Year of Short Films

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The IPA in Culture Committee wants to make 2021 a Year of Shorts. Every month, we will send you a link to a short film together with a short description and some personal thoughts of appreciation. The shorts will be selected and presented to you by members of the IPA in Culture Committee. Take a few minutes out of your day to watch these short films, and be touched, puzzled, enchanted, intrigued, stirred or inspired. No work is required, no particular meaning attached. It'll just be a private moment of discovery for you.
Cordelia Schmidt-Hellerau
Chair of the IPA in Culture Committee 


December: Bill Viola, The Reflecting Pool, 1979

“Cameras are keepers of the soul”, says the video artist Bill Viola, whose work reaches for themes like life, death, and aspects of consciousness. Seeing The Reflecting Pool is musing – thinking of the day he came and stood near the water, where I saw him, doubled in his reflection, just standing there for a while, and then – did he jump, or did he not? I can’t decide because all movement froze and the water stood still on this late summer day when he vanished…But I still see him there, always will, I even meant to see him walking again towards me, with her, on the other side of the pool – or was it only his last reflection on the dark water, like a light shining through the night – but then, again I saw him, didn’t I, leaving the pool and disappearing, veering away from the water, while staying there always being the reflection to be remembered. Selected and commented by Cordelia Schmidt-Hellerau, Boston

September:  Fire (Pozar) by David Lynch, 2020

David Lynch’s sketches for the short film “Fire (Pozar)” were animated by Noriko Miyakawa and put to music by the Polish-American composer Marek Zebrowski. What we see resembles earth, with its fields and houses and bodies, but its locations are localized only by certain cultural markers, like theater stages, children’s drawings of trees and houses, Euro-American buildings. A humanoid figure with a grotesque maw lights a match that burns a hole through which a worm-like creature wriggles. In this film, the properties of things and bodies are fluid; surfaces become membranes only after permeation, texture becomes skin only after the camera/gaze takes its distance. “Fire (Pozar)” would seem to be just what most of its commentators think it is: catastrophic, apocalyptic, dreadful, grievous. The timing of its re-release in 2020 seems to support this claim, now that the truly great fires (Australia, California, the Arctic) are beginning, and the last of the world’s wilderness is being consumed by the toothy greed of Lynchian villainy (authoritarian late-stage capitalism), and children die everywhere after short nightmarish lives full of violence, exploitation and deprivation. Perhaps all is not lost, however. In the film, black arms reach up to cover a crying child-head’s eyes. The arms are smooth, not grainy like the rest of the film, and refer stylistically to the clarity of form characteristic of so much contemporary animation. This act of care is a gift from a certain artistic style, a kind of creative intervention that throughout its short history has championed re-animation, resurrection from the dead, the reassemblage of crushed or dismembered bodies. If the creative imagination guarantees nothing, especially in those dark times for which it too bears responsibility, it also promises everything. Read more here Selected and commented on by Aranye Fradenburg Joy, Santa Barbara, USA  

June: Benigni by Pinja Partanen, Jasmiini Otelin, Elli Vuorinen (2009)

In its stark yet also witty simplicity, this Finnish animation short film manages to convey–years before the Covid-19 lockdown–a man’s life in loneliness and isolation: staring out of the window, smoking a cigarette, swatting a fly, reading Batman, falling asleep. What might be going on inside? Out grows some protuberance, uncanny and yet with a face, a smile, and eyes looking at him. Worried at first, then puzzled, he soon learns to love his new companion. He reads to him, takes a selfie of the two of them, bakes them as a funny gingerbread duo, plays the xylophone with him, and celebrates his new friend’s first birthday. He is altered, he is not alone anymore, life is fun, until… Packed in just eight almost-silent minutes, enjoyable and disturbing in equal measure, Benigni is a small masterpiece. Selected and commented by Andrea Sabbadini, London  

March: Trailer (2010) by Nicola Constantino

This hypnotic and captivating video by the renowned Argentinian artist, Nicola Constantino, a member of the 'Contemporary Art' movement/group, is complemented by an installation with the same name, Trailer. Sameness - duplication, the other - self, 'the double' / 'doppelganger' are figure and 'leitmotif' of the film, revealing the dreams, desires and phantasies of something feminine. Trailer arises from the process of the artist's pregnancy, at age 45, by means of an anonymous donor. Fear of maternity and the unknown are elaborated in her work of art: creating her double she becomes herself a work of art, 'an antidote against loneliness', or 'two bodies with only one soul' vis-à-vis the strangeness (says Nicola). Trailer's literary and cinematographic sources embody Freud's idea of the 'uncanny' as well as the concept of identification. Nicola includes her newborn son in the film and discovers, not only does she no longer need the double, she now sees her as even terrifying. Gripped by fascination and horror, the film might induce us to thinking and feeling...a bit beyond the well-known.   Selected by Gabriela Goldstein, Buenos Aires, March 2020. Español | FrançaisDeutsch

November: Soul in the Eye by Zózima Bulbul, 1973

“Soul in the Eye” is a classical 1973 short film, acted and directed by Zozima Bulbul, a proponent of Afro-Brazilian culture. Musically accompanied with ‘Kulu se mama’ by Julian Lewis, the short film tells the story of black people in Brazil from their abduction from Africa for the purpose of slavery to the present time, when they supposedly are free and enjoy civil rights. The film in black and white attributes to these colours a profound dialectic where the body, the true residence of the soul and black in its essence, suffers reprimand, repression and denial in favour of an enchaining white garment, which leaves the soul, eye of our body, handcuffed and imprisoned. Racism in Brazil continues to be massively denied and disavowed. Despite this disavowal - in parallel of the return of the repressed - in the public’s disputes and movements this problem is more recently brought up and discussed also in our psychoanalytic institutions. Selected and commented on by Daniel Delouya

August:  Oh Willy (2012) by Emma De Swaef & Marc James Roels

Willy, having lost his love to death, tumbles into a world never seen before. This is what the award winning short shows us, sensibly written and directed by Emma De Swaef and Marc James Roels (Belgium, France and The Netherlands, 2012), with a masterful sound design by Bram Meindersma. Deprived of his familiar comfort and routine, bare and alone, Willy’s life takes a strange turn. What monsters and miracles do we meet along his way? What dangers, threats, and surprises need to be tackled? Who may wait beyond the next corner? In a bare-skin woolly world Willy floats through a wondrous universe in his silent search for comfort. Naïf, vulnerable yet courageously determined, Willy captures our attention. His weird journey is intensely moving. At turbulent times of difficult losses, we share with you this surprising short, portraited in scenes of an unexpectedly delicate, yet powerful script that we hope will amaze and embrace you, as it did us. Oh, Willy! Selected and commented on by Cláudia Antonelli, Campinas, Brazil.

May: Madame Tutli-Putli, by Chris Lavis and Maciek Szczerbowski (2007).

Montreal-based filmmakers Chris Lavis and Maciek Szczerbowski, award-winning directors, animators, sculptors, collage artists, screenplay writers and art directors, take us on a mysterious, confusing, sometimes exhilarating journey. Madame Tutli-Putli – whose name was borrowed from the title of a 1920 book by polish writer Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz – was nominated for Best Animated Short Film at the 2008 Academy Awards, with a masterful soundtrack by David Bryant and Jean-Frédéric Messier. Madame Tutli-Putli boards a night train with a tail of personal objects: past and present, real and not, familiar and uncanny. Moths pursue her inside and out. Dream, nightmare or... life? Is she leaving? Is she moving? Is she travelling? Alongside characters dressed in costumes based on the iconic work by the German painter George Grosz, Madame Tutli-Putli is a contemplative character whose feelings and emotions seem to run through her skin and expressive eyes. A train ride into the night of Madame Tutli-Putli is what we invite you to, in this ICC’s short of the month May edition. Selected and commented by Cláudia Antonelli, Campinas, Brazil. Available in: Spanish, French and German

February: Felix in Exile ( by William Kentridge, 1994)

To discover the South African artist William Kentridge and his famous animated films, produced by successive charcoal drawings, was for me a magical and transformative experience with art and film alike. Using charcoal, Kentridge explained, allows him to erase and paint over an image while retaining traces of its precursors, thus revealing a mental process like the one Freud described in A Note Upon the 'Mystic Writing Pad' (1925). Kentridge's art, gentle and nightmarish, regards what we would like to disregard: our desire for love and fear of loss bestir ourselves where brutal politics, social injustice, and human suffering pervade our minds, infiltrate our dreams, and pierce our hearts. Looking in the eye of a woman looking at him, Felix, a human being naked to his core, struggles with the flood of disquieting images. He can't or won't erase them, and if they are gone for one moment, they re-emerge in the next, slowly or with a sudden jolt. His exile is his mind. Kentridge once talked about the dismembering of the past, and it struck me that it's complement is remembering, which is putting together what comes to us in bits and pieces. Swaying between the wish to forget and the need to retrieve, our present's song is mournful, elevating one image to submerge it with the next. What is held on a page will fly away, and what appears at night disappears in the day. Selected by Cordelia Schmidt-Hellerau, Boston, February 2020.

October: Doll Face by Andy Huang, 2007

Andy Huang’s award-winning short film is a skilful mix of music, digital animation, computer graphics and robotic forms, not without allusions to film and literature: the doll’s broken eye mirrors Bunuel’s “Chien Andalou”, and its shaking metal appendixes struggle like Kafka’s insect paws. Implanted on a moving metal body, the doll face, awakening from the shadows and desperately trying to come to life and grasp a confusing world on screen, resurrects the age-old fascination, dream and nightmare of man’s quest for turning the inanimate into animate. Trapped by its own technology the revived face on its metal filiform body eventually breaks apart as the world on screen dies down. Huang’s message gives rise to disconcerting questions about the power of visual images in our contemporary world and the risk of building fictitious, imitative identities, dollish TV models that only fake affects and emotions. Will our increasingly sophisticated communication technology create a world that drifts towards ruin rather than unfurl the splendour it heralds? Selected and commented on by Paola Golinelli, Bologna

July: BY THE SEA by Charlie Chaplin (1915)

Charlie says: Last night I had a dream. I was by the sea, it was sunny and warm, and I was peacefully walking along enjoying my banana… Then I saw my brother. He had an argument with his wife, because he was drunk, so I interfered, and we got in a fight. He grabbed my hat, and I didn’t like it, we battled a bit, just brotherly… Anyway, his wife had left, but she came back, she likes me. She smiled at me, as if she enjoyed seeing that her husband had gotten a little beating. Nothing serious. Then we made up and went for an ice cream. But he didn’t want to pay, and we got into fight about that. On the other end of the bar there was this huge guy—he reminded me a bit of my father, same belly, same pompous attire. Somehow he got involved, but I slipped away, and there was this guy’s sweetheart, all alone and worried. I sat next to her to calm her down. We had a good time. But suddenly her fellow came back and threatened me, because I was having a good laugh with his wife. I ran off and back to my sister-in-law to explain everything. However, they all came after me. They jumped on the bench, where I was sitting… I feared for my life—and fell out of bed…. I woke up with my heart pounding. Selected and commented on by Cordelia Schmidt-Hellerau, Boston  

April: FISHEYE (1980) by Josko Marusic

During the period of former Yugoslavia (1945-1991), there existed a world-famous group of artists known as the Zagreb School of Animation (1956-1983). One of their masterpieces is FISHEYE (1980) by Josko Marusic. This suspenseful short, created 40 years ago, may seem almost prescient today as we are struggling with the raging coronavirus pandemic. Evoking shock and horror, it confronts us with the power of nature. Like these metaphorical fishermen, we use and abuse our planet and its resources without care or limits. Yet when nature strikes back, we feel helpless. The blackness of the night within comes to the fore in feelings of fright even at home, in the futility of a belated effort to flee, and eventually in empty streets and in the sight of mutilated corpses. The sudden appearance of a mute enemy with its inexorable agression, expressed in the fierce gaze of the fish, is juxtaposed to the pictotial scenery of a small Mediterranean village by the sea. At the end of the film, when day breaks, we are looking from a distance at the silhouette of a now mostly empty, lifeless village. With his unique style of drawing, Marusic (who also skillfuly and cleverly comments in his cartoons on the reality of life in today's Croatia), together with writer Goran Babic and the composer Tomica Simovic (whose dramatic soundtrack reminds us of Hitchcock's films), have created a timeless piece of art, showing us the future reflected in the brilliance of the fisheye. Selected and commented by Stanislav Matacic, Zagreb, Croatia.

January: Tale of Tales by Yuriy Norstein (1979)

A Russian animated short film that will capture your imagination and your hearts. For sure, its imagery and sound resonate beyond national borders and remind us why, and how, art transcends artificial boundaries. This film won awards and is considered by many to be the best animated film ever! I encourage you to watch before reading about Tale of Tales; I did, and still float before its winter, music, dance, half-eaten fallen apples, war, youth, loss, parents, women, lyres, aging, suckling babe, eyes, farewell - light/fire/letters... And all those commonplace animals: cat, fish, rope-skipping bull, crows, wandering wolf who tell us the story of life in their magical transformations that are more than Soviet signifiers...they are the human condition. Selected by Barbara Stimmel, New York, January 2020.