Manifesto Film Festival 2018 in Amsterdam
What can we learn from stories of survival and love from around the world? (A Manifesto Film Festival review)
Manifesto Film Festival was a refreshing and well-curated collection of short films and features, which combined to fill four days of thought-provoking entertainment and expressionism everyone must experience. Good thing it’ll be back next year. Created and pushed forward by Alexandra Nakelski and a team of wonderful film lovers.
Spread across 9 locations (Arcam, Cavia, Cinema of the Dam’d, CREA, De Balie, De Kring, EYE, Lab 111, Rialto) featuring everyone from internationally celebrated directors to new visionaries; ‘Manifesto’ truly inspires and provides each ticket holder with an experience that feels personalized. The selection of short films rivals, if not outdoing, all other film festivals I’ve attended in the past three to five years.
While the festival’s theme was critical of the United States and the dystopian reality we are endeavouring into facing full on, it brimmed with hope, and held firm in the persevering nature of the human spirit.
What if the apocalypse is necessary? What if the Ragnarok Hollywood presents isn’t actually full of death, but merely severe change? How do we find footing in our fresh reality? Do we get to? As the wealth gap grows healthier every day, opposing sides incubate more, and each person is isolated within their own echo chamber; the sermon of film and short films may provide a bridge across an ever challenging gap. Each of us is victim, each of us is victor, but what happens when the value systems which dictate such positions deconstruct into ‘past’, and ‘useless’. Preciousness becomes luxury, and family remains.
Below are a selection of my favorites from this years line up, and I can’t wait to go back next year.
1. “The Good Mother” Directed by Sarah Clift – UK/Mexico 2017
It’s their sons birthday in Mexico and the son wants a piñata of Trump. No one in town can make it. Nor are they willing to. For some reason, the young man has taken to Trump and wants a piñata to beat for his birthday. She travels far and wide to find an old mystic in a cave who’s concocted this sought after center of his birthday. Riding both ways on a scooter for one, she binds Trump to the back and makes his birthday as memorable as ever.
2. “The Inksect” Directed by Pablo Calvillo – Mexico 2016
An animated film set in a dystopian future where reading has gone by the wayside. Each human has devolved into a cockroach and the only hope from a grey matrix-like world is the enlightenment of knowledge and imagination. A fantastically beautiful depiction of our present trajectory. Only one cockroach is featured and barely survives the surge of inspiration found at the end of a tunnel full of lights. Does the roach live or doesn’t it?
3. “The Troll” Directed by Van Maximilian Carlson – USA 2013
Listen to my interview with Creator of Manifesto Film Festival for a bit of her background with this piece.
Set in LA, a troll lives under his bridge, one he is bound to for life as all bridge trolls are. On a sullen night, our troll prevents a woman’s suicide-by-jump utilizing his ability to move faster than sound, and total invisibility when desired. They fall in love and he continues to leave gifts at her doorstep each night. Finally, she invites him in and they briefly get to know one another, as time is limited to an hour for the troll, before he turns to stone. This sweet and appropriately sentimental tale ends in a way you’ll have to catch the film to experience.
4. “Coverage” – Directed by Jef Taylor, 2008 USA
Our featured couple finds one another to be unscathed after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11th in New York City, but everything is not alright. As they reestablish the intimacy and warmth in their relationship our lead finds himself aroused by the tragedies depicted by the then-born 24 hours news cycle. As time passes he develops an inability to reach sexual climax without the stimulation brought to a norm by the violent images on television. Upon confronting the desire the film reaches its acting apex as our couple faces this new revelation in the middle of the night. Catch the short to see what happens!
*Living in the United States during this I can attest to the porn like approach of news stations throughout this time. Selling gore and sob stories over solutions and beauty in the years since. Something that has perpetuated itself by way of some unknown positive feedback loop to these days of ‘fake news’.*
5. “Le Bleu Blanc Rouge de mes Cheveux” Directed by Josza Anjembe – 2017 France.
“The Blue White Red of my Hair” tells the story of a young black woman raised alongside her younger brother, in France by her Cameroonian father, and French mother. Graduating with very high marks leaves her classmates, and the right boy, impressed. In so doing she’s earned her French ID and residency, something her father dislikes as the nation treats him poorly.
Her application requires her father’s residency card, which she steals only to run into one final issue: her afro won’t fit into the required photograph as it must have 5 centimeters of free space above the head, an area dominated by her hair. Her graduation gift of a 50 euro spa treatment is spent on shaving her head, rendering her ‘appropriate’ for France. Ultimately enduring her father’s greatest source of frustration, needing to fit into an unfair standard.*This was one of the most poignant and well directed short films I’ve ever seen.*
6. “I Did It In Cancun” Directed by Matthieu Moerlen – France 2017
A French arthouse approach to the agony of birthing a brainchild in the form of creative constipation…in the form of real constipation. Our protagonist wants to “take a shit” as per the first line of the film. Surrounded by his entourage and artistically enhanced stereotypes aplenty, he slowly finds his way to expression…inside an airport restroom making a piece of work in keeping with the real-life artists’ collection.
7. “Ainhoa” Directed by Ivan Sainz-Pardo – Spain 2016
Facing eviction and a year of unemployment, a family of three dearly need help. The young daughter runs away from home in response to her father losing his will to live, by way of the Spanish government’s corruption. She manages to walk all the way to city hall where she faces our crooked politician and pulls a gun on him. She pulls the trigger only to spray water on him, and calmly walks away. A truly disturbing examination of the current state of affairs in Spain.
8. “Next Floor” – Directed by Denis Villeneuve, 2008 Canada.
A film noir-like take on excess and ostentatious behavior among the exceptionally wealthy and their waitstaff. The dinner party has been eating through floor upon floor, each time entering the ravenous feast in a timider, yet equally famish way. The staff follows them down each floor, as the descending party is cherry topped by a majestic chandelier, which also serves as the only stationary light. Everyone following as they crash through floor after floor, until it begins to threaten their own lives.
Denis Villeneuve, the French-Canadian genius behind blockbusters “Blade Runner 2049”, “Arrival”, and “Sicario” shows a severe perspective and rarely seen ability to layer exposition into the art departments approach to previous action. A true visual pleasure, despite its off-putting aesthetic and subjects.
This was a thoroughly enjoyable feast of ‘film’ at Manifesto Film Festival, and one I will be attending for all occasions to come.
Did you attend Manifesto Film Festival last weekend? Let us know your favourite in the comments!