the most interesting films of the festival. It subject is a difficult one to tackle: the evacuation of people due to an imminent waste crisis in Lebanon. The only holdout is a child-like woman. The film swings between fantastic and realistic depictions of its territory, making use of alienation and metaphor. The scenery and soundtrack are also notable.
The Danish film Odd Job Man by Marianne Blicher is about a man who falls out of his routine after he is fired from his job and dumped by his wife at the same time. After this severe rupture, a new future is not easy to envision. However, the film skillfully depicts his continuously shifting situation.
In Exile is an animated film from Moldova by Alexander Kurilov. The plot is pretty complicated but interesting. A boy lives with his grandmother while his parents work abroad: a first stage of abandonment. To fill up time, he works on inventing a flying machine which would allow him to reach his parents. It’s a beautiful dream, but it turns out that an unexpected friend needs the boy’s care. Will the boy continue to dream of reuniting with his parents, or will he take care of another soul? The animation represents the protagonist’s differing states of mind.
Over the years, Drama has been able to present the work of well-known directors who engage with themes of this depth, demonstrating that short films are crucial to the history of cinema.
Edited by Lesley Chow
© FIPRESCI 2017