This is also a hard category, because the films are all so different, and the art of telling a story in a short time without either rushing it or shortchanging the narrative creates its own sort of film making. There’s dancing, and singing, and interrogation, and infatuation, and this year’s theme of the Islamic immigrant/refugee is included. They’re funny and romantic and sad and surprising. It’s really a great bunch of shorts. I am sure they will land their filmmakers a meeting or two with people who can help them and their careers along. See them if you can. They’re in theaters now and will certainly be streaming later. And once more I will plead with theaters to start showing shorts before the features. Please!
(Trailers for all the films below.)
LA FEMME ET LE TGV (The Railroad Lady) – Nominees Timo von Gunten, Giacun Caduff
La Femme et Le TGV from Switzerland is a bittersweet film about a woman of a certain age who lives by the train tracks and waves at the high-speed train every day as it passes. She is clearly lonely and it has over her lifetime become her happy ritual. But one day, the train’s conductor throws her a gift with a note as he passes. And they begin a curious friendship, lofting letters and little gifts back and forth, though never meeting. But when the train is rerouted and the conductor tells her he is being relocated, too, she is desperate to meet him. It is a quirky and fun little film.
SILENT NIGHTS – Nominees Aske Bang, Kim Magnusson
Silent Nights is a Danish drama about an illegal Ghanaian refugee Kwame in Copenhagen and his relationship with a kind local Salvation Army volunteer Inger. She truly wants to help him, and falls for him only to find he isn’t the noble man she thought. The story explores the European refugee narrative, asking whether immigrant/refugees are collectively all that different from us, and reflecting on our uneducated expectations of strangers running from a harsh life. The story twists and turns and leaves the audience with questions, mostly about ourselves.
TIMECODE – Nominee Juanjo Giménez
Timecode is what I’d call a very clever premise film. It feels like it could be the beginning of a more serious story, or even a great comedy. This Spanish nominee is about two security guards who use the surveillance cameras in the parking garage where they work to entertain and challenge one another — with dance! It’s a conversation with no words, a back and forth over time on their low-res monitors and spoken only in the time code of their daily logs! It is a delight.
SING – Nominees Kristóf Deák, Anna Udvardy
Sing, the Hungarian entry, is a grade school story about a new girl who wants to fit in but finds the rules a bit hard to take. She joins the choir with the hope of going to a big competition with them and especially her new BFF who is also in the choir, but it seems the music teacher/coach is looking out for her own reputation, rather than treating her students fairly. It is a sweet story with a nice dose of kids’ justice/revenge.
ENNEMIS INTERIEURS (Enemies Within) – Nominee Sélim Azzazi
This film from France is the most political of the bunch. In it an Algerian man goes to sign up for French citizenship. He’s lived in France most of his life, considers himself French, and sees it as simply a formality. But the bureaucrat behind the desk sees him as a possible terrorist and what should have been a short interview turns into an interrogation. He’s asked about his friends and dates and places and is treated as a criminal just because of his birth in Algeria, which was French at the time. It is a great look at how we perceive threats around us especially with immigrants these days, lumping them all in the same terrorist boat. It is a quietly powerful film.