This year, the Short Documentary programme includes nine non-fiction works, four of them are débuts. Within the framework of the festival, short films accompany the full-length films competition. This comparison of semantic positions provides an opportunity for the manifestation of a third meaning. However, these films should primarily be compared within the programme. Some of them are more experimental, while others rely on traditional forms of plot composition. Debutants master the space of their films in a measured pace. At the same time, some authors question the usual cinematic representations, disputing even the screen space itself.
Swatted by Ismaël Joffroy Chandoutis uses the video sequence from Grand Theft Auto reduced almost to outlines, similar to the set design of von Trier’s Dogville. His film is dedicated to the “swatting” phenomenon – a kind of prank when a SWAT detachment comes to a person on a false tip. Swatting caused physical and psychological injuries, as well as the death of a person in 2017. Hollywood stars, from Tom Cruise to Clint Eastwood, have also experienced it. However, it is most common in the gaming sphere. People who make a living streaming video games regularly become targets of trolls, who are also game lovers, but with aggressive intentions. The characters of the film who became victims of swatting talk about the issue of transparency in the era of social media. When they turn on the web cam, they become vulnerable. For almost the entire film, Chandoutis gives the screen to the iconic GTA game, where SWAT is the punishment for a player’s misconduct. By gradually depriving the visual sequence of textures, the author tries to discern in digital transparency, what motivates people to transfer aggressive and unrealistic gaming experience to the real, behind-the-screen world?
Trapped in the City of a Thousand Mountains by David Verbeek also reflects on the opposition of virtual and material. The director observes young Chinese who listen to trap – a type of hip-hop that has gained popularity in recent years. In China, trap has formed a youth subculture that is aesthetically incompatible with the official state ideology. Censorship tried to neutralize the danger; rules that should not be violated were prepared for performers. However, these rules are deliberately vague, and the state reserves the right to interpret them. Verbeek shows characters who are used to huddling in the unlit corners of the virtual space, where their subculture lives and where the eye of authority does not penetrate. Constant external pressure affects how they perceive the outside world. Even going out into the street becomes for them an act of opposing themselves to an alien environment.
It’s Going to be Beautiful also talks about how ideology is reforming space, or rather landscape. Its authors materialize Donald Trump’s dream of a closed border between the US and Mexico. Now the dream has colour, texture and even a model range. We see eight prototypes of the future border wall, same in height, but different in every other aspect. They rise in the middle of the desert, awkward and unable to withstand the landscape enveloping them. Border guards are to test these wall fragments for resistance to digging and illegal mountaineering. The US President’s fantasy undergoes a literal strength test, turning into an unfunny joke.
From the desert to the ocean. In a vibrant and funny film All Inclusive, director Corina Schwingruber Ilić spies on the passengers of a cruise ship. We do not know where it came from and where it is going, how long it will take and who its passengers are. We observe bizarre routine days on a ship of people who are not afraid of the storm, because they have already drowned in consumption. Ilić captures it with a wide shot, without giving us clues such as speech or facial expressions. People huddle around the aerobics trainer and spread out on deck chairs, they have willingly submitted to the totalitarian geometry of life on the ship. They would not even notice if a deluge broke out around them.
A début picture Public showers, Oberkampf street, Paris is very mindful of its characters, even though they are random passers-by. The film gives an opportunity to speak to people who are usually voiceless, which brings it close to the humanistic cinema of Agnès Varda. Julie Conte shows an unobvious place of power in the Paris 11th arrondissement – a shower and laundry that are available to any person free of charge. The director gives each character enough time to speak. From this array of personal stories, we realise that water and access to it become more than just a hygienic need.
Debutant Lasse Linder pays attention to a particular person. All Cats Are Grey in the Dark is a story of a lonely middle-aged man named Christian, who lives in a small apartment with two British cats, Marmelade and Katjuscha. The eccentric Christian calls himself Catman and takes his cats everywhere with him – for example, they sit on his shoulders at a ski resort. (It is easy to imagine that the director met him this way.) A reclusive bachelor, he plans to realize his aspirations of becoming a father through his pregnant cat. Linder’s film is a story of great, albeit perhaps quite unorthodox, love and care.
Another début, Connected, is dedicated to the hurdles on the path to love. The path in this case is a snow-white track of a ski resort in Poland. Elderly husband and wife, for some reason connected by a portable walkie-talkie, are on this path. Director Aleksandra Maciejczyk reveals the answer to this riddle in the middle of the film, trying to bring the experience of watching closer to the experience of living, using a subjective camera.
Next comes Deborah Elgeholm with The Cup is Already Filling Up, who tries to penetrate where documentary filmmaking usually loses sight. The film restores children’s accounts of the appearance of the Virgin Mary, faith in this experience and subsequent responsibility, which automatically rests on the shoulders of the alleged eyewitnesses.
On the contrary, The Briefing, Filip Drzewiecki’s first film, opens with a reminder of the responsibility taken voluntarily: Hippocratic oath. His camera focuses on interns who first encounter the psychological aspects of working in a hospital. Patients refuse to be examined, do not follow recommendations, do not comprehend their situation. Not to harm the patient, to be able to present the diagnosis, to show compassion – these are also aspects of medical work. Trainees still have to feel their way through some things that their senior colleagues have brought to automatism. Drzewiecki peers into young specialists with funny earrings and anxious faces, while his camera itself becomes an instrument of palpation.