Amacourt 2018 Roundup – The Power of Shorts

The 11th edition of the Amacort film festival, fully dedicated to shorts and taking place in Rimini, Fellini’s birthplace, has wrapped up last week and it’s on time to share with you my short-list of amazing films from all over the world that made the audience laugh, cry and simply wonder in silence. The world of shorts is a powerful one. While featured movies have an eternity to develop the story, short films have just about five to 20 minutes to show you a snapshot of it and to, often, leave you with several open questions in your mind.

Before I get started, let me pay the tribute to one of the most influential directors of all times, the master of Italian cinema, Federico Fellini. The festival, named by one of his famous movies “Amarcord”, was guided and inspired by his omnipresent spirit and took off with the screening of a restored version of Roma, his semi-biographical comedy-drama full of colorful images, very own and symptomatic to the director. The soundtrack by Nino Rota immediately caught the attention of the audience and Fellini started doing his magic.

 

After two hours of dazzling images, the audience was ready for the shorts to come. So here are five of them that caught my attention:

 

In a Nutshell (Fabio Friedli, 2017)

An award-winning Swiss animated movie, that took home a prize as “Best Experimental Short Movie”, tries to fit different facets of the world into a nutshell. Impossible, you say? Not really. The animators did a great job capturing different aspects of life from veggies to bombs, from germinating mushrooms to colorful ecstasy pills, from the power of money to the power of religion, from simple letters to pervasive social media influence and so on – a whole radiography of the modern world, squeezed into a 5-minutes short and emerging from a single nutshell.

In a Nutshell isn’t just an entertaining flow of images and sounds. It’s also full of provocative content and touches sensitive subjects as social injustice and inequality, offering us strong, unmistakable visual references to it. While a slice of white bread slowly disappears under an infinite variety of toppings, a slice of brown bread is being devoured by an invisible throng, until it’s swallowed up completely and a nervous clamor spreads in the hungry crowd. The events described slowly transform into imposing blood spatter illustrating cover stories of well-established newspapers. A very graphic wake-up call.

Combined with some witty, perfectly matching sound-effects, In a Nutshell becomes a showcase of a perfect harmony of visuals and sound, full of symbolism of things and subtle revelation of the evident social imbalance.

 

Wave (Benjamin Cleary, 2017)

The big winner of the festival, bringing back to Ireland the mayor award as “Best Movie 2018” in the Amarcort Section, is also one of my personal highlights from Rimini. It’s an unusual story of Gaspar Rubicon, who wakes from a 5 years lasting coma, caused by a severe accident, with a fully functional brain but speaking a dialect unique to himself. He tries to deal with it, to become friends with loneliness and social isolation. He gets lost in music,in his thoughts. However, his human nature is stronger than his will. Gaspar desperately needs someone to talk to and be understood.

Looking for ways out of this unbearable emotional prison, Gaspar records and publishes a video, a cry for help, hoping to find someone out there to talk to and to be understood. After several months of online bullying and hateful comments, the message in a bottle finally reaches its addressee. Hulvard, the only person on planet speaking the same dialect, enters Gaspar’s life. Is it his final salvation? Temporary, yes. The two lonely souls immediately melt together. Talking nineteen to the dozen, Gaspar and Hulvard seem like a love-struck couple, losing themselves in the sound of words and the feeling of being understood.

Until, one day, this huger is satisfied. The two chatterboxes sober up and, suddenly, things become complicated. The philosophical question arises, whether sharing the same language actually means sharing the same values and having anything in common. Wave not only shows the huge impact social exclusion can have on a human being but also illustrates the limits of verbal communication between people lacking any kind of common ground.

 

I hate pink! (Margherita Ferri, 2017)

I watched this short documentary twice during the festival and both times it touched me to tears by it’s pure, non-judgmental approach to a very complex topic, which could be so simple if only the society would make it possible. I hate pink! seems to tell an ordinary story of a happy ten-year-old child, growing up in a loving family, passionate about breakdance and preparing for a soon-to-come dance battle. A carefree child discovering the world. Nothing particular, you would think. So did I.

Soon enough the spectator realises that the story of Violante is not as conventional as it seems. Born as a girl, the protagonist realizes very early that she “hates pink” even if she is supposed to like it. She doesn’t like all the girly stuff and would prefer to be a boy if she only could. It’s more fun, she thinks. Violante di Nuzzo is lucky enough to have understanding and open-minded parents, who are not trying to shape her into “the perfect girl”.

The courageous child wears wide t-shirts and shorts, cuts her hair short, naturally masters the male body language and simply lives her life the way she likes it. A behavior that our modern society categorises as masculine. And here it comes, the struggle. A happy tomboy becomes a case to study and analyze, an example of a gender non-conforming child in search of its true identity.

The director, Margherita Ferri, refuses to integrate any kind of judgment and build up an opinion. She knows that it will inevitably happen in our minds. Many will sympathize with the protagonist, others will pity her, knowing that the breakdance battle will be not the only one to win. No-one will stay neutral as society is still not ready to simply take humans for what they are, without labelling and clustering everyone. I hate pink! won the award in the Fulgor Section for regional shorts from Emilia-Romagna, while Violante won my heart.

 

A Christmas Carol (Luca Vecchi, 2018)

What did you ask Santa Claus for when you were a child? How many letters did you write him, hoping that your wishes would come true? And did Santa always bring you what you wanted? Sometimes, this bearded old man embodies children’s last hope when it comes to their secret desires and things they’re so desperately wishing for.

In A Christmas Carol, Lory, a sweet young girl, sexually abused by her own father, asks Santa to fix the unbearable situation. So Santa, her humble servant, takes all necessary measures, plans a perfect crime and brutally does, what she is asking for. Your wish was his command, dear Lory. Let’s hope it’ll help you to overcome the trauma caused by a mentally disordered parent.

For Nicholas, the punished father, Christmas Eve becomes a reckoning. But does it really matter? I guess, many spectators, including me, are left with the feeling of emptiness and the impossibility to change and “fix” the past. The sweet revenge can have a persistent bitter aftertaste, especially when it comes to traumatised children and their ignorant guardians.

All in one, A Christmas Carol is a modern film noir par excellence, a masterpiece of storytelling, led by a talented screenwriter, a great director, followed by authentic acting, and not to forget the mystic and crucial lighting, which creates a hopeless atmosphere of a cold winter night and the presentiment of a tragedy soon to come.

 

It’s tight, but hardly chokes (David Pérez Sañudo, 2017)

Here comes some genius, disturbing material from Spain. Unfortunately, it didn’t win any awards at Amarcourt but it was definitely one of the most original shorts presented during the festival. I enjoyed every single second of its craziness even if there might have been some little logical mistakes in the making; despite this It’s tight, but hardly chokes is a feast for those of us who like some cinematographic madness. I definitely do.

The short film tells a story of Daniel, who goes to a job interview as a dogsitter. Cosme, not only the dog’s owner but also a proud wearer of a pink ridiculous tracksuit, will only hire him if Daniel passes a series of unusual challenges. Siegfried, the mysterious dog we’ll never get to see, is a fierce one and, if the right instructions are not followed, he can become pretty fearsome. The whole “interview” situation becomes a bit crazy at a certain point. Several times Daniel seems to appeal to common sense and tries to go home but something always holds him back – how far will he go for money?

This is one of those short films where the dialogue is everything. It’s witty, fun and very entertaining. Fernando Albizu, playing Cosme, is grandiose and the energy between the two characters quickly draws the spectators under its magic spell.

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