Manchester Lift-Off 2017: Shorts Programme Two (2/2)

Enemies Within (Ennemis Interieurs)

Selim Azzazi impressively demonstrates the control of human emotion with Enemies Within. From the very first second, he keeps the audience with baited breath as a simple citizenship turns into a tense interrogation.

The interrogator shoots questions at a dizzying pace, especially given the weight they seem to carry. After a few questions that our main protagonist answers with ease, the interrogator purposefully throws him off course. “Say we give you French nationality. What can you give us?” and suddenly the air is thick with indignation. It is now clear what is going on, the state’s paranoia surrounding Algerian terrorism seeping through the interrogator’s stance and tone. Under interrogation, the man goes through different stages of response to the questions and is initially amused at their simplicity, only to end up scoffing at the underlying accusations. The neutrality this man came in with evaporates in front of our eyes as the interrogating goes on.

Changing his approach, the interrogator smooth talks our main protagonist with words of “needing” and “belonging”, he resembles something of a puppet master pulling the strings to get what he wants. The abundance of innuendos is anything but subtle, Azzazi gives us a straightforward, no nonsense short that will leave you doubtful if “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity” truly has any meaning.

Enemies Within was by far the most deserving of recognition out of all those on display at this year’s festival for me, as Azzazi flawlessly exposed a raw nerve of the history of France that touches on the consequences of their colonial past.

Directed by Selim Azzazi

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Pazzo & Bella 

This wonderful Italian short introduces us to a humorous couple with very real problems.

Pazzo is a middle-aged man in a makeshift wheelchair who owns a small gas station with his attractive, alcoholic wife. Both have buckets of character, with very little prospects. Offered a large sum of money by a local mobster to kill a man, Bella is prepared for anything to break up the monotony of their life, yet it is safe to say that Pazzo is not thrilled by the proposition. In typical Italian fashion, the pair argue vividly, the scenes seem straight out of a Scorsese production. Bella finally decides to go through with it alone, although it is an act of love as she wants the money to get Pazzo a real wheelchair. The actor playing Pazzo is a pleasure to watch as he conveys a wide range of moods and emotions through dialogue and silence alike. When preventing Bella from committing the crime outright, he explains that as disabled man pulling the trigger “You’re not a murderer anymore, you’re the story!”. The last scenes of the short bring warmth to their relationship, as Pazzo gently washes the blood off Bella’s forehead in the bathroom sink, ending on a shot of them watching television together, still in shock from committing murder but content with each-other’s company.

Directed by Marcello Di Noto

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Hipopotamy

One of the few animated shorts on at Lift-Off, Hipopotamy is not about people, but about humans. Inspired by the post-impressionist painter Paul Gauguin, Piotr Dumala envisioned a story of simple movement and simple characters.

From what I understood, this doesn’t portray a feminist society, it doesn’t even attempt to elude at civilization. Primal instincts and survival as a race are the themes at stake. There seems to be a reference to the futility of war amid humans. A serene dog passes by overlooking the conflict, showing that even animals are more civilised than them, bringing to mind the quote that “Mankind is truly the cruelest of species”. Stripped of colloquial language that we use today, these humans use dance in order to communicate and signal peace amongst each other, notably when their children are dead and they need to reproduce, apparently following nature’s course. This was deeply polarizing short, and if you are into symbolism or very left-of-centre creations, this one is for you.

Directed by Piotr Dumala

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Relentless

Just six minutes long, this short explores a young woman’s decision between a scholarship or pursuing training to be a boxer.

Quite explicitly emphasising the pressure put on by her single mother, the decision she makes will need to serve them both to eventually end their struggle as Latin-Americans. The scholarship to study medicine at Georgetown University is a prestigious one, and could very well be their ticket to the American Dream. Her mother makes sure to remind her that she shouldn’t question sacrificing her passion for the financial security and future of the family: “You can’t box forever, you should do something better with your life.” This realistic short explores family dynamics and what the American Dream signifies to different people in their respective situations, and leaves you wishing we could follow the character a little longer.

Directed by Tayanna Todd

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