• 23 March 2024


While awaiting tonight’s Closing Ceremony, yesterday the stage of Santa Margherita Auditorium – Emanuele Severino was honoured to host one of the greatest protagonists of this fourteenth edition of the Ca’ Foscari Short Film Festival, Italian director Liliana Cavani. In conversation with professor and journalist Anton Giulio Mancino, Cavani recounted her long and prolific career, marked by films whose value is universally acknowledged today, but which, before achieving success, often faced negative reviews – or even outright censorship. The main theme of the meeting was the difficult relationship between an artistic language that was ahead of its time – considering, for example, Beyond Good and Evil (1977), or even Francis of Assisi, which seems to anticipate the events of 1968 by two years – and an historical context that was stuck in certain paradigms. 

The theme was explored in its various components, with the help of a selection of scenes from her films – such as The Night Porter (1974), The Berlin Affair (1985), and again Beyond Good and Evil – starting from her revolutionary way of portraying love through an entirely feminine gaze. Regarding her relationship with censorship, Cavani explained how she has always opposed any suggestion that would have somehow changed the initial project of her work, and reiterated how even what seems the most insignificant detail contributes to the message that the work aims to convey. The criticism she received in the past was never surprising for the director, instead, she remembers those who have always believed in her and in her cinema, which she defines “the result of my astonishments”. The journey through the career of this extraordinary director concluded with the analysis of The Order of Time (2023), her most recent feature film, presented last September at the Venice Film Festival: the film is a warning to remind us all of how fragile time is, and how often we forget that we are not eternal.

This conversation has been preceded by the one with the judges of the International Competition. Opening the special program of the jury was the remote interview to Ghasideh Golmakani conducted by Eugenio De Angelis. The Iranian director, whose short films often focus on the condition of women in Iran, had the opportunity to highlight the slight improvement in gender equality issues in her country compared to the past, and to denounce the universality of the issue, extending beyond national borders. Dynamics linked to this type of stereotypes and prejudices are well represented in Horn (2018), a short film chosen by the director for screening at the Festival. After that, Cynthia Felando, cinema and media Professor at the University of California in Santa Barbara, took the stage and, together with John Bleasdale, reminded the audience of the birth of the passions that drive her research interest, particularly focused on the features of a short film. In fact, according to her, the short is able of providing an in-depth portrait of a character removing all that is superfluous; this is exemplified in film that she screens for the audience of the Auditorium: Exam by the Iranian Sonia K. Hadad (2019). Lastly, the director and screenwriter Antonietta De Lillo was interviewed by Antonio Giulio Mancino. Her personal and unconventional perspective is fully expressed in the medium-lenght film projected, Mr. Rotpeter (2017), originally presented out of competition at the Venice Film Festival. From her conversation it was clear how her past as a photographer has influenced her cinema, thus making her a “mechanic”, as she defines herself, and how empathy has been fundamental in her work. 

Six other short films of the International Competition have been presented, starting with Baggage by the Iranian film director Hamid Bahrami: in a hotel ran by a severe owner with questionable ethics, one night a suspicious man asks for a room, bringing a red baggage with him. A thriller with dark hues, taking place in a dystopic world, rich in symbolism, that leads the viewer to a “Tarantinian” ending. Next, Not Yours was screened, a short film from Lebanon by Lama Mohamad Youssef, in which the main character finds himself dealing with his inner child, poisoned by the resentment of sexual abuses he suffered as a child at the hand of one family member, and now yearns for justice. The film examines the complexity of childhood traumas, with a rhythmic and captivating narration that offers a profound look on healing. Following, the short film Sweetnesses of Air presented by MD. Rabbi Bhuiyan from Bangladesh: the film portrays the innocence of a child, whose only awareness about the war is knowing bullets are the key to acquire his beloved cotton candy. But if the war were to finish, would it also be the end of the supply of this delicious sweet? The theme of war, seen through the eyes of childlike innocence, seems to be used by the director as a means to highlight the links between weaponry and economic growth – that seems indissoluble in nowadays society. Sofija Nedeljković, with A Step Back, makes her voice heard about another theme of great actuality: that of women’s rights. In the Serbian short she highlighted how, for women, motherhood and career often seem unable to coexist. She makes it clear through the character of Dunja who, fired because expecting a child, is forced to struggle in order to earn a future for herself and her baby. From Serbia we moved on to Romania with Márk Makkai’s Jackpot, an action comedy that follows a young man so addicted to gambling that he tries to get money from a bar waitress, drawing her attention with a tragic story about a Balkan gangster. The absurdity through which the secondary characters are narrated is such that one even doubts the authenticity of the story being told. Michał Mieszczyk closed the day with Dancing on a Cloud, a short film portraying the sense of injustice and helplessness felt by a man who has raised a child as his own, only to be sidelined and denied the possibility of continuing to be a father, merely due to the lack of a blood relationship. 

Yesterday, two of the recurrent programs of the Short took place. First, Lo sguardo sospeso, by video artist and art curator Elisabetta Di Sopra: the special program was dedicated to Italian videoart and was created in collaboration with the Videoart Yearbook Archive, that collects works dating from 2012 to 2023. With the support of Silvia Grandi, Professor at University of Bologna, the audience had the opportunity to access a collection of more than 400 works, which will be accessible at MAMbo in Bologna, thanks to a partnership project aiming to promote the works selected from the archive. The special program opened the afternoon screenings at Auditorium Santa Margherita. Following that, it was the turn of Carlo Montanaro, a longtime curator of a special program of the Fesival, that was dedicated to him this year: La fabbrica del vedere. On the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the homonymous establishment, Monatanaro, as an expert of cinema of origins, was interviewed, sharing insights with the audience about the birth of this artistic space: an impressive museum-home that recounts the history of cinema with a journey back in time, from the first cinematic attempts to antique photos and historical equipment, also providing a space for gatherings and exhibitions. 

The day has been inaugurated by the collateral contest High School Competition, dedicated to short films made by high school students from around the world. After the presentation of the young competitors, including Christiann Dei with Dettagli temporanei from Italy and Tawfeeq Rashad with Resorting to Sleep from Yemen, the works of the eight finalists in the competition were screened. These will be evaluated by a jury composed of selected students from Ca’ Foscari University. 

Following that, the 8th edition of the Cinit Music Video Competition, a collateral contest organized in collaboration with the Cineforum Italiano, showcased the ten best music videos created by students from universities and film schools in 9 countries. Among them were Basilicata by Italians Angelo Chiacchio and Walter Molfese, and Antes de irte by Colombian filmmaker Valeria Alzate. The jury responsible for evaluating these works includes producer and director Giovanni Bedeschi, journalist Alice D’Este, and Giordano Giordani, a member of the CINIT board. The results and winners of both competitions will be announced, along with all other awards, this evening during the closing ceremony of the Ca’ Foscari Short Film Festival, which will begin at 7:30 p.m.