Touching and inspiring – the Oslo Short Film Festival 2023 on

Touching and inspiring – the Oslo Short Film Festival 2023 on

Arina Kosareva & Matilda Forss attended #OSFF23 and share their experience on Presset. Give it a ready get a taste of the two-day indie Film Festival!

Thank you Arina Kosareva & Matilda Forss and Presset !

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The Oslo Short Film Festival 2023 offered more than a dozen colourfully unique stories, varying in the country of origin, language, and spirit and spanning two days split between August and September. We attended the OSFF and share their impressions on the multiculturalism and multi-dimensionality of the event.

The Oslo Short Film Festival 2023, Sentralen. Photo: Arina Kosareva / PRESSET.

The OSFF 2023 was a two day festival which embraced four themes this year. Each day was dedicated to two: “It’s a family business” and “The communal experience” (Day 1), “I’m a survivor!” and “Special Bonds” (Day 2). George Panopoulos, the Festival Coordinator, and Alkmini Nikopoulou-Exintari, the Brand Coordinator and Community Manager, cheerfully and warmly welcomed the guests into their seats, assuring that none would leave the Festival “hungry.” A fitting metaphor, as it is the special and wonderful nature of a short film festival that is comparable to taste-testing an entire, diverse menu: you grab a bite here, a nugget there. It is safe to say, all were satiated by the end of each day – both figuratively and literally.

DAY 1:

August 31, the last Thursday of the summer 2023, was unexpectedly warm – a welcome respite after the heavy rains of the past few weeks and a perfect setting for the fifth edition of the Oslo Short Film Festival. Held in Sentralen’s Forstanderskapssalen, it welcomed a much larger crowd compared to previous years – over a hundred guests occupied the neatly arranged soft purple chairs. We spot a lavishly dressed couple, a dark-haired man in a a deep blue silk shirt accompanying a woman in a black bodycon dress, she twists a single red rose between her thin manicured fingers, another artsy man in a gray suit that somehow rhymes so perfectly with his long silver dreadlocks, groups of exhausted students, eternally in jeans and white sneakers, with tote bags lying nonchalantly next to their feet.

The mission of the OSFF is twofold: to build a cinephile community in the city and to showcase the power of independent cinema. And the team behind it is definitely succeeding in accomplishing it. “Each year, more filmmakers send their films to the Oslo Short Film Festival, our audience expands, and at the same time we also see familiar faces in the screening room – all this is solid proof that we are definitely on the right track,” says Aliki Seferou, Press and Communications Coordinator for the Festival.

Tony’s Chocolonely chocolate bars. Photo: Gabriel Aas Skålevik. Courtesy of the Oslo Short Film Festival 2023.

With the OSFF persistently earning its place in Oslo’s culture scene, it now boasts its first partner – Tony’s Chocolonely. Each guest is welcome to take a bar or two before the screening – green for milk, orange for salted caramel, and red for black chocolate. More boxes hide behind the farther doors of Forstanderskapssalen, and it is a truly joyous sight when new bars are poured on a tall black table next to the main entrance.

Settling in, the guests are facing a screen with OSFF’s mascot – an Atlantic puffin, a kind-looking bird with orange beak that frequents Norway’s seashore. “Norway is home to 30% of the world’s Atlantic puffin population, but their numbers have been constantly declining due to ecosystem problems as they are struggling with finding enough food all around the Norwegian Sea and as far away as Iceland and the Færoe Islands,” explains Aliki. “The Oslo Short Film Festival is part of HFP‘s global series of 25 Film Festivals that take place in 13 countries. Each Festival has native species or animals related to the local culture as their logo. The idea behind this concept was to create a network of ‘animal indie cinephiles’ that hop from one festival to the next. Many animals, as puffins, are threatened with extinction, and our aim is to shed light on their story. In a way, we are giving them a voice through our Festivals, pretty much like we want to do with independent filmmakers.”

Thematically, the films of the first day of the Festival are grouped into two distinct slots – “It’s a family business” and “The communal experience” – and yet, they all form a coherent, multi-faceted whole. “Each of the films in the programs exposes people’s vulnerability, as well as how we relate to the world we live in and interact with it – be it through family, community, nature, or society as a whole,” reflects Apostolia Katsiantridou, the Head of Program for the OSFF.  According to her, it is the notion of certain tenderness that permeates the Festival in 2023.

And tender the nine films of the first day are. The festival launches strong, with a humorous, sparkly Le Pompon (David Hourrègue, 2022, France) featuring a flamboyant and competitive mother, that sets several sub-themes for the remaining screenings: myriads of roles that women play in their lives, struggles of motherhood and, wider, parenthood, inexplicable maturity of children, and a vibrant kaleidoscope of cultures, beliefs, and traditions. A Little Bit of Paradise (Andrzej Cichocki, 2020, Poland) follows closely, a touching documentary about the rural life of a heart-breakingly not-so-well-off family. Unborn Biru (Inga Elin Marakatt, 2022, Norway) is another reading of destitution, reflecting on the lengths a parent would go to make sure their child lives another day – and the unintended, eerie, and uncanny consequences of it. Hidden (Paul Riordan, 2022, the UK) appears as a colorful story of a caring relationship between a mother and a son – and yet, something somber, agonizing even, looms in the back, revealing itself by sheer accident – or on purpose? One is left wondering, guessing, but never knowing. Demon Box (Sean Wainsteim, 2023, Canada) builds on the obscure darkness inside every person in a very self-aware manner. It is a short documentary, a video diary/manual, perhaps, on how to deal with the horrors of the Holocaust which are a part of your cultural inheritance and, therefore, your very self.

Le Pompon by David Hourrègue, France. Courtesy of the Oslo Short Film Festival 2023.

After a 10-minute break, the Festival comes back with Around the Corner (Martin Turk, 2022, Slovenia) – an open-ended story about a boy who faces one moral dilemma after another, desperately trying to do good. It is followed by Harvesting Our Tea (Sheida Kiran, the UK), a panoramic overview of Turkish women tea harvesters and their attitude towards life, business, family, and loneliness. The theme of loneliness is picked up in Cloak of Honors, The Tale of the Boy and the Old Man (Rui Falcão, 2023, Portugal), wherein two lonely souls – a young boy missing his father and an old man missing his son – form a partnership of a kind, learning that kindness and forgiveness go a long way. The final film of the day, The Trip (Rimantas Oičenka, 2022, Lithuania), is the only story where men, not children or women, become the centerpiece. And yet, the bonds of family, this invisible connection with one’s wife and child, unbroken by time and space, defines every man’s life, giving them a powerful incentive to always come back and share their memories with those they love.

Joy and sadness, gain and loss, present and past – family, friends, community, selfhood – choices and consequences. The first day was indeed a kaleidoscope of cultures and lives, and enriched by these experiences, the guests poured into the warm streets of Oslo, anticipating the first day of fall – and the second day of the Festival. 

DAY 2:

Left to right: Nora Aasgaard Egerdahl, Louise Waage Anda, Mia Sunniva Øveraas Krookas (Everything Had Been Perfect, 2023), Aliki Seferou, Press and Communications Coordinator for the Festival, Alkmini Nikopoulou-Exintari, Brand Coordinator and Community Manager, George Panopoulos, Festival Coordinator, Roosa Vuokkola and Linnea Salonen (How to Take Care of Your Parakeet, 2023), Tommy Vella (Eina, 2022). Photo: Matilda Forss / PRESSET.

September 1 was as unexpectedly warm as the Thursday before it. Sentralen’s Forstanderskapssalen was packed again, and this time, the chocolate bars were awaiting the guests on every chair. The second day of the Festival was marked by the presence of some of the directors whose films were on the program, as well as actresses and a producer: Tommy Vella (Eina, 2022, Germany), Mia Sunniva Øveraas Krokaas with Louise Waage Anda and Nora Aasgaard Egerdahl who starred in her film (Everything Had Been Perfect, 2023, Norway), and Roosa Vuokkola and her producer Linnea Salonen (How to Take Care of Your Parakeet/Kuinka Huolehtia Undulaateista, 2023, Finland). Perhaps, it was them that inadvertently urged the audience to applaud after every screened film? 

Whatever it was, Day 2, with its slots, “I’m a survivor!” and “Special Bonds,” was as much a success as Day 1. “We were excited to see that not only the Sentralen Forstanderskapssalen was fully packed on both days but also that the OSFF 2023 attracted such a wide and diverse audience,” says Aliki in the aftermath of the event. “It always fills us with joy to see an enthusiastic audience embracing the films, getting inspired and motivated. It is a reward, seeing guests coming on both days and approaching us at the end of the Festival to tell us how much they enjoyed the screenings and which films stood out to them.”

“I’m a survivor!”
The slot named “I’m a survivor!” included daunting stories of war, battles with nature, and the weight of expectations, combined into a viewing experience that kept the audience on their toes. Wild Summon (Karni Arieli and Saul Freed, 2023, the UK), which won the category “Best Short Film,” depicts a woman-figured wild salmon, moving through the cycles of life in a nature-fantasy-fusion, narrated by Marianne Faithfull. It is an absurdist twist on nature documentary, and the circle composition, following an “animal” from death to birth and then death again, opens up to a sea of interpretations, while being uniquely eerie and grotesque.

Wild Summon by Karni Arieli and Saul Freed, the UK. Courtesy of the Oslo Short Film Festival 2023.

Munching on the provided chocolate, one sat at the edge of their seat, watching the journey from film to film that HFP, the company behind the OSFF, curated. Light-hearted and fun films were mingled and thoughtfully complemented, and contrasted stories about war, inviting viewers to ponder and wish for more.

Tommy Vella wrote and directed the film Eina with his brother Michael. They wanted to write a survival film, but not the typical “strong guy fighting bears and wolves and jumping down cliffs,” as Tommy puts it. Instead, they aimed to highlight the inner struggle, especially for young people who “feel burdened, and don’t know what to do and where to go.” It was one of the movies in the program that made the audience feel the main character, Eina’s, struggle. Eina goes on a two-week kayaking trip, and, as the currents of the river get too strong, all of her belongings are swept away. It took a small team of Tommy and his brother, Sophie Roßfeld, who played Eina, and Michelle Wiesemes, Assistant Director, twelve days to shoot the movie. They didn’t want to give Sophie a lot of notes, because “we wanted her to feel the environment and see how she felt.” Vella adds that the difficulty of asking for help was one of the emotions that became central while shooting the film, noting that just as Eina, he “would rather struggle and try to make something work alone, even when it would be easy to ask for help […] and that can put you in difficult situations.” Feeling alone in one’s situations, Vella demonstrates, is easily connected to the thought that one isn’t doing enough, or that one isn’t worth enough, and he hopes that the audience felt connected to Eina as she struggled and persevered. He thinks it’s a fine balance between feeling empathy for her and thinking that she’s stupid, but that it represents something fundamental in the struggles of younger generations.

This theme of asking for help, or seeking it, was also noticeable in Sergio Jaén Sánchez’s film Traje de Luces (2022, Spain), depicting a homosexual matador dealing with the loss of his father. Just a synoptic sentence like that reels you in, doesn’t it? The homoeroticism, the relationship to fate and destiny, the connection between childhood and young adulthood – certainly whichever way you look at it, you’re going to feel something. And Sanchez’s film wasn’t alone in doing so.

In the fifteen-minute break, people in the audience ran up and down the many flights of stairs at Sentralen, hunting for sophisticated and thirst-quenching (the chocolate was, after all, salted caramel-flavoured) glasses of wine. Having secured a drink, glasses in hand, the guests’ energies were rejuvenated for the festival’s final theme.

The audience of the OSFF 2023. Photo: Gabriel Aas Skålevik. Courtesy of the Oslo Short Film Festival 2023.

“Special Bonds”
The last theme of the Festival, “Special Bonds”, sought to highlight people. Here, heartbreaks, first loves, friendships, and family dominated the screen. The anthropocentric approach was never boring, as Vlad Ilicevici and Radu C. Pop’s Romanian animated film Suruaika (2022), that showed a kitten growing destructively large, symbolising perhaps an overinflated ego, was paired and contrasted by the laughter and easiness of Geordy Couturiau’s film The Magical Flute (2021, France). Mia Sunniva Øveraas Krokaas film Everything Had Been Perfect showed a light-hearted story of exciting first loves, and was directly followed by Roosa Vuokkola’s film How to Take Care of Your Parakeet, examining the strange relationship a man grows with a bird, ignoring all other human contact. We had the honour of talking to both of these directors about their films.

The Norwegian Mia Sunniva Øveraas Krokaas film Everything Had Been Perfect showed two young girls, expressing their love for each other for the first time. “When I started writing, I just had the keywords ‘flowers,’ ‘birthday,’ ‘cake,’ ‘field,’ and ‘sun’ written down – all these pretty things that I just wanted to collect into one product,” said Krokaas, and so, a love story blossomed. “I have always liked short formats best,” she noted, “and even this just started as a project with friends.” The youthful playfulness that the film exudes is the result of a project that quickly snowballed and which only took three weeks to produce. Krokaas studies film at NSKI Høyskole and teases that her next project probably will follow a similar route to this film and yet will try to capture the relationship between a grandparent and -child instead of the relationship between two young lovers. “What I find most interesting is exploring interpersonal relationships, and I feel like [the OSFF] is a nice arena for that. It’s very inspiring,” she stated.

The screening of How to Take Care of Your Parakeet (Kuinka Huolehtia Undulaateista, 2023, Finland). Photo: Gabriel Aas Skålevik. Courtesy of the Oslo Short Film Festival 2023.

How to Take Care of Your Parakeet was Roosa Vuokkola’s Bachelor final work and her first short film to be accepted for a film festival. Some of the film’s Finnish sources of inspiration were directors, such as Kaurismäki, Myllylahti and Haapasalo. The film had a Wes Anderson-like colour scheme and a peculiar, lonely main character, played by Taisto Oksanen. The set of Vuokkola’s film was built in a studio, and its “sterility” nicely contrasted the prevalence of nature in the other films. Vuokkola commented that it was “thrilling and nerve-wrecking to send your film somewhere and have someone else see it.” When asked about the ambiance of the Festival, she noted that “all the films have been… gentle, and that is something that resonates with me. I can’t remember the last time I’ve been to a screening and liked all of the movies.” She admitted that at the core of all the films was something very human.

The face of young cinema
There was an air of potential as the guests and the Festival’s team went their separate ways. These subversive and abstract feelings of young filmmakers, ripe with new ideas, seemed contagious. And to see the shy faces concentrate a little extra on pronouncing their film’s title in English for the first time, standing on that stage, just adds so much depth to the experience. It very much felt like you had just seen the new face of young cinema. And there is so much there to like. Young cinema is so… weird and funny, and thought-provoking and melancholic. It’s a worry that your story isn’t important, it’s the stress of always trying to network, it’s the excitement of attending your first film festival and not knowing where the bar is. It was all of that, and inside of it there were so many emotions, so many nuggets of people’s lives, and there was so much truth in all the fiction.