Open City Documentary Festival 2018 – Focus: Shorts: Interiors


In this special preview, shorts pre-selector Jade Turner examines the ‘Shorts: Interiors‘ programme, drawing connections between the interiors featured and their inhabitants.

Often, it seems the more familiar a space is to us, the more we take it for granted. Whether childhood homes, our current address, or well-frequented communal buildings, architecture and furnishings seem to blend into the background behind the characters and experiences that dominate our memories. It’s not uncommon to notice intricate carpentry-work, or catch how beautifully the light falls on a wall, just as we prepare to leave a significant place for good. But if we take the time to appreciate a space fully, the emotions we attach to the secrets held within can be overwhelming. In Interiors, five profound and contemplative films attest to the undeniable bond between inhabitants and their surroundings. The films not only celebrate how humans breathe life into the built environment, but how spaces themselves bear witness to, and reflect, our existence.

Margaux Guillemard’s 26 rue Saint-Fargeau depicts the individualised spaces of a Parisian housing estate, accompanied by voiceovers from the residents speaking about their lives and homes. Although the units are ostensibly identical in construction, the sensitive 16mm cinematography captures every nuance, from colour schemes to prizes possessions, revealing how the apartments shape their owners’ identities, while displaying their unique tastes.

Yet the film can only scratch the surface of complex lives, something Ingel Vaikla’s Roosenberg explores in its ethereal journey through a modernist Belgian abbey. For over 40 years, nuns have cared for, lived and worshipped inside the sculptural, monochrome structure. As the final sisters prepare to leave, Vaikla’s diligent and breathtaking camerawork gradually extracts them from their beloved surroundings, closely examining their daily chores against the sublime design.

In sharp contrast, Dorothy Allen-Pickard’s The Mess delves into the psychological rollercoaster of living with bipolar disorder. The opposite of Roosenberg’s clean lines (although resident and home remain just as interdependent); when the lows hit, Ellice can’t stop her interior from physically manifesting itself in her living space. The volume of mess intensifies to oppressive levels, and Allen-Pickard’s film brilliantly mirrors Ellice’s mood swings through striking visual effects.

Clarissa Thieme’s Today is 11th June 1993 employs similarly impressive sonic techniques to interrogate the relationship between past and present. Featuring an amateur Science-Fiction film created by a group of residents in Sarajevo during the siege, their humorous exploits are projected in a dark room as the dialogue is simultaneously translated. The residents’ cramped living room fluctuates between a welcome shelter and an imposed, claustrophobic enclosure; whilst the juxtaposition between archival footage and the present day question how we relate to traumatic spaces from the past.

But nowhere is the traumatic past more evident than in each 12” record, signed photograph or outdated piece of furniture captured in Vincent Förster’s Some of These Days. Featuring the filmmaker’s grandparents as they recall life under both the Third Reich and German Democratic Republic, they jokingly remember ridiculous expressions in communist poems and how scared dictators are of jazz musicians. As they sit together, enveloped by their extensive jazz collection, their lived existence testifies to the potential of everyday resistance and perseverance; reminding us how precarious freedom remains – even today.