BIEFF #7 | March 28th – April 2nd, 2017

The 7th edition of Bucharest International Experimental Film Festival BIEFF, which will take place between March 28th and April 2nd, 2017 at the Cinema of the Peasant Museum and Cinema Elvire Popesco, invites to an exercise in empathy.

Most of BIEFF 2017’s films confront us with the personal histories hidden beneath the often clickbait and sensationalist news we are assaulted by on a daily basis, news which create a general atmosphere of anxiety and rejection. Raising debate around the notion of “border” – physical versus psychological, geographical versus cultural and socio-political, stylistic versus conceptual – BIEFF 2017’s selection proposes a denial of barriers – those between individuals, but also those of the cinematic language. The viewers are invited thus to internalize the tragedy of their fellow men and to see the world through the Other’s eyes.

The selection, curated by Adina Pintilie in collaboration with Dan Angelescu, will present the Romanian premiere of some of the boldest short films of the past few years in their search for new forms of cinematic expression, with a special attention to works by significant contemporary visual artists, usually exhibited in museums and art galleries, rarely in cinemas.

Our recommendations from this year’s programme below.

Full schedule Festival pass


International Competition | The Politics of the Body: The Performative Self

Carefully distinguishing between what is natural and what is normal (i.e. culturally-constructed), “these empowering films deal with topics ranging from questioning societal norms of beauty and gender, to the search for personal identity and freedom, together offering a common voice to disenfranchised, politicized minorities. The curated space of the program thus becomes a safe-zone for each individual story, where prejudice is faced head-on, discussed and ultimately dismantled, in favor of open mindedness, tolerance and inclusion.” (Andrei Tănăsescu)

Peep Show, director: Rino Stefano Tagliafierro (Italy, 2016, 8′)

“Balancing between the suggestive and the explicit in this mesmerizing homage to the history of art, the director explores sensuality across time and cultures, masterfully building and releasing the pleasurable tension of voyeurism.” (Diana Mereoiu, BIEFF 2017)

Night Soil – Economy of Love, director: Melanie Bonajo (USA/The Netherlands, 2015, 32′)

“A Brooklyn-based movement of female sex workers, regarding their work as a way for women to reclaim power in a male-dominated pleasure zone; their mission being to rearrange sexual conventions and ideas about intimacy itself. Vivid imagery is accompanied by a spoken score, revealing Bonajo’s vision on contemporary spirituality and expectations surrounding gender roles, by playful, sensual, and feminist-driven means.” (Galerie AKINCI)


International Competition | Searching for Transcendence: Spirituality in the Digital Age

All throughout mankind’s evolutionary leaps, the restless search for meaning stays at the core of human condition. Our soul strives to experience what lies beyond the veil, to come face to face with that which exists outside of our Cartesian reality. (…) On the elusive border between the real and the virtual, the films selected bring the viewer to the threshold of transcendence, via recollected (or immediate) experiences. (Andrei Tănăsescu)

489 Years, director: Hayoun Kwon (France, 2016, 11′)

“A computer animated rendition of a South Korean soldier’s patrol along the country’s demilitarized border (DMZ) with North Korea, 489 Years, by Hayoun Kwon, deals with the (im)possibility of representing and experiencing the liminal space of borders – as limits dividing more than simple geographies. Employing a gamer’s FPS (first-person-shooter) perspective, with photo-realistic accuracy of CGI and the vivid imagery of storytelling, the narrator walks us through his routine path along the DMZ under the cloak of darkness and growing tension at the unseen enemy. Until a moment of terror strikes him still, becoming an instant of serendipity and wonder, of experiencing beauty in the least likely of places.” (Andrei Tănăsescu, BIEFF 2017)

Trailer via MoMA

Limbo, director: Konstantina Kotzamani (Greece, 2016, 30′)

Konstantina Kotzamani about her award-winning Limbo: “The first images that I had 5 years ago when Limbo was actually getting born, were some kids playing a violent unusual game somewhere in a beach, while the night was falling. In the beginning what interested me more was the unflinching and unafraid childhood that is kept hidden inside us. But gradually these kids transformed into something else in my mind. I figured them as the Protoplasts in an abandoned paradise, as raw material – people who try to solve primordial questions. They became the 12 boys, the 12 Apostles, vulnerable and lost, trying to confront the new and unknown. We did almost 4 months of rehearsals… and the process was quite a psychoanalytical one. We tried to remember experiences, dreams, fears, memories, and react on them as false characters. (…) The film works also as an allegory, an allegory that I re-discover each time I watch it…that whatever is out there, whatever we people cannot put into words, whatever scares us in the universe, is equally the source of life and death, a source of wonder and a part of us… Last time I saw it in Cannes I felt that I was telling the audience that God is dying alone.” (interview for Specchio Scuro)


International Competition | You Are Another Me: On Exile and Shifting Borderscapes

The burdens of others reach us in the form of stories, narratives which reduce and replace the complexities of life. Most of the times, we are not even aware of their being no more than that – mere fictions filtered through our inherently biased and distant perspective. (Diana Mereoiu)

Remains from the Desert, director: Sebastian Mez (Germany, 2016, 21′)

“The chilling tale of a young Eritrean refugee captured, tortured and mutilated for money. As a sober voice over recounts the horrors lived, black and white close ups of the thrashed body intertwine with images of the desert where it all took place. Despite all the marks carrying the remembrance of what has happened, the breath-taking landscape remains impassible and unscathed. In the end, the short film recognizes the futility of trying to find logic in the senselessness of torture. The only solace to be found is the notion that human memory is as fragile as the body, and that bit by bit all will be forgotten.” (Diana Mereoiu, BIEFF 2017)

Summer, director: Ronny Trocker (France/Belgium, 2016, 8′)

“A beach frozen in time, as if in a snapshot: people enjoying the sun, a child eating ice-cream, a father taking his picture. But in the frame another character appears. Laboriously making their way out of the waters, a group of refugees crawl to the uncertain safety of the beach, escaping from near-certain death. Premiered at the Berlinale 2016 and inspired by a photograph by Juan Medina, Summer is an ingenious and sharp political commentary on the ongoing humanitarian crisis.” (Diana Mereoiu, BIEFF 2017)

Also on our watch list: Over by Jörn Threlfall and 9 Days – From My Window in Aleppo by Floor van der Meulen, Thomas Vroege and Issa Touma.


International Competition | The Alchemy of the Frame: Deconstructing the Image

The theme program brings under scrutiny the (un)expected elements of cinematic discourse and their creatively charged fusion. The conceptual chemistry at work in these films serves as inspiring example of the creative potential found within, and beyond, the cinematic frame. (Andrei Tănăsescu)

Still holding still, director: Sarah Vanagt (Germany, 2015, 10′)

“In the short film Still holding still, a 19th-century photographic practice is revived, a short-lived method of making portraits of young children, known as ‘Invisible Mothers’. The film tries to enter ‘inside’ the photos, into the long exposure time required by the very first cameras.” (via Sarah Vanagt’s website)

«[…] craving for narrative», director: Max Grau (Germany, 2015, 24′)

“What do John Travolta, Olivia Newton John, Karl Marx, Jean Baudrillard, American Apparel and Bob Dylan all have in common? They’re cultural signifiers looking for a common narrative in Max Grau’s contagious essay film. Cornering the viewer in a locked groove, Grau isolates a musical-narrative motif from the 1970s film Grease and repeats it ad-infinitum, as he opens up a frank discussion of pop-culture’s infiltration in mass-consciousness.” (Andrei Tănăsescu)

“I thought it would be necessary for the narrator to be there and not there at the same time… An absent presence… But then again, how much void can there be, when John Travolta sings I got chills…?” (Max Grau)


International Competition | Cutting the Cord: Family Love and Its Discontents

We come to this world attached to a cord. Not just the plain, physical, umbilical cord, but a metaphorical one as well – made of family ties and social strands -, with a decisive role in conditioning who we are and what we can be. Family bonds start before birth – it is presumed, and are rarely completely broken. (…) The films explore human experiences along an elongated metaphorical cord which defines a space where family ties and legacies can be a blessing, a curse, or anything in-between. (Adina Marin)

Small Town, director: Diogo Costa Amarante (Portugal, 2016, 19′)

“The Golden Bear winner of the Berlinale Shorts 2017, Small Town is an endearing cinematic stream of consciousness about that frightful moment when a human being becomes aware of its own mortality. Six-years old Frederico’s refusal to go to sleep after being taught at school that people die when their hearts stop beating triggers an emotional journey. Protagonists are the boy and his mother, as well as the director himself, who revisits his childhood fears.” (Adina Marin, BIEFF 2017)

I Made You, I Kill You, director: Alexandru Petru Bădeliță (France/Romania, 2016, 14′)

“In an exercise of self-exorcism, Alexandru Petru Bădeliță gives a moving personal account of his traumatized childhood with a rich profusion of narrative layers and artistic techniques. I Made You, I Kill You, which translates – literally – in the power of life and death the paterfamilias holds over the members of his family, is the ultimate motto for the patriarchal society that rules the life of the author’s native village. A collage of family photos and children’s drawings mix with animation and with a touch of surrealism in an arresting cinematic whole. Voice-overs take turns and complete the grim picture of a childhood dominated by domestic violence.” (Adina Marin, BIEFF 2017)


BIEFF 2017 special theme programs

Unique in Romania, BIEFF’s educational partnerships with some of the major European film festivals and cultural institutions return this year.

Nostalgia for the Future: Manufactured Histories

In partnership with Arsenal – Institute for Film and Video Art Berlin and with the support of the Goethe-Institute, BIEFF will feature the most challenging works from the avantgarde section of the prestigious Berlin International Film Festival: Berlinale Forum Expanded.

Painting with History

BIEFF 2017 takes further the educational partnership with the International Film Festival Rotterdam, which shares an impressive sample of political activism in visual art.

Emotional Bodies: Anxiety, Desire and Solitude in the Post-Internet Urbanscape

One of our personal favorites, the dance cinema program, in partnership with Cinedans – Dance on Screen Festival Amsterdam.

Quinzaine Cannes:  Alejandro Jodorowsky

BIEFF’s long-term partnership with Cannes’ Quinzaine des Réalisateurs brings again, with the support of the French Institute Bucharest, the Romanian premiere of one of the masters of the international avantgarde cinema.

Golden Shorts: Best Films in Major Festivals

The selection includes Timecode, by Juanjo Giménez (Palme d’Or for Short Film – Cannes Film Festival and Oscar nominee for Best Short Film).

• •

Info, images and videos courtesy of BIEFF unless otherwise noted.

More info about the festival on their website, on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube. Keep up-to-date on their Facebook event.