The Best of the Rest
It’s amazing how fast a week can go by when you have so many films to see, so many great people to meet and so many dishes of risotto to taste. Although there are a lot of films I still need to watch, I had the chance to discover some pretty cool shorts.
Winner of the “Watching This Film with Your Parents Could Create a Very Awkward Situation’ Award: Pleasure, by Ninja Thyberg. This is about shooting a double anal scene for a porn film. But this is also one of the most sensitive films – no pun intended – I have seen during the festival. I think I don’t need to say more for you to want to watch it.
Winner of the ‘Crazy Animal Lovers’ Award: Feeding Five Hundred, by Rafed Al Harthi. The story of a man who spends all his money on feeding the wild cats of his neighbourhood. Read about it here.
Winner of the ‘Family Stories make Great Films’ Award: Man Kann Nicht Alles Auf Einmal Tun, Aber Man Kann Alles Auf Einmal Lassen (You Can’t Do Everything at Once But You Can Leave Everything at Once). This film could also have competed in the category: ‘Title You Will Never Get Right’. Marie-Elsa Sgualdo used archives to tell the poetic story of a family living in the countryside in the 1950s. Mesmerising.
Winner of the ‘Were You On Drugs While Making This Film?’ Award: Boogodobiegodongo, by Peter Millard. Could also have competed in the category: ‘Title You Will Never Get Right’. This film cannot be described. All I can say is that it is strange, funny and sad – all at once.
Winner of the ‘Short Jokes are the Best’ Award: Cool Unicorn Bruv, by Ninian Doff. It takes only 90 seconds to this fresh short film to make us laugh. It won a Depict! Award and can be seen here.
What a wonderful experience the Encounters 2013 Festival was! An indulgence of interesting talks, engaging films and like-minded people to meet. I remember somebody saying when asked what made the festival so special that the clue is in the title – “Encounters”. There are just so many interesting ones to be had.
Here are my top three shorts. Purely by chance I realise I have selected a live-action fiction film, a documentary and an animation – read into that what you will:
Eskiper This stripped-back 14-minute film explores a father-daughter relationship through a single-take conversation. This touching tale says something of the generation-gap that exists today between young and old – the title “Eskiper” comes from the father’s mispronunciation of digital communication service “Skype”.
Home Winner of the audience award, this documentary follows the relocation of a house in New Zealand as it is moved from one district to another on the back of a giant truck. It’s detached show-don’t-tell style of storytelling give the images, soundscape and score a poetic vitality, as it raises questions about what makes a house a home.
Risehigh This highly-conceptual animation from Adam Wells takes us inside the super-ego fantasy of a modern day Westerner. It’s a world of neon-signs, high-rise buildings and chaise-lounges. There are strategies to develop and targets to meet, elevators to take you up and dodgem cars to spin you around. Will you ever be able to afford that giant yacht you’re always wanted?
I would never have dared to speak to some of the people present at this festival in any other context – luckily, they were so friendly. Introductions were so easy, laughs were on the daily menu, and sleep deprivation was never an important issue. It was an ideal rhythm – not too fast and panicky, but not just hanging out in bars. I liked that this style of networking required one to be professional, but human. Bonus: I adored my film journalism team and hope I’ll meet them again as soon as possible!
They say that the best things come in small packages, and the short films that played at Encounters this year, all coming in at under 30mins, are no exception. My picks of the bunch?
The Beast (dir. Corinna Faith, UK) Faith’s script is brought to life by child actress Rafey Cassidy in this smart, distinctly British investment from the BFI and Warp Films, which suffuses grey countryside and bleak social realism with magic and childlike wonder.
Damn Girl (dir. Kira Richards Hansen, Denmark) Richards Hansen captures urban Danish life in all of its dark, decrepit beauty in the gorgeously shot Damn Girl. The film’s titular tough girl shines in a cast of child actors.
Krokodile Ohne Sattel (Crocodiles Without Saddles) (dir. Britta Wandaogo, Germany) This moving, deeply personal documentary follows Wandaogo’s charismatic daughter Kaddi, as she attempts to navigate her biracial identity in the dual locations of her mother’s Germany and her father’s Africa.
Honourable Mentions: Feeding Five Hundred (dir. Rafed Alharthi, United Arab Emirates), Home (dir. Thomas Gleeson, New Zealand), Whaled Women (dir. Ewa Einhorn, Sweden), Sottoripa (dir. Guglielmo Trupia, Italy)
What I love the most about Encounters is the details; the little strings that run together. You can see them in the high-grade programme: Encounters showcases are carefully thought through and complete. Each film in every showcase compliments the others and together they create a beautiful whole; you can be sure that every showcase has something beautiful, interesting, new and fresh to offer. It is said that we should appreciate the little things in life, the details we often forget to see. Encounters lets you see those exquisite details and appreciate them, and creating a powerful sense of entirety.
Free World Anna Hints brings a specific Eastern sadness to the screen, showing the pain and beauty of carrying our past and legacy with us. It’s important to note the beautiful visuals, great coloration and lighting in addition to a heartbreaking yet hopeful and healing storyline.
Stay the Same Not a narrated story but rather a visual poem. Sam Firth blurs the boundaries between art, film, fiction and documentary, and creates a deeply personal experience. The strong confessional style conjures a sense of intimacy, supported by enchanting, glamorous visuals.
Lisa, go home! Director Oksana Buraja skillfully liberates the rules and boundaries of a documentary. It shows us the coming (and not coming) to terms with our surroundings through the eyes of a child and is therefore even more delicate and interesting for it.
Honourable Mentions: Dead end, The Ringer, La main de l’ours (The bear’s hand), Signalis, Chrigi (Chris), Die Seilbahn (Cable Car)
The best part of the festival? Taking portraits of lovely filmmakers all day long! My programme highlights? Commonwealth Shorts, Untold Stories, Global Voices and Your WorldView Showcase all stood out, linked by their theme of international development. In showcasing documentary perspectives from various locales around the world, these films highlighted specific local issues within different communities.
To The Sea Corin Taylor’s melancholic tale of a young girl’s search for her father lost at sea was one of the most moving films of the festival. Set against the picturesque backdrop of the Cornish Riviera, this is ambitious, beautiful filmmaking that signals the emergence of a serious new talent to be reckoned with.
Dust Chronicling the exploits of a sixty-something loner who follows a mother and daughter home one evening, Ben Ockrent and Jake Russell’s sinister fairytale isn’t short on chills. Featuring a typically brooding performance from Alan Rickman and a lush, moody ambient soundscape, this is, quite literally, bone-rattling stuff.
Home Director Thomas Gleeson invites us to reflect on the transitory nature of the places we call home in this strange and wonderful documentary. Quietly contemplative and beautifully photographed, it serves as an enthralling snapshot of a very unlikely journey.