David reports back from Etiuda and Anima

David from Futurist Cinema in Elsecar tells us all about his experience on the IFFS Jury for the Etiuda and Anima International Film Festival, which took place from 17-22 November 2020.

The Etiuda and Anima International film festival is the oldest in Poland, and this year marked the 27th staging of the festival. It is fitting that the oldest film festival in Poland is the first one that I had the honour of being a juror at! My feelings when told I had been successful in my application, and for the entire time leading up to the event could accurately be described as 50/50 incredibly excited and utterly terrified!

The festival was, understandably given current events, online this year. The films were viewed via video on demand and zoom meetings were liberally used. This meant that I unfortunately did not have a chance to visit the beautiful city of Krakow, but who knows, maybe next year.

There were multiple awards given at Etiuda and Anima, I was involved in the student short film award, there were 30 candidates, all very different and covering a wide swathe of subject matter, and my two fellow jurors, Grzegorz from Poland and Tiziana from Italy, and I picked a winner and honourable mentions.

The first, and in my opinion most important thing to say is this, I did not know what to expect at all. However, the level of technical quality exhibited in all 30 of these films was incredible. There was not a film on show that would have been out of place visually or sonically on the big screen. This fact alone I think is worthy of heavy praise for all the film makers involved.

That said, some works were of course better than others, some struggled with the constraints of the short film format, with establishing a full narrative structure or with truly grabbing my attention, while others truly excelled. The best works, in my opinion shone new light onto a reasonably well known subject or took a very simple story and told it in an extraordinary way, sometimes both. I was looking for what I always look for in films. I want a film to touch me, to affect me in some way, and that is what I wanted these films to do, despite the shorter amount of time they had,

The interesting thing about art, is its subjectiveness, a piece that affected me may have no effect on someone else with a different personality and life experience, and vice versa. I, for example, was the only juror to commend Night on Fire (directed by Martin Kuba), an absurd farce involving no dialogue but for a song at the beginning and end and bringing boy scouts, prostitutes, BDSM and arson together in what was probably the sweetest, most wholesome film I watched. As an ex boy scout I found it genuinely hilarious and a breath of fresh air amongst other good quality, but uniformly serious drama’s and documentaries.

Another film I felt truly of note was Midnight Jazz (directed by Jules Mathot), by far the most visually striking film in my opinion, owing debts in lighting to Nicolas Winding Refn and framing to Wes Anderson. Again, it used very little dialogue to tell its admittedly very sparce story, about a man on the run breaking into the house of a DJ playing Jazz at midnight and interrupting his show. It’s a film that can be interpreted in different ways and I won’t bore you with my opinion, but it left me wanting to see more from all involved.

We ended up choosing 3 films to highlight in particular. Good Night (directed by Anthony Nti) received an honourable mention and is an unflinching look at life for some children in Ghana being preyed upon by gangs with the promise of a better life with food, fun and a father figure.

Our second honourable mention went to my personal film of the festival, Masel Tov Cocktail (directed by Arkadij Khaet and Mickey Paatzch), the best titled film of all, a highly energetic, fourth-wall breaking (a favourite trope of mine) tale of a Jewish teenager in Germany and the daily battles he faces. This film was vibrant, loud and unapologetic, it grabbed me instantly and did not let go for a moment, helped by a truly excellent performance by the extra-ordinarily charismatic young star, Alexander Wertmann. It shone a blinding light onto the troubled issue of anti-Semitism yet managed, despite a very heavy subject matter, to add touches of truly funny, extremely dark humour, it showed just what can be achieved in 30 minutes!

Our winner was the only film that placed in all 3 jurors top 5, Territories (directed by Azedine Kasri), a story about the plight of an Algerian father and son living in France, their connection to their homeland and family and their attempt to make France home. This was an excellent film, equally tense and dramatic, heartbreaking and heartwarming, with several moments that stayed with me long after the film ended.

In a further sign of the times, our choices were conveyed via a recorded zoom message from yours truly, providing a final opportunity for me to be terrified, excited and honoured all at once!

I would like to close, by highlighting one other film, I mentioned at the start that I had no idea what to expect fro the films I watch, and that was encapsulated perfectly by Long Story Short (directed by Andrei Olanescu). The film had no dialogue, as the main character is a snail, it is a snail that sees itself in the mirror, has an epiphany then makes love with either another snail or itself, to one of the most beautiful pieces of music I’ve ever heard. I took a break after that film to consider what choices I had made to get to this point.

Whatever choices they were, I’m glad I made them, I loved every moment of the festival and hope dearly to do experience more festivals both as spectator and juror in the future.

Words: David, Futurist Cinema