Among the first fests to suffer the repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Thessaloniki International Film Festival has also been one of the most proactive in adapting to the lockdown mode. Earlier this March, TIFF’s docs-only spinoff, the Thessaloniki Documentary Festival, turned its 22nd edition into a digital-only gathering scheduled to go live between May 19-28. And in early April, TIFF announced the launch of “Spaces,” a new online series showcasing short films by world renowned auteurs inspired by—and made during—the quarantine.
Borrowing from Species of Spaces, a collection of essays from French author Georges Péréc, TIFF reached out to 8 Greek and 14 international filmmakers to commission short films grappling with the pandemic-induced confinement, all shot from the confines of home. In the words of TIFF artistic director Orestis Andreadakis, the project “was meant to remind us that art, and film, can fill any space with meaning, and disperse our solitude.”
Over at the festival’s YouTube channel, you can catch up with the first two installments of the series. “Spaces 1” screens the lockdown offspring of eight prominent Greek directors; “Spaces 2” showcases the works of eight international cineastes, including Jia Zhangke, Radu Jude, and Denis Côté. This week, TIFF returns with the third and last chapter, "Spaces 3," bringing you seven new shorts the festival has kindly made available for free streaming on our pages, too. We’ve asked the directors to introduce their works, and tell us how the isolation has inspired them.
The Conversations of Donkey and Rabbit (Ildikó Enyedi)
"An immense wave of good-willed kitchen-philosophy followed the outbreak of the pandemic. It drew my attention to a touching, even in its most ridiculous form heartbreaking, and deeply understandable human need to look for some superior intent on the part of the forces shaping our life. We want to find meaning behind the events happening to, with, and by us. It would be a rather insulting feeling to be overlooked by the Universe... This little film shares one of the many conversations of Rabbit (living in Budapest) and Donkey (living in sunny Los Angeles), two by their nature philosophical animals. With true ingenuity, they try to peek behind the curtains of existence, to find a pattern, a goal, a reason. They are about as successful as we, humans, are…" —Ildikó Enyedi
Family (Teona Strugar Mitevska)
"The COVID-19 situation has been a good lesson to us all, and a great reminder of our own human fragility. The dance is a representation of this fragility. Dancing with the mask is not an easy task: it is restrictive, especially as you try to follow the rhythm, be dignified or elegant. Within the dance lies a lesson of humility. Family is a familiar space, a safe one, and a source of comfort, energy, and yes, survival." —Teona Strugar Mitevska
My influences (Albert Serra)
"I was young and I was alone. I didn't have access to films. I only had books. I understood cinema trough books (the relevant ones upon my intuition). Thus I was prepared to be moved by films, by its images and its sounds and its words, but intellectually (the craziness was already inside me). I followed this path until today and I still don't have TV or Internet at home: first reading the intelligent writers, then occasionally checking with my own eyes and my sophisticated taste and, if necessary, correcting that intelligent people." —Albert Serra
Don't lose heart - a letter to Yorgos (Nanouk Leopold )
"When TIFF's Yorgos Krassakopoulos invited me to make a short film—by any means possible—reflecting on this strange new situation where we all have to stay at home, I immediately said yes. I felt some consolation in the idea of ‘us’, me and my fellow film-loving colleagues, being in the same situation, trying to make sense of it all. But then it struck me. The world had stopped and so had I. I didn’t know what to think, and to be honest, I felt better not thinking at all.
In the back of my mind I kept thinking of my promise to make something, to create something. I saw my own enthusiasm in a different light, my heartfelt ‘yes’, I actually came to regret it and started to make excuses in my mind, writing to Yorgos, telling him I was so sorry, but I couldn’t possibly fulfill my assignment. And it came to a point where I sat down and actually wrote him a letter of five pages, telling him I cannot think and I cannot sleep and the only thing that soothes me is watching Ivan Passer’s film “Intimate Lighting” in the attic at night, when I am the only one awake in the house. And when I had finished the letter I felt calm and happy. And suddenly I understood I had found my film. The letter, the sleeping family, me wandering around in the dark and Ivan Passers film to make it all make sense. Film helps me to make sense of the world. Even if I am lost. Or maybe because I am lost. That is fine. Nobody has the answers. And that's fine, too." —Nanouk Leopold
The Infinite Confinement (Victor Moreno)
"My short film tries to give a hopeful message with the ironic idea about the confinement as part of the human condition. In these times, when we realize our vulnerability, remembering how insignificant we are in the middle of the universe seems to propose a liberating idea, at least during the experience of watching the short film. In this way, I think it opens up a possibility of still being impressed about the miracle of our existence." —Victor Moreno
We Are In This Apart (Yung Chang)
"When you’re stuck in your house, and you live with a professional puppeteer performer, and you’re presented with the challenge of making a quarantine film, the logical solution seemed to be combining our skills. Limited with only a smartphone, a rickety old tripod (that our First AD toddler broke on the 2nd day of our shoot) and an internet connection to open source sound effects, We Are In This Apart, evolved from our collective longing for joyous interconnection. I took excerpts from George Perec’s Species of Spaces and originally built a short script around it. The story was going to focus on two bird creatures (the species) but that felt too on the beak. From that idea, though, I did keep the final sequence substituting claws for hands. The original music for the finale was Betty Carter’s rendition of Cole Porter’s 'Every Time We Say Goodbye' but then I had Annie re-interpret it with her beautiful voice. It wasn’t until Annie created her evocative puppet mask (whom our First AD named 'Coco') that we just went with this simple story about 'Coco' and her loneliness. The Kuleshov effect comes into great use with that expressive mask. Hope our little film moves you! Let us know @yungfilms on Twitter." —Yung Chang
Disconnect (Annemarie Jacir)
"And many of us have found ourselves cut off from our loved ones. Struggling to take care of each other and to understand each other. Most of my day is spent trying to stay connected to my family, ordering groceries for them, exercising online together, making sure they are being safe, that they are healthy, not depressed, and keeping connected. How does one care for the people that have cared for them all their lives from thousands of kilometres away?" — Annemarie Jacir