Short Films from the Filmakademie Wien

Every year at the end of the year, the Filmakademie Wien presents some of the best student short films that have been produced there, giving a glimpse of the filmmaking talent that’s on the rise in Austria. A short note on each of the three films that were shown.
Seen on: 29.11.2017

Zalesie

Zalesie (2017) [as I understand it, it translates to “back of the woods”]
Director: Julia Zborowska
Writer: Julia Zborowska
Cast: Ilona Ostrowska, Agnieszka Piszczek, Radek Chalama

Plot:
Joanna lives with her mother alone in the woods and spends her days in the wild. She’s growing up and adulthood starts encroaching on the untouched life in nature she has led so far.

Zalesie has a wonderful atmosphere and is a visually stunning film. It captures the mood of the transition from girlhood to womanhood very well. [Reading the official description, I found out that Joanna is supposed to be only 11 years old, which makes me uncomfortable in hindsight. I read her as a little older, which makes more sense to me.] It runs a little long here and there and I could have done without the ending, but it was nicely entangled in itself and had a mesmerizing atmosphere.

Mathias (2017)
Director: Clara Stern
Writer: Johannes Höß, Clara Stern
Cast: Gregor Kohlhofer, Magdalena Wabitsch, Ahmet Simsek, Brigitta Kanyaro, Michael Edlinger, Barbara Gassner

Plot:
Mathias (Gregor Kohlhofer) has a new job where people don’t know that he is trans. His private life, too, has to be re-adjusted: His girlfriend Marie (Magdalena Wabitsch) is supportive, but their relationship has started to wobble a little since he transitioned.

Mathias was my primary motivation for attending the show, I admit, having heard good things about the film before. And it is a strong film that tells its story senstively, although the stress in Mathias’ romantic life seemed unnecessary to me. Is it really too much to ask to show a happy, supportive relationship? Nevertheless, I was with the film – until the director and actor Kohlhofer came out for a little Q&A afterwards which pretty much ruined my positive impression.
First, I realized that Kohlhofer isn’t actually trans himself. But hey, he did a lot of research and he does have a trans cousin so that’s alright. Not. I mean, casting a cis man to play a trans man is marginally better than casting him to play a trans woman, but dammit, let trans actors play trans characters for crying out loud.
Second, they emphasized how much they researched for the film and they have been touring with it for a year or so, and yet they spoke so awkwardly about THE TOPIC (they didn’t say the word trans once, as if it was dirty somehow) that it gave me the creeps.
Third, the moderator of the talk asked about the third sex option that’s officially available now in Germany and nobody thought to say that this is another topic and that trans men are men, they don’t need a third option, they need an easier way to change options (of course, there are trans non-binary people who may appreciate it, but trust me, that concept was beyond all of them).
In short, I fought hard throughout the talk not to have it ruin my overall positive impression of the film, but in the end I lost.

Entschuldigung, ich suche den Tischtennisraum und meine Freundin [Excuse Me, I’m Looking for the Ping-pong Room and My Girlfriend] (2018)
Director: Bernhard Wenger
Writer: Bernhard Wenger
Cast: Rasmus Luthander, Elli Tringou, Anna Åström, Carl Achleitner

Plot:
Aron (Rasmus Luthander) is on holidays in an alpine ski ressort with his girlfriend Ida (Anna Åström). But Ida walks off after a fight and Aron starts to wander around, kinda looking for her, but not really.

Entschuldigung… was absurdly funny. It was very shallow compared to the other two films and its male-gazey-ness after the first two films was like a slap in the face, but if you disregard that, it was very enjoyable. Luthander gives an excellent performance that is only overshadowed by Achleitner’s wellness guest. Wenger obviously has a knack for comedy.

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