Millie Ross escapes the close quarers of the Titanic and the Arts Printing House in a short cab ride to the Kino Centras Skalvija cinema, which sits on the riverside.
A cosy art house cinema with couches at the front, the session of five short films opened with Swiss animation by Anja Kofmel, who’s true story Krisas tells of her cousin who travelled to Croatia s apolitical journalist and then joined the mercenaries, only to be later murdered by them when he published an article about drug use within the mercenary forces. Anja captures this with ink illustrations on paper.
"I was only ten years old at the time, and as I made this in quite a short time, I did not have time to research it properly, I told the story from the perspective of the little girl, who of course only knew parts of the story." She explains, "I’m now making it into a feature length documentary combining live action footage and animation. The memories will be animated and the research concerning with war will be documentary.”
Belgian graduate Robbe Vervaeke created an animation with oil paints, which while technically very impressive – the length to paint each scene makes me shudder - it is the sensuality and the violence conveyed which was most striking.
A very sombre, mood laden animation, there are, as Paula Crabtree described, particularly “juicy” parts to it, blood swilling from every crevice, a rubber ducky motif, and the lush textures and trembling brush strokes only add to this.
German student Krausten Krause made a documentary about a farmer living alone and isolated in the backwaters of rural Germany, with only his beloved cows for company- or so I thought. However, those without German language in their repertoire missed out as there were no sub-tites. It looked fantastic, great cinematography, and despite the language gap, it really captured the contentment of this old mans lifestyle. It was only later that evening when I met the filmmaker that he enlightened me to the real story. This man, whom he met 25 years ago (Krausten must have been just a baby at the time), has a farm in the Austrian Alps. But he also has a family in the city and chooses to spend every summer on the farm working 8 hours a day, Krausten says if he didn’t “he would be very fat.”
My personal favourite of the filmic bunch was also the crowd pleaser, the cinema which was 75% full, seemed to agree from their vocal response. Lithuanian film graduate Lina Luzyte’s short film "It Would Be Splendid, Yet", was gorgeously shot, had fantastic art direction, and brilliant comic timing.
For a group of neighbours fresh out of the Soviet clutches and into a very sparse independence, the “prize” of an American photographer paying a visit to their home in order to snap a slice of their life, from which America (and from there the world), will see the “new” Lithuania, sends the ‘lucky’ housewife into a neurotic spin. One must have the neighbour’s new fridge, and a husband who is presentable - who also happens to belong to her neighbour.
The hilarious turn of events is really enjoyable stuff, the art direction of the drab interiors, the slightly downtrodden yet perfectly dressed housewives obsessed with how they will appear to the highly desirable American world. The humour was spot on, from what I’ve seen of Lithuanian sense of humour since I’ve been here, the dialogue perfectly encapsulated their deadpan wit. And all very relevant considering the European Capital of Culture and the NEU NOW bringing a new international spotlight to the city.
Check out all the NEU NOW films here