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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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Christmas films in Berlin! Day 1 at Weihnachtsfilmfestival

(© Teresa Vena/Weihnachtsfilmfestival2018)

By LINDSAY R. BELLINGER

Opening night of the 3rd Weihnachtfilmfestival at Kino Moviemento Berlin (Germany's oldest cinema) was quite festive. Christmas cookies and hot apple beverages spiked with vodka were in heavy rotation. Festival director André Kirchner and his festival partner Teresa Vena were quite busy keeping things running smoothly. Kirchner was proud to show off the Audience Award for Best Short Film from GlasBerlin, which is very unique in design. If only I had made a short Christmas-themed film this year! 

 
(The Jenguin film team, © Teresa Vena/Weihnachtsfilmfestival2018) 
 
English filmmaker/actress Jennifer Jordan and her Finland crew, her mother Andrée and brother Chris were also in attendance, presenting the German premiere of their film Jenguin. This special film about a woman's reluctance to go outside until a penguin guides her to a snowy wonderland is all the more interesting after finding out the backstory. Jordan told us after the screening that the idea to make her fantasy film was a bit of an after-thought. She and her family were going to Finland to see the Northern Lights and luckily her mother convinced her to bring along her penguin suit even though while packing she became a little reluctant, thinking that it would be far too silly to film herself at random places wearing her suit. Good for us that she took her mother's advice. They shot for about a week in Finland using just a Flip video, which they described as lo-fi but quite hardy. I wasn't so familiar with this compact and durable digital camera, so her brother Chris showed me what they used. I got curious about all of the outtakes that they said they had, mostly of Jennifer sliding in her penguin suit. It seems that most of the time her brother was taking a running start and pushing her forward. While hanging out in the Moviemento Lounge afterwards, I was a bit surprised to hear that she doesn't even really consider herself a filmmaker. She still relates more to being a stage actor, having done her fair share of Shakespeare. That's a bit funny to hear because she has another short film coming out next year Foley Folly about the developing relationship between two foley co-workers and she also developed the web series Sonnet Sisters on Youtube. Foley Folly will also be a silent film like Jenguin. We discussed our love of silent films and I even told her that she should check out the free midnight silent film with live organist at Babylon Kino if she's still around on Saturday. No matter what she thinks, she is definitely a filmmaker, one that we should all keep on our radar. 
 
From the same shorts category focusing on snow, Morgan Heim's documentary The Snow Guardian introduces us to billy barr (who makes a point to spell out his name with all lowercase lettering). This film was a bit of a treat. Barr has lived in Gothic, Colorado in the US for over forty years. He was living in a compact shack on the mountain and just started noting down the snowfall and nature conditions because he didn't really have much else to do. His books of snow logs look oh-so-meticulous and a bit overwhelming for someone not used to looking at that type of data. He never thought that anything would come of it his detailed note-taking but with climate change occurring others have shown interest in his data.
 
The experimental film Sex at the Ski Center from Finnish director Heikki Ahola had the audience laughing throughout its 3-minute run time. The sound effects mixed with certain stuffed animal pairings was more entertaining than one might expect. 
 
The last of the standout films in the Variations of Snow shorts series was To Build a Fire from French director Fx Goby, which is based off of Jack London's short story of the same name. The animation tied with the sound design and original score by Mathieu Alvado, interpreted splendidly by members of the London Symphony Orchestra, are exquisite. It depicts an understanding of the cold, not just the cold normal people experience in winter, but the deep and treacherous depths of cold that one would experience in the Yukon. Luckily, most of us have never had to experience such cold. It follows a man alone with a dog as his quasi-companion, trying to brave the cold and make a simple fire to stay alive.  
 
 
(Christian Werner, © Teresa Vena/Weihnachtsfilmfestival2018) 
 
The second group of shorts, Circles of Life, welcomed two filmmakers in the audience, Swiss filmmaker/performer Caroline Schenk who discussed her film Oh Tannenbaum (Oh Christmas Tree) and Christian Werner with his film Der Besuch (The Visit). Werner's sentimental and dramatic Christmas film revolves around the grouchy late-middle aged Klaus (Matthias Brenner) who seems to be fed up with playing Santa for children year after year. His home life isn't as joyful as it used to be and he reluctantly goes to the children's ward in a hospital to visit a dying little girl Clara (played quite effectively by Helena Pieske). Even Werner said after the film that it might have been a tad too kitschy for some film festivals because he seems to have been turned away by more than a few. The producers weren't happy that his film wasn't being accepted into more film festivals.That's a shame because Der Besuch is very well-made and touching. He even said that his producers fired him after six months because they hated the film, which is a crying shame because it has a lot of heart and the performances are believable. The idea of this short film came to Werner while procrastinating from writing a treatment for another project, stumbled across a video online about a Santa in the USA who claimed to have experienced a similar story. Things are looking up though because he's currently working on his first feature film about suicide, with the working title Happy Cadaver. He's just working on getting the rest of the funding and then hopes to start shooting in March.
 
 
(Caroline Schenk, © Teresa Vena/Weihnachtsfilmfestival2018) 
 
 
Oh Tannenbaum may be just shy of 2 minutes but it's funny, odd, sweet, and might even come across as a tad sad depending on the audience. Caroline Schenk said that she had to approach several Christmas tree vendors before finally finding a family that was excited to take on this little endeavor. It's best not to spoil what this film is about, especially since you can watch it here. I've already rewatched it several times. It keeps on making me laugh. 
 
The Irish animated film Departure from the mind of Aoife Doyle was clever and thoroughly entertaining. The use of sped up Christmas songs and twists and turns within the story and also just for the audience keep the fast-paced short on its heels. 
 
The world premiere of Ours de Glace (Ice Bear), a French animated film from Alexis Coppee, Pierre Bekec, Yohann Palut and Audrey Jouve, follows the disappointment that an Inuit boy experiences when his polar bear dies. He tries to bring him back to life but it's not as simple as he thought it'd be. 
 
Death Wish from Canadian director Chad Costen was a bit surprising and tried to tie up a relevant musical event in 1977 although he may have been four months behind schedule. A little girl's wish, a deal with Death and the King himself, Mr. Elvis Aron Presley. 
 
 (© Teresa Vena/Weihnachtsfilmfestival2018) 
 
 
The Horror Shorts was the last group to close out Kurzfilmtag/Short Film Day, and what a way to end the first day of the festival. A Piece of Christmas was a fun and disturbing very short animated film. Holiday Fear has another strong female character showing the man how it's done and then taunting him a bit because he couldn't man up. Pizza Deliverance was a bit of action-packed fun with another super strong and competent female kicking ass and not taking names, all the while the male lead is somewhat helping. Nothing to Declare is a gorgeous and magical Scottish film written by comic artist Frank Quitely and directed by Will Adams. It has a real message behind it, where following the rules might not always be such a bad thing. A son returns home after backpacking in Brazil and unknowingly brings something destructive to his home, causing difficulties that he never would have imagined. Pick Up is another film with a serious and scary message about domestic violence, which likely picks up even more during the holidays as many people are more stressed at this time of year. The Brazilian short Foragida (Runaway) from director Adan Sousa probably takes the cake, winning the most disturbing film of the evening. The shot composition, no dialogue and use of opera music were all quite impressive. Helsinki Mansplaining Massacre was definitely one of the standouts of the day. More tough female take-no-bullshit action, as the title explains mansplaining isn't taken lightly. Lots of blood as would be expected from a massacre. The dialogue and acting are spot-on. George A. Romero and Quentin Tarantino would be proud.
 
 

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About Lindsay R. Bellinger



With Dieter Kosslick during his last Berlinale.

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