From The Long Season to The 3 Rooms of Melancholia, Feel Cruelty of Wars at SIFF
The 21st Shanghai International Film Festival selects six war-themed documentaries, which display the cruelty in battlefields and massacres of innocent civilians. From the civil war in Syria, to Chechen War, the Afghanistan War, Iran-Iraq war, the films recall the Second World War through the view of Eurasia. Mars and Mors never stop. The history repeats itself again and again.
The 3 Rooms of Melancholia
Director: Pirjo Honkasalo
Melancholian 3 huonetta is directed in 2004 by Pirjo Honkasalo, jury president of the Documentary Unit. The 4K-restored version will be screened at the festival. The film documents the devastation and ruin brought on by the Second Chechen War, more specifically the toll that the war had taken on the children of Chechnya and Russia. Several hundred Russian children between the ages of nine and fourteen was forced to receive intense combat trainings in a boys military academy. Some of the children will be sent to fight wars once their training is complete. On the other side, in the ruined Grozny, the Chechen capital, orphans and abandoned children are sent by a humanitarian worker to an orphanage, where they suffer a more miserable life than in the streets.
After screened in 2004, the film made a sensation and earned awards at International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam, Venice Film Festival and Thessaloniki Documentary Festival. The film gives a strong sense of melancholy with several black-and-white scenes and elegiac full-length shots, as if it was exploring the misty future under a thick fog.
The Long Season
Director: Leonard Retel Helmrich
Country/Region: the Netherlands
After a war in Syria breaks out, about nine million refugees are forced to leave their homelands. Many of them settle in Lebanon. After ISIS seizes power, they can no longer return to their country. The Long Season turns its shots on one of the Syrian refugee camps in Lebanon.
The renowned Dutch documentary director Helmrich has followed the daily life of the camp residents for a long time with the “Direct Film” approach. From his subtle shots, the audience can see the personality of every character. The refugees, despite experiencing hardship, still maintain a positive and optimistic attitude towards life, and can find hope and happiness from their hopeless surroundings. Such a story has a strong internal tension, which can easily move the audience living in a peaceful environment.
Morir para Contar
Director: Hernán Zin
Morir para Contar is a documentary that mirrors the psychological trauma of a war correspondent. The director was also a war correspondent at one time. As a result of an accident in Afghanistan, 2012, the psychological trauma he had accumulated in wartime for over 20 years broke out. He was beset with depression and had a hard time.
To find the cause of the disease, he began interviewing other war correspondents, allowing them to narrate their experiences, fear and sadness afield. The interviewees included the most prestigious war correspondents over the past dozens of years, some of whom were winners of the Pulitzer Prizes. They unreservedly shared their worst nightmares, such as abduction by ISIS, getting injuries in Syria and losing their friends around the world… The film displays the relentlessness of wars and the toll they had taken from a unique perspective, themed with the psychological trauma of a war correspondent and characterized by strong humanism attention. Starting from personal experiences, the director interviewed his counterparts and depicted their experiences, fear and sadness afield.
Director: Alba Sotorra
The barbarian invasion of ISIS turns the once peaceful Syrian villages into a hell on earth. 30-year old Arian leads her army of women to combat the terrorists. After an uphill battle, they free Kobane, with Arian shot 5 bullets. Fortunately, she is not killed and returns to the battlefield upon recovery.
The documentary showcases Arian and her comrades-in-arms in battles and the state of life at the battlefield, which intends to mirror the situation of women in wartime and their free will. The film features a strong sense of humanitarian and feminist. The simple and powerful use of lens portrays a group of women of flesh and blood, a stark contrast to the cruel and fierce battlefield.
My Enemy, My Brother
Director: Ann Shin
The two leading roles in My Enemy, My Brother are Zahed from Iran and Najah from Iraq. During the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, two boys, serving their own country, meet on the battlefield. Najah is saved by Zahed from danger, thus they become good friends. 25 years later, they meet again by sheer coincidence in Canada.
The shots follow these two veterans, who return to their own country left more than 20 years. Their homelands are devastated and ruined by ISIS. In a slow and lyric mood, the film shows their countries are still beset with wars, arousing a sense of sadness from the audience. But the brilliance of humanity displayed on the two heroes mitigates the atmosphere of despair.
Back to Berlin
Director: Catherine Lurie-Alt
The storyline of Back to Berlin is simple: eleven motor bikers have a mission to take the Maccabiah torch from Tel Aviv, Israel to Berlin. Behind the act there is a tragic fact. Maccabiah torch represents the Maccabiah Games (also known as Jewish Olympic Games) held every four years. The 1936 Berlin Olympics gets infamous for being controlled by Nazi as an instrument of propaganda. Right after three years, German fascists launch invasion wars, leading to a catastrophe for Jewish people.
Rather than a revenge, the journey is more of a reflection on war and a commemoration of peace. Along the way, they have seen numerous ruins of the wars, recalled the tragic history and recollected how their ancestors and families survive the Holocaust. The journey connects the history with the present, unravelling the trauma brought on by wars. Even if half of a century has passed, the scars and sears are still left on people’s heart.
When we see these films in cinemas, we should be grateful that we are living in a peaceful environment.