10 to see: Berlinale Shorts

With this year’s Berlin Film Festival opening today, we pick out 10 of the most exciting shorts that are screening in the German capital.

Crvene gumene ?izme (Red Rubber Boots), Bosnia and Herzegovina. Dir: Jasmila Žbani?

In this short documentary initially released in 2000, Jasna P. searches for the remains of her two children who were abducted and killed by the Serbian army during the Bosnian War. Their mother looks for the mass grave that they were most likely buried in, hoping to find the red rubber boots her son was wearing when they were taken, and to find some form of closure.

Still from All on a Mardi Gras Day.

All on a Mardi Gras Day, USA. Dir: Michal Pietrzyk

Director Michal Pietrzyk profiles Black artist Demond Melancon as he prepares to participate in New Orleans Mardi Gras Day in New Orleans. Forced to leave his neighbourhood due to gentrification and flooding, Melancon creates beadwork depicting African American history, and leads his “tribe” of carnival-goers from his new neighbourhood in this annual, explosively colourfully, joyous celebration.   

Blue Boy, Argentina/Germany. Dir: Manuel Abramovich

Filmmaker and cinematographer Manuel Abramovich is a regular at Berlinale; an alumnus of Berlinale Talents, his work has been screened many times in the shorts programme. In his latest work, Male sex workers who frequent the Blue Boy Bar in Berlin are interviewed and then filmed listening back to their accounts of their own experiences and outlooks on the lives they lead. Bringing the audience close to the reflective faces of the seven men interviewed, the performative elements of sex work are studied.

Splash, The People’s Republic of China. Dir: Shen Jie

Continuing on from his bizarre 2016 short, Panda, Chinese animator Shen Jie uses block colours, sound design and inter-titles in Splash, a film centred around a swimming pool with some very odd customers. Taking influence from David Hockney’s Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures), the film relies less on narrative and more on image and mood to convey a restless and urgent energy.

Still from The Spirit Keepers of Makuta’ay.

The Spirit Keepers of Makuta’ay, Canada. Dir: Yen-Chao Lin

Yen-Chao Lin lives and works in Canada now, but she was originally born in Taiwan. Using Super 8 footage, The Spirit Keepers of Makuta-aydocuments an expedition to her birth country, exploring villages along the coast, searching for signs of ancient indigenous spiritual practices there. 

Entropia, Hungary. Dir: Flóra Anna Buda

Drawing from a range of influences, including Black Mirrorand popular Hungarian animation artist Réka Bucsi, Flora Anna Buda’s graduation film delves into a saturated animated universe of female sexuality, twinkling stars and flying bras. When a mere fly accidentally causes the universe to fold in on itself, the parallel lives of three women become intertwined and the laws of nature are overturned.

Lidérc úr (Mr. Mare), Hungary/France. Dir: Luca Tóth

In this vibrant short, a man wakes up to find that a tiny man has stolen his nipple in the night, leaving only a trail of footprints behind him. As the man searches for his lost areola, the little thief is off to find his place in the universe. Luca Tóth describes the film as a clash of “surrealistic and absurd settings [coming up] against a real, everyday world.”

Still from How to Breathe in Kern County.

How to Breathe in Kern County, USA. Dir: Chris Filippone

In this short documentary, Chris Filippone examines living conditions in Kern County, California, which is predominantly known for its agriculture and oil production. Filippone, however, is more interested in what happens when night falls, and residents have a moment away from work to breathe for just a moment, before heading back to the daily grind the next morning. 

Kingdom, Singapore. Dir: Tan Wei Keong

Tan Wei Keong’s hand-drawn, fantasy worlds are used as a platform to explore his identity as a gay man through personal storytelling. In Kingdom, the idea of searching for something is considered. Using minimal and repetitive gestures, he focuses on space and ego, reflecting these aspects in the film’s soundtrack and the naked man that wanders the screen. 

Past Perfect, Portugal. Dir: Jorge Jácome

After attracting attention on the festival circuit in 2017 with the surreal Flores, Jorge Jácome is back with Past Perfect, a film that he claims “Borrows, transmits and recomposes thoughts.” With no dialogue, but subtitles accompanying abstract images, the film is a melancholic examination of sadness and where this universal emotion has its place in the world.

Berlinale runs 7-17 February.

Stephanie Watts

Lead Image: Still from
Blue Boy.