“This No Land” – Alexander Decommere

An old cowboy ‘Grandpa Sudoku’ (Patrick Pevenage) leaves on a trip to Disneyland with the 6 year old Laura (Lisa Lelieur). When  they stop at a gas station, they bump into two couples, who each have their own reason to make the same stop.

This synopsis shortly introduces Alexander Decommere’s western short film (surreal western to be precise) This No Land that made the selection for the Flemish Fiction Competition at the International Short Film Festival in Leuven this year.

Alexander Decommere, known for his documentaries End Credits (2013), Alaturka (2014) and the 2015 short film Where The Pelican Lands, is an experienced director. This No Land proves this fact. The end result is quite impressive, considering that it is shot in both Belgium and the Spanish desert, and crowdfunded.

This No Land has a top of the bill Flemish cast such as Titus De Voogdt (Cub (2014), King of the Belgians (2016)) & Peter Van den Eede (Dirty Mind (2009), Wasteland (2014) as a classy queer couple. Other names are Robrecht Vanden Thoren (Hasta La Vista (2011) and Anne-Laure Vandeputte.
The film has a steady narrative pace, but the dialogues are rather trivial at times unfortunately. But the acting performances are flawless, which adds up to the final result.

Another asset of the film is the remarkable camera work by Jorge Piquer Rodriguez, who achieved to set the right atmosphere for the genre by using wide establishing shots and a symmetric framing for the dialogues.

In my opinion, the narrative is very action-driven, rather than character-driven, which makes the encounters look coincidental. It took me some time to get the story, but eventually I realised that the entire film was a dream sequence. The end pulls us back in the real world by a dramatic climax. This is where all things fit together, like the pieces of a puzzle. Important elements get explained, like for example why they meet the 2 other couples and who the young girl is. Despite the ‘aha’ experience, the main story plot lacks some backstory though.

To conclude, This No Land is satisfying when it comes to visuals, but the plot line could be made more clear. Although it’s typical for short films to have an open ending, here it is mainly vague and incomprehensible for a mainstream audience. Nonetheless, I sincerely liked the concept and the atmosphere.

Check the Facebook-page for more information.

“Silent Campine” – Steffen Geypens

Silent Campine is a 15 minutes drama written and directed by Steffen Geypens and was selected for the Flemish Competition: Fiction at the International Short Film Festival in Leuven.  This short film is his 3rd selection for the Film Festival after Buitenspel (2002) and Zien (2003). As a former historic, Geypens was always fascinated by the American westerns from the 50s, this interest strongly influenced Silent Campine, which can be called a modern spaghetti-western.

Silent Campine

The story goes as follows. A traumatised soldier called Albert (Jurgen Delnaet) and his son Juul (Brecht Dael) go hunting every day in order to survive. They also take care for the sick mother. Every day is a struggle, until there is no way back. Geypens wanted to show a troubled father-son relationship. Albert is very authoritarian and there is a quiet tension between them and the other characters in the film. This tension is visualised by gazes and expressions, and enforced by the dialogues.

It is very remarkable that there are no women in the film. You can only hear the sick mother in the backroom, which emphasises the absence of a mother figure and how it affects the son’s upbringing.

The entire film is shot from Juul’s perspective and how he perceives the men surrounding him as well as how he feels towards his own father. He gets confronted with an inner conflict: will he follow his father’s example or will he push himself off from his authoritarian behaviour?

Silent Campine2
By Kris Dewitte

Silent Campine refers to the western genre and more specifically to the film Once upon a Time in the West by Sergio Leone (1968) with the phenomenal Henry Fonda. The references are both on the narrative level as visually. This for example in the well thought-out use of colours, namely the dominance of yellow and brown as well as in the slow shots of the open nature or in the quick montage of the fight scenes.
Another important element in Silent Campine is the soundtrack by Bert Dockx (Dans Dans, Flying Horseman), which captures the atmosphere of the film perfectly. Furthermore, the entire film is really silent, like the title already explains.
To conclude, Silent Campine is an outright clever short film. Steffen Geypens took every single detail into consideration and this is what makes the film so fascinating. I guess that cinephiles who know the western genre and recognise the   elements will love this one even more.

 

Check the Facebook-page for more info.

“Ce qui demeure” – Pegah Moemen Attare

Ce qui demeure (‘What remains’) is a 14 minutes short film by Pegah Moemen Attare and was selected for the Flemish Competition: Fiction at the International Short Film Festival in Leuven. The film is her graduation film for LUCA School of Arts in Brussels and is her very first festival selection, but it is also the one that will offer her acknowledgment as a female director, I’m sure.

Ce qui demeureChloé (Zoé Lejeune) -a woman in her 30’s- visits her hometown after a long time. She peeks inside the old house of her grandparents, until a young girl takes her inside to watch what changed. She is also reunited with her grandfather again after all those years. According to Moemen Attare, the film is “about memories and holding on to little details in order to keep the memories alive”. So for example the recurrent reference to the pear tree in the garden of Chloé’s grandfather. She is holding on to it in order to recall details from her childhood. Also their dialogues have a nostalgic tone.

Ce qui demeure is rather poetic in style, but still accessible. There is a good balance between narrative and visual style. I specifically liked the opening shot  of Chloé walking in a field of flowers. This image caught my attention, because of its aesthetically perfect framing, its symmetry.

Ce qui demeure2The overall atmosphere in the shortfilm is very light, literally and in a figurative sense, by using light wooden details and rays of sunlight for example. This adds tones of frivolity and happiness to the film, as if in a dream.

Although it is typical for a short film to be rather linear in its narrative, I really missed some backstory to it. Let’s say it is pure curiosity from my side. Why did Chloé leave the small village? Who is the little girl that shows her around?…

The modest acting of Zoé Lejeune, along with the nostalgic atmosphere and the balance between visual style and narrative are the main elements that make Ce qui demeure easily accessible and pleasant to watch at the same time.

 

 

Check the Facebook-page for more info.

“Saint Hubert” – Jules Comes

Saint Hubert is a thriller short by the Blegian director Jules Comes and was selected for the Flemish Competition: Fiction at the International Shortfilm Festival in Leuven this month, which is his 4th selection after Stadskind (2010), Pelgrim (2011) and Dit Is Ronald (2012).Sain Hubert

During a big police investigation in the oldest nature park in the German-speaking region of Belgium, the police officers meet a local forester called Werner (Wim Opbrouck). He is the protector of the area and he does the best he can to keep intruders distanced. Nonetheless, the confrontation gets out of hand.

Comes describes his latest short as a ‘clash between nature and the modern world’. This can be illustrated by the film’s ending with the forester chasing the police officer (Wouter Hendrickx) on a race track, which in my opinion symbolises the clash between nature and the modern society, where Werner is the one who loses his power.

Comes casted some of Flanders’s best actors with Wim Opbrouck. The role of German forester suits him to a tee. Maybe this is because of his posture including his natural woodchopper-beard. But what amazes most is the fact that he talks German throughout the entire film. In another life, I used to work as a German teacher, so I must say you can tell that German is not Opbrouck’s mother tongue, nonetheless, the result is quite flawless. And actually, it just proves Opbrouck’s capacities as an actor.

According to Comes Saint Hubert is a “combination between the nature documentaries by David Attenborough and a Rambo-film”. Funny enough, this is exactly how I perceived his film while watching it. The visuals of nature are wild and pure. Cinematographer Grimm Vandekerckhove alternates close-ups and extreme wide shots to show the beauty of untouched nature, where Werner is the lord of the hunt and protector at the same time. Unfortunately, the police officers disturb his peace, and therefore they get hunted by him in a violently psychotic way.Saint Hubert3

The title of the short film refers to the Christian Saint Hubertus, the patron saint of hunters, which declares Werner’s role as the protector of his area. Another remarkable aspect of the film is the thrilling classical music. The music is a very important element to raise the tension, just like in Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Lobster (2015). Combined with the montage techniques like slow motion in crucial sequences, Comes succeeds in getting you on the tip of your toes like a real master of suspense.

Check the Facebook-page for more info and check Comes’ site for more info on his previous work.

“Petit Ami” – Anthony Schatteman

Petit Ami is a short drama film by Anthony Schatteman and is selected for the Flemish Competition: Fiction at International Shortfilm Festival Leuven 2017. This is his 4th selection already. Petit Ami is the final piece of a trilogy along with Kus me Zachtjes (2012) en Volg Mij (2015). They all focus on the main character Jasper (Ezra Fieremans), a young boy struggling with the problems of adulthood.

Petit Ami3Petit Ami is set on Christmas Eve in an obscure rendez-vous hotel. Jasper, who is now 20 years old, meets the older and mysterious Vincent (Thomas Ryckewaert). For Jasper this is a date like any other, but then he discovers the secret that Vincent carries with him.

The title refers to the rendez-vous hotel where Jasper and Vincent meet, which in reality is also a rendez-vous hotel in Ghent called ‘Ptietami’.

The use of colours is very interesting in this one, with an emphasis on the pink and blue neon of the rendez-vous hotel, which adds a mainly sexual atmosphere to the film. The cinematography on the other hand symbolises the intimacy between the two men. DOP Ruben Appeltans uses a lot of close-ups and headshots, by which he symbolically creates portraits of Jasper and Vincent, although the audience never really is able to discover what is going on in their minds. When you watched Schatteman’s 2 previous shorts in the trilogy, one is able to apprehend Jasper’s psychology more. (This is a tip ;)!) Personally, I felt like the relationship between the 2 of them went beyond the sexual aspect, moreover, it seemed as if they implicitly acknowledged each other’s emotional presence.

Petit Ami2The film ends with a shot of Jasper looking straight into the camera, which allows us to take a look into his soul. He clearly struggles with becoming an adult and with finding what he’s looking for in life. Jasper is still looking for his own identity, doing this by meeting men and reflecting on himself as a homosexual man. This is never explicitly confirmed in Petit Ami, so let’s say this is my subjective interpretation.

Whoever loves the coming-of-age genre and colourful films should watch Petit Ami. This only takes you 16 minutes of your precious time, which you won’t regret.

Check the website for more info.

“Out of the Blue, Into the Black” – Alidor Dolfing

Out of the Blue, Into the Black by Alidor Dolfing had its world premiere at the International Shortfilm Festival in Leuven this year, where it was selected in the Flemish Competition: Fiction. No, Alidor Dolfing is not a strange Flemish name, it’s a pseudonym for the director duo Nyk Dekeyser and Mark Bouwmeester. It’s the second time they are selected for IKL after the major success of the absurd short film Wien For Life in 2014 with one of Flander’s favourite actors, Wim Willaert. 

out of the blueThe story is about the sixteen-years-old Flament (Laurens Aneca), who visits a music festival with his best friend Kiwi (Klaas Duyck). After the first night, hanging with Polly (Verona Verbakel), he is hungover and being sick in one of those chemical toilets that we in Belgium call a ‘dixi’. When all of a sudden a heavy storm breaks out, he gets stuck in the toilet and badly injured. Too young to die, he desperately struggles to survive. Flament’s physical survival symbolises adolescence and the struggles of life in becoming an adult. (N. B. Out of the Blue, Into the Black reminded me of the Pukkelpop-storm in Hasselt in 2011, where several people got seriously injured and 5 people died.)

Out of the Blue, Into the Black is a 20 minutes thriller and a so-called one-location drama clearly inspired by Rodrigo Cortés’ Buried (2010) and Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours (2010). Parts of it even reminded me of the infamous toilet-scène in Danny Boyle’s Trainspotting (1996). Almost the entire film is shot in a ‘dixi’ toilet, which has a claustrophobic effect. Of course, shooting this asked for some really good editing and visual techniques. You can also tell that Alidor Dolfing opted for several cameras, like smartphone cameras for example, this to add authenticity and credibility to the images as seen through the eyes of the youngsters.

out of the blue2The 3 young actors, who are some unknown faces for the mainstream audience, look pretty experienced and leave a remarkable impression. The acting performances, together with great cinematography by Frederic Van Zandycke  and a smashing soundtrack by the Belgian rock band HEISA, turn Out of the Blue, Into the Black into an unapologetic whirlwind running over you like the fictitious storm that almost killed our main character. All of this in just 20 stunning minutes? It is defintely worth watching.

Check the website for more info.

“Sons of No One” – Hans Vannetelbosch

Sons of No One is the graduation short film by Hans Vannetelbosch, made for LUCA School of Arts in Brussels and is one of the lucky few that got selected for the Student Short Competition at Film Fest Ghent 2017.

Sons of No One2

Educator Eva (Nora Alberdi Perez) works in juvie and tries to see the innocence and goodwill in each and every one of the young boys. She fights for what she believes to be just, but after an incident between a guard Marcel (Marcel Gonzalez) and one of the boys Justice (Frank Onana), she wants to stick up for the boy and figure out why and how Marcel puts him down.

In my opninion, the story is about verbal intimidation and the position of both kids and women (in this case Eva) under a patriarchal authority (in this case Marcel).

 All performances were very strong, even the youngsters came over as professional, although most of them are still very young and unexperienced. It is fascinating how Vannetelbosch makes everything work. All aspects like visuals, narrative, casting simply match.

Sons of No OneVannetelbosch manages to create a grim and cheerful atmosphere at the same time. The interior shots in juvie are dark and greyish, while the exterior shots are colourful and related to the boys’ spare time having fun together. DOP Lino Deconinck is a good partner in crime to Vannetelbosch in creating this symbolic contrast between sadness and resentment on the one hand and youthful happiness on the other hand

In my opinion, Sons of No One was the strongest short film in the selection when it comes to both narrative and audiovisual techniques. Vannetelbosch rightfully won the audience award.

“Poor Kids” – Michiel Dhont

Another film in the Student Short Competition at Film Fest Ghent 2017 is Poor Kids by Michiel Dhont, which is his graduation film for KASK in Ghent.

Poor Kids

Poor Kids is a story about Max (Tijmen Govaerts) and his friends (Felix Meyer, Aiko Vanparys), who come from an unstable family situation. Their fathers are seamen.  Max and his friends have to stay at boarding school over the summer, and as they form their own holy trinity, they have to find a balance between challenging the school’s authority and feeling home at the same time.

The film relies on its beautiful visuals. DOP Laurens De Geyter is very talented and a perfect sidekick to the director. I loved the open shots of the children in their boat for example (see picture above), which is a metaphor for their origin as seamen’s kids. It’s what bounds them. He turns the visual in something symbolic, which raises the level of this student short film.

Also, I should definitely mention the natural acting performances by the protagonists and the strong supporting role for Lukas De Wolf (Gent-West, Mixed Kebab,….) as the childrens’ educator Hans.

In my opinion, Poor Kids is a coming-of-age film about youngsters looking for a ‘home’. Their home is when they’re together.

 

“Croisé” – Elke Vanoost

Croisé is selected for the Student Shorts Competition at this year’s edition of Film Fest Ghent. It’s the first short film of director Elke Vanoost for LUCA School of Arts in Brussels. 

Croisé

Croisé tells the story about the 17 year-old Amine (Mountassir Khammal) and the 26 year-old Luna (played by Anouk Fortunier, who is also a director known for her award winning short film Drôle d’Oiseau) who meet on a random morning after a night out in Brussels. They talk about the perks of life and share their experiences. But Croisé is mostly about identity. Both protagonists are wondering about who they are in society, Luna doesn’t know yet what she wants to achieve in life and feels like a failure, Amine on the other hand struggles with his sense of (not) belonging.

This short film relies on its strong visuals by the female DOP Natasja Saerens. She works with a lot of close-ups to focus on the emotions of the characters. This unfortunately doesn’t weigh up to the weak dialogues. They lack structure and are sometimes even unlogical. So for example when Luna gets mad, because she has to go to work after anight out. This is where Amine gives her the counterargument that she has no right to complain, because he is the one who has no real identity as a Moroccon in Belgium or a Belgian in Morocco. This undoubtedly is very reliable for a part of the audience and in a way it is very beautiful of Vanoost to raise this issue. But this argument makes no sense in the whole of the dialogue. It felt too heavy, but we got the point. Amine wants Luna to stop complaining about her first world problems.

Another dissapointing element was the poor acting performances of both protagonists, altough I liked the Brussels accent, which is a mix of Flemish and French, including a lot of curse words like ‘putain’. This adds authenticity to the dialogues.

The plotline of Croisé about the ordinary -yet unique- event when strangers cross each other’s path is perfect for a short film. As a student film, this one is a good effort, But in my opninion, Vanoost has some work on her dialogues.

“Tsunami” – Sofie Kampmark

How is life in China after a life-wrecking tsunami? This is the question posed by Tsunami, a fantastic animated short by the Danish director Sofie Kampmark about an elderly man named Haru who lives in denial after a tsunami. He discovers a sea spirit, who makes him face reality and deal with his loss, but that is not how I experienced it and interpreted the story. Although I do agree that this 7-minute short that got selected for this year’s La Séléction Cinéfondation at the Cannes Film Festival is more about the message it conveys than about the Visuals.

tsThis is how the story goes: life goes on after a big wave trashed Haru’s little Chinese cottage, and he tries to leave the dramatic event behind him by picking back up the banalities of life, although the traces are still visible from the crabs and fishes lingering around. But all of a sudden he finds a gigantic fish in his bathtub risking death by dehydration. Kampmark wonderfully uses colour in order to show whether the fish is still alive; he almost seems to lighten up every time he touches the water. This contrasts with the rest of the animation, where colours remain rather dark and less vivid. After a dream sequence, that in my opinion was not really relevant for any narrative progress, Haru personally takes care of bringing the poor fish back to the ocean.

The moral of the story lies in the fact that he chooses to save the life of the fish above getting his own life back on track, and then how this heroic deed affects his future. I question, though, whether Kampmark aimed for such kind of responses and interpretations from her audience. Also, I really wonder where she got the idea from to make an animation film about a tsunami in China, although she herself lives in Denmark. One might want to know whether there is any personal motivation involved.

Tsunami is a visually beautiful film, but the way its content makes you think more deeply about current global phenomena might distract you from its technical side.