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Directed by: 
ROY ANDERSSON
“Like a collaboration between Monty Python and Samuel Beckett in the last days of the Neue Sachlichkeit. You just have to watch it, then grab a net and try to coax your soul back down from the ceiling.” (Robbie Collin, The Telegraph)
 
“A cavalcade of oddness, humour, banality and even horror...manages the uniquely Anderssonian trick of not just making you notice the absurdity of existence, but reminding you to love that absurdity as well. Life is unlikely, humans are ridiculous, and the world is cruel: isn’t it great?” (Jessica Kiang, IndieWire)
 
“A cross between a Where’s Waldo cartoon and a Gregory Crewdson photograph, the best way to approach it is as you might a large-canvas painting or a Jacques Tati film. Where other directors seek out exceptional moments, Andersson endeavors to capture the poetry of the mundane.” (Peter Debruge, Variety)
 
Concluding the trilogy on being human (along with Songs from the Second Floor and You, the Living), A PIGEON SAT ON A BRANCH REFLECTING ON EXISTENCE follows Sam and Jonathan, a modern-day Don Quixote and Sancho, two travelling salesmen peddling grotesque party masks and quarrelling continuously. Sam, who considers himself the brains of the operation, ceaselessly patronizes his companion. Jonathan is slow and phlegmatic, finding happiness in the simple act of eating. Taking us on a kaleidoscopic wandering through multiple human destinies, the two inspire hilarity as much as gravity. We wander through the film, tasting the beauty and absurdity of the moment, surrounded by others all too much like ourselves. It is a journey that unveils the beauty of single moments, the pettiness of others, the humour and tragedy hidden within us, life’s grandeur as well as the ultimate frailty of humanity.
Directed by: 
MISCHA LEINKAUF, LUTZ HENKE, MATTHIAS WERMKE
On July 22, 2014, New York woke up to an unexpected silent declaration: Brooklyn Bridge’s Old Glory was gone, replaced by two white flags blowing in the high winds. In a post-9/11 New York, this gesture galvanized city officials and the media into knee-jerk reactions of fear, anger and panic. In short, a response that every a work of art should produce. Compiled from TV, radio and online reports, Symbolic Threats traces the lifespan of Leinkauf and Wermke’s art installation / intervention, bringing forward the predictable rhetoric seeking culpability rather than discourse. Once the proverbial dust settles and the fever-pitch frenzy of the media machine dies down, we’re afforded poetic tranquility to ponder not only the role of art in our world, but that of our own citizen-selves. (Andrei Tănăsescu, BIEFF)
Directed by: 
MIGUEL GOMES
REDEMPTION reveals the fluidity of cinematic meaning and the mechanisms through which collective memory constructs public figures and universal history. Voice-overs attributed to some of the most controversial politicians of our times continuously transform the archive footage into devices of remembrance, idealized reconstructions of the past and projections of the most intimate desires and thoughts. Gomes exposes our natural tendency to construct simplified representations, a mechanism in which we often also cannibalize public figures and their personal histories, draining them of humanness, in our effort to make sense of the world. (Diana Mereoiu, BIEFF)
Directed by: 
VIKA KIRCHENBAUER
“In direct address, Vika Kirchenbauer invites you to Please Relax Now. You’re about to experience liberty and desire, under the guiding voice of the artist. Calm and composed, Kirchenbauer breaks down the cinematic screen’s barrier of distanciation as she methodically lays bare (pun well-intended) the power-relationships at play between art and its consumer. As spectators, we are encouraged to subvert passivity and reclaim our position within the space we occupy. How? By exploring, here and now, the pleasure principle of art to its extreme. Abandon all preconceptions, democratize the space and fully submit to - and indulge in - the communal experience. Political and playful, Please Relax Now’s deceivingly simple premise will become one of your most challenging viewing experiences. Should you resist? No, just relax. (Andrei Tănăsescu, BIEFF)
Directed by: 
VIKA KIRCHENBAUER
With YOU ARE BORING!, Vika Kirchenbauer delivers a steady but assured wake-up slap in the face to our repressed, closeted spirit. Through soothing and beckoning direct-address, a choir of people take turns addressing the camera, looking for (you!) the patient, passive, pent-up viewer. Their aim? To sell you, through stiff-and-stuffy yet campily nonchalant rhetoric, their performative bodies of difference and vicarious experience for your personal fantasy wish-fulfillment. Wonderfully subversive and confrontational, YOU ARE BORING! forces us to take a long, hard look at our inner (prudish) limits, while pondering the outer ramifications of our cultural hegemony’s ‘consumption of difference’. Rather than a jolt, the film leaves us with a  warm, embraceful slap to our normative society's politics of representation.” (Andrei Tănăsescu, BIEFF)
Directed by: 
ANTONI PINENT
A self-described “handmade décollage”, G/R/E/A/S/E takes the famous rock'n'roll musical comedy Grease as source material. Antoni Pinent literally puts the main characters under his caméra-stylo's knife: working directly with prints, the filmmaker isolates and magnifies the pop(ular) imagery and dialogue of the cult film by splitting and splicing frames into a physical and formal cinematic remix that becomes a pure delight for the senses. Cultural signifiers deconstructed, the film’s campy, manufactured pop-cinema look is taken to the extreme, letting the viewer know that its cross-cultural resonance (and dominance) have just begun. (Andrei Tănăsescu, BIEFF)
Directed by: 
KONRAD MÜHE
Awarded a Special Mention at Berlinale, QUESTIONS TO MY FATHER is an imaginary dialogue between the filmmaker and his father, Ulrich Mühe, star-actor in The Lives of Others. Interrogating the limit between reality and fiction, privacy and art, Konrad Mühe edits fragments from his father’s films, attempting to find answers to the questions he never had the chance to ask him while he was alive. However the dialogue turns to an interrogation, and feelings blend together in a mix of conflicting emotions. A painful, but affectionate reunion, the film becomes both a way to handle the loss of the father, and of keeping his memory alive. (Diana Mereoiu, BIEFF 2014)
Directed by: 
ALEKSANDR SOKUROV
Another century has passed on the Old Continent... Large armies are trampling on the heart of civilisation and cannon fire is once again taking its toll. Amidst the massacre and the ruins, everything majestic, magnificent, and sacred, that  took millions of minutes and hours of determined labour to build, is wiped out. Jacques Jaujard and Count Franziskus Wolff Metternich worked together to protect and preserve the treasure of the Louvre Museum. Aleksandr Sokurov tells their story. He explores the relationship between art and power, and asks what art tells us about ourselves, at the very heart of one of the most devastating conflicts the world has ever known.

With this sophisticated, complex and thoroughly absorbing film, Aleksandr Sokurov has had another night at the museum reverie, a cine-prose poem or animated installation tableau, weaving newsreel footage with eerie floating images above the streets of contemporary Paris – presumably filmed with a drone – and dramatised fantasy scenes. Thirteen years after Russian Ark, that renowned single-take movie journey through the Hermitage museum in St Petersburg, Sokurov has now alighted on the Louvre in Paris. Francofonia has all sorts of wayward digressions and perambulations around the idea of French and European culture, and the role of the museum in conserving art and promoting the idea of what it means to be human. (Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian)

It will be impossible to neatly package Francofonia into a brief and accurate description, since Aleksandr Sokurov’s dense, enriching meditation on the Louvre and specifically (but not exclusively) the museum’s status during WWII defies categorization. View the trailer and you might think the film is essentially a Sokurovian dramatization of the uncertain relationship between the Louvre’s wartime director and the Nazi officer in charge of preserving France’s artistic patrimony. Watching the film, however, a larger picture emerges, in which Sokurov engages with Paris itself and the philosophical concept of a great museum. (Jay Weissberg, Variety)
Directed by: 
BJØRN MELHUS
Part performance, part political critique, part genre film, yet 100% entertaining, Bjørn Melhus’ Freedom & Independence is a wonderfully witty and thought-provoking allegory of neoliberalism’s ideological folly. Guided by the voiceover proselytism of Ayn Rand, Freedom and Independence take on physical shape as they are sent to view the urban development of the future. Split between reality’s rational thought (Rand’s Objectivism) and theological faith (Hollywood melodrama), the titular protagonists reach an identity crisis. Although reigned back in by their ‘mother superior,’ their quest towards neoliberalism’s exigent individual empowerment ends with a song-and-dance of life’s most reliable Truth and constant: death. Wry, witty and wonderfully jubilant, Bjørn Melhus’ straight-faced film is a one-man show of cerebral activism. (Andrei Tănăsescu, BIEFF)
Directed by: 
JULIAN ROSEFELDT
Manifesto pays homage to the moving tradition and literary beauty of artist manifestos, ultimately questioning the role of the artist in society today. It draws on the writings of Futurists, Dadaists, Fluxus artists, Suprematists, Situationists, Dogme 95 and other artist groups, and the musings of individual artists, architects, dancers and filmmakers. Passing their ideas [...] through his lens, visual artist Julian Rosefeldt has edited and reassembled thirteen collages of artists’ manifestos. Performing these 'new manifestos' as a contemporary call to action, while inhabiting thirteen different personas, Australian actress Cate Blanchett imbues new dramatic life into both famous and lesser known words in unexpected contexts. Rosefeldt’s work reveals both the performative component and the political significance of these declarations. Exploring the powerful urgency of these historical statements, which were composed with passion and conviction by artists many years ago, Manifesto questions whether the words and sentiments have withstood the passage of time [...] and how the dynamics between politics, art and life have shifted.

"Art history is a derivation of history and we learn from history. Artists, as well as writers, philosophers and scientists, have always been the ones who have dared to formulate thoughts and visions whose consistency had yet to be proven. [...] We seem to be well advised to read artist manifestos as seismographs of their age. And in a time where neo-nationalist, racist and populist tendencies in politics and media threaten again democracies all over the world and challenge us to defend our allegedly achieved values of tolerance and respect, Manifesto becomes a clarion call for action". (Julian Rosefeldt)

"Manifesto is an art film in the truest sense: It is conceptual in nature, nontraditional in form, and perfectly esoteric in appeal. [...] What few could foresee walking into the experience is how an often-contradictory collection of dogma might inspire the artistically open-minded. Whereas a single manifesto rigidly demands creativity within constraints, this maelstrom of competing rules and regulations encourages viewers to take a stand and consider their own aesthetic". (Peter Debruge, Variety)
 
"If the art world gave out Oscars, Cate Blanchett should win for her tour de force of starring roles in Manifesto". (Roberta Smith, The New York Times)
 
"A confirmation of both Blanchett’s sheer presence and acumen and Rosefeldt’s shrewdness and intellect, Manifesto is worth every minute – A remarkable exploration of cultural and cinematic tropes and expectations". (The Sydney Morning Herald)
 
"What matters in Manifesto isn’t what is said but the way it’s said, and Rosefeldt has found a way to shrinkwrap the ambitious spirit and poetry of these texts into humble everyday actions. A manifesto is a schoolteacher, instructing a new generation. A manifesto is a ballet teacher, choreographing bodies rather than minds. A manifesto is a mourner, eulogising not the death of a person but the death of an idea". (Toby Fehily, The Guardian)
Directed by: 
CLEMENS VON WEDEMEYER
Set in the near-future of a dystopian metropolis, ESIOD 2015 is a lyrical envisioning of an impending financial singularity, where a centralized commodification has monetized everything, from urban spaces, social structures to ultimately, our collective memory. Greeted by the quiet sterility of modern architecture and disembodied voices, the film’s protagonist enters the city’s downtown sprawl with wide-eyed wonder. Passing through this socially-hostile urban babylon and its ghettoizing checkpoints, she reaches her destination: the banking headquarters of society’s stored data, finances and memories. Inside, as the institution’s virtual manager guides her access to the account, body turns performative and shared memory and history dissolve in virtual pointilism. Beneath her expressive emotions lies a deeper secret, hidden away from the singularity’s algorithms - an intended subversion meant to bring about the revolution from within. (Andrei Tănăsescu, BIEFF 2017)
Directed by: 
ALEX GERBAULET
Shift (Schicht). Shaft (Schacht). The voice-over alliterates the terms repetitiously, shifting layer after layer as Alex Gerbaulet moves down the shaft of memories, her own family's and those of the industrial city of Salzgitter, a once blooming project of National-Socialist Germany, home of the 'Reichswerke Hermann Göring' and of the adjacent labour camps. Shift employs a rhythm crafting a feeling of implacability. Family and history events are concocted from archival propaganda pieces, news reels, and family photos, and the remains of the mining-cum-steel works shot on location. Moving between layers, the recurrent figure of the widowed father joggs along deserted streets and eventually returns to an empty home, his wife having passed away some time ago after years of suffering from multiple sclerosis. The industrial city is gradually invalided by a multiple sclerosis of its own. Reduced to the representation of the ruins of a failed ideology, it faces a future grimmer still, since it is designed to become the ultimate disposal place for radioactive waste. (Adina Marin, BIEFF)
Directed by: 
SARAH VANAGT
Inspired from the 19th century photographic practice of Invisible Mothers, visual artist Sarah Vanagt investigates the very act of seeing. If photography was in the beginning perceived as witchcraft, stealing the soul of its subjects, Still Holding Still manages to capture that precise moment of magic when the image is born, when the soul transfer happens between the real and the photographed. Infant subjects gazed at with gentle observation and attentive hearing, a hushed lullaby which captures the ethereal weight of absent presence, muffled whispers and softened exhalations. Dilating the instant, Vanagt’s camera allows each child’s human essence to reveal itself with arresting tenderness. Beckett once said that the role of objects is to restore silence; Vanagt’s cinematic gaze restores transcendence to the real, and we, in turn, become participatory witnesses. (Andrei Tănăsescu, BIEFF 2017)
Directed by: 
ANNE DE VRIES
What lies between that euphoric before-and-after of the collective ritual of the dance floor drop? Anne de Vries looks for the answer, in a high-octane visual and cerebral assault that brings academia to the dancefloor in an exquisitely fitting pairing of Deleuzian theory and hard-trance. Using CGI and cut-up footage of the lavish spectacle that are electronic dance music (EDM) festivals, Anne de Vries overlaps disembodied (organic and artificial) narrations reciting dictums inspired from Gilles Deleuze’s work. Preaching for the recognition of the amorphous unification of crowds as a collective experience of the sublime, Critical Mass: Pure Immanence becomes a rallying call for dancefloor transcendence, a Deleuzian take on rave-culture’s mantra of Peace, Love, Unity, Respect (P.L.U.R.). (Andrei Tănăsescu, BIEFF 2017)
Directed by: 
MAX GRAU
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. Once «[...] craving for narrative»’s kernel of culture is planted, we’re winding through Grau’s rhizome of thought, taking detours at every reference point (be it personal, political, social or cultural) and understanding our individual tendencies of cultural consumption, assimilation and regurgitation. By the time we’re kicked out of Grau’s eternal return, nothing will ever look, read or hear the same. (Andrei Tănăsescu, BIEFF 2017)
Directed by: 
ULU BRAUN
Rather than reinventing the wheel, BIEFF-favourite Ulu Braun re-envisions the structural potentiality of the brick, in this revisionist fable of mankind’s urbanization of our planet. Employing playful and visually dense digital collages (recalling his 2013 BIEFF short Forst), Braun’s associative tableaux collate an ‘alternate’ vision of our world, where nature invades the urban (and vice-versa). We’re transported by a comforting narrator through post-apocalyptic, post-capitalist habitats, where the material co-exists with the metaphysical, the literal alongside the figurative (soap-bubble buildings stand alongside ruined churches turned car dealerships). Architektura echoes our civilization’s childlike ingenuity in creation and destruction, as we question the inheritance we pass on to our future generations. (Andrei Tănăsescu, BIEFF)
Directed by: 
SEBASTIAN MEZ
Director Sebastian Mez returns to BIEFF with Remains from the Desert, 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) 
Directed by: 
ULU BRAUN
A mesmerizing Hitchcockian visual study in ornithology, BIRDS, by visual artist Ulu Braun. breaks down societal construction, hinting at a dormant danger: he observes Earth’s winged inhabitants from up close, looking at their ominous and omniscient presence that watches over us in quiet surveillance. Associative editing brings out the sinuous elegance of the creatures, placing them against the glamour and refuse of cities shaped by human civilization. A cohabitation of prehistoric lineage estranged by an abstract soundtrack, this unlikely pairing of fowl and man becomes a premonitory reminder of the fallacy of modern civilization’s progress. (Andrei Tănăsescu, BIEFF)
Directed by: 
MAREIKE BERNIEN & KERSTIN SCHROEDINGER
Cheerful, carefree and lively – this is what Nazi Germany looks like in the period’s escapist cinema made ​​on Agfa film stock, which promise colours “truer than true”. Shot in the former factory where the stock was produced, RAINBOW’S GRAVITY examines how images from film and media, by ignoring reality end up rewriting it in the collective memory, and as time goes by, become what we call history. Addressing the issue of the political and ideological implications of colour, the short film portrays a country and a generation suffering from an identity crisis, caught in the struggle of reconciling the past with historical fabrications. (Diana Mereoiu, BIEFF)
Directed by: 
SUSANN MARIA HEMPEL
SEVEN TIMES A DAY WE COMPLAIN ABOUT OUR FATE AND AT NIGHT WE GET UP TO AVOID OUR DREAMS (Best Film Award - German Competition Oberhausen 2014) turns to look at a traumatized psyche of a victim of abuse. Fully embracing its subjective form, Hempel narrates the film’s intimate diary-entries and retreats further into the mind of her character by crafting her mise-en-scène with phantasmagorical bric-a-bracs pulled by strings. Hempel’s mesmerizing puppet-show convincingly describes the psychological and physical abuse, drawing the viewer down its downward spiral with childlike fortitude. (Andrei Tănăsescu, BIEFF)
Directed by: 
HELENA WITTMANN
Helena Wittmann’s multiple award-winning film THE WILD introduces us to the ideal, peaceful picture of long-lived domesticity. In a sun-filled home, a husband waters the plants while the wife prepares their meal. Yet behind the veneer of their quiet existence, the camera glides slowly through empty rooms, revealing projections of wildlife taking over their home, their sounds striking off against the solitude of old age. THE WILD’s juxtaposition of homely tranquillity with primal savagery invites the viewer to look beyond surface symbolism, coming face-to-face with the primal nature of our domesticized humanity. (Andrei Tănăsescu, BIEFF)