Short Films to Discover

in 4th Lecce Festival of European Cinema

by Eva af Geijerstam

Is it possible to predict a future fruitful career from a director’s first shorts? Or is it only in retrospect and with the following films at hand that the early shorts become an essential part of the filmmaker’s artistic profile? Or do they, in fact, constitute an art in themselves with no connection to the full format film making?

The 4th European Film Festival in Lecce made it possible to answer yes to all these questions.

One of the festival’s sidebars — which also included a carefully chosen Jules Dassin retrospective and a number of special screenings — celebrated twenty years of Italian shorts. They came in all shapes and forms, but all of them (almost) were highly enjoyable. On the one hand there was the remarkable renewal of six minute pause shorts for television “Intervalli europei” (1989-92) by Cocito and Pastore. On the other hand there were longer and more pure narrative films by directors such as Silvio Soldini (Drimage, 1982), Marco Bechis (Storie metropolitane, 1988) and Davide Ferrario (Non date da mangiare agli animali, 1987).

In addition the festival screened six student films made at the National Film School (Centro Sperimentale di Cinema), collected under the headline “Six simple pieces” (Sei pezzi facili), which in due time will find its way into Italian cinemas.

Coming from Sweden, where some distributors for a long time have made single shorts their business as well as put together short programs for the general audience, I more than welcome the initiative. It’s amazing how different a 20 minute short can look, depending on the temperament and interests of the film maker, and on geography: only two of the films have been shot in Rome, the others as far apart as in Mondragone, close to Naples or in Sottomarina di Chioggia way up in northern Padova. Especially two of the stories stick in the memory as combining “yes” as an answer to all the three questions above. Claudio Capellini’s Chi si ferma più about a middle-aged professional car thief, who lives a comfortable middleclass life until his old friend turns up as an undercover policeman. The punch line might be easily foreseen, but undoubtedly Capellini knows how to handle his story without this being a burden. This neat professionalism goes for all the other directors, but especially for Capellini and Daniele Basilio, whose Le mani in faccia has a rare forcefulness in his dark and dramatically expressive story about a son-father relationship in a sea smugglers context.

If the ten title competitive section of the Lecce festival was surprising because it proved that there are still films unseen out there, the ambitious short film programs (including a book in Italian only) — once again — were the place of real discoveries.