The Most Memorable Shorts from LOCARNO 2020 – Pardi di Domani

Although Berlinale 2020 has been the last film festival I covered for VICE this year, it doesn’t mean I haven’t partaken in any forms of visual pleasure since the virus took over our world…

With film festivals changing to a virtual online format (“We Are One” Film Festival in May-June) and cinephile platforms like MUBI showing filmmakers’ retrospectives while adding new titles to their digital library every day, there are always magnificent films to watch, without the need to ever leave your living room.

But there’s nothing to match the excitement of a real film festival and my presence on the wonderful Greek island of Syros, capital of the Cyclades, in the South Aegean Sea (the divine sound of this location…) for the unconventional and truly unique Syros Film Festival, which is about to launch its 8th off-season edition TONIGHT, is testament to that.

But first things first: Locarno 2020 – a film festival I have a deep affinity for.

I couldn’t be there in the flesh this year but I caught up with the festival on the 4K film projector in my living room – almost as good as the one in Piazza Grande:). And to my surprise, I managed to watch pretty much all the short films selected in the Pardi di Domani section this year. Good short films are like tasty snacks – rather moreish, causing a desire for more, so I kind of binge watched:)

The international competition comprised a very diverse lineup. Here’s some of the titles:

  • 1978, by Hamza Bangash – Pakistan – 2020
  • An Act of Affection, by Viet Vu – Portugal/Vietnam – 2020
  • Aninsri daeng (Red Aninsri; Or, Tiptoeing on the Still Trembling Berlin Wall), by Ratchapoom Boonbunchachoke – Thailand – 2020
  • Bethlehem 2001, by Ibrahim Handal – Palestine – 2020
  • Digital Funeral: Beta Version, by Sorayos Prapapan – Thailand – 2020
  • Ekti ekgheye film (A Boring Film), by Mahde Hasan – Bangladesh – 2020
  • Fish Bowl, by Ngabo Emmanuel – Rwanda – 2020
  • Giòng sông không nhìn thấy (The Unseen River), by Phạm Ngọc Lân – Vietnam/Laos – 2020
  • Gramercy, by Pat Heywood and Jamil McGinnis – USA – 2019
  • Here, Here, by Joanne Cesario – Philippines – 2019
  • History of Civilization, by Zhannat Alshanova – Kazakhstan – 2020
  • I ran from it and was still in it, by Darol Olu Kae – USA – 2020
  • Icemeltland Park, by Liliana Colombo – Italy/United Kingdom – 2020
  • Kako sam pobedio lepak i bronzu (How I Beat Glue and Bronze), by Vladimir Vulević – Germany/Serbia – 2020
  • Life on the Horn, by Mo Harawe – Somalia/Austria/Germany – 2020
  • Memby, by Rafael Castanheira Parrode – Brazil – 2020
  • Nour (Noor), by Rim Nakhli – Tunisia – 2020
  • O Black Hole!, by Renee Zhan – United Kingdom – 2020
  • Pacífico Oscuro, by Camila Beltrán – France/Colombia – 2020
  • Parcelles S7 (Land Lot S7), by Abtin Sarabi – Senegal/Iran/France – 2020
  • Play Schengen, by Gunhild Enger – Norway – 2020
  • Retour à Toyama (Return to Toyama), by Atsushi Hirai – France – 2020
  • Spotted Yellow (Zarde khaldar), by Baran Sarmad – Iran – 2020
  • Statul Paralel (The Parallel State), by Octav Chelaru – Romania 2019
  • Szünet (Break), by Levente Kölcsey – Hungary – 2020
  • Ta cong an chu lai (Cloud of the Unknown), by Gao Yuan – China – 2020
  • The Chicken, by Neo Sora – USA – 2020
  • The End of Suffering (A Proposal), by Jacqueline Lentzou – Greece – 2020
  • Thiên đường gọi tên (A Trip to Heaven), by Linh Duong – Vietnam/Singapore – 2020
  • Thoughts on the Purpose of Friendship, by Charlie Hillhouse – Australia – 2020
  • Where to Land, by Sawandi Groskind – Finland – 2020

And even if none of these names don’t make your pupils dilate or fill your soul with desire, it’s worth checking out these creations since some of the selected participants are on their way to become the great filmmakers of tomorrow – as the name of the section implies.

The fact that the quality of all these shorts was outstanding goes without saying but what stood out for me were the following three shorts, which could very well fit into an article titled: Mums, Mars and MRIs from Locarno 2020.

Very quickly and in no particular order (text to be refined, copyrights to be checked at a later stage), here goes my selection:

Push This Button If You Begin To Panic, by Gabriel Böhmer – United Kingdom/Switzerland – 2020

This cut-out animation short reflects the filmmaker’s personal experience of healthcare as a patient and practitioner. Full of amusing and witty remarks and observations (a note on the doctor’s office reads: “One symptom at a time, please”), the film reveals the absurd wold of our healthcare system with its fragmented perspectives about what constitutes health and disease. Interestingly the film’s screenplay had to be changed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. If in the past the doctor’s advice to “Come back when you’re sicker” sounded strange and absurd, it now sounded like sound advice!

This short was actually past of the Swiss competition which was replete with similarly intriguing treasures.

The End of Suffering (A Proposal), by Jacqueline Lentzou – Greece – 2020

This Greek short film is a most delightful, imaginative proposal for how to end human suffering, structured as a dialogue between a human (the filmmaker herself?) and a muffled voice from outer space – a Mars alien in this case.

The idea for this short came to the filmmaker one night while watching the starry sky on an island in Greece. She saw a bright red star dominating the darkness but she didn’t know what to make of it. Later at a party, she met an astronomer who confirmed the red star was actually Mars and it could be seen without a telescope at that time of the year. Pure magic!

The entire film is based on an imaginary, “New Agey” kind of conversation with a know-it-all being. The film stands out aesthetically too: shot on 16mm to create a different texture that immediately conjures up a world of myth, uniting the past with the future.

This film is the first in a series of future shorts in which the filmmaker intends to connect, by way of her imagination, with various other creatures inhabiting different spaces in our solar system and collect as many pearls of wisdom as she can, all in a brave attempt to save humanity from pointless suffering, thus gracefully positioning herself in the long tradition of Greek philosophers that engage in Socratic dialogue, from Plato to – can someone name a contemporary Greek philosopher who does the same?

Where to Land, by Sawandi Groskind – Finland – 2020

This short film one is about the filmmaker’s mum and the difficult relationship between the two. It’s a very moving watch and the filmmaker himself admitted that the making of the film served a “therapeutic” role. Without revealing too much, the film manages to create a lot of mystery and emotion through its intuitive selection of scenes and images and the intriguing intertitles separating them.

This short is even more outstanding as the filmmaker confessed to not having any experience directing, the whole film being more of an attempt at finding his own visual style, an experiment in image-creation.

And while the mother in the film does not have a voice of her own, both literally and figuratively (which made her recognise herself perfectly in it), the filmmaker definitely found his.

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