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The rise and rise of Silence on court!

Sunday 15 May 2011, by Abla Kandalaft

The Silence on court! Short film festival took place over three days, from 26 to 29 April, and across three venues: Nanterre University, Studio Galande Cinema in Paris and the Forum des Images for the closing night. Only in its fourth edition, the festival has grown exponentially attracting bigger crowds; at the Studio Galande, audience members were sitting in the narrow aisle and standing wedged between the aisle at the back and the exit, positively defying health and safety regulations.
The 500 seater at the Forum des Images was equally packed, attendees preferring to stand at the back then fill those tricky side seats at the front.
The festival is organised by collective l’Envolée Bleue, an enthusiastic collaborative project that brings together artists, event organisers and potential partners.
The films in competition are submitted to the assessment of a professional jury (journalists, directors and programme managers) and the general public. The selection is a fairly random and eclectic mix of drama, comedy, fly-on-the-wall and animation, an approach that keeps the screenings fresh and the audience guessing.

The closing night was a fun and elaborate affair, with numerous screenings, followed by snacks and drinks, allowing everyone to mingle. We were treated to three award winners from Clermont-Ferrand. If nothing this was a chance to catch these rarely shown gems again, especially the constantly hilarious Sucker. Perhaps surprisingly, that night’s three winners all eluded the usual rules that guarantee short film success, they weren’t funny, they weren’t animated and they weren’t experimental. All three were pretty slow-paced naturalistic portraits of new army recruits, a cleaner from the Ivory Coast and a young couple living in Brighton.

Pour toi je ferai bataille follows teenager Anna Hoche’s initial steps in the French reserve. There is no arching plotline, the strength of the film rests in the largely improvised interactions between the four female newbies, as they get dressed, exercise, snack, sing and endure the barks of their senior army officer.

Set in Paris, C’est à Dieu qu’il faut le dire also relies on pace, rhythm and subtle character depictions to tell to portray the intimate and mundane routine of a cleaner living in Paris with her two children, after immigrating from the Ivory Coast. Both films draw the viewers in. In under 15 minutes, the directors arouse our sense of empathy with the characters.
Personally, I didn’t share the Jury’s enthusiasm for first prize recipient Like Love. Unlike the previous two films, it was filmed in the manner of a documentary (as opposed to a fiction), following a young couple living in Brighton as they go about not doing much at all. Consequently, the lack of montage and editing made the film come across as a voyeuristic peep into someone else’s life with all the boring bits left in, not unlike flipping through a friend’s family album; a couple of entertaining and colourful shots and a lot of repetitive and unfamiliar faces smiling at the camera. The information we were privy to would have been of interest if they were either already famous or singularly uncommon people. Sarah Cunningham is clearly a skilled director, subtle and discreet, she allows the audience to engage directly with the characters on screen and there are some beautiful moments. But I would have liked to see her apply these techniques to perharps a more engaging topic. In any case, these skills were duly noted by the Jury.

The public’s choice, unsurprisingly, was light-hearted comedy J’veux pas de noyaux dans ma cerise. Funny and unpretentious, main character Josephine’s musings fitted the format perfectly. Last but not least, we were treated to a screening of l’Envolée Bleue’s own production, Antonin Sgambato’s Un Homme 2.0, a bizarre plunge into the intimate and claustrophobic world of a man-machine, so addicted to IT he is literally plugged into the computer like a human USB stick. Horror tales of a dystopian future usually merit an explosive budget and at least a couple of hours for the audience to immerse itself in the atmosphere. And yet, with some choice shots, a fittingly creepy soundtrack and convincing acting, Un Homme 2.0 succeeds as a short in creating the sort of imagery that sticks in one’s mind.
The festival is yet another proof of the short film genre’s dynamism and the its diversity and potential for experimentation and entertainment. Here’s hoping for an increased presence on the big screen.

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