the films are divided into five sections. each is a different lens on the concept of trauma & they are categorized accordingly below.
Trauma With Locus
Global histories are punctuated with events of political unrest. Places that we once considered as home become uninhabitable due to issues of natural disaster, violent regimes, and even genocide. How do we survive when the origins of our heritage, our families, and thus our identities are no longer safe? Do we preserve identity by fighting for that space? Or do we flee and create homes in new nations? In this section four directors confront trauma associated with a particular position, point, or place. Some reflect on past conflicts and the wounds that are stored in rubble and ruins, while others narrate in the midst of unrest, creating an oasis in chaos, and sometimes, bravely fighting wars to defend their homes.
Meryem (15 minutes) Directed by Reber Dosky / The Netherlands
Reber Dosky is a Kurdish-Dutch filmmaker. He has spent his film career examining the impact of war, loss, and hardship in different cultures and contexts. His films have examined familial bonds that are tested by forced displacement and separation due to war as well as the unbelievable strength of the people who remain behind and attempt to defend their homes from being invaded and destroyed by IS, in Syria in his 2016 film The Sniper of Kobani, and now in Meryem. Both movies were filmed during the battle of Kobani, and paint portraits of the Kurdish people who had the courage to fight defend their right to a safe home in the face of a tyrannical regime. Meryem reveals the women at the heart of the fight against IS who, with stoical perseverance, fearlessly lead the fight for freedom that many others had abandoned.
Greetings from Aleppo (17 minutes) Directed by Issa Touma, Floor van der Meulen & Thomas Vroege / Syria
Greetings From Aleppo reveals the disconnect between the media coverage of Syria and the experiences of everyday life for Syrian civilians. The film follows photographer Issa Touma as he travels home to film the lives of his friends that remained in their country during the ongoing civil war. Despite daily bombings, Issa captures the havens that his community have built to trya and maintain a semblance of a normal life. War is tragic and absurd and surviving it is often a highly surreal and touching facet of humanity. Sometimes the home we love is worth preserving even in the face of violence and chaos.
ˈdʊŋkl̩ˌdɔɪ̯ʧlant] (Dark Germany) (13 minutes) directed by Juliane Jaschnov & Stefanie Schroeder / Germany
“Dark Germany” is a pejorative term used by a citizen from the former Federal Regime Germany for the new German Federal State. This film transports us from the inside of an old factory of cinematographic films into a sensory journey to current anonymous Spaces in Germany. The film presents the integration of “the old” Socialist Germany, which was ironically called Western Dark Germany—the occupation of the Nazi Party. We see a contrast. One of between the darkness of the cinematographic factory, which represents West German History as well as other anonymous places that try to pin down a “new Germany”. The work captures discoveries of the territory and the attitudes of Germany’s current young people. The film overlaps footage of the past as well as the future as layered film. Thus showing us the blurring between a disappearance and the invention of a place.
Altiplano (15 minutes) Directed by Malena Szlam / Chile/Argentina/Canada
Filmed in the Andean Mountains in the traditional lands of the Atacameño, Aymara and Calchaquí-Diaguita in Northern Chile and Northwest Argentina, Altiplano takes place within a geological universe of ancestral salt flats, volcanic deserts, and coloured lakes. Fusing earth with sky, day with night, heartbeat with mountain, and mineral with iridescent cloud, the film reveals a vibrating landscape in which a bright blue sun forever threatens to eclipse a blood-red moon. The Altiplano, in west-central South America, is the area where the Andes are the widest: it is the most extensive area of high plateau on Earth outside Tibet. The ecosystem’s survival is as otherworldly as it is in danger of being permanently lost- this region is constantly threatened by manmade industries such as nitrate mining and more recently, geothermic exploitation, Altiplano reveals an ancient land standing witness to all that is, was and will be. Coupled with a soundscape generated from infrasound recordings of volcanoes, geysers, Chilean blue whales and more, Altiplano makes use of in-camera editing to create evocative visual rhythms through the clash of color and form. The film conjures the same essence of a Susan Sontag quote, “the problems of this world are only truly solved in two ways: by extinction or duplication.” Landscapes pulse and stutter, transformed through complex 16mm pixelation and superimposition techniques into spaces that exist in a multitude of times simultaneously.
Coping With The State
Much of the world describes ‘good’ governance as comprised of leaders who are in service of their people. Amongst the human rights protected by these governments, there is the guarantee that their populace will have a sustainable future, one that is even better than that of the generation before them. In this section, we look at what happens when the state fails and does not foster opportunities or upward economic mobility amongst its citizens. How do individuals despair when faced with an inadequate bureaucracy? When we are fighting against our state rather than being supported by it- are we in a state of trauma? The following works show the result of this breakdown of the state-citizens resorting to criminal acts as ways of coping with boredom or as means of pursuing one’s dreams.
Archipelagos, Naked Granites (25 minutes) Directed by Daphné Hérétakis / Greece
Between bereaved desires and lost hopes, a film diary from Greek director Hérétakis, bangs against the walls of her own city. We follow her and bear witness to the daily life of a country in crisis, the inertia of revolution, the individual issues that confront the political, questions of survival that confront ideals. Can we still ask the simplest questions? When governments falter the scope of the pain caused in massive. Are living and surviving the same thing?
Big Bridge (14 minutes) Directed by Simón Vélez López / Colombia/Argentina
A Colombian native, López’s film tells a story he knows well from his own life experience. On a hot Summer’s day, William steals a motorbike to woo his girlfriend and take her for a ride. As López puts it, “I have tried to... portray a sensorial world - one where small, everyday moments are captured, where characters are intentionally outlined, and their desires, intentions, and needs are vague. We see their lives are driven by simple impulses, and are immersed in a strong natural world. The rhythm of my films has been slow-paced and subtle, both in editing and sound design, focusing on creating an absorbing cinematographic experience. In my films Landscape has been always the strongest character since it’s part of the inner experience of the actors. I think violence is part of the landscape in Colombia, and anything you shoot, even if it is a love story will carry on violent elements that can’t be avoided while you are making a film.”
Past Perfect (23 minutes) Directed by Jorge Jácome / Portugal
Many cities and countries have a distinct malaise. Like Jácome’s native Portugal, many Western civilizations are sunk in a painful longing for the past. We exist in a persistent nostalgia, always yearning for the way things were; our pain is just the tip of an endlessly deep iceberg. This can be traced back to the origin of our species.
Jácome examines this feeling of depression, longing, and heartache for once was as a denial of a painful present rather than a desire to return to a glorious past. Was our past ever truly magnificent or have we always been caught in the tedious failures of our time? Sometimes embracing sadness is the only way to overcome it.
The Body’s Deterioration
The body is the vessel in which we navigate the world and stores each experience in our muscles and minds. The body also simultaneously acts as a haven for disease and pain. What happens when our bodies betray us? When our physical and mental health hinder our safety, making us susceptible to danger? Bodily trauma interferes with our ways of being and makes us unable to be autonomous over our livelihood. How do we cope when we’re trapped inside a body that does not serve us, and instead makes us vulnerable? These directors capture moments of illness and mental disintegration, and force us to face our limitations and mortality.
Hector Malot (The Last Day of the Year) (23 minutes) Directed by Jacqueline Lentzou / Greece
This film follows a young woman, Sofia, who has a dream one night-a premonition of her death. In her dream she walking in the desert and realizes that she is fatally sick and will not live to see another New Year. Hector Malot (The Last Day of the Year) follows Sofia on New Years Eve, going into the year that she knows will be her last one on Earth. After she is confronted with her mortality, navigating her personal relationships with loved ones proves difficult, sometimes awkward, sometimes isolating, and sometimes tender. The pastel hues give the film a celestial quality which conjures feelings of the afterlife and forces the audience to investigate the meaning of our own impermanence.
All These Creatures (13 minutes) Directed by Charles Williams / Australia
Written and directed by Charles Williams, All These Creatures was awarded the Short Film Palme d'Or at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival. The film was shot in Dandenong in Victoria, on 16mm film, and captures the wild and sometimes decrepit natural landscape of the Australian suburbs. The film follows an adolescent boy as he attempts to untangle his memories of a mysterious infestation in his own backyard, the unraveling mental health of his father, and the little creatures that are inside us all. We see the wide scope of impact of illnesses and examine the physical traumas that can be passed generationally.
AniMal (15 minutes) Directed by Ali Eemaaniraad / Iran
AniMal follows an isolated man in the middle of the wilderness in close proximity to an unknown border. We watch the man make multiple unsuccessful attempts at undetected crossing, presumably in search of a better life beyond. When he sees a wild ram existing innocuously along the impossibly impenetrable fence he gets an idea-he can pass the border if he can disguise himself as a ram. This goal quickly becomes an obsession as we follow his decline into becoming more ram than man. We are asked to confront our primal nature and the precariousness of our human identity.
The loss of a loved one can come in many forms. Oftentimes, the space that person filled in our lives remains permanently vacant, and their loss is eternally felt. So, how do we cope when someone we hold dear is taken away from us, or even, abandons us? Do we shape our lives to honor that person? How do we begin constructing a life without them? What happens when we are responsible for that loss? How do we reconcile our guilt and move forward? The impact of loss knows no bounds-it ripples through our lives whether we'd like it to or not. In this section our directors will examine different kinds of loss and the grief that lingers.
August (15 minutes) Directed by Samira Norouznasseri / Iran
As a filmmaker, Norouznasseri consistently returns to themes surrounding family dynamics and children’s position within the nuclear family unit. On a hot summer day in August, Arghavan is excited to see her father on her 9th birthday. Her new next door neighbor accompanies her as she waits for his arrival. As they wait they bond in their boredom and youthful curiosity, Arghavan’s neighbor is slightly older and shelters Arghavan from her mother’s conflicts. Together the girls explore abandonment, the loss of innocence, and newly formed bonds of sisterhood. August paints a picture of the kind of day that sticks in a child’s mind, maybe for the rest of her life. A picture of the day she saw her family in a different light. Maybe the day she began to grow up.
A Gentle Night (15 minutes) Directed by Qui Yang / China
In a nameless Chinese city, a mother searches for her missing daughter and refuses to let her gently disappear into the night. Yang paints a picture of a mother’s deep bond with her child. Shot on fifteen millimeter film, the city is full of foreboding shadows and ominous gloom, the mother must not lose hope and not let herself assume the worst. The suspenseful film walks us through a mother’s inability to accept a loss, and the lengths to which she’ll go through to be reunited with her child. Or, at the very least have clarity as to her fate.
Walk Around Heaven All Day (3 minutes) Directed by Chase Hall / United States
Chase Hall is a multidisciplinary artist based in NYC whose work centers on conversations of race and social inequality. Hall’s most recent video work was shot at the recent funeral of his deceased grandfather, the patriarch of his family. The service includes a celestial church choir singing renditions of gospel songs, “Walk Around Heaven All Day,” the title of the piece, and “Prayer.” This film, Walk Around Heaven All Day begs to question what our spectrum of empathy is as audience members participating in funeral of a person we never met. As we watch these musicians sing to the heavens in mourning, we bear witness to the power of human resilience, even when in the throngs of grief. Religion is a structure many are encouraged to lean on during traumatic times.
Reconstruction (15 minutes) Directed by Jiří Havlíček & Ondřej Novák / Czech Republic
Reconstruction follows Olda, a teenager accused of murder and waiting for his trial in a juvenile detention center. As we follow him through his monotone prison life we get the feeling that we too are waiting for an impending doom. The nature of the crime is gradually revealed to us via memories of a police crime scene reconstruction which are intertwined with his present imprisonment. We soon learn that all it took was one summer night for holiday boredom and unfulfilled purpose to turn into a cruel joke that resulted in death.
Reclaiming Trauma Through Performance
A traumatic incident is often defined as a moment in life where one’s autonomy over one’s safety is stripped away. Whether one is physically restrained by an assailant, or is simply paralyzed due to a lack of safe options elsewhere, this traumatic moment becomes imprinted on the psyche precisely because of this entrapment. Our biological response when confronted with abuse is to either defend ourselves or flee: fight or flight. But what happens when these natural reactions are interrupted? How do we reclaim our autonomy after we’ve lost it? How do we take care of ourselves when we still carrying around moments when we were unable to? For many of us the answer lies in creative expression. Using our darkest moments to create something beautiful allows us to regain control over a situation that rendered us powerless. In this section, directors Ondine Viñao and Adinah Dancyger turn their dark moments of isolation into films that serve as vehicles of outreach and facilitate connections with their audiences.
Cheer Up Baby (13 minutes) Directed by Adinah Dancyger / United States
A young woman, tired from her daily routine, falls asleep on her New York Subway ride home. What happens next is unfortunately predictable – she awakes to find a man violating her. The film explores the ramifications of her assault, and the damaging effect on her perspective of the world and the people around her. As Dancyger puts it, "The film is nearly dialogue-less. Through close visual framing, the audience is close to Anna as she observes, wanders, and confronts familiar environments that become informed by her trauma." In this extremely personal film, Cheer Up Baby, writer/director/editor Adinah Dancyger recontextualizes a traumatizing event that happened in her own life. Dancyger expertly reexamines our cultural desensitization to harassment and the rippling effects this has on the way women are forced to navigate the world.
Holy Fools (12 minutes) Directed by Ondine Viñao / United States
Viñao's Holy Fools reexamines Bruce Nauman's seminal piece, Clown Torture, by recasting the traditional figure of the clown in the context of the Holy Fool, defined as one who strives "with imaginary insanity to reveal the insanity of the world." Just as the Holy Fool in its traditional role feigns madness in order to provide the public with spiritual guidance, Viñao's performers exploit the performative nature of the fool as a cathartic and liberating tool for trauma to be related to the viewer. Holy Fools is not an explicitly gendered reading of Nauman's Clown Torture, Holy Fools materialized through retrospection by Viñao and three female performers, with whom the artist shares close working and nonworking relationships. In their collective journaling, Viñao's subjects recount the familiar narratives of the female experience: sexual abuse, a motherless childhood, the pressures to perform femininity. The concept of the clown embodies a mediated role for Viñao's subjects to relive these traumatic episodes.