Short Report. Internationale Kurzfilmtage Winterthur 2022: It’s Good to be Back!

For its 26th edition, the Internationale Kurzfilmtage Winterthur was back in person in all its glory after two years and boy was it wonderful! Indeed, over six days, the festival showcased the broad range of current international short filmmaking: from animations to documentaries made in Switzerland, the Andean nations, Israel, the US, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Mongolia…

In fact, the International Competition program presented the latest trends in short filmmaking from around the globe with the following short films: Haulout by Maxim Arbugaev and Evgenia Arbugaeva (United Kingdom), Snow in September by Lkhagvadulam (Dulmaa) Purev-Ochir (Mongolia), Noémie Marsily’s Whatever Moves Is Alive (Belgium), Plurabelle by Sacha Amaral (Argentina), Angélica Restrepo and Carlos Velandia’s All My Scars Vanish in the Wind (Colombia),  Eloïse Le Gallo and Julia Borderie’s Bleu silico (France), British Boys by Marcus Curvelo (Brazil), The Fruit Tree by Isabelle Tollenaere (Belgium), Maria Estela Paiso’s It’s Raining Frogs Outside (Philippines), Estibaliz Urresola’s Chords (Spain), Clara Anastácia and Gabriela Gaia Meirelles’ Scarce (Brazil), The Water Murmurs by Story Chen (China), Sophie Koko Gate’s Hotel Kalura (United Kingdom), Rita Barbosa’s 2nd Person (Portugal), Lake of Fire by Art Collective NEOZOON (Germany), Ben Rivers and Céline Condorelli’s After Work (United Kingdom), Perfect Two by Xandra Popescu (Germany/Romania), The Making of Crime Scenes by Che-Yu Hsu (France), Maisha Maene’s Mulika (Congo, Dem. Rep.), Pedro Cabeleira’s By Flávio (France/Portugal), Neighbour Abdi by Douwe Dijkstra (Netherlands), 38 by Daniel Chew and Micaela Durand (USA), Robert Seidel’s Hysteresis (Germany), Becoming Male in the Middle Ages by Pedro Neves Marques (Portugal), Balázs Turai’s Amok (Hungary/Romania), Lawrence Abu Hamdan’s 45th Parallel (United Kingdom), F1ghting Looks Different 2 Me Now by Fox Maxy (USA), Backflip by Nikita Diakur (Germany/France), Pimpaka Towira’s A Nonconformist (Thailand), Headprickles by Katarzyna Miechowicz (Poland), Hideous by Yann Gonzalez (United Kingdom), Natalia Escobar and Simon(e) Jaikiriuma Paetau’s Aribada (Germany/Colombia), Hardly Working by Total Refusal (Austria), Hlynur Pálmason’s Nest Iceland/Denmark), The Sea Is Also Yours by Michelle Coelho (Brazil/Cuba).

The jury of the International Competition was made up of film programmer and director of Tenerife Shorts José Cabrera Betancourt; programmer, lecturer and co-director of the EMAF in Osnabrück Katrin Mundt; Italian director Martina Scarpelli; Iranian filmmaker Maryam Tafakory and consultant, creative advisor, programmer, curator, and tutor Wim Vanacker.

The Grand Prize of the International Competition went to Neighbour Abdi by Douwe Dijkstra while the Promotional Award of the International Competition was given to Bleu silico by Eloïse Le Gallo and Julia Borderie. The Prix George for the Best Documentary Form in the International Competition was bestowed upon Lawrence Abu Hamdan for 45th Parallel and the candidacy for the European Film Awards (EFA) went to Hardly Working by Total Refusal.

The Swiss Competition program showcased the best of the national short filmmaking with films such as The Misanthrope by Noa Epars, Epidermal by Océane Wannaz, Sophia Remer and Michael Karrer’s Les Grands Prés (France/Switzerland), Nikita Merlini’s Stones Don’t Fly, Pipes by Jessica Meier, Kilian Feusi and Sujanth Ravichandran, Sophia Farantatou’s Bitter September, The Newt Congress by Matthias Sahli and Immanuel Esser, Julie Ecoffey’s But What Does It Mean, Morgane Frund’s Ours, 10 Missed Calls by Coline Confort, Incidences by Mischa Hedinger and Michela Flück, The Deceased by Philipp Veiga Amaro, Alexandre Schild’s Cyril & Louise, Johannes Binotto’s capricorn sunset, Think Something Nice by Claudius Gentinetta, Dust Away by Dea Gjinovci and Tanita Rahmani (USA/Switzerland), Jorge Cadena’s Flores del otro patio, The Mason by Matteo Gariglio, The Parade by Michail Galanopoulos (Switzerland/Greece).

The jury of the Swiss Competition consisted of senior programmer and editor for the Norwegian Short Film Festival and co-founder of the Faroe Islands International Minority Film Festival Bard Ydén; Swiss director Elie Grappe and festival distributor, sales agent and founder of Kino Rebelde María Vera.

The Award for Best Swiss Film went to Flores del otro patio by Jorge Cadena while the Special Mention I was given to Les Grands Prés by Sophia Remer and Michael Karrer and the Special Mention II to Stones Dont Fly by Nikita Merlini.

With the Sparks section, Kurzfilmtage hopes to spark a passion for the medium of short film. The shorts in Sparks represented the broad range in current filmmaking. The selection of this program is meant to appeal to multigenerational audiences and inspire discussion with the following short works: Fledge by Hani Dombe and Tom Kouris (France/Israel), Ella Rocca’s Crushed (Switzerland), Amartei Armar’s Tsutsué (France/Ghana), Au revoir Jérôme! by Adam Sillard, Chloé Farr and Gabrielle Selnet (France), Datsun by Mark Albiston (New Zealand), Anne Ballon’s Jules & I (Belgium), The Invention of Less by Noah Erni (Switzerland), Tristan Thil’s Discussion animée entre entendeurs de voix (France), Ana Takes a Stand by Sydney Buchan (Germany/Portugal), Haulout by Maxim Arbugaev and Evgenia Arbugaeva (United Kingdom), Bea Hoelle’s Klimax (Germany), Morgane Frund’s Ours (Switzerland), The Flying Sailor by Wendy Tilby and Amanda Forbis (Canada).

The Sparks I & II jury was made up of Sandro Manuel Isenegger, Gwendolyn Jane Reigber and Raja Künzle.

The Award for the Best Film in the Sparks I program was given to Datsun by Mark Albiston while the Award for the Best Film in the Sparks II program went to Ours by Morgane Frund.

The eight curated programs presented in the Estados Andinos Focus were the result of a comprehensive audiovisual inquiry into the vast territory of the Andean nations: Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela. Los Estados Andinos offered a panorama of the political, social, cultural, and artistic scene of these seven countries, exploring the idiosyncrasies and traditions of each as well as their collective identity and common grounds.

«Family comes first» is a phrase that everyone in Latin American culture has heard not once, not twice, but many times in their lives. It is a sort of mantra that encapsulates the strong bond between family members while also indicating the huge expectations. With the following shorts, this program sought to scratch below the surface of this intricate bond, which can be incredibly powerful and at the same time extremely overwhelming and challenging: Mother Rain by Alberto Flores Vilca (Peru/Bolivia/Argentina, 2020), Amphibian by Héctor Silva Núñez (Venezuela/Cuba, 2015), Long-Legged Nuria by Frank Vera Jiménez (Ecuador, 2019), Guillermo Moncayo’s (No Subject) (France/Colombia, 2021).

The creature that haunts me, where does it come from? Does it come from within me or from somewhere else? What is feeding it? Is it rage or guilt? Is it trauma or loss? Could it be desire or maybe love? Perhaps simply hunger? The Blurred Lines program was a compilation of six atmospheric shorts that draw spectators into a realm of mystery. Magic connects with reality as the boundary between them dissolves: Centauro by Nicolás Suárez (Argentina, 2016), Willkawiwa (The Sacred Fire of the Dead) by Pável Quevedo Ullauri (Ecuador, 2022), Something in the Garden by Marcos Sanchez (Chile, 2021), Javier Di Benedictis’ Archeology of Pleasure (Argentina, 2017), Victoria Giesen Carvajal’s Héctor (Chile, 2019), María Silvia Esteve’s Creature (Argentina/Switzerland, 2021).

The history of the Andean nations has been shaped by violence, censorship, and discrimination. Animated films are often employed for social and political critique in these countries. Stories of the Uncanny featured aesthetically sombre and atmospherically mystical animations that simultaneously deal with social and political themes. A program that leaves a strong visual impression, immersing viewers in unfamiliar worlds while also introducing us to everyday issues: All My Scars Vanish in the Wind by Angélica Restrepo and Carlos Velandia (Colombia, 2022), Camila Donoso Astudillo’s Uninhabited (Chile, 2021), Carlos Gomez Salamanca’s Yugo (France/Colombia, 2021), Pedro Casavecchia’s Drive (France/Argentina, 2019), The Bones by Cristobal Leon and Joaquin Cociña (Chile, 2021), Luis by Cristobal Leon, Niles Atallah and Joaquin Cociña (Chile, 2008), Hugo Covarrubias’ Bestia (Chile, 2021).

Agriculture and mining are among the main economic sectors in Latin America, which is one of the earth’s most biodiverse regions. Working (with) the land is vital for the inhabitants of the Andean nations. They live and survive off and with the earth. From the mines in the highlands to the Pacific coast: with the following short films, the program Tierra vital showcased the breathtaking beauty and mysticism of the Andean nature, which is barren as well as opulent – and often acutely threatened by outside influences: Summits and Ashes by Fernando Criollo (Peru, 2020), Alejandra Andino’s Tomorrow/Before (Chile, 2021), Tierra Mojada by Juan Sebastián Mesa (Colombia, 2017), Earth’s Children by Diego Sarmiento (Peru, 2014), Camila Beltrán’s Pacifico Oscuro (France/Colombia 2020).

Life in the Andean nations is full of contrast and contradictions. Circumstances vary greatly both between and within countries. Among the region’s major weaknesses are extreme inequality and a lack of social protection. The program  Andean paradox explored the tension between the centuries-old reality of poor governance, exploitation, and impunity, on the one hand, and the awareness of an undeniable need for change, on the other with the following short works: Miguel Hilari’s Pithole (Bolivia, 2019), Open Mountain by Maria Rojas Arias (Portugal/Colombia, 2021), Vertical Shadow by Ananké Pereira and Felipe Elgueta (Chile, 2022), #YA by Ygor Gama and Florencia Rovlich (Argentina/Germany, 2015), Interferencia by Juan Carlos Soto Martínez (Chile, 2020) and Alexandra Gelis’ Alerta . Alerta . Alerta (Peru/Canada, 2020).

Rarely do we act out norms and ideals as publicly and directly as in relation to our bodies. Social media serve as channels to manifest these norms, but at the same time, they also offer people an opportunity for performative self-expression and empowerment. The Free Your Mind, Free Your Body selection of shorts showed four films with protagonists who resist the principles of a patriarchal society sometimes more, sometimes less actively, thus freeing not just their bodies but also their identities from repressive norms: Son of Sodom by Theo Montoya (Colombia, 2020), SNAP by Ananké Pereira and Felipe Elgueta (Chile, 2018), The Foreign Body by Héctor Silva Núñez (Venezuela, 2018), and Aribada by Natalia Escobar and Simon(e) Jaikiriuma Paetau (Germany/Colombia, 2022)

Through a diverse selection of well-known classics and neglected works due for rediscovery, the two programs Working the Land and Critical Contrasts presented socially committed, independent documentary filmmaking from the Andean region. These films and videos cover a wide range of locations and situations: an international beauty pageant in Lima, an Argentine soup kitchen, a floating city on the Amazon, a series of Chilean film shoots, the verdant highland towns of Ecuador and Bolivia, and the barren outskirts of Bogotá: Marta Rodriguez and Jorge Silva’s The Brickmakers (Colombia, 1971), Mother Earth by Mònica Vásquez (Ecuador/Germany, 1984) and Alfredo Copa’s Dusting Off Our History (Bolivia, 1999); Soup Kitchens by Gerardo Vallejo (Argentina, 1968), Gianfranco Annichini’s Radio Belén (Peru, 1985), Miss Universe in Peru by Grupo Chaski (Peru, 1982) and Ignacio Agüero’s This Is the Way I Like It (Chile 1985).

Commemorative practices, reflections on identity, family relationships, and borders in both the geographical and mental sense – these are four weighty and highly complex themes in a country like Israel. The shorts in the “Country in Focus” explore the past and present of this still young nation, illuminating the historic premises of its existence, the ubiquitous conflicts on multiple fronts, the militarization of everyday life, and family relationships within this context. Israel’s borders are conflict zones that involve a barely comprehensible web of tensions, with strong emotions and reactions on all sides. The Borderline program did not attempt to take sides nor claim to offer solutions – the situation is far too complex. But how does the population live with the borders? It presented five films that look at how people deal with the situation in their daily lives – a situation with many shades of grey between simple black and white: Unrendered Road by Tali Liberman (Netherlands/Israel/Palestine, 2021), HaMa’azin by Omer Sterenberg (Israel, 2019), Avi Mograbi’s Detail 2 & 3 (Israel, 2004), 73 by Meshy K‏oplevitch (Israel, 2021) and Ines Moldavsky’s The Men Behind the Wall (Palestine/Israel, 2017).

Few relationships are as ambivalent and formative, as complicated and conflict-laden, and simultaneously as close, intense, and loving as the bond between mother and daughter. It is not surprising, then, that numerous films focus on this relationship. The Mother/Daughter program was a selection of very different works, genres, and approaches as well as a kaleidoscope of female characters in Israeli cinema: Bracha by Mickey Triest and Aaron Geva (Israel, 2020), The Silhouette of Braids by Rotem Dimand (Israel, 2018), Oren Gerner’s Shark Tooth (Israel, 2016), Elinor Nechemya’s Everlasting Mom (Israel, 2017) and Shmama by Miki Polonski (Israel, 2017).

Humans search for traces of the past, they collect, analyze, interpret them. The three films in the Replay Memory selection each addressed Israel’s past in their own unique way: with rare archival material that the filmmaker analyses; with a poetic, metaphorical, and meditative approach to collective trauma; and by exploring history through simulated worlds. What the films have in common is that they all try to make sense of the past, to understand and come to terms with it: Belated Measures by Nir Evron (Israel, 2020), Yael Bartana’s Tashlikh (Cast Off) (Israel, 2017) and Another Planet by Amir Yatziv (Israel, 2017).

The historical events that led to the founding of the state of Israel were a blessing for some, a disaster for others. They continue to shape the debate on Israeli identity to this day. The term «identity» – which evokes a wide range of ideas – inspires reflection on cultural and social issues. The five shorts in the Reflections on identity program approached these issues from a variety of perspectives: Palestine by Unknown, Rothschild 16 by Noam Israel (Israel, 2021), Dani Gal’s Nacht und Nebel (Israel, 2011), Maya Steinberg’s One of Us Now (Israel/Germany, 2022) and My Little Country by Yael Danon (Israel, 2018).

Kurdwin Ayub’s work explores gender roles, identity and migration, patriarchal structures, youth culture, and the fast pace of our time – always in an authentic and personal manner. Both playful and analytical, Ayub and her films resist pigeonholing. The selection of her shorts in the “Person in Focus” program traced her evolution into one of Austrian cinema’s most interesting voices: Family Holiday (2012), Like Lucifer (2019), LOLOLOL (2020), pretty-pretty (2019), Armageddon (2018), Adele 1 (2011), Boomerang (2018) and Summer Holiday (Vaginale VII) (2011). Moreover, her feature film, Sonne, that premiered at this year’s Berlinale was screened as part of the “Person in Focus” program and Kurdwin Ayub gave a masterclass and took part in the panel titled “New Formats: Cinema versus TikTok – What Is the Future of Film?” during the festival’s Industry Lab.

In the Hors Concours program recent short films from Zurich, Switzerland, and around the world screened out of competition.

Specifically, Hot Shorts was a vibrant selection of short films bursting with creativity, intriguing stories, or just plain fun. Those were the following shorts: Zoon by Jonatan Schwenk, Sierra by Sander Joon, Joanny Causse’s Rachels Don’t Run, Freedom Swimmer by Olivia Martin Mcguire, Au revoir Jérôme! By Adam Sillard, Chloé Farr and Gabrielle Selnet, Klimax by Bea Hoeller and The Diamond by Vedran Rupic.

The whole range of short filmmaking from the Zurich area – diverse, entertaining, profound, and socially committed was shown in the Zuri Shorts program and demonstrated that local short films are worthy of the big screen with works such as: Heartbeat by Michèle Flury, Bernadette Kolonko’s In_visible, Still Life with Emotion Blur by Maja Gehrig, Lara Jacobs’ Time Stranger, Dear Sister by Moris Freiburghaus, Frederic Siegel’s Sit Down, Don’t Touch Anything and Kim Allamand’s Heart Fruit.

While these films were not selected for this year’s competitions, they still belong on the big screen. At least that is the opinion of the intrepid curators of this program, which enjoys cult status at Kurzfilmtage. Featuring works that other selection committees couldn’t handle, the Dismissed program did not shy away from sentimental dramas or confused plotlines: Temohisiso by Anele Mphuti, Anssi Kasitonni’s Le Saboteur, Juice by Mona Keil, Jon Rafman’s Punctured Sky, Virtual Voice by Suzannah Mirghani, Lewie Kloster and Noah Kloster’s Stranger Than Rotterdam with Sara Driver, Dog-Apartment by Priit Tender, Klimax by Bea Hoeller and Eeva Mägi’s 3rd Octave F.

The European Film Awards are the European equivalent to the American Oscars. Every year, the European Film Academy awards a prize for the best short film. Twenty-nine festivals (including Berlinale, the Venice Film Festival, the Locarno Film Festival, and – since 2020 – Kurzfilmtage) submit the choices of their respective juries to the Academy. The festival showcased, in its European Film Academy on Tour program, some of the most remarkable works in European short filmmaking with a selection of films that were shortlisted in 2021: Easter Eggs by Nicolas Keppens, Bella by Thelyia Petraki, Beyond is the Day by Damian Kocur, Maalbeek by Ismaël Joffroy Chandoutis, Displaced by Samir Karahoda, Naïla Guiguet’s Dustin, Katharina Huber’s The Natural Death of a Mouse, Armadila by Gorana Jovanović, Olga Lucovnicova’s My Uncle Tudor, Memories by Kristin Johannessen, Lorin Terezi’s The News, Gabriel Böhmer’s Push This Button If You Begin to Panic and In Flow of Words by Eliane Esther Bots.

The Special Programs sidebar included short film programs on topics that Kurzfilmtage’s curators are passionate about or that are simply fun.

A postapocalyptic imagination runs counter to the idea of a linear evolution that concludes with the end of the world. What remains in a time that has started to end? These short cinematic scenarios in the Postapocalyptic Imagination program presented alternative worlds that challenge the notion of an end of all things. Vegetative, animalistic, and marginalized lifeforms become the protagonists of a different, postapocalyptic experience of time in the Anthropocene: Look Then Below by Ben Rivers (United Kingdom, 2019), Cercate Ortensia by Pauline Julier (Switzerland, 2021), Mina Achermann’s Flüsse sind uferlos (Switzerland, 2022), Atomic Garden by Ana Vaz (Brazil/Portugal, 2018), Magdalena Froger’s Les intranquilles (Switzerland, 2017) and Tout ira bien by Nicolas Chapoulier and Pauline Julier (Switzerland, 2020).

Sports can be challenging, scary, even dangerous – and yet, some people actually enjoy the physical activity. The Death by Sports program attempted to illuminate the phenomenon of sports in all its facets. What is going on in the minds of people engaged in sports? Why do certain disciplines exist in the first place? Is it a good idea to train with your pet or in front of the TV? This is by no means an anti-sports program, but rather an homage to the absurdity of sports: My Exercise by Atsushi Wada (Japan, 2020), Sorayos Prapapan’s Fat Boy Never Slim (Thailand/Myanmar, 2016), Ten Meter Tower by Axel Danielson and Maximilien Van Aertryck (Sweden, 2016), Angela Stempel’s Wayside (USA, 2018), Marja Pensala’s Sportscast (Finland, 1988), Lauberhorntest with Bernhard Russi (Switzerland), Daniel Zimmermann’s Downhill Skiing in Summer (Switzerland, 2006), Belle Epoque – Youth by Rio Wolta (Switzerland, 2021), Six Day Run by Mika Taanila (Finland, 2013) and Maggie Menghan Chen’s Body-Building Exercise (China, 2020).

What a beautiful place! Is this Italy? No. We are still in Switzerland. We never crossed a border. Not quite in Italy, yet somehow separate from the rest of Switzerland, Ticino tends to be forgotten or neglected, especially in the world of arts and culture. The Ticinema program was an homage to Ticino that highlights some of the region’s young filmmaking talents. Through their eyes, we watched the protagonists search for their path as they negotiate their past and future, relationships with family and tradition, and the will to belong: Alma in the Heard by Agnese Làposi (2019), Enea Zucchetti’s An Italian Square (2021), Correndo in volo by Morena Henke (2014), Marcel Barelli’s A Strange Trial (2018) and Little Swallow by Nikita Merlini (2021).

The Dear… program was based on the idea of an exchange between pen pals. The dialogue begins with an email from John Canciani to Oleksiy Radynski (Ukrainian filmmaker, writer, and activist), in which John recommends a film and shares his thoughts on it. Oleksiy, in turn, responds with a message and a film suggestion. A ping-pong-like conversation evolves, both in the emails and in the film program. This experiment shows how a program can be created intuitively as well as collaboratively with the following short works: Nashi by Daya Cahen (Netherlands, 2008), Hito Steyerl’s Untitled (Germany, 2022), Action, Almost Unable to Think by Mao Haonan (China, 2018), Deep Love by Mykyta Lyskov (Ukraine, 2019), Karpo Godina’s About the Art of Love, or A Film with 14441 Frames (Yugoslavia, 1972) and Sashko Protyah’s Khayt (Ukraine, 2021).

The Sparks Junior program for children aged 9+ aimed to spark a passion for the medium of short film, inviting young audiences to discover the world of cinema. The selection of serious, amusing, and exciting films inspired discussion and offered families an ideal introduction to the universe of short films: Laika & Nemo by Sebastian Gadow and Jan Gadermann, Sven nicht jetzt, wann dann…? by Jens Rosemann, James Menelaus Rush’s Tadpoles, Damaris Zielke’s Die allerlangweiligste Oma auf der ganzen Welt, María Monreal’s Gaueko and Girud by Ma’ayan Rypp.

Moreover, under the motto «Different?», the Magic Lantern film club for children aged 6 to 12 presented seven shorts from various countries and genres. The films showed that we’re all quite different and thus faced with very individual challenges in our daily lives. Young and old were invited to discover the following enchanting short films on the big screen: Mom Is Always Right by Marie Urbánková, Xiaowen Wang’s A Whisper in the Island of the Heart, Ich habe keine Angst! by Marita Mayer, Und dänn by Tanja Nuijten, Raphael Stalder and Leo Graf, Genadzi Buto’s Too Big Drawing, Salvador Dalí by Eldiar Madakim and Battery Daddy by Seung-bae Jeon.

And, last but not least, Kurzfilmtage’s annual Swiss Film School Day was a showcase of Switzerland’s five major undergraduate degree programs: École cantonale d’art de Lausanne (ECAL), the Geneva University of Art and Design (HEAD), the Zurich University of the Arts (ZHdK), and the Lucerne School of Art and Design, Video and Animation, presented a selection of their recent short films.

The Award for the Best Swiss School Film went to The Deceased by Philipp Veiga Amaro from HSLU while the

Special Mention I was given to Pipes by Jessica Meier, Kilian Feusi, and Sujanth Ravichandran from HSLU and the Special Mention II to In Between by Anaïs Bourgogne also from HSLU.

This year, for the first time, the festival showed all the films in its program in cinemas with appropriate sound systems and, as always, vibrated with music programs, parties and installations. In that sense, the stroll around Sulzerareal, the new industrial festival HQ, with the Hamburg-based collective A Wall is a Screen made it clear that Kurzfilmtage and the old industrial site are a perfect match. Finally, an undisputed highlight of this edition was Kurdwin Ayub, whose cinematic programs, talks and masterclass offered the audience an insight into her penchant for cinematic experiments and self-irony.

The 26th edition of Internationale Kurzfilmtage Winterthur was a vibrant and cool one and demonstrated more than never that shorts are cool and here to stay. Also, it was good to be back!

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