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

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Valle de Goni and Entitas: Day 2 at the Berlin Christmas Film Festival

(Valle de Goni film team, © Teresa Vena/Weihnachtsfilmfestival2018) 

By LINDSAY R. BELLINGER

 

Day two of the Weihnachtsfilmfestival in Berlin was filled with some surprising moments, ranging from a neo-pagan Christmas celebration to Jesus returning to Italy and even lawsuits being filed against farm animals. 
 
Canadian filmmaker Laurie Mannessier's French-language short Le fruit de nos entrailles (The Fruit of our Womb) was an entertaining treat. Andrea (Bénédicte-Lala Ernoult) and Marie (Sarah Perriez) are shocked to discover that Andrea is pregnant, especially since she hasn't had sex with a man. The playful music, perfect chemistry between the two leads and a funny use of holy water make for a lighthearted and amusing watch. Marie's strong Christian beliefs even surpass her local priest's belief in Christmas miracles, which is a nice little jab at teaching what one doesn't fully believe oneself.      
 
 
(Giorgio Amato, © Teresa Vena/Weihnachtsfilmfestival2018) 
 
Italian writer/director Giorgio Amato was at Kino Moviemento to present his 2017 feature Oh mio Dio! (Oh My God!), which was shot documentary-style following Jesus (Carlo Caprioli) in modern day Rome as he gathers his apostles and performs miracles. Before the screening, Amato stated that it wasn't his intention to make a religious film, rather one to comment on the modern values, or lack of values, in Italian (Christian) society. The different types of footage (documentary interviews, cell phone from within the film, and street footage) was, as expected, difficult to edit together. Most of the interactions that Jesus and his apostles have with people on the street were real which is very telling. A sequence involving two different nuns turning him away when he is seeking shelter for the night is quite memorable. With regards to how the Catholic Church reacted to his film, Amato revealed that it was more appreciated than he had thought it'd be. When he first wrote the script he felt that it was a much more sarcastic take on what would happen if Jesus returned but after making the film he sees less of the sarcasm, thinking that it actually develops "a religious flow." Amato is just as surprised as we are that the dvd of Oh mio Dio! will be released by a religious distributor. Indifference was the main thing motivating Amato to make the film, the indifference that he finds more and more people in Italy have towards those who are most in need. Hypocrisy also is tied to that. "We do good things this Christmas week but after that forget about it," said Amato after the screening. Sadly, that's not just a problem designated to Italy all around the world. It was also fun to spot the director in a cameo, which has always been a fun little game of mine ever since Hitchcock became a part of my life.
 
 
(Žiga Krajnc, © Teresa Vena/Weihnachtsfilmfestival2018) 
 
The Hard to Believe short films were an interesting and unexpected mix. Slovenian filmmaker Žiga Krajnc talked about how it was filming his grandfather for the short but sweet documentary Emil. We follow Emil as he's driving around, sitting with his wife at home and as he's making a Santa appearance for a gymnasium filled with screaming children. Emil worked for over 4 decades in the glass manufacturing industry before donning the Santa suit in a professional capacity. Krajnc shared that for a mere 30 euros Emil will make an hour-long Santa visit. Apparently his initial reason to play Santa was with hopes to earn enough money to cover his car registration. It was sweet to hear that Krajnc's grandma gets a little annoyed because the beard means that she and Emil can't cuddle so comfortably. Next up for Krajnc is another documentary and a few music videos. It'll be nice to see what else he has in store. 

The music video Entitas by MALO is directed and produced by French actor/filmmaker Hugo Diego Garcia. It is true to what a music video should be, a short film that tells its own complete story. The black & white cinematography from Clémence Thurninger captures the snow-filled mammoth of a mountain gorgeously and fits the ethereal musical stylings of MALO just right. Three resistance fighters with their rifles in tow experience something inexplicable in
the treacherous landscapes. Entitas intertwines MALO's synthwave and bold black and white images in a way that both are imprinted on your brain long after the video is over. No dialogue or lyrics make one almost wonder whether the images or the soundtrack came first. Not at bad sign at all. Some of my favorite films, whether short, documentary or feature-length, are undeniably tied to their music, whether it's an original score or just specific tracks. My first encounter with the unique and unforgettable music of Nina Simone comes to mind. When I was all of 11 or 12, I saw John Badham's Point of No Return, a remake of Luc Besson's far superior Nikita. Simone's music is so much a part of the story; she's mentioned throughout as Bridget Fonda's character associates the music to memories of her mother growing up. Back to the topic at hand, Entitas and MALO, whose music video Fracture is without a doubt one of the best music videos that I've seen in the past decade. Retrowave taken to a completely different world, starring and directed again by Hugo Diego Garcia. MALO has earned its rightful place on my playlist this holiday season, playing pretty much on repeat for the past several days now. It'll make its way on yours as well; it's addicting. 
 
Tis the Season from director Kirsten Stuck was an interesting animation from the US that shows what happens when Christmas cards come to life. Its brief two-minute length had much of the audience in stitches.
 
Isak Kohaly is a young Italian man who moved to Tel Aviv to connect with his family's Jewish heritage. He couldn't seem to shake his obsession with all things Christmas so in his documentary Isak's Best Christmas Ever he attempts to throw a super cozy and fun Christmas party in his tiny apartment. Just like Isak's apartment, his film is filled with moments of joy, moments of sadness but always with a hint of Isak's passion for Christmas. 
 
Wren Boys is a UK short film from director Harry Lighton who also co-wrote the script with John Fitzpatrick. It revolves around a Catholic priest from Cork, Ireland as he drives his young nephew to a prison. There were a few big twists and funny surprises in the film. Everyone and everything is not what one might expect. Appearances are definitely not what they seem. Wren Boys is a well-made piece of cinema worth a watch. 
 
 
(Q&A with Emilia Buchbinder after the screening Valle de Goni, © Teresa Vena/Weihnachtsfilmfestival2018) 
 
The standout for the day was Argentinian filmmaker Emilia Buchbinder's unusual comedy Valle de Goni. She and her set designer presented their film and I got the chance to pick their brains after the screening. This short film centers around the town Valle de Goni where medieval law, filing lawsuits against animals, is still in practice. Buchbinder says that this used to be fairly common practice especially in France, often involving pigs. For her film a goat and roosters are front and center and as is a Christmas Mass. The creativity of this film, the cinematography, editing, set design and music are all top-notch. The director said that she listened to Bach and Handel on replay, which inspired her to come up with the goat storyline. The initial cut of the film ran almost 17 minutes long and was finally cut down to its 10-minute running time. It'd be interesting to see the caterpillar/tomato sequence that ended up on the cutting room floor. Her production team lived for a week with two roosters, who woke them up at 5am every morning which funny to think that of life imitating art. The next project that Buchbinder is planning is a short Jesus on the Beach, where the priest from Valle de Goni will portray Jesus before he's on the cross,  cutting back to flashbacks of his earlier life. 
 
(Lorenzo Fassina and , © Teresa Vena/Weihnachtsfilmfestival2018) 
 
The closing feature film The Night Sitter from US filmmakers John Rocco and Abiel Bruhn was a fun mix of comedy and horror. Amber (Elyse DuFour) is a babysitter whose plan is to steal from the wealthy father who collects expensive pieces from the occult. The son Kevin (Jack Champion) releases three witches from an ancient book, which starts a crazy bloodbath that solidifies this film's place into B-movie territory. It's a fun and wild ride for those who enjoy this genre. Even better was the supporting Italian fantasy, horror short film Presepe vivente (Living Nativity) from writer/director Lorenzo Fassina who just happened to plan his holiday in Berlin before serendipitously finding out that his film was accepted into the festival. This little gem reached true classic B-movie territory with oozy liquidy splattering blood and overacting to boot. Living Nativity is Fassina's tenth short film but the first one to have a decent budget which gave him more freedom to experiment. It was interesting to hear that the initial mother character got fell ill at the last-minute so one of the younger crew members had to fill in, which meant that they needed some sort of extra costume to mask her young age. This facilitated the sounds that Mother created too, adding quite interesting and unique elements to the film. Lucky, happy accidents. 
 

 

 

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