A preview of the short films playing at the Berlinale
- BERLINALE 2020: With the Berlinale Shorts competition programme about to screen, Cineuropa previews some of the European shorts that will have their world premieres at the festival
Under the auspices of new curator Anna Henckel-Donnersmarck, Berlinale‘s Berlinale Shorts section continues to present a bold and provocative selection of short films that push the boundaries of cinema while also shining a spotlight on a new breed of talented filmmakers. Amongst the world premieres of European fare are numerous compelling pieces of work that are both artistically brave and technically compelling.
Perhaps one of the most anticipated films in the selection is How to Disappear (Robin Klengel, Leonhard Müllner & Michael Stumpf, Austria). After Müllner and Klengel’s Operation Jane Walk, in which the dystopian landscape at the heart of computer game ‘Tom Clancy’s The Division’ was turned into an architectural tour, How To Disappear returns to the digital landscape with a focus on war game Battlefield. Here, the film explores ideas of desertion and dissent in a thought-provoking way similar to that of their previous film set against the backdrop of a game. While using the game as a metaphor for human and social behaviour in real war is sometimes a strained endeavour, it still makes for an intriguing film essay.
Also anticipated is Dummy (Atkūrimas) by Lithuanian filmmaker Laurynas Bareisa. With his previous shorts having premiered in high profile festivals such as Venice, the latest film from Bareisa tells the story of the reconstruction of a crime scene. While the narrative has similarities with a couple of recent films — amongst them the successful 2018 Czech short Reconstruction (Jiří Havlíček & Ondřej Novák) — what makes this one stand out is a brilliantly disturbing streak of black humour and an air of absurdity against the backdrop of bleak realism.
Unsurprisingly, the films on offer in the programme also deal with a number of important contemporary issues. South African and Austrian co-production Cause of Death (Jyoti Mistry) is an urgent and angry exploration of the poor treatment and institutionalised violence inflicted upon women over the ages. Blending archival footage and animation, the film has a raw and evocative power as its title becomes one of savage irony. French film At The Entrance of The Night (À l'entrée de la nuit), from director Anton Bialas, is an inventive and evocative treatise on immigration and identity that contains three individual stories of differing points of view. There’s a subtlety and simplicity on offer here that belies the myriad of complex emotions that the film is capable of evoking. Another seemingly simple film is German experimental film Inflorescence (Nicolaas Schmidt). A pink flower waves in the breeze as an extract from Crowded House’s ‘Don’t Dream It’s Over’ plays on an almost repeated loop. It first seems an exercise in nothing but absurdity, but as it goes on, the film morphs into a moving paean to the ability to stand one’s ground and keep hope, no matter what the circumstances.
Two European film schools are also represented in the competition. From France’s Le Fresnoy comes computer animation It Wasn't the Right Mountain, Mohammad (Mili Pecherer) in which the biblical story of Abraham and Isaac is told with a different point of view as ancient stories meet new technology. From the London Film School comes Filipiñana (Philippines/United Kingdom), Rafael Manuel’s film which follows the fortunes of a girl new to working on a Filipino golf course. It’s a wonderfully observed film, that takes in notions of social class and dashed dreams and wraps it all up with a dash of the surreal. Manuel is a talent to watch out for in the future.
Other films to look out for in the selection include So We Live, Rand Abou Fakher’s delicate yet commanding examination of a family living under the cloud of war, and the strange and dreamlike documentary A Demonstration (Sasha Litvintseva, Beny Wagner, Germany/ Netherlands/United Kingdom).
The full list of films playing as part of the section is as follows:
2008 – Blake Williams (Canada)
À l'entrée de la nuit – Anton Bialas (France)
Aletsch Negative – Laurence Bonvin (Switzerland)
Atkūrimas – Laurynas Bareisa (Lithuania)
Cause of Death – Jyoti Mistry (South Africa/Austria)
Celle qui porte la pluie – Marianne Métivier (Canada)
A Demonstration – Sasha Litvintseva, Beny Wagner (Germany/Netherlands/UK)
Écume – Omar Elhamy (Canada)
Filipiñana – Rafael Manuel (Philippines/UK)
Genius Loci – Adrien Mérigeau (France)
Girl and Body – Charlotte Mars (Australia)
Gumnaam Din – Ekta Mittal (India)
HaMa'azin – Omer Sterenberg (Israel)
How to Disappear – Robin Klengel, Leonhard Müllner, Michael Stumpf (Austria)
Huntsville Station – Jamie Meltzer, Chris Filippone (USA)
Inflorescence – Nicolaas Schmidt (Germany)
It Wasn't the Right Mountain, Mohammad – Mili Pecherer (France)
My Galactic Twin Galaction – Sasha Svirsky (Russian Federation)
Playback. Ensayo de una despedida – Agustina Comedi (Argentina)
So We Live – Rand Abou Fakher (Belgium)
Stump the Guesser – Guy Maddin, Evan Johnson, Galen Johnson (Canada)
T – Keisha Rae Witherspoon (USA)
Union County – Adam Meeks (USA)
Veitstanz/Feixtanz – Gabriele Stötzer (GDR, 1988) (out of competition)
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