MIFF 2020: Documentary Shorts Program

Up at Night (2019)

Director: Nelson Makengo

Country: Congo

When the power cable is cut to a community the residents have to resort to expensive generators and finding every cheap torch they can scrounge to keep living their lives.

Is a gimmick having three screens and I am not sure if it is used that well as most of the time they are having the same image displayed. Why not just have the one image?

There is no real narrator here and the people tell their own stories. There is some repetition with the generator being filled up with diesel each night and the cycle of the night begins again.

People will find a way to survive no matter the circumstances. It also shows you no matter what your circumstances there are people living in worse conditions than you.


Umbilical (2019)

Director: Danski Tang

Countries: USA, China

A mother and daughter share their experiences as a survivor of domestic violence and growing up living in boarding school respectively.

A nice simple animation style with more representative animation than realistic and some touches of surrealism to suit the mood.

This was a very sweet short with some of the exchanges between the mother and daughter.


Sky Aelans (2020)

Director: Daniel Kakadi, Neil Nuia, Mannar Levo, Junior Patrick Kauha Makau, Zahiyd Namo, Regina Lepping, Jeremy Gwao, Georgianna Lepping, Edward Manuga

Country: Solomon Islands

In the Solomon Islands all areas about 400 metres have been declared a conservation area known as the “sky islands”. This short presents a poem and striking images of the flora and fauna of the region and the people who still live in it following traditional ways.

This is a bit different than just having the usual nature documentary with a commentary and there is clearly a lot of care that has gone into producing this. Hopefully it goes on to have a wide audience.



Playback (2019)

Director: Agustina Comedi

Country: Argentina

The narrator tells the story of a close friend who died of AIDS in the early 90s through video captured from the late 80s and early 90s of the drag scene in Córdoba, Argentina. As they say this is the way they would have wanted the story to turn out so there is a lot of “let’s say this is” and then the person is named.

While the old school video effect is popular these days, actually finding and watching old video is a lot harder as it was expensive to get the camera back in the day and a lot of tapes were recorded over multiple times. VHS tapes are also not usually stored the correct way as for proper archival storage they have to be stored with tension and having them rewound is not.

A great story and sad story but it does show the humanity of its subjects and gives you a view into a scene not many people would know about if you were not into this type of lifestyle.


Birds of Paradise (2019)

Director: Aline Suter, Céline Carridroit

Country: Switzerland

A woman tells her life story with the aid of a photo album and some video in how she married young and then found out she became HIV positive in the 80s when a lot of people did not live for very long. As she said with medication it is possible to live a normal life these days.

This is a great story and proves that you do not need to show much to tell a story. They didn’t even need to “Ken Burns effect” the photos to make them more animated. Nice cameo of her grown up daughter at the end.


All Cats Are Grey in the Dark (2019)

Director: Lasse Linder

Country: Switzerland

Christian lives with his two Russian Blue cats and does not seem to have much else in his life, but that seems to be working out for him and that’s the main thing.

This is an extraordinary amount of access the film maker has been granted to this person’s life and Christian does “let it all hang out” at times. At least put on some pants when you go out to get the mail.

I can confirm that this breed of cats are as dumb as but people seem to like them. Strangely they don’t show the cat giving birth given they were happy enough to show a middle aged man in tiny undies.

From what I heard this is an audience favourite wherever it screens. Maybe save this one to watch until the end of the program and not the one about the refugee camp if you are watching it in the MIFF program.


3 Logical Exits (2020)

Director: Mahdi Fleifel

Countries: Denmark, UK, Lebanon

The director has been filming the same person in a Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon since he was 10. The title comes from the only three ways people can exit the camp: going to jail, emigrating or dying.

It is mainly the interview subject talking to the camera and telling his story over the years and does not seem to be very promising.

I do not know why they need to show the incident at the end, it does not directly involve the subject as he was only in the funeral afterwards. Maybe don’t watch this as the final film for the documentary shorts session.

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