Showing posts with label Berlinale Shorts2020. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Berlinale Shorts2020. Show all posts

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Notes on Huntsville Station, by Jamie Meltzer and Chris Fillippone, USA: 2020-BerlinFilmfestival V-BerlinaleShorts V



The film I saw on the screen is only 14 minutes long but the film I have in my memory seems to be longer somewhere between a Direct Cinema documentary and a film poem by Terrence Malick.

Inmates are just released from prison. Their prison sentence is finished. They are gathering at a bus station somewhere in Texas. A overweight man offers goods the men need now most urgently, new clothes, a phone call to the beloved ones and a bus ticket. Bus stations are like railway stations or airports in films always nowhere lands, places of transition. In this film the former inmates have just finished one big part of their life story (that we don´t know) and before they can continue with their life in the future (we never will know) they are stuck here for a short while. The former inmates are of different ages and from different ethnic groups and even if we do not know for what reason they were imprisoned - at this place of transition and in this film they are all equal to us and we can empathize with them like with other persons we see at this bus terminal.
Some of them will return to their loved ones (they might still have or have not), others will have to find their way of life with their new won freedom. The film and this special place - it creates a special mood of departure into a new chapter of life between the rush to finish the past and obviously unpleasant chapter and to begin a new one.
Since my early childhood I am attracted to these places and the first cinema of my life was one of these film theatres placed in German central railway stations, a reason I still consider these places of transition as very cinematic.

A middle aged Afro-American is reflecting loud about the 30 years of his life he has spent in prison. More to himself ( like one of these lost souls in the films by Terrence Malick) than to others. He can´t face the fact that 30 years of his life are irrecoverable lost. One feels sympathy with him even without knowing why he was imprisoned at all.
At the first sight, Huntsville Station appears as a very sober film rather in the great tradition of Direct Cinema. But what the film evokes in me is a whole ocean of human moods and hopes, longings and the strange euphoria of a departure to a new chapter of life. The whole place becomes cinema. There is moment one hears the beautiful sound of an American railway signal, a quite harmonica like sound.
The last shot reveals a blue sky with summer clouds.
Huntsville Station is a film about the lost souls of our time but at the same time a wonderful short cinematic poem. Even if it is seemingly entirely observed cinema, it has as well the beauty of one of these great folk songs America is famous for. In other words, the film is a high concentrated miniature of pure cinema. One takes farewell from the film like from the departing former inmates. Sometimes the ingenuity of cinema is very simple. And this 14 minutes long film will stay with me for a long time.
Rüdiger Tomczak

Screenings (Berlinale Shorts V.)
Thurs, 27. Feb, 16.30, Zoo Palast 3
Fri, 28. Feb, 21.30, Cubix 9
Sat, 29.Feb, Colosseum 1



Monday, February 24, 2020

Notes on Gumnaam Din (Missing Days), by Ekta Mittal, India: 2019-Berlin Filmfestival II.-Berlinale Shorts Part V




Someone is passing a photograph of a missed person to passers by. They are asked if they know this person or if they have seen him.
Who is missing this man, his wife, his children or the filmmaker?
The story of the film remains a hidden one, hidden between places and landscapes. The film has two opposed movements which both are representing cinematic poetry in its own right.The first one is that the film seems to dissolve itself in single moments or details: a child is playing, a young woman (probably the wife of the missed man), the shacks or small lanes of a village, a river landscape or a mighty thunderstorm. The other movement is the search for this missed man which begins with a search for the traces he left or could have left. That increases our attention for each detail which could be a trace and we do not perceive these single moments and details as accidental as we did before. Later they appear as tiny and fleeting traces of a disappeared life.

An old abandoned building, almost cleaned by any sign of the identities who dwelt here. Sometimes the concrete things, buildings, landscapes, people or things observed with a nearly ethnographic view disappear into abstract forms, a slightly surrealistic touch, like the film material´s chemistry is already in the process of decay. Only light and colours are visible. The headlamp of a jeep creates two strong cones of light which outshine anything else in this anyway dark images. Sometimes it is just fog which swallows the concrete shapes of people.
The woman (who is probably waiting for her husband to return) is visible behind a window. The glass is dirty and smeared and her concrete shape is slightly distorted. If the image is darkened by a thunderstorm, the image is almost monochrome. There is a moment when two lanterns seem to be the only sources of light in an impenetrable darkness. The light has a tendency to disappear in this film and with it all visible things like a fading memory.
Who is this missing man, a father, husband or a man far away from home lost on his way to find work?
Gumnaam Din celebrates the art of imagination. Its single images are traces itself. And the traces are sometimes small and appear as signs of the fleetingness of a human identity. A family photo which shows a time when the family was united and it seems as precious as it it is the only existing proof.
Ekta Mittal´s poetic film essay is not only a little gem but as well a questioning of habits of seeing, but as well the implicitness of our culture which is permanently flooded by images. Cinema as a visual art is more, an artificial memory which is almost as delicate as the human one, depending on a living body.
After this 28 minutes of Gumnaam Din, I am asking myself if the film I just saw is still the same which is saved in my memory, enriched by aspects the film did not show but has evoked in me. Like all good films, Gumnaam Din is as well a lesson of seeing. It is not only quite a luck to see such a film which will be hard to find as soon as the Berlin Film festival is over. I think if a film festival has any meaning to day than it needs these visual meditations about cinema more than ever.

Rüdiger Tomczak

Screenings (Berlinale Shorts V.)
Wed, 26. Feb, 16.30, CinemaX 3
Thurs, 27. Feb, 16.30, Zoo Palast 3
Fri, 28. Feb, 21.30, Cubix 9
Sat, 29.Feb, Colosseum 1