Theater of Cruelty

Short films, small questions?

Brotherhood / Excess Will Save Us / She-Pack / The Manchador / Farse
Regissør: Meryam Joobeur Morgane Dziurla-Petit Fanny Ovesen Kaveh Tehrani Robin Jensen
(Canada / Sverige / Norge / Iran, Norge / Norge)

THE SHORT FILM FESTIVAL IN GRIMSTAD / The clearest trend in Norwegian short films is the spotlight on interpersonal relationships. Does that necessarily make them apolitical?


Short films can hold a lot. Admittedly, not all short films will necessarily do that – noble simplicity is also a virtue in this format. The same is true of the will to experiment and test. Short film is in many ways a freer artistic space than long film, which is to a greater extent subject to narrative and genre conventions. Last month, Ny Tid was present at the Short Film Festival in Grimstad, which in its 42nd edition is still the most important arena to see what is happening in Norwegian short film – and thus be able to discover new film talents. The festival also shows a wide selection of international short films and offers panel debates, conversations with filmmakers and not least a number of social meeting places.

Political involvement?

A few years ago, the festival stopped showing longer documentaries and chose to re-cultivate the short film concept. New this year was that the Norwegian documentaries had been moved into a separate program section for short documentaries, together with international short documentaries. One consequence of this is that if you primarily follow the Norwegian short film program – as most festival audiences do – you can get the impression that the political commitment is not very prominent among our domestic short filmmakers. However, this is no different than in the feature film field. Looking at an average Norwegian film year, it is the documentaries rather than the filmmakers who deal with political issues.

Excess Will Save Us is gradually drawing a portrait of people's terror attacks – even in a small and remote village.

In particular, interpersonal relationships seem to be a dominant theme in Norwegian short films – but this can also be said of fiction films in general, and this can partly be said to be a consequence of the classic film drama with its focus on precisely interpersonal and individual challenges. At the same time, the interpersonal is not necessarily opposed to political, as several of the award winners at this year's short film festival testify.

Returned alien warrior

Brotherhood Director Meryam Joobeur

An excellent example is Brotherhood, who won the award for best international short film in Grimstad. The film is written and directed by Tunisian-American Meryam Joobeur, who is based in and educated in Canada. Here she depicts a family in the rural areas of northern Tunisia who have their lives turned upside down when the eldest son returns home after being a foreign warrior in Syria – with a niqab-clad very young and pregnant Syrian wife. The father has already written off his son for his choice to travel to Syria and will eventually make a decision that, as much as his son's devastating life choices, will affect the family. The 25-minute film tells a condensed, moving and impressively complex story about a current political issue, and in a realistic and fine-tuned way it depicts how problematic it can be – even for Muslims in this part of the world – to experience a family member being radicalized. . Although short films should be valued as a separate expression rather than as a kind of application to move to longer formats, it is equally gratifying that filmmaker Joobeur reportedly is working on developing a feature film project based on Brotherhood.

Charming about terror fears

A clear political sting is also to be found in the Swedish film Excess Will Save Us, directed by French-born Morgane Dziurla-Petit. This film won the award for best short documentary, in the international competition program which thus included a bunch of Norwegian short documentaries. Excess Will Save Us is a playful but at the same time precisely told film that tells of a seemingly dramatic event in a sleepy village in France. Based on the annual pigeon hunt and a drunken quarrel between some Poles, the film gradually paints a portrait of people's fear of terrorist attacks – even in such a small and remote place as this – and how the mentioned events lead to a large-scale crisis. Dziurla-Petit has made an original and charming little documentary, which nevertheless asks some thought-provoking questions about xenophobia and terrorism in today's Europe.

She-Pack has a partly neo-feminist view of this group dynamic, where the girls push each other up until it goes too far – and do not necessarily give up there.

Among the Norwegian films, the big winner was director Fanny Ovesens She-Pack, who in addition to winning the festival's main prize Gullstolen for best Norwegian short film won both the Film Critics Award and the Dramatikerforbundet's award for best screenplay (by Maren Skolem). Like Izer Alius' Gold Chair winner To guard the mountain from 2012, this is a graduation film from the Norwegian Film School in Lillehammer.

She-Pack Director Fanny Ovesen

With solid acting from young actors, expressive design language and exemplary restrained use of dialogue depicts She-Pack a lone "underdog" who challenges the leader of the girl group of the same age during a swimming pool disco. The film's theme of the balance of power between young people approaching puberty is well known from a number of Norwegian short films both this year and earlier, but is treated here in a refreshing and liberating unsentimental way. Not least, the film has a partly neo-feminist view of this group dynamic, where the girls whip each other up until it goes too far – and do not necessarily go there.

Chador for men

Norwegian-Iranian filmmaker Kaveh Tehrani was awarded the festival's newly established audience award for the film stainer. In semi-documentary form – where interviews with the characters complement the more conventional fiction scenes – it tells the story of a young family man in Tehran who suddenly gets a brilliant idea: a "chador" for men. With this they can cover their eyes and consequently let the women freely take off their religious headgear.

The Manchador Director Kaveh Tehrani

The innovation is embraced by an imam who sees both the spiritual and ascetic aspects of the sacrifice. The "Manchador" will be a great business success, until the authorities put an end to this possible revolution. stainer is an enjoyable and well-told social satire that in the last act takes on a more spiritual tone – until it ends in a prayer to continue dreaming of a better world.

Finally: Satirical is also the ten minute short animated film Pranks by Robin Jensen, who won the Terje Vigen Prize – the Norwegian short film competition's «second prize». One could possibly say that this initially harmless cartoon harasses the human animal nature where it eventually turns into grotesque images of carnivorousness and organized sexual abuse (!). Pranks is a burlesque, uninhibited and dirty little rascal – and an excellent example of the short film's significant impact.

Gold Chair-winner She-Pack is available in NRK's ​​app and on nrktv. no

Aleksander Huser
Aleksander Huser
Huser is a regular film critic in Ny Tid.

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