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Colombia takes centre stage at short film festival in Clermont-Ferrand

TRANSLATED BY GRACE DEATKER AND NIAMH WEEKES

The International Short Film Festival held in Clermont-Ferrand, France, which took place the 3rd to the 12th of February 2017, has left us with plenty of good memories and newly discovered stories to share. This year, Colombia was in the spotlight with no less than six collections of screenings. Let us give you a summary and our takes on the first collection, which placed great emphasis on social films.

Article reproduced in partnership and with the permission of l’envolée culturelle.

Despite good overall execution in each of the six films in this collection, certain ones lacked  focus and left too many unanswered questions. Filming the social conditions of populations is of course interesting but in practice, they must be precisely portrayed.

A social film, or…?

The cinematography in Carlos Felipe Montoya’s Camino del agua (Water Path) is stunning. A true emptiness can be felt surrounding the child who must walk miles to collect water from a river. She crosses deserted landscapes, a breath-taking walk, but what is the narrative purpose in filming this?. Beautiful shots are not enough to make a film interesting. Even when the young girl meets a man who steals her water, nothing then happens because of it. He robs her, the end. Unfortunately, this film left us hungry for more, just like César Augusto Acevedo’s Los pasos del agua (The Water’s Course).

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In this film two fishermen discover a dead man in their net and decide to bury him, even though the man’s eyelids are still moving. Is he alive? Is he between life and death? If that’s the case, what does this mean? Nothing. He is pronounced dead, while he appears to be alive. If we tell ourselves that his soul is contemplating the beauty of nature one last time, then we should also ask what is the point of this film which, in the end, focuses on the fishermen digging the grave. [Spoiler] In digging, they realise that there is already a body there, so they decide to put him back in the water…

All that for nothing. So yes, this film seems to imply that many people find themselves in fishermen’s nets. But why? How does that come about is that so? What happened to him? Apart from noticing the kindness of the two fishermen, it is hard to form an opinion on this film. There was certainly more that could have been done with this story.

Thankfully, the other films proved much more interesting…

Life in Colombia

Three other films from the collection deal with living conditions in Colombia, such as Franco Lolli’s Como todo el mundo (Like Everyone Else), who was a member of Clermont-Ferrand’s international jury this year. He films young Colombians and the problems they encounter. We follow Pablo, a relatively poor sixteen year old teenager who lives amongst other, better off teenagers. Obviously, he is ashamed of his poverty and tries to put up a good front, to the point that he blames his mother for the situation they are in. We see how he tries to keep up appearances around his friends and how he criticises his mother to save face in front of them…

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There are very few wide shots in this film, using close ups to capture the emotions of the characters. So close up in fact that one of the teenagers is rarely in view. What is interesting with this film is seeing the confrontation from the point of view of the mother and the son. He only sees her lack of money and possible marginalisation. There are also problems of growing up, which seem enormous to him while she has a far more all-encompassing vision. She tries to do everything for her son, anything to try to find ways of earning money but the more she tries, the more her son casts her off. The mother’s destress grows every time her son rejects her. This short film would have benefitted from a sequel to show the development of the relationship between the mother and son.

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Dario and Fabian Vejarano’s Lorenzo tells the story of Ariel who, the day before his trip to Europe to follow his dreams in music, decides to spend the day with his son. He takes him and introduces him to all his friends. His mother normally looks after the baby, but this day changes him and he learns to be a father. He becomes attached to the little bundle, making his departure more difficult. The coming together of Ariel and Lorenzo is genuinely touching.

But the principal film of this collection is Ivan D. Gaona’s Los Retratos (Portraits). Nominated 92 times and winning 19 times, this film is spectacular. We follow the life of two retired individuals with little money, withdrawn from the city and the world. They see their life turned upside down when Paulina wins a Polaroid camera on a tombola when she thought she had won a chicken that she could not pay for. Neither she nor her husband know what the camera is so they decide to go to see a neighbour to ask him.

He explains that with this camera, they can create memories. They have fun posing for the new gadget, but end up selling it on for a chicken. With new memories and a chicken, everything ends well for the couple. Filmed with subtlety, it is touching to see these pensioners discovering the possibilities of technology.

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The last film in the collection The Magnificent Lion Boy is very different from the others. Firstly, it is the only animation film. It is not at all set in reality as it tells the story of Leonard Orlov who returns from an expedition with an abandoned child found in the jungle. Its similarities with The Jungle Book end there. Orlov takes him to London and tries to educate him but this proves difficult because the child still has untamed reflexes and the two protagonists loose control. The untamed child is captured by the ringmaster of a circus, played by Andy Serkis, who wants to make him a star…

The drawings contrast with each other. The lines are alive, constantly mixing as their colours and thicknesses sincerely portray the emotions of the characters. Ana Caro enthrals us with this sad story. While the end of the film is not quite as wonderful, it teaches a lesson in humility. We will leave you to discover the moral of the story if you have the chance to watch this film.

The other Colombian screenings have seemed particularly interesting and we hope to be able to see other films from this country very soon. Perhaps at the Iberian and Latin-American ‘Reflets du cinéma’ festival in Villeurbanne on the 15th to 29th March 2017.

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