Berlinale Spotlight Programme I
A Man Returned
Mahdi Fleifel, UK/Denmark/The Netherlands, 2015
“Are you busy?,” Reda asks his future wife on the phone. “I spend a lot of time thinking about our new life,” he says. “I mean, it might get really tough, our new life, and neither of us has tried it before. We’ll just have to make the impossible possible. With our love, our trust and our mutual understanding.” Reda is 26 years old. For the past three years he’s been living in Athens, hand-to-mouth and on petty crimes. He wanted to be recognised as a refugee in Europe. It didn’t work. Now he’s back at the place he originally fled from, Ain El-Helweh, the largest refugee camp in Lebanon. He is intent on creating a better life himself. The dream wedding will happen. The reality of the camp is the soil upon which the dreams are to sprout from. With drugs, or with drugs. With a war in Syria that can also be felt at the refugee camp. With confidence. For years now, director Mahdi Fleifel has been accompanying the men of his youth with a video camera in the style of Direct Cinema, thereby creating a proximity to his protagonists and their personal circumstances that could hardly be more immediate.
Born in Dubai in 1979, Mahdi Fleifel was raised in Ain El-Helweh refugee camp in Lebanon and later in the suburbs of Elsinore in Denmark. Graduating from the National Film and Television School in London in 2009, his short film Arafat & I was shown at festivals around the world; his first feature- length documentary A World Not Ours screened in the Berlinale Panorama in 2013 and received international awards. His short documentary Xenos premiered in Berlinale Shorts in 2014.
Pham Ngoc Lan, Vietnam, 2016
A drenched, middle-aged woman sits down on a blue plastic chair in a room undergoing renovation. Placing a bag of fresh vegetables beside her, she starts to blowdry her hair. Then she takes the wig off. A young man sings karaoke. Tears stream down his cheeks. The tropical waterfall is a wallpaper mural. And the dance begins. The protagonists in Another City search for opposition and togetherness. A well known Asian pop song unites the protagonists across time and space. In order to really meet, the city is the place that must be urgently abandoned.
Born in Hanoi, Vietnam, Pham Ngoc Lan studied urban planning at Hanoi Architectural University. His
photographic and video work focuses on the influence of cityscapes on human relationships. His debut short film The Story of Ones screened in numerous film festivals and art museums, including Visions du Réel in Switzerland and at the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography in Japan. In 2015 he participated in the Short Film Station at Berlinale Talents.
Freud and Friends
Gabriel Abrantes, Portugal/Switzerland, 2015
“Since my early boyhood days I wanted to cross the chaotic frontier of the mind to be able to walk around in other people’s dreams. I had a childish fantasy where I would shrink smaller than a peanut and I could walk through my mother’s ear and be a peeping Tom in her dreams.” In the dream laboratory of the Champalimaud Centre for the Unknown, Abrantes’ dreams become reality. A machine is created that makes the shrinking process possible. At its core stands a living creature,
named after the hero of European Cinema: Bernardo. A baroque journey to the world of id begins. Gabriel Abrantes has the courage and Georg Groddeck would have been thrilled. Film history and all of its worldrenowned male heroes undergo a new ascription.
Born in North Carolina, USA, in 1984, Gabriel Abrantes studied at the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in New York, at the National School of Fine Arts in Paris and at Le Fresnoy in Tourcoing, France. He has made 15 short films and a feature film and his work has screened at international film festivals including Venice, Locarno and Toronto. His work as a visual artist has been exhibited in Boston, Tokyo and Paris.
Hopptornet (Ten-Meter Tower)
Maximilien Van Aertryck and Axel Danielson, Sweden, 2016
The experimental set-up of the film is equivalent to a physical composition. But unlike physics, the conclusion is not predictable. Swimming pool. Interior. Day. 10-metre diving tower. The camera is focussed on the platform. The sound is set up for the audience to hear everything that happens, up there. Diverse people, alone, with a friend or partner, climb the tower, dare to walk to the edge of the board, look down and then pause. “Stick to your decision and jump,” she says. “There is no way that I’m going to run and jump. That’s for sure,” he says. What makes people jump? What is the meaning of such heights? What requires courage— diving off or climbing down backwards? The tension of observation can dissolve at the moment of the jump, better still at the moment of the scream. Relief
for both sides. The calm remains.
Maximilien Van Aertryck was born in Paris, France in 1989 and he studied filmmaking in Sweden. He has been a member of Plattform Produktion in Gothenburg since 2013. Axel Danielson, born in Vittskövle, Sweden in 1976, was a fireman in Kristianstad before going on to study film at the Valand Academy of Arts at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden. He has been a member of Plattform Produktion since 2013.
In the Soldier’s Head
Christine Rebet, USA/France, 2015
Bubbling machines, objects that turn, curious levers activated in nothingness, a woman on a divan, yes, no, disappears, reappears. Directly from the core of the imagined, those invisible thoughts are transformed on the screen into the concrete of the experienced, simultaneously setting the unyielding concept in motion. Images in the mind are superimposed by the destruction that is both colour and life. The ink transforms itself like a fuel-powered illusion, that begins and ends like a Fata Morgana—barely there, and then once again vanished. The synapses of a hyperactive psyche—transposed on paper. “Beyond eroticism, it was clear to me that I wanted to talk about cognitive fragmentation as a reflection of the collective experience of colonisation, and that I wanted to achieve that through the break with animation itself,” says Christine Rebet about her work.
Born in Lyon, France, Christine Rebet studied at Central Saint Martins in London and at Columbia University in New York. Her work combines painting, sculpture and performance and explores the concepts of audience and spectacle as well as the intersection between private and public space. She has taken part in numerous international film festivals and exhibitions.
Kaputt (Broken—The Women’s Prison at Hoheneck)
Volker Schlecht and Alexander Lahl, Germany, 2016
Kaputt is an animated documentary about Burg Hoheneck, the central women’s prison in the former
GDR. Apart from detention conditions, themes addressed primarily include enforced labour and the utilisation of products manufactured for export to the West. Gabriele Stötzer from Erfurt and Birgit Willschütz from Berlin recall their prison terms at Hoheneck in original interview recordings. The extract of these audio testimonials are interpreted in simple, minimally animated monochrome images.
Volker Schlecht was born in Radeberg, Germany in 1968; he works as an illustrator and filmmaker in Berlin. He studied communication design at the Burg Giebichenstein University of Art and Design in Halle and taught animation for a number of years at the Film University Babelsberg Konrad Wolf. He currently teaches at the BTK—University of Art and Design in Berlin. He founded the Drushba Pankow illustrators’ collective with Alexandra Kardinar in 2002. Alexander Lahl was born in Berlin, Germany in 1979 and he studied cultural sciences in Berlin, Wrocław and Frankfurt/Oder and currently lives and works as a writer and filmmaker in Berlin. His most recent publication is the graphic novel Treibsand. Eine Geschichte aus den letzten Tagen der DDR (Quicksand. A Story from the Last Days of the GDR).
Moms on Fire
Joanna Rytel, Sweden, 2016
An ordinary neighbourhood in an ordinary town. Two women sit on a sofa and scratch their pregnant bellies. Four days till the due date. The situation is as unbearable as it is unavoidable. It’s simply intolerable Masturbation isn’t an option, the clitoris can’t even be reached, and the boyfriend is absent, but he’s boring anyway. The only advantage in having another child is that one no longer has to play with the first one. Artist and filmmaker Joanna Rytel uses claymation to candidly address questions and situations that usually go unnoticed.
Born in Warsaw, Poland in 1974, Joanna Rytel studied at the University College of Arts, Crafts and Design in Stockholm. Her films focus on controversial topics such as honour, racism, feminism, relationships between people and animals, taboos and sexuality in the public sphere, abortion and porn. In 2010 Joanna Rytel screened her film Unplay in the Berlinale Shorts section.