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Short Filmmakers Bring Down the House
by Shelly Schoeneshoefer

Since I arrived late to the cinema and had to take a seat close up to the screen, I was worried that this evening would be a flop even though I was seeing one of my favourite categories: Short Films. The first film was an artistic animation from a feminist Polish filmmaker who lives in Hamburg. Mariola Brillowska’s film To the Dawn (An das Morgengrauen) opens with a woman with a dress that has a zipper that runs down the front. The zipper has a special function which reveals the heartbreak of the figure which needs to find a new home, at least that is how I interpreted the film. The film has a 1980’s style with hard lines combined with strong colors. There are bats flying around the woman in pain and somehow I could imagine any one of these frames could be used as a record album cover for a punk rock band. So it didn’t surprise me when the Q & A began and Brillowska entered the stage like a punk rock diva with pink hair, high heels and a crazy combination of clothes that only an artist with a singular vision could wear. Her explanation was as abstract as her outfit. Meanwhile her colleagues answered the technical questions; she enjoyed posing and throwing her expressions around like a Heidi Klum top model which set the audience into a full roar.

Strauss O.K. was filmed in Berlin by Jeanne Faust. She visited some Vietnamese flower shops and wanted to see if a German man could master the aesthetics of a Vietnamese bouquet. He actually did better than she thought he would. Somehow, men making these bouquets end up integrated in the arrangements as well. Five men dressed in white began with a bird of paradise, carnations, and other flowers and then wrapped them in paper for the finishing touch.

The next was Chinese The Lost Land (Shi Luo Zhi Di) by Zhou Yan. We see the last of the old communities which are about to be torn down as the modern city approaches. Yan’s main characters are a small-time crook and a prostitute. Through their eyes we see how China is changing including their lifestyles. They question China’s quick modernisation methods and wonder if their lives are better now than before. Zhou Yan and her producers basically said that short films are very important in China because one doesn’t need to have approval from the government so therefore they can express themselves freely. They also said that they wanted to capture the old way of life and landscape before it completely disappears. The film was centered on an area that the producer had known when he was a child. The Q & A was again hilarious since the producers could not stop talking and, naturally, added a bow between topics until they were finally led off the stage.

A Woman Called Yssabeau (Ein Mädchen namens Yssabeau) was a film that called my name. This poetic fictional film was made in Hamburg by Rosana Cuellar from Mexico. The film begins with a deer woman who has traditional Indian clothes and, while dancing mysteriously, lands in a distant and strange land. The second part of the film was filmed in Hamburg’s Speicherstadt. The characters that she confronts are dressed in 18th to 19th century clothes. Their ways are strange and, as she tries to integrate into their culture, she wonders how much of herself can she lose and still be able to recognize her former self. Cueller said this project was very important to her since she was having trouble understanding the German culture; it is so different from her own. There were scenes that were made backwards where the actress had to bake a cake in backward motion and this special effect made the film very magical as well as mythological.

Despite the fact that the Korean filmmaker Lee Wee-jung film’s See You Tomorrow (AD Balloon) starts off as a portrait of two school girls, it develops into a haunting drama which makes you wonder about fate and luck. We follow these two girls as they make their way through a day of school. By nightfall they both land at a party on a rooftop where a group of kids are drinking under a parachute and by the next morning all the kids have died from suffocation with the exception of one. Wee-jung said that the idea actually came from a story where one person had died. She remembers this rumor when she was young and it kept gnawing at her to find out the truth. She wanted to emphasis how rumors get started and how exaggerated they become even when they are based on a true story. She bowed two or three times and then left the stage.

Last but not least we arrived at The Great Rabbit, an animation from Japanese filmmaker Atshushi Wada who lives in Paris. Many of these films captured the cultural difference with an Asian flare and this one was no exception. The great rabbit is godlike but then begins to evolve into something else. The animation is repetitious but slowly forms into another message. The drawings are simple in style but have a complex meaning. Even after he explained everything to us, I think many of us were still baffled by its symbolism. This is where I think the cultures go on different paths. A symbol to one culture obviously means something to another culture as does the use of color. Certain things are universal but not everything and that begins with us as children. This Great Rabbit certainly was not the Easter bunny!