The short film is still an underrated form of cinema, not coming close to the recognition short stories get in the world of literature. This is only one of the reasons we at Frameland decided to kick off our short series of articles looking back at 2018 by highlighting our favourite shorts of the year. Another reason is, of course, that the films written about below are all excellent works of cinema, ranging from shorts by women and men, from established international auteurs to young filmmakers in need of more recognition and made in Asia, Africa, America and Europe.
As a kid, I loved to look at the world upside down. It’s strange how what is familiar, suddenly seems alien when looked at topsy-turvy. Dimitri Venkov’s short film does exactly the same. It flips Moscow on its head. The camera glides through the streets, past iconic buildings like the State University and the foreign ministry. From Stalinist to modern architecture the film ‘transports’ us through time, in the words of Venkov thus reflecting on ‘the evolution of the country’s ideology.’ This idea is enhanced by the music that consists of electronic variations on the Soviet and later Russian national anthem. But to be honest, it wasn’t necessarily these socio-political aspects that drew me into The Hymns of Muscovy. For me, this short film is like a trip to another world, another universe. It feels like science fiction. It feels like it did when I looked at the world upside down as a kid and imagined I could fall into the sky.
Naima Ramos-Chapman is just getting started. Her 2016 short And Nothing Happened is one of the most powerful works of art about assault this new century has yet seen, and her sequel to it, Piu Piu, is even more intense, unsparing and gorgeous. Aggressions micro and macro are thrown in the faces of young women around New York. Unwilling participants in psychological experiments in tolerance. How much violence can we see and have inflicted upon us before we snap? Every covenant of behaviour, of Christian charity and modesty, suddenly seems to have been designed to keep women from slapping the men who see their bodies as property to which they were born with the title. Ramos-Chapman’s choreography, a bone-chilling spasmodic scream of limbs and heads, her compositions, challenging you with their beauty as they unearth tiny, unspoken horrors, and her imagination, dreaming hitherto-unseen ways out of a duel her heroines never asked to fight, are forces as powerful as magic.
✏️ Scout Tafoya
Leonard Nimoy and Sudan Bay Nimoy were married for more than 30 years, before the actor passed away. “When he died, I wanted to die with him. In a way I kind of did,” Bay Nimoy recounts. A year later, she started writing things that started out being letters to her deceased husband, but then became the script for Eve; about her grief, about dealing with loss and about ageing, which seemed to make her more and more invisible within the society around.
Bay Nimoy, an actress in the 70s, decided to make this film and took the plunge with Eve, braving the sea change filmmaking had undergone in these decades. She was also one of the Original Six women in the DGA (Director’s Guild of America) to seek laws for gender parity in hiring and salary. So it’s barely a surprise when she decides to make Eve as a result of her life-long dedication to gender parity within the film industry.
Obviously, this film is important because it centres itself around an ageing woman; a woman comfortable with her body and what grief and loss does to it. But it’s also important because it comes out of a personal space of loss that women are often encouraged not to speak about. Bay Nimoy goes beyond the grief of ageing and explores the sexuality of a woman – an ageing widow – someone the society has written off when it comes to attractiveness and sexuality.
In a masterful scene, she portrays the eponymous protagonist’s sexual energy and she does it so beautifully that there is nothing perverse about it; it is portrayed so naturally that it could be an expression of any other emotion within a woman’s body. Jim Frohna’s photography complements the radicality of Bay Nimoy’s acting and script. The result is a film that is beautiful and extremely revolutionary; neither in an overstated way.
Jua, a young Christian woman living in Kenia, boards on a bus to visit a relative. She feels uncomfortable, since the bus is filled with Muslim passengers. In her eyes, all Muslims are bad people, since Muslim men have killed her husband and child. She tries to avoid any contact with the other passengers, until the bus is stopped by a terrorist group.
The members of the group demand the passengers to get out of the bus. Muslims should stand on one side, Christians on the other. The woman next to Jua doesn’t even think of not helping her. She tears a burka over Jua’s head and takes away her chain and cross. It is beautiful and heartbreaking to see how determined the Muslim woman acts and sets aside Jua’s hostility against her religion. What follows is even more breathtaking.
After this horrible experience, the Christian woman and the children of the Muslim woman walk hand in hand. Will their bond be a step towards a society where Christians and Muslims can live together in peace?
Watu Wote: All of Us was Katja Benrath’s graduation project at the Hamburg Media School. She based her short film on an attack by militant group Al-Shabaab on a bus that transported both Muslims and Christians in Mandera in 2015. Benrath’s film was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Live Action Film in 2018.
At the start of Blue, the latest short film by Apichatpong Weerasethakul, a woman appears to be sleeping. Soon, however, as she tosses and turns, she turns out to be restless rather than resting. Across from her bed in what appears to be the jungle, several sheets with painted scenes of nature alternate by scrolling up and down. Then a flame appears on her blue bedsheet, growing slowly in size, as does the intensity of the sound design.
A bit of simple movie magic, but very effective in making me feel the flame inside of her, despite clearly seeing it was not real. The fact that a few years later Weerasethakul reveals how he did this, does nothing to take away from its raw power as a depiction of a restless night. A night in which no respite can be found, because of an inner flame keeping you up. In which faraway places appear and disappear in dreams, only to wake you up again and again.
Blue premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival, but was launched online only a month later for the whole world world to see. If you haven’t seen it yet, check it out now: