On the Screen (MD 2021/3)
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On the Screen (MD 2021/3)

Nyon (Switzerland) 2021

An interreligious jury, appointed by INTERFILM and SIGNIS has participated at the Festival Visions du Réel in Nyon (Switzerland) since 2005. The jury includes a representative of INTERFILM and SIGNIS and a member of Jewish and of Muslim faith.

The jury awards a feature-length film in the international competition and possibly a commendation that sheds light on existential, social or spiritual questions as well as human values. The prize of CHF 5’000 is donated by the Swiss Catholic Church, the Reformed Churches in the French-speaking part Switzerland (CER) and its Media Department Média-pro, and the Swiss Federation of Jewish Communities (SIG).

Due to the Corona-19 situation, the interreligious jury 2021 watched the 13 films of the competition for long films online but discussed and evaluated them during a physical meeting. At the 52nd Festival (15-25 April 2021), the jury awarded its Prize to the film Little Palestine / Journal d’un siège / Diary of a Siege directed by Abdallah Al-Khatib (Lebanon/France/Qatar 2020). People in the sealed-off Yarmuk refugee camp assert their humanity in the Syrian civil war despite hunger and lack of prospects, while the humanitarian world remains on the side-lines. When a small street choir sings to piano accompaniment and the noise of bombs, their song joins the sad chorale of similar sieges in world history.

Members of the 2021 jury: Noëmi Gradwohl, Bern (Switzerland); Marie-Therese Mäder, Zurich (Switzerland) – President; Jean-Paul Käser, Biel-Bienne (Switzerland); Majid Movasseghi, Zurich (Switzerland). ν

Oberhausen (Germany) 2021

The Ecumenical Jury at the 67th International Short Film Days Oberhausen 2020, appointed by INTERFILM and SIGNIS, awarded its Prize in International Competition of € 1500, donated by the Catholic Film Work and the Protestant Church of Oberhausen, to Zoom sur le cirque / Zoom on Circus directed by Dominique Margot (Switzerland, 2020).

A clown is grimacing into the webcam from his living room; an aerialist is trying to stay in shape on her balcony; a circus director is suffering from the cold in his caravan because he cannot afford the heating costs: Zoom on Circus brings together the social, political and aesthetical aspects of the current Corona pandemic in an accurate yet heart-wrenching way: the human desire or even the human necessity to laugh even in times of a crisis; the hardship of artists and people engaged in the cultural sector who are threatened by losing their means of existence; the art of improvisation that the circus as well as Zoom require equally and therefore the technical and social possibility of decreasing the distance by means of humour. Congratulations to Dominique Mayer, for this authentic and entertaining short film!

In addition, the jury awarded a Commendation to Home directed by Ngima Gelu Sherpa (Nepal, 2020). Home is a film about a son who returns to his family home in Nepal to say farewell to his dying dad. The son films these last days, the passing and the death of his father which appear just as simple and natural in the everyday life of this poor farmer family as the tiny things that usually happen to them. Even though all this is sad, this is the way of life.

Due to the pandemic, the members of the Ecumenical Jury also had to view the films on the internet and meet online. They were Linda Dombrovszky (Hungary); Gundi Doppelhammer (Germany) – president; Anna Grebe (Germany); Christian Gürtler (Germany).

International OnlineCompetition

In 2021, the Oberhausen Short Film Festival included online-only competitions in its programme for the first time. At the invitation of the festival, SIGNIS and INTERFILM nominated a jury for the International Online Competition, which awarded its Prize to Minnen / Memories directed by Kristin Johannessen (Sweden, 2020).

Minnen is an authentic documentary where we look back on the film-maker’s mental illness after she soberly traces her life. Animated sequences display what was in her mind at this particular time of her life. With original footage of her youth added to a recent interview of her own parents, Kristin Johannessen shows, through accurate memories, the difficulties of being different, of raising a child you can’t always understand but never want to leave behind. Minnen talks about the hope of recovery that must be kept when facing sickness.

In addition, the jury awarded a Commendation to Kalsubai directed by Yudhajit Basu (India, 2020). The film explores the history of the goddess Kalsu and her meaning for the women of Bari. It relies on strong visual and acoustic images that neither explain nor falsify scenically. The almost photographic compositions and their expressive simplicity make the film accessible to everyone and invite you to reflect on your own cultural influences and to question them.

The jury awarded a second Commendation to Cântec de leagăn / Cradle directed by Paul Mureșan (Romania, 2020). Unfortunately, even today, many families are hiding dark secrets. The animated short film Cradle properly investigates the innermost depths of a family devastated by domestic violence and alcoholism. In such a climate of terror, we see life still existing with a mother taking care of her new-born, trying to protect him and his big brother from bullying. The Members of the Online-Jury were Blandine Brunel (France) – president; Silvan Maximilian Hohl (Switzerland); Michele Lipori (Italy); Phil Rieger (Germany).

Children’s and Youth Cinema

In addition, the Ecumenical Jury awarded recommendations in the Children’s and Youth Film Competition. From the programme 14+: Nova directed by Luca Meisters (Netherlands, 2020), about looking and finding for love and the difficulty of dealing with it. 14-year-old Nova takes on responsibility for her little sister and goes in this process on a journey to discover her feelings. Nova is a film that was perfectly staged and wonderfully photographed. The script works without pathos and heavy content and yet does not remain on the surface. From the programme 8+: Dalía directed by Brúsi Ólason (Iceland, 2020). The atmosphere of uncertainty determines a young boy’s weekend-visit at his father. Here, at this remote farm in the sparse and impressive landscape of Iceland begins a rough path of mutual approximation for both. The injury of the horse Dalía triggers a decisive change of the relationship of father and son. A film that treats the topic of taking farewell from different perspectives in a quiet and impressing way.

The Ecumenical Jury for the Children’s and Youth Cinema included Gundi Doppelhammer (Germany); Silvan Maximilian Hohl (Switzerland).

Kiev (Ukraine) 2021

At the 50th Molodist International Film Festival Kiev (May 29 -June 6, 2021), The Ecumenical Jury working online made the following awards. In the International Competition, category Full-Length Films, the Jury awarded its Prize to After Love (still below) directed by Aleem Khan (UK, 2020).

Motivation: This powerful story with a strong script and visuals touches the deepest strings of the viewer’s soul by promoting acceptance and non-attachment to pain through embracing one’s life regardless of the situation one ended up in, like the main character of the film did.

Metaphoric use of nature is skilfully incorporated to reflect and foster the inner conflict of the protagonist as she follows her instinct and decides to address her sorrows rather than freeze them and let them ruin her from inside. She abandons jealousy for the good of understanding; she abandons a need to possess for the good of sharing; she abandons her grief for the good of moving on in life.

The film advocates mutual forgiveness and understanding, as both outer and inner conflicts bring the main characters to the reconciliation with each other, with the late husband/lover/father and with themselves. The topic of reconciliation regardless of diversity is crucial in the modern turbulent world, where humankind suffers devastating conflicts.

In the International Competition, category Short Films, the Jury awarded its Prize to Into the Night directed by Kamila Tarabura (Poland, 2020).

Motivation: This dynamic and complex story about a universal issue of the hard time one usually goes through as a teenager invokes contemplations about standing up for one’s true nature. We observe the main character’s evolution from pursuing a strong confrontation with the world, particularly with her mother and classmates, to breaking free through a spontaneous uncommon situation as she follows her impulses and makes friends with a girl who is her total opposite. The skilfully set sequence of events builds up a hopeful vibe as the characters embrace their own and each other’s personalities, release their emotions, and acknowledge their inner struggles. As the film focuses on identity it suggests that one can overcome external circumstances that oppress their free will and self-expression. The optimistic message accomplishes the artistic quality of the film and the well-developed inner conflict of the protagonist.

In the International Competition, category Student Films, the Jury awarded its Prize to Parole directed by Vojtěch Novotný (Czech Republic, 2020).

Motivation: This gripping and highly emotional story about a challenge to embrace inner combats resonates very well with the audience. The inner conflict of the protagonist, who is his own antagonist at the same time, is in the center of a well-developed plot. As the powerful final scene gives hope for reconciliation, after the young protagonist has been pushed to frightful extremes, the message of the film is the importance of self-relationship and embracing one’s inner clashes, no matter what the outer reasons are.

Members of the 2021 Jury: Viktoriia Gosudarska, Ukraine; Béata Kézdi, Hungary; Christine Ris, Switzerland (President of the Jury). 

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