In what started in 1951 as a post-war display of American cultural influence to counter the growing shadow of Soviet East Germany, the Berlin International Film Festival (Berlinale) has become the highest profile European cinema event to kick start the festival calendar. Hundreds of films are screened each year, representing a truly global celebration of cinema. Since the 1960s, Berlinale has slightly pivoted away from Hollywood’s influence to ensure that new and original voices gain the much-needed exposure a festival of this magnitude provides.
While new filmmakers occupy a large selection of the 2017 program, the films competing for the GWFF First Feature Award and the Golden and Silver Bears for short films are perhaps the most coveted prizes for emerging directors as they are known to launch professional careers.
This year’s GWFF First Feature award went to Spanish filmmaker Carla Simón for her semi-autobiographical tale Summer 1993. Carla developed the screenplay, which is a trope about coping with loss as a child, through the increasingly lucrative Berlinale Script Station and the Talent Campus. The Golden Bear for Best Short Film was won by Portuguese director Diogo Costa Amarante for his film Small Town. Diogo is the second filmmaker from Portugal to win the coveted Golden Bear in as many years after Leonor Teles’ Balada de una Batráquio won in 2016. In fact Portugal has become a breeding ground for important new short films this year. Alongside Diogo competing this year were fellow Portuguese directors Salomé Lamas for Coup de Grâce, Gabriel Abrantes for Os Humores Artificiais and João Salaviza for Altas Cidades de Ossadas.
New Machine editors have briefly profiled the major first feature and short film winners from the 2017 event.
AWARD: GWFF Best First Feature Award. TITLE: Summer 1993 (‘Estiu 1993’)
FILMMAKER: Carla Simón/Spain/2017/Biographical/96 minutes.
SYNOPSIS: Six years old Frida has to learn to cope with her emotions after she loses her parents. The first summer with her uncle’s family in a Catalan province is far away from her native Barcelona. Her new parents have to learn to love her as their own.
FESTIVAL AWARDS & NOMINATIONS: Summer 1993 scored two awards at the Berlinale 2017 – The Grand Prix of the Generation Kplus International Jury for the Best Film and GWFF Best First Feature Award.
Carla Simón won Best Documentary at Screentest: The National Student Film Festival 2013 for the documentary Born Positive (2012). Her fiction Lipstick received three nominations, including at the Aesthetica Short Film Festival and the Cornwall Film festival and Las Pequeñas Cosas (Those Little Things) earned a nomination at the Angers European First Film Festival in 2015.
ABOUT THE FILMMAKER: Carla Simón was born in a small Catalan village in 1986; she graduated in Audiovisual Communication at the Universitat Autònoma of Barcelona, after spending a year at the University of California; Carla moved to the UK to study at the London Film School; she lost her parents when she was six years old and her films address themes of childhood and the complexity of family relationships.
Diogo Costa Amarante
AWARD: Golden Bear For Best Short Film. TITLE: Cidade Pequena (Small Town).
FILMMAKER: Diogo Costa Amarante/Portugal/2016/Documentary/19minutes.
SYNOPSIS: In September six-year-old Frederico finds out from his teacher that if the heart stops beating, people die. Must children always be told the truth?
FESTIVAL AWARDS & NOMINATIONS: Cidade Pequena (Small Town) won Golden Berlin Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival 2017 for Best Short Film.
He has won multiple film festival awards, principally in Europe. Some of his major achievements include the Golden Egg award at the Reykjavik International Film Festival in 2007 for his short Jumate/Jumate. In recent years his short Down Here earned Amarante nominations at Torino and Sofia film festivals and the important Jury Award at the Barcelona International Film Festival in 2012. He has been nominated at Berlinale before, for White Roses in 2014, which also won the European Grand Prix Award at the Brest European Short Film Festival that year.
ABOUT THE FILMMAKER: Diogo Costa Amarante was born in Portugal 1982 where he graduated in law; he recently completed a film degree at Tisch School of the Arts in New York where he is developing his first feature script, Migrar pelas Sombras.
AWARD: Silver Bear Jury Prize (Short Film). TITLE: Ensueño en la Pradera (Reverie in the Meadow).
FILMMAKER: Esteban Arrangoiz Julien/Mexico/ 2016 /Documentary /17 minutes.
SYNOPSIS: After the decision to leave the American dream and return to his native Mexico, Mexican migrant is now faced with the difficult living conditions in Mexico. The violence and extortion rampant throughout several states of Mexico.
FESTIVAL AWARDS & NOMINATIONS: Reverie in the Meadow had been nominated for Golden Berlin Bear for Best Short Film 2017 and won Silver Bear Jury Prize.
His other short films including the documentary El Buzo (2015), which screened at Berlinale Shorts in 2016 and ending up with two awards and fifteen nominations throughout its film festival run. His previous short Rio Lerma (2011) won the Silver Ariel Award in Mexico.
ABOUT THE FILMMAKER: Esteban Arrangoiz Julien was born in Mexico City in 1979, he studied a Bachelors in media and cultural studies in Australia and filmmaking at the UNAM in Mexico City; in 2012 he participated as a director in Berlinale Talents; lately Esteban also been creating video installations; he also works as a cinematographer.
AWARD: Audi Short Film Award. TITLE: Street of Death
FILMMAKER: Karam Ghossein / Lebanon, Germany / 2016 / Docufiction / 23 minutes.
SYNOPSIS: Street of Death is the raw and intimate portrait of a neighborhood. The stories of five inhabitants occurring like a kaleidoscope through past and present, along the highway to the Beirut International Airport.
FESTIVAL AWARDS & NOMINATIONS: Street of Death won Audi Short Film Award at the Berlin International Film Festival 2017.
ABOUT THE FILMMAKER: Karam Ghossein is a filmmaker, actor and cinematographer, he was born in 1988 in South Lebanon and is now based in Beirut; he studied Cinema & Television at the Lebanese University, Faculty of Fine Arts and has worked on numerous short experimental, documentary and fiction films and TV productions; his work has been shown at Berlinale, MoMA New York, Centre Pompidou Paris, Tribeca Doha, Guggenheim New York, among others.
AWARD: Special Mention. TITLE: Centauro (Centaur).
FILMMAKER: Nicolás Suárez/Argentina/2016/Animation, Short/ 14minutes.
SYNOPSIS: Centaur is political western that is set in the Argentine Pampas. The drama starts when bad gaucho calls the spirit of his dead brother.
FESTIVAL AWARDS & NOMINATIONS: His short film Centaur won Special Mention at Berlinare 2017 and was awarded the Historias Breves prize by the Argentinian National Institute of Cinema and Audiovisual Arts.
ABOUT THE FILMMAKER: Nicolás Suárez was born in 1987, he is a writer, director and producer from Buenos Aires; he studied on Screenwriting at ENERC and Literature at the University of Buenos Aires; he is currently pursuing a PhD in Argentine literature and cinema as well as teaching literary theory; Nicolás wrote a book The Work and Life of Sarmiento in Cinema awarded in the National and Federal Contest of Studies on Argentine Cinema, and is to be published in 2017.
AWARD: Berlin Short Film Nominee for the European Film Awards. TITLE: Os Humores Artificiais (The Artificial Humors).
FILMMAKER: Gabriel Abrantes/ Portugal/ 2016/ Fiction/30 minutes.
SYNOPSIS: A young indigenous woman Jo falls in love with the robot, Coughmann, who is rising stand up comedian in Brazil. The power of their love overcomes every reboot.
FESTIVAL AWARDS & NOMINATIONS: The Artificial Humors is now the official Berlin Short Film Nominee for The European Film Awards.
Gabriel’s most recent documentary short A Brief History of Princess X scored nominations at Toronto and Milan Film Festivals. All up, his documentary shorts have earned numerous nominations and significant wins, including at Berlin International Film Festival and at Ann Arbor Film Festivals.
ABOUT THE FILMMAKER: Gabriel Abrantes was born in North Carolina in 1984; lives and works in Lisbon; studied at the Le Fresnoy in Tourcoing, France, Cooper Union School of Art in New York, and L’Ecole National des Beaux Arts in Paris, France; has screened films in competition at festivals such as IndieLisboa, Locarno International Film Festival, the Berlinale and La Biennale di Venezia; he has exhibited at the Centre Pompidou, the Centre d’Art Contemporain, Geneva and Museu Serralves, the Palais de Tokyo, the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, the MIT List Center for the Visual Arts.
AWARD: Crystal Bear for the Best Film. TITLE: Piata loď (Little Harbour).
FILMMAKER: Iveta Grófová /Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia/2017/fiction/ 90 minutes.
SYNOPSIS: It’s a story of children in transitions between fantasy world and the harsh realities of life. Living with a mother who is not yet ready to be a Mum, ten years-old Jarka is one of these children. Jarka’s desire to form a fully functional family portrays through substituting a “mother” to two babies.
FESTIVAL AWARDS & NOMINATIONS: Little Harbour, Crystal Bear for the Best Film in the Generation KPlus section. Her 2012 feature debut Made in Ash was selected as the Slovak entry for the Best Foreign Language Oscar nominations at the 85th Academy Awards.
ABOUT THE FILMMAKER: Iveta Grófová was born in Slovakia in 1980; studied animation and documentary production and completed a PhD from the Academy of Performing Arts in Bratislava; she has also directed documentaries for television and founded Hulapa Film, a production company for author-driven films, in 2010.
AWARD: Special Mention in Generation KPlus. TITLE: Amelie rennt (Mountain Miracle-An Unexpected Friendship’)
FILMMAKER/Tobias Wiemann/ Germany, Italy/ 2017/fiction/ 97 minutes.
SYNOPSIS: A story of the first teenager emotional adventure between the most stubborn girl Amelie, a 13-year-old girl and 15-year-old Bart, quirky boy who saves her life.
FESTIVAL AWARDS & NOMINATIONS: Amelie rennt won Special Mention in Generation KPlus. His made for TV film Von einem, der auszog, das Fürchten zu lernen (2014) won two awards, and two nominations, the short film Ein schönes lied (2010), won one award and the short film Eine Schwalbe macht noch keinen Sommer (2005), also one award.
ABOUT THE FILMMAKER: Tobias Wiemann was born in Germany in 1981, he studied Media Design and worked as a cinematographer, editor and director in Berlin; produced and directed numerous short films for Howman-Pictures short films; since 2008 he has been working for Til Schweiger’s production company Barefoot Films; Amelie rennt (Mountain Miracle – An Unexpected Friendship) is his second theatrical feature.
AWARD: Crystal Bear for the Best Short Film. TITLE: Promise.
FILMMAKER/Xie Tian/ USA /2016/ fiction /17 min/ SYNOPSIS: Over 60 million children in China is being left by their parents to work, this is the story of a boy who hopes to see his parents for New Year’s Eve.
FESTIVAL AWARDS & NOMINATIONS: His short fiction Promise won Crystal Bear for the Best Short Film. His previous fiction film is Strawman (2016) and also won the Diamond Award for Best Director at the NYC Indie Film Festival.
ABOUT THE FILMMAKER: NOTE: Our editors did not find much information on Xie Tian other than we know he studied in the US.
AWARD: Special Mention Generation KPlus International Jury. TITLE: Hedgehog’s Home.
FILMMAKER: Eva Cvijanović/ Zagreb /2016 /short animated film/10minutes.
SYNOPSIS: Deep in the forest in a world made of felt, forest animals tried to make fun of the Hedgehog’s little home. A hedgehog proves to three rogues that there truly is no place like home. The stop motion animation is an adaptation from the famous fable written by Branko Ćopić.
FESTIVAL AWARDS & NOMINATIONS: Short animated film Hedgehog’s Home won Special Mention in the Generation KPlus category 2017 as voted by the children’s jury,
Eva Cvijanović received the prestigious Zlatko Grgić and Norman McLaren awards during her studies, and before graduating from Concordia University.
ABOUT THE FILMMAKER: Eva was born in Sarajevo in 1984, lives in Montreal and works as an animator and a filmmaker, using materials like felted wool, watercolor and pastels; she is is known to work in genres such as documentary, puppet films and occasionally videogames; after graduating at Concordia University she produced and directed several short films and participated in the National Film Board of Canada’s Hothouse development program for animators.
AWARD: Crystal Bear for the Best Short Film. TITLE: Wolfe.
FILMMAKER: Claire Randall/ Australia 2016/Documentary/16 minutes/
SYNOPSIS: No one except Nick could hear mister Wolfe. He became Nick’s constant companion but then all of a sudden a darker side emerged. Story explores undiagnosed schizophrenia of a young man through his adolescence.
FESTIVAL AWARDS & NOMINATIONS: Wolfe won Crystal Bear for the Best Short Film 2017 and in 2016 she took out the best director award at Griffith University Film School in Australia.
ABOUT THE FILMMAKER: Claire is still a student of Film and Screen Media at Griffith University Film School; she was born in Brisbane, Australia and focuses on documentary filmmaking; depression in her late teenage years led her to focus on mental illness in her filmmaking and on promoting social awareness.
AWARD: The Special Prize of the Generation 14Plus International Jury. TITLE: The Jungle Knows You Better Than You Do.
FILMMAKER: Juanita Onzaga/Belgium/Colombia /2016/Documentary/20 minutes/
SYNOPSIS: Two siblings reunite following a long search for their murdered fathers’ spirit. In a search for family’s secrets and mystical relationship between life and death they will find some answers and attract unexpected company.
AWARDS & NOMINATIONS: Short documentary The Jungle Knows You Better Than You Do won The Special Prize of the Generation 14Plus International Jury 2017, also a winner of the VAF Wildcard in 2016.
Her documentary short film Skin of the Other (2014) won a film festival award in 2015. Juanita Onzaga has also won awards as a cinematographer including for the short Peut être le Noir and Camping Wesertal.
ABOUT THE FILMMAKER: Juanita Onzaga was born in Bogotá, Colombia in 1991. Studied film at the Luca School of Arts Sint-Lucas in Belgium where she lives now. She worked as a DOP and as director for several short films, documentaries and video clips. Her storytelling is inspired by magic realism, fantasy and the existence of ghosts and spirits in jungles as well as in cities.
Antoneta Alamat Kusijanovic
AWARD: Special Mention. TITLE: U Plavetnilo (Into the Blue).
FILMMAKER: Antoneta Alamat Kusijanović/short, fiction / Croatia , Slovenia, Schweden /2016 /22 minutes.
SYNOPSIS: Julia is a 13-year-old girl who leaves an abusive home along with her mother. Together they return to the idyllic island where Julia grew up to reconnect in a fresh environment. There they encounter cruel circumstances that awaken the monster of violence in Julia that she thought she left behind.
AWARDS & NOMINATIONS: Short fiction U Plavetnilo (Into the Blue) won Special Mention 2017 at Berlinale, her other short The Last Day of Charley E. Rays (2016) also won a development award at the Columbia University Film Festival.
ABOUT THE FILMMAKER: Antoneta Alamat Kusijanovic was born on September 27, 1985 in Dubrovnik, Croatia. She is a director and producer. She studied film and theatre production at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb and directing at Columbia University in New York. Producing short films and a series of music videos she finds her passion in writing as well. In 2016 she participated in Berlinale Talents during which U Plavetnilo (Into the Blue) was selected for the Short Film Station.