Article by Devin Kerambalas
To quote film historian Robert C. Allen, we tend to talk of films being “screened” as if the only thing going on in a movie theater were light being bounced off of a reflective surface. Thankfully, a weekend of short film in Italy has reminded us once again that who’s watching and how they do it matters is what matters most.
Between April 7-11, ESFF artistic director Yulia Kovanova, project manager Elsa Vibert and project coordinator Devin Karambelas traveled to the breathtakingly beautiful Tuscan city of Arezzo to participate in the Cinemì Cinemà programme.
CinemiCinema, a two-week festival of film screenings, talent labs, workshops and film competitions, is geared toward giving 16 to 21-year olds a sense of cinema’s global dimensions and professional value. The festival’s organizers routinely collaborate with festivals and creatives from around the world, bringing an international flavor to Arezzo each spring since 2010.
Other invited guests we met included the very talented Belgian rapper and creative writing expert Mathieu d’Angelo (AKA “Maky”), Italian film exhibitor and educator Leonardo Moggi and a delegation of movie-making students from the United States’ Menominee tribe based in Wisconsin.
The emphasis on educating students means that the CinemiCinema has an arguably more ambitious and significant agenda than your average film festival. Similarly, it also demands more from participating film programmers, who have to consider that maybe these students don’t have a burning desire to see a surreal black comedy from Poland. Then again, maybe they do…
In fact, that short film—Milena Dutkowska’s brilliant Dzien Dobry (“Good Morning”)—proved to be an unlikely favorite for students and other festival guests alike when Kovanova and Vibert showed it to classes at the Liceo Scientifico Francesco Redi and the I.S.I.S Fossombroni Institute.
Other shorts in the mix were the Turkish Pixar-style animated film Golden Shot; German sci-fi 90 Degree Nord about a deadly traffic island; French apocalyptic thriller Skal; the freaky American short Mysterious Disappearance of a Town’s Last Resident and the impressively choreographed British short The Fly.
We were struck by the level of engagement our younger-than-average audience gave these films, some of which are extremely sophisticated in their storytelling method and form, and not always accessible to new viewers on the first go.
Crowd-pleasers like The Fly and Skal were met with lots of laughter, cheering and even a round of applause at their finish, while Dzien Dobry inspired quieter and more thoughtful responses. Scenes of gore were watched with audible disgust, and any scene with a small animal inevitably led to lots of gasping and a chorus of “awww!” The one or two films that just weren’t working for a particular audience on a particular day were simply talked over. Let it be known: Italian high school students are not subtle about what they like and dislike.
So thank you, Arezzo students, for reminding us again why we do what we do, and taking the time to subject yourselves to the cinematic smorgasbord of a well-rounded short film programme. Grazie mille to Cinemì Cinemà’s hardworking directors Marcella and Anna, their wonderful colleagues, our hosts, the other festival guests and everyone else who made this weekend a blast.