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Encounters Festival Short Films 1: Can't Break Me

The first short film event of the Encounters Film Festival, 'Can't Break Me' was a showcase of five 20 minute films from across Europe all with resilient protagonists.

by Milo Clenshaw, Second Year Film & English

The first short film event of the Encounters Film Festival, 'Can't Break Me' was a showcase of five 20 minute films from across Europe all with resilient protagonists.

Every year Encounters Film Festival runs a series of shorts called ‘Brief Encounters’, a selection of films in competition from filmmakers around the world. The series started Wednesday morning at Watershed with a programme called 'Can’t Break Me' centred around the idea of resilience.

The screening certainly had an impactful beginning, projecting the image of a boy cowering from something out of shot in a bloody swimming pool. This was Satán (dir. Carlos Tapia), the first of five provocative films dealing with injustices both at home and on a global scale, and ranging from documentary to surreal drama.

IMDb / Satan / Lunica Productions

One thing which did seem to unite them was a focus on youth, as well as recurring themes of poverty and discrimination, perhaps reflecting the issues that are felt most keenly in 2018. It is not unusual to see filmmakers attempt to answer social and political questions through the lens of youth, at a time when identities are forming and as an insight into what the world might look like in the future.

Despite this, one of my personal favourites from the programme was Matria (dir. Álvaro Gago), the only film which chose to show the story of an older generation. It was an unrelenting 20 minutes which brought the audience alongside the protagonist, a middle-aged factory worker named Ramona (Bouzón), as she navigated the trials of her daily routine.

Youtube / cineytele

The film began as she rose at dawn to leave for work, and kept pace until the final scene where she sits with her daughter at her granddaughter’s basketball game. The final moment of relative peace is where the film’s power lies, and a drawn-out shot of Ramona’s exhausted face asks the watcher to contemplate the demands placed on the matriarchal head of house. The only male presence is Ramona’s husband, who is almost silent and is on screen for about 30 seconds. What comes through most strongly is the female relationships between Ramona, her family and co-workers, giving voice to a routinely undervalued pocket of society.

Another short from the programme which deserves honourable mention is Prisoner of Society (dir. Rati Tsiteladze), an experimental film and the first LGBT documentary to come from Georgia. It is an intimate invitation into the life of Adelina Polina, a young transgender woman who, as a result of her transition, has been under house arrest for over 10 years.

Vimeo / Rate Tsiteladze

It is a painful but necessary insight into how her gender has affected her relationship with her parents, as well as the wider problems of being transgender in Georgia. A memorable moment from the film is when her mother breaks down crying in front of the camera, pleading with the director for him not to show the film anywhere in Georgia. It is uncompromising in its inherent politicalness, but also manages to retain its art.

An obviously carefully-curated selection of bold and challenging new cinema, 'Can’t Break Me' uses film as an end to meaningful debate, and it is exciting to follow the Encounters competitions year on year.

Featured Image: Encounters Film Festival / Short Films 1: Can't Break Me / Bars (dir. Ren van Zundert)

Didn't get a chance to see anything at Encounters this year? Check out their website for what you can watch online.

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