Clash of the Balkans: Altcine Short Film Festival Shortlist

Altcine announce the Shortlist of their second ever annual online short film festival, specifically orientated towards Balkan directors and writers. This year’s stiff competition stands between 46 shortlisted films, ranging in length from 2 minutes to 15 minutes. Here are my favourites from this year’s selection:


Noc (Night)


Production Country: SERBIA

Production Year: 2013

Described as an ‘unusual love story’, set against a distinctly urban backdrop, Jakonic and Vojnovia not only explore the tentative ground between life and death, love and hate, but they set about inverting some of the most established romantic film traditions.

A story about a man who anticipates his girlfriend’s death as a result of smoking becomes emotionally turbulent as he envisions himself stabbing her in a fit of rage and fear.

The semi-sepia filter, the urban cityscape, the smoking and sex in the cheap, worn apartment all create a distinctly Jim Jarmuschian ambience.

The smoking and the sexual chemistry between this couple are in many respects evocative of some of the most famous scenes from golden age Hollywood cinema. Bette Davis and Paul Henreid in what has been dubbed the ‘don’t let’s ask for the moon’ scene of ‘Now Voyager’ (1942), and Joan Crawford and Clark Gable in ‘Chained’ (1934) are just two of some of the most famous smoking scenes in the history of Hollywood.

And yet Jakonic and Vojnovia invert all of these traditions. The chemistry between the male protagonist and his girlfriend is negative, smoking becomes something entirely unromantic and repulsive, and sexual tension diminishes rapidly throughout the film.

However, the message of the film is one entirely independent of film tradition, and something much more interrogative. It is a question concerning priorities and paradoxes; how, through love, can someone commit an act of hate? How can someone instigate the very death that they most fear?

Most of all, Jakonic and Vojnovia illustrate the dangers of living in the future, and how such a focus on the future can make life in the present moment even more fatal.


Die Young


Production Country: GREECE

Production Year: 2012

Stratis Chatzielenoudas describes the setting of Athens for his film ‘Die Young’ as ‘the city where legends are born and dreams are destroyed’.

In every sense a modern take on classical Greek tragedy, the film concerns a young love affair which is doomed from the start by the traditional values of the girl’s mother.

What Chatzielenoudas describes as a ‘battle of the generations’ creates a paradoxical tension which dominates the film. The girl’s mother is doing what she thinks is best for her, while the young girl plans to elope with her lover to Denmark to do what she thinks is best for her unborn child.

This clash of interests generates a tragic thread which propels the plot of this screenplay toward ultimate disaster.

Filmed on an industrial estate that the girl cannot escape from, the use of black and white filters emphasises the idea that both the mother and daughter that inhabit the apartment cannot escape from their own stubborn mindsets.

And through this traditionally tragic and turbulent mother-daughter relationship, Chatzielenoudas suggests that context is not a factor in tragedy, since the human mind will always work in similar ways.

As Medea kills her own children to take revenge upon her husband Jason, the young girl in ‘Die Young’ ultimately kills herself and her unborn child to take revenge upon the very mother that wanted to protect her.

Where traditional threads such as revenge, miscommunication, and conflicting ideas define ‘Die Young’ as relevant a tragedy as the original plays to come out of Athens, the gritty realism and contemporary issues that Chatzielenoudas use so effectively bring the tragic genre straight into present day circumstances.


The Scream

Directed By: Sebastian Cosor

Production Country: Romania

Production Year: 2011

By mobilising Edvard Munch’s 1893 expressionist masterpiece ‘The Scream’, Sebastian Cosor succeeds in expressing the expression of expression. And with such excessive expression to hand, Cosor’s work borders on surreal.

This film concerns the breaking down of boundaries between schools of thought and genre, advocating more lucid ideas about tragedy and parody, life and death.

Cosor takes Munch’s tragic work of art and situates it around a traditionally tragic conversation about the nature of death, taking place between a younger man and an older man. And yet the miscommunication that takes place between the two men and the exaggerated wailing of Munch’s mysterious figure presents itself as semi-parodic.

In many respects, Cosor appears to be suggesting that words are not sufficient for expression, a provocative comment about the communicability of expression through visual works of art.

But Cosor takes it one step further from Munch’s depiction of ‘The Scream’. Through mobilising and sounding the very expression that Munch captures through static artistic materials, Cosor identifies the very moment at which something tragic risks becoming parodic.

Through the incredibly effective use of music from Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon, matching the wailing and movements to the sound of the expressive vocal line, Cosor creates his own apocalyptic surreal landscape in which to explore Munch’s, and his own, ideas about expressionism.

The screaming itself as a means of expression really heightens the awareness of miscommunication. The two male characters speak, but they do not communicate, and the only thing that the central figure communicates through the exaggerated wailing is a lack of understanding.

Cosor’s film is at once entirely tragic and comic, and makes for a moving and emotional watch.


The Bed


Production Country: BULGARIA

Production Year: 2011

This short film by Petra Georgieva and Kiril Prodanov is a curious study of objects and the ways in which they store energies.

The bed, the picture on the wall, the springs of the bed, not only represent negative energy from an emotionally complex relationship, but channel and exacerbate them.

The bed vicariously experiences sexual and romantic action through the human relationship it witnesses. It is filmed through the ‘eyes’ of the bed, through the broken springs, and the residue festering under the mattress.

The film is a depiction of objects as animate, witnesses to human life, and archives of human emotion. As the actions of the female protagonist and her lover unfold, the bed responds physically, as springs snap, and break under the emotional pressure of these characters’ relationship.

The viewer becomes the bed itself, the object becomes an intrusive, animate voyeur, creating a somewhat uncomfortable voyeuristic tension between the characters’ and the viewer’s own experiences of this relationship. We watch, and respond to what we see, like the bed that stores this external energy.

When the bed is discarded, and the relationship becomes fresh and revitalised, the viewer is discarded too, left in the rubble and the garbage, among the rusty springs and residue. The viewer, like the bed, has become a vehicle for the relationship’s previous negative energy.

In this sense, the film explores the viewer as an object as much as it explores objects as vehicles of human emotion.

Intuitively filmed and an innovative study of the relationship between energy and object, the focus is less upon the roles of gendered roles of these characters in their relationship, and more upon the responsibility of the viewer as a participant in the relationship.

Petra Georgieva and Krill Prodanov heighten the awareness of this concept by ultimately presenting the viewer with a gripping asexual approach to objects and sexual energy, channeling the vitality of both male and female direction.


Until Death Do Us Part


Production Country: CROATIA

Production Year: 2013

This short film, only 2.21 minutes long, takes the phrase Until Death Do Us Part and forces the viewer to consider the implications of waiting for such a death.

The opening of the film is characterised by stasis, a series of tableaus, depicting an old woman’s tears, drops of red liquid on an old man’s shirt, a chopping knife in the woman’s hand, the motionless feet of the man.

David Bagaric challenges the connotations of commitment and veracity that extend from the notion of Until Death Do Us Part by convincing the viewer that the old woman has killed her husband. What happens to the meaning of the phrase when death is not natural?

At the same time, Bagaric uses his film, more predominantly, to challenge the notion of detection in film, and to challenge the extraction of ‘meaning’ in a more general sense. To what extent does a series of unconnected tableaus incite a specific, but incorrect, response?

From the information Bagaric feeds us, the tableaus can be connected in a way that suggests the woman has killed her husband, and yet every tableau is ultimately explained in an unconnected, unexpected way.

The red drops on the shirt are revealed to be drops of salsa, the woman is crying and holding a knife because she is chopping onions, and the only reason that the husband is motionless is because he has been asleep.

When these tableaus are mobilised, and action resumes upon the awakening of the husband, the viewer is able to connect Bagaric’s images in an entirely different way.

Bagaric’s short film not only questions the lucidity of received notions and phrases, but it questions the fallibility of the viewer, and the viewer’s capacity to extract a false meaning, less from the images themselves, but from the gaps left between the images that we are required to interpret.


Voting remains open the members of the public until 27th September, 2013.

Copyright @Altcine –

Click to comment
To Top