British Shorts Film Festival at Sputnik Kino

Nicknamed Berlin’s highest cinema, you’ll find Sputnik Kino on the fifth floor of a 19th century business complex in Kreuzberg. The climb to this intimate art house cinema and bar, however, is worth it. It has two screens, a 1950s style bar scattered with sofas and old film artefacts, and a balcony with a view that overlooks Berlin.
British Shorts film festival poster

This weekend the cinema hosted the British Shorts film festival in Kino 1, whose bricked seat rows were filled to capacity for most screenings. The festival is now in its third year and showcases an eclectic range of British films (the loose definition of which seems to be those either made by Brits, set in Britain, or made with British funding and support) from documentary to animation.

The most interesting piece of the festival came from the Gob Squad , a unique British-German artist collective who do performance, video and installation art projects and everything in between.  Live Long and Prosper is a split screen film which aims to bring death into public view. Not only does death occur mostly out of sight in modern society, banished to hospitals or homes, but the actual moment of death is seldom seen in films.

Consequently, the Gob Squad took seven death scenes from seven movies and recreated them in different public places around Berlin. So for example, the scene where Spock dies in Star Trek is recreated in Pfennigland. Although the recreated version is done in earnest – by the performers as well as the film-makers, who attempt to get the camera angles, set and costume details down to a tee, the juxtaposition between the original and the recreated scene provoked much laughter. Eventually however, the laugher died down, and a more contemplative, serious atmosphere pervaded the cinema; it became a meditation on the moment death, and the ongoing movement of the modern world in the background of the recreated scenes became depressing. If you do get the chance to see this film, grab it.

A couple of acts that combined music with video also stood out. Dirk Markham, a Berlin-based Scottish musician mixed electronic music with interesting visuals in the bar on Friday night, and Éda Manó Meggyesházi performed on Saturday – her songs filling the cinema like those of a woodland spirit, reflecting the images of the crooked winter trees that accompanied them.

The selection of short films were of a very hight standard – many of them student projects from the London College of Communications, Edinburgh College of Art or University of Bedfordshire (the festival has links to the University of Bedfordshire). You can see a full programme of all the shorts shown here.

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