Shorts: Being Tamed
The relationship between humans and animals is beautifully portrayed in this selection of short films. They ask the question: Who tames whom? This compilation program includes: Nuisance Bear, Adjusting, and Herd.
Nuisance Bear (Jack Weisman & Gabriela Osio Vanden, CA 2021) (15 min.)
Churchill, Manitoba is a coastal town in northern Canada that lies along the path of migrating polar bears. Every year tourists flock to the “Polar Bear Capital of the World” wielding phones and cameras in hopes of catching a glimpse of bears in the wild. Yet, Churchill wildlife officers’ mandate is to protect locals from intruding bears. How do these animals actually experience the push and pull of human activity?
With beautifully composed shots and calmly panning camerawork, this short film assumes the bear’s perspective as it plods along trying to find a way through town. Wandering over asphalt, past parked cars, banging on a closed gate, the bear appears as an interloper in the midst of civilization. As wildlife officers in trucks and helicopters circle closer and closer, a suspenseful chase ensues. Without words, Nuisance Bear is a story of two colliding worlds told with stunning contrasting images.
Adjusting (Dejan Petrović, RS 2021) (20 min.)
What does freedom mean? And in some cases, could it be better to be locked up, with a roof over your head and food to eat, even if you have to work for it? Dejan Petrović poses these questions indirectly in his distinctively framed impressions of an overcrowded dog shelter in Serbia, where the dogs are kept behind wire mesh in dismal pens.
The observational footage is consistently shot from the same height; we never see the face of the man who cares for and trains dogs like the clever, shaggy-furred Vanja. Only at the end of this short film does it become clear why. Meanwhile, Vanja has already won your heart—and that of the initially somewhat grumpy trainer—with her keen-eyed look and affectionate ways.
Adjusting, a film entirely without commentary, and wordless except for the instructions, corrections, and praise directed at Vanja, encourages us to think about what people and animals can learn from each other, and what approach works best.
Herd (Omer Daida, IS 2021) (37 min.)
Itamar breeds livestock that are destined for slaughter. His 10-year-old daughter Na’ama is growing up among the animals, and she’s finding it increasingly difficult to reconcile herself with their fate. But she still deeply admires her father and helps him out in the stalls without complaint.
In quieter moments, she discusses philosophical aspects of life and death with Itamar, who has his own clear vision on these matters. Through a fly-on-the-wall style, filmmaker Omer Daida tracks everyday life on this Israeli farm, from the lambing ewes and scurrying dogs to atmospheric scenes of the herd in the swirling sand. We see how Na’ama does her level best to support her father. The lens is often focused on this young protagonist, her questions and internal struggles clearly visible on her face.
Scene by aptly chosen scene, the film builds into a sincere and intimate father-daughter portrait that engages with complex questions of life and death, growing up, conflicting visions, and family ties.
Documentary lovers, keep November 17 to 28 free in your calendar. The International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam presents its 34th edition in cinemas throughout Amsterdam, including several special programs in Eye.
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