By Ivonne Sheen

These days, when our physical interactions are quite limited and we constantly communicate through interfaces, memory could mean this common place within our affections, where we can still relate deeply with our subjectivity. Some short films from Oberhausen’s International Competition reflect on memory and perception. Both are human experiences that, fundamentally nowadays, are essentially valuable. This is a first entry about these topics.

Bittersweet (India, 2019) by photographer Sohrab Hura, is a diary about the filmmaker’s relationship with her mother since her diagnosis of acute paranoid schizophrenia. The film incorporate powerful and sensitive photographs, with a sound composition based in the photograph’s time of exposure and a diary text, everything under Hura’s authorship. This work is a translation into audiovisual format of the artist’s book, “Life is Elsewhere”, which includes the same photographs and text. The experience of watching the stills images as a sequence strengthens the feeling of preservation that photographic images already carry. Sohrab contemplates his images and builds a timeline as an expression of the vital energy within them. Hura’s approach to his mother is embedded with the love in between them and it unfolds as an inquiry about the meaning of life by portraying his mother’s. The author exposes his intimacy and reflects, with a great amount of empathy, on his mother’s context, which has turn into a bizarre routine of enclosure and anxiety. Bittersweet is a visually enriched audiovisual essay that questions and transcends our common conceptions of love and everyday life.

Bella by Thelyia Petraki

Bella (Greece, 2020) by Thelyia Petraki, is a fictional film which stunningly explores different formats to portrait Anthi’s life, a working class woman who lived in Greece during 1986-1987, when their socialist state was falling and near the end of Cold War. The film is a single person epistolary narrative, so the main voice of enunciation is the character’s subjectivity. In this sense, Bella could also be considered as a testimonial narrative during a time of change in History and of socialists ideals that became fragile. There’s a constant intercalation in between past, present and Anthi’s wishes. All of them refer to her children, her political ideas, her constant anxiety about her poverty and a former lover whom she writes and narrates her feelings. The actors’ performances is contained and contributes to a sensation of unreality, since everything we see is built upon Anthi’s affective thoughts and memories. The film seems to explore an organic approach to fiction by subtly exposing some of its narrative devices and consequently this reinforces its testimonial aspects, but its narrative style still remains as a fiction.

Las muertes de Arístides by Lázaro Lemus

Las muertes de Arístides (Cuba, 2019) by Lázaro Lemus, also explores someone’s epistolary testimony and evokes his feelings and last memories through Mise-en-scène and animation. The main character is the author’s uncle who died at age 19 during his military service in Cuba and wrote a last letter to his mother, but the author decided to adapt the narrative by changing the recipient to Aristides’s sister, the director’s mother. Lemus embarks us in a train’s journey through time into Aristides last sensations and the last images that arise in his last moments.

The film’s contrasted black and white images create a sensation of suspension in time, of flashbacks that encounter with metaphorical animations about someone’s journey at the end of life’s tunnel. There’s a sailing animated scene into a dark infinite see and an arriving to a shore which easily disintegrates. Different situations juxtapose and happen a-chronically and recreate different moments of Aristides’ life. Lemus also experiments with the mechanical rhythm of a sewing machine used by Aristides’ sister, to maintain the existential movement that his uncle’s testimony means and that he obscurely evokes.


Country: India
Year: 2019
Director: Sohrad Hura

Country: Greece
Year: 2020
Director: Thelyia Petraki

Las muertes de Arístides
Country: Cuba
Year: 2019
Director: Lázaro Lemus