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Lindsay R. Bellinger


 

Lindsay is a film journalist and an aspiring playwright currently based in Berlin.

Attending film festivals, reviewing films and collecting vinyl keeps her busy. Let her know what you think of her reviews.^^


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Helsinki Mansplaining Massacre: Audience award winner at the Berlin Christmas Film Festival

(Helsinki Mansplaining Massacre, © Jon Grönvall 2018) 

By LINDSAY R. BELLINGER

 

Sadly, the closing day of the Weihnachtsfilmfestival 2018, came and went too quickly. The first half of the program was a tad more family friendly than a lot of the other programming this year. Muumien taikatalvi (Moomins and the Winter Wonderland) from filmmakers Ira Carpelan and Jakub Wronski featured the voices of Alicia Vikander and Stellan Skarsgård. It was very well-attended with children and their parents filling the seats of Kino Moviemento, waiting to immerse themselves in a classic Christmas tale.

(Ali Cotteril and Christa Orth, © Teresa Vena/Weihnachtsfilmfestival2018) 

 

The second feature of the day was quite special and Brooklyn-based filmmakers Ali Cotterill and Christa Orth were even in attendance. They were very much in the Christmas spirit, donning their Christmas hats made by Santa's elves from North Pole, New York. It is here that their aforementioned documentary North Pole, NY  wowed the audience, with its slice of Americana apple pie. Cotterill, who directed and edited the film, has always been a huge fan of theme parks ever since she was a kid. After she and producer/sound operator Christa Orth visited North Pole, NY (Wilmington, NY) for the first time in 2012 they were inspired to make this charming documentary. A friend of theirs told them that for their first film they needed to pick something that really interests them because it will consume their lives. This film has been quite a long journey for their film team of two, who for three years starting in 2012 visited the Santa-themed park for a week every summer and a long weekend every winter. The film really digs deeper into the relationship the theme park has with the Wilmington community. It covers more than simply showing families and children enjoying the magic of Santa's workshop. I was initially expecting just candy canes and fairy tales, especially seeing that it's only 69 minutes in length, but was pleasantly surprised. Don't get my wrong, the magic is aplenty from the visitors to long-time employees and even local business people. There's also a darker side to Santa's summer residence, the fact that it was almost purchased by a conman and conwoman who would have drained all of the accounts and fled as they had done with other properties throughout New York State. One truly feels the love and care that Cotteril and Orth put into their film. They've already had a limited tour throughout much of New York and after making their European debut at the Weihnachtsfilmfestival Berlin let's hope that they make way for more families to discover the magic that exists at North Pole, NY throughout the summer months. The feeling of Christmas lives year-round at Santa's Workshop. 
 
 
(Audience members at the shorts, © Teresa Vena/Weihnachtsfilmfestival2018) 
 
 
The last block of shorts, Family Affairs, ended the short film programs on a very strong note. The Canadian French-language short Ruby pleine de marde (Ruby Full of Shit) directed by Jean-Guillaume Bastien and Fortune Faded from Alexander Heringer were some standouts. The voiceover of Denis, the stranger, at the Christmas table of his lover Carl's family gathering is quite effective, especially with the introductory scene where it looks as if Denis is on another plane. Denis is charismatic and entertaining, the way he describes Carl's super Catholic family who has no clue about their relationship. Once he encounters Ruby, the angelic-looking 6 year old niece who everyone dotes on things take a turn. Ruby Full of Shit is an appropriate title and the young actress lives up to it. The editing, music choice and the battle between young Ruby and Denis makes this an entertaining look into how awful Christmas with someone else's family can get. 
 
Fortune Faded is a brief but haunting film. The stirring music highlights the still images with such an intensity. The reveal of the original cause of the fire that caused the man's misfortune is a bit jarring. This is one film that really sticks with you and makes you think more about cause and effect. Life can so easily take a turn for better or for worse. Heringer really packs a punch. 
 
McGhee Monteith is the writer, director and actress in the dramatic short He Could've Gone Pro. She plays the daughter who takes her boyfriend back home to reluctantly visit her insufferable mother Gayle. Family secrets come out and it'll make you glad you aren't a part of this dysfunctional family. 
 
 
(André Kirchner, Lindsay Bellinger and Teresa Vena, © Teresa Vena/Weihnachtsfilmfestival2018) 
 
 
Two films, which luckily are both online, were unexpected and entertaining, the UK animation A Memory of Christmas from Ainslie Henderson which reveals a bizarre childhood memory involving his mother and brother and the Swedish comedy Music for One X-mas and Six Drummers. Henderson even shares an actual piece from his childhood at the end, which really heightened the audience's reaction. The writing/directing team of Ola Simonsson and Johannes Stjärne Nilsson creates what almost feels like a music video when six drummers dressed up as carolers visit a nursing home and create an inspired piece of music from their craft machines, a Christmas tree and various knick knacks. 
 
The closing short film, If Family Christmas was Honest, from the Grimes Brothers hits very close to home, as the holidays is one of the few times that extended families all gather together. There are often unspoken issues and judgments. Perhaps we hold our tongues more to try to keep the peace, not being completely forthright with how we truly feel. The Grimes Brothers present us with the hilarious and awkward inner monologues of each and every family member who joins this festive gathering, with no-holds barred. It's biting, ruthless and funny; it's family.
 
 
 
(André Kirchner and Teresa Vena, © Teresa Vena/Weihnachtsfilmfestival2018) 
 
 
After all of the votes were tallied from the final short film program, festival director Kirchner announced before the last feature film that Helsinki Mansplaining Massacre was taking home the coveted Audience Award made by Berlinglas, e.VThe audience was in for a treat because this best short film was screened again after the final film, A Christmas Fury from Canadian filmmaker Warren P. Sonoda. For those familiar with Canadian comic actors this film was extra fun. Imagine a tiny snow-covered hamlet where one family business runs not only the local funeral home and ambulance but also a wedding parlor all out of their own home. Welcome to the life of the Fury family. It's a typical Christmas story with a juvenile delinquent orphan girl staying with probably the most dysfunctional family seen on screen in recent memory. The Fury clan doesn't hide their disdain for one another, rather revels in it. The competition between the siblings and their respective partners is very tangible. The drunken father barely functions from day to day and Mary Walsh as mother of the Fury clan was in top form.

The 76 short films that took part in the Weihnachtsfilmfestival this year were all so well-curated. My interview with Kirchner comes to mind, when he likened short film curation to making a mix tape, balancing out and creating a certain natural flow. Curation is often not given enough credit, and with such a special themed Christmas film festival like this one it's a testament to Kirchner and Vena, their passion for compelling cinema and how their blood, sweat and tears really helped bring the Christmas spirit to Berlin this year. Another pleasant surprise was the openness of so many of the directors who came from quite far to present their films. 

 

 

 


About Lindsay R. Bellinger

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