by Sherif Awad
Before our jury gathered to deliver the awards of the fifth edition of the International Short Film Festival of Cyprus (ISFFC), we were invited to visit the archeological site of the ancient Greek city of Kourian that hosts a Greek-Roman Theatre and both The House of Achilles and The House of Gladiators featuring astonishing mosaic artworks retelling ancient stories of Greek myths. Many films we discussed last week were winners of the festival’s awards at the closing night.
The Best Director Award went to the Canadian director Martin Edralin and his film Hole for its handling of difficult and delicate subject matter with courage, vision and restraint. The Canadian short Ken Harrower as Billy as a gay disabled man living alone yet looking for intimacy. Harrower is a real-life disabled man with a childhood filled with intensive hospital care. However, he succeeded to overcome these difficulties to become an actor and a painter.
The second Prize for Best Short Film went to Ave Maria by Basil Khalil (Palestine) for its use of a refreshing and comic situation through a nimble ensemble cast to illuminate current complexities in this part of the world.
For Best Documentary Award, the jury decided to split the trophy between two films Giovanni and the Water Ballet by Astrid Bussink (The Netherlands) for its charming and appealing approach to gender identity issues and Villages of the Absent by Omar Shami Nasr (Lebanon) for its distilled and poetic portrayal of older people left behind by their children. The latter short is a very condensed five-minute documentary about the forsaken people who are left away but still remember their sons and grandsons.
The jury also decided a Special Mention for Always Tired by Jochen Kuhn (Germany) for exploring a contemporary social malaise and breathing life into still drawings and paintings. The short animated five-minute film revolves about a character who lost energy and aim that made him go to sleep while walking, shaking a hand, making love or talking at the parliament. The journey of the character becomes more grotesque and dreamlike with surreal situations reflecting the fatigue of a middle-aged man.
Two special mentions were also given to two films: The first was Our Fathers’ Sons (Denmark) by Ulaa Salim for a seamless build-up towards a climax that delivers a real punch to inherited social views. The second for My Stuffed Granny by Effie Pappa (Greece) for successfully using a fairytale to reflect on timeless economic issues and for capturing real human emotions in clay animation.
Our jury was also to decide the prizes of the competing Cypriot films in the National Competition. The First Prize for Best National Film went to Out of Sight by David Hands and Christina Georgiou for transporting the viewers in a single shot through many layers of narrative and for its fusion of sound design and imagery, featuring an exquisite performance. The film revolves around an old man who moves across an empty house with sounds of memories passing inside his ears until he stands outside the house after visiting all the room. From the last shot, outside the house, we see the man watching his house torn down by bulldozer. Lost to the economic problems in Cyprus, Greece and all Europe was also reflected in Austerity by Renos Gavris for its unsentimental dramatization of contemporary socio-economic conditions, and its appealing and effective soundtrack. Both films starred Cypriot visual artist and actor Antonis Katsaris who was given a special mention for his two performances. Let me hope to return to Cyprus for its Mediterranean calm and beauty and the welcoming hearts of its people during the long film festival next April.