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Short(s) take on big stories

by Ana Šturm


Poison comes in small bottles. Carefully mixed to make your heart stop beating. It's not usual for major and important stories to be told in the form of a short film. Events bigger than life, distilled and stripped down to an important day, a single concentrated emotion or a memory. But when those stories are condensed in the 15 minute frame, they are poison. They can make your heart stop. In the programme of shorts, presented by the Sundance Film Festival, there were two films which took a rather daring short take on immensely complex historical events.

The Chicken (Una Gunjak, 2014) is set in Sarajevo in the early nineties. The war devastated the city. It's Selma’s 6th birthday and she gets a live chicken as a present. The realisation that the animal is going to be killed in order to become her meal persuades her to save it. The bitter-sweet beginning with the 'chicken on the run' comic elements manages to make you forget that you are located in the middle of the war zone. But the brutality of it inevitably enters the story and knocks you off your feet.

The story has a perfect dramatic arc and could stand on its own, but what makes the film stand out is its metaphorical component: the hard realisation about the realities of war and accepting death as a part of it.

The Chicken is based on the director's childhood memories, which separates it from being just another war story. It’s not a generic tale about the cruelty of war, but an interesting and unique anecdote through which we are able to glimpse into the dramatic reality of the conflict; something unknown to most of us.

There was another short film in the programme that drew from personal experience. Saturday (Mike Forshaw, 2015) brings us into the emotional breakdown that followed the Hillsborough Stadium disaster in which 96 people died during the football match between Liverpool and Sheffield.

Saturday is full of small, very carefully thought details and visual hints that work like one of Proust’s madeleines. You can feel the buzz on the streets, the excitement. The details of that fateful day give you a vivid sense of the impact these tragic events had on the whole community. Even though the story mainly revolves around one family, we are still able to hear the heartbeat of the whole city. Both films manage to extract the memories of the past and preserve them in a very concentrated capsule we call the short film. Two original ideas, two great scripts, tight structure, a great cast and perfect timing effectively bring two major stories to the big screen. The Chicken and Saturday leave a great emotional impact and manage to tell us more about these events in 15 minutes than many feature films could in over an hour and a half.



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