“Het Paradijs” – Laura Vandewynckel

Paradise, a short film that originally served as Laura Vandewynckel’s end work for the Belgian RITS School of Arts in Brussels in 2014, was afterwards selected for the 2015 edition of Séléction Fondation at Cannes. It definitely reached beyond Laura Vandewynckel’s wildest dreams, but sometimes dreams do come true. And although she didn’t win at Cannes, she has now even been selected for the Short Cuts at the Toronto International Film Festival that takes place September 10th-20th.

para1Paradise (Het Paradijs) is an animated short film by the young Vandewynckel. At the young age of 29 years old, she already has her very first nomination at Cannes after winning several awards in her home country Belgium for the same project. Some of them are the SABAM-award and a wildcard from the VAF (Vlaams Audiovisueel Fonds/ Flemish Audiovisual Funding).

The title of the film refers to the exoticism people experience when going abroad. Vandewynckel’s own description of Paradise reads:

An animated short about people heading for a better place on either side of the ocean. Although at times their paths do cross, they never really seem to meet.”

She makes use of several metaphors to point attention to the strict divide between the modern western society and ‘the others’ across the ocean. The modern protagonist of the film is white, living in a white house. The use of colour stands for the opposition between the remarkably cold and sterile atmosphere of  the white society and the warm and colorful one on the other side of the ocean. The crossing of boundaries is marvelously suggested by the handmade oceans, trees and deserts. Most obviously, the natives have a different skin colour, which signifies the strong contrast between the hospital land the protagonist arrives in and his own one, living in denial. Whether both worlds get to meet eventually in a less superficial and distanced way – well, one should find out for themselves.

paraIt is a shame that people who have never watched Vandewynckel work before would not realize how much work has got into this project. If it wasn’t for Vandewynckel’s own introduction, the audience wouldn’t know she made every puppet herself, since nowadays everything is so easily created by using computers. These figures were indeed handcrafted. Also, Paradise is completely without any dialogue, but the folkloristic soundtrack, consisting of thumping rhythms, definitely fits the exotic atmosphere. The entire process took her 6 months and it must have been an intense period full of passion and devotion. The short 5’38″ is the worthy result of this tireless work on stop-motion animation.

Find out more about Laura Vandewynckel’s work at lauravandewynckel.com and watch the trailer.

 

 

“Patriot” – Eva Riley

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Eva Riley, a well-known and talented British director of shorts, perfectly captures the effects of family tradition and social prejudice in her 14-minute drama appropriately called Patriot. No wonder this short film was selected to compete for the Short Film Palme d’ Or at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival.

In the aftermath of a series of racial tensions in a rural British community, the young 11-year old Hannah (played by the new young talent Halle Kidd) bumps into a boy (Rafael Constantin) from a forbidden district. They play together, although different in every possible way; she’s native British, he’s a gipsy living in a trailer. But even though they initially get along, eventually things go wrong, and the film seems to end where it started. Hannah unfortunately lives a brainwashed existence, influenced by her chauvinistic far-right and foul-mouthed kin.

The opening and closing of this short film is framed by an English patriotic hymn called Jerusalem, celebrating the rich heritage of the native Brits. But while the film starts with Hannah singing in pride, it ends with the ambiguity between faithfulness to her own cultural mores and values and the shame of how she got moulded into a racist.

Patriot‘s strength lies in its symbolism. Hannah leaves her father (Michael Elkin) wearing their red cross-flag like a superhero would wear his cape. Standing tall and fierce, she seems to not be afraid of the unexpected, until the moment she bumps into a gipsy boy. When she returns home, there is no trace of the flag; she has put it away just like her short-sighted attitude.

patrThe use of space also adds to the themes of the film. The closer she gets to the boy, the closer the camera approaches them, but nonetheless, the montage techniques are kept at a bare minimum and one should definitely pay close attention to the mise-en-scène. Riley’s approach of distance and proximity between the characters symbolises their relationship and emotional attachment. There are no flash-backs and forwards. The entire narrative looks like a continuous shot, which almost literally sucks the audience into the story.

Riley leaves her audience abashed, making us aware of any negative stance we take toward other cultures and of the discriminating behaviour we ourselves are guilty of. At the same time, she also takes us back to those good old times of our childhood innocence by showing us in only 5 minutes how easy it was back then to get over social prejudice and accept each other as equals. Although Patriot ends like it started, the circle is not completely round, because one can tell from her face that Hannah struggles internally with who she truly is, and who she is expected to be.

Check Eva Riley’s website for more information and a trailer.