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Reviews of shorts on Ecocinema's first day

Moviegoers rarely have the opportunity to watch short films, let alone when they deal with environment. Ecocinema 4th International Environmental Film Festival in Rhodes (Greece) tries to fill this gap as it offers a wide selection of short films on the environment we could hardly find anywhere else. Here are the reviews of 5 of the short films which were screened there on the first day of the festival.

Water journey - Urumiah, by Javad Taheri from Iran (2002, 27 minutes)
This episode of the TV series Water Journey portrays Lake Urumiah in Iran, the world’s second saltiest lake after the Dead Sea in Israel. The harsh conditions in this area where we find 300 g of salt for 1 litre of water make it impossible for any form of life, except the Antemia Orumiae, a crustacean, to live there. Only the economy seems to be thriving on the commercial exploitation of salt cones. The lively narrator makes a very interesting point as he holds in his hand a bird that got blinded by the salt after diving a few seconds in the lake. He clearly shows us that it’s up to man to help nature as he washes away the salt from the fragile body that would be otherwise promised to a certain death.

Neighbours, by Annika Sylvin Reuter from Finland (1999, 28 minutes)
The documentary was made during a Factum workshop in Croatia, just like Of Cows and Men, by Zrinka Matjevic and Nebojsa Slijepcevic from Croatia which was also screened at the festival. Participants have 2 weeks to scout around Croatia and find an interesting subject and another 2 weeks to direct and make the postproduction of their project. Anika Reuter’s work depicts two men living far away from civilization, one in a lighthouse and another one on a beach. Both are neighbours, yet they don’t know each other. The director’s intention in the documentary is to find the similarities between these lonely neighbours.

The Old Whetstone, by Hjalmtyr Heiddal from Iceland (2003, 45 minutes)
The title of this documentary refers to the tool used to remove the skin of seals but also means tough guy in Icelandic. It portrays a man who lives on the resources of nature in a remote part of Iceland with some archival images to illustrate how the situation changed over 50 years. The story breaks down into 4 parts that explore the social and economical aspects of life there : isolation, driftwood exploitation, seal hunting and eider duck breeding. It climaxes when the man takes off the skin of a seal, a sequence that was removed by a German broadcaster for its too explicit aspect. The storyline may however have been stronger had this man expressed more affirmatively his personality in the movie, although his shyness should be considered part of the story.

The blossom time of spring, by Elahe Golmohammadik from Iran (2002, 16 minutes)
It’s a lyrical rendering of the folkloric life of women in the villages of northern Iran. Cinematography by Nader Masoumi is just excellent. Skilled camera movements, perfect composition and the short length of each sequence show that the film must have been carefully storyboarded. The technique is quite in tune with the message, as for instance when the camera follows from the ground level the hand of the women who collect tea leaves, and when the acrobatic camera movements help us feel the lyricism of these beautiful images. However, it’s pretty hard for a non Iranian-speaking audience to grasp all the poetry of the narrator by reading the subtitles.

Soliloquies, by Pola Bousiou from Greece (2003, 32 minutes)
The director takes an anthropological look on eleven girlfriends looking for their selves in India. She never questions their motives but rather tries to convey their inner stream of consciousness. To achieve this, she uses visual special effects that give the image an out-of-focus, grainy and jerky look and she alternates black-and-white and colour images to distinguish reminiscences in Greece and experiences in India. However, the heavy use of these techniques is somewhat confusing for an unprepared audience. The film doesn’t seem intended to be passively watched in a theatre where one expects a strong storyline. Yet, it may be quite enjoyed in an exhibition venue where it can be contextualized for an active audience.

Olivier Delesse

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