ÉCU 2024 Non-european dramatic short : 

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Written by Whitney Janivel

A masterclass on storytelling 

Regarding this year’s ÉCU non-european dramatic short selection, we were presented with nine strong contenders who have proved their ability to master the art of storytelling. 

We were very pleased to be presented with a diverse range of films exploring such various themes. These movies stand out given their qualities and uniqueness, therefore making them powerful  contenders. 

We were first introduced to EXIT by Reza Abiyat released in 2023 which is set during an environmental disaster in Iran, it draws a portrait of the rigid religious dogma in such a difficult situation. Reza Abiyat, who is Iranian, draws inspiration from his own experience : “My personal experiences and observations of such extreme ideologies in critical moments have fueled this narrative”, he says in an interview with our ÉCU team. In this short film, Abiyat speaks about an important subject through a novel lens. EXIT by Reza Abiyat is this year’s Best Editing winner. 

“EXIT”, by  Reza Abiyat, 2023

Andrew Shemin in Breakfast of Champions  takes a controversial topical issue head-on and delivers a comic satire. In an online interview with ÉCU, we had the chance to get to know more details about his subject of choice. He stated: “So we’re not really talking about it as much as we should, you know, so to kind of enter into that taboo, I thought it was a good direction to use satire and a little bit of comedy, but it really tries to push you to make you think”. We also would like to salute the performance of Sabrina Robinson, who won this year’s Best Actress category in ÉCU 2024. She plays the saleswoman who tries to pitch the controversial idea behind the movie. 

Breakfast of Champions (2023) tackles the subject of assisted suicide through a banal quarrel in a bar but delivers it flawlessly. 

“Breakfast of Champions”, by Andrew Shemin, 2023

In this post-apocalyptic future, a single mother attempts to grow a dragon fruit sprout in order to sell it and survive. Dragon fruit came out in 2023 and is set in a dystopian post-apocalyptic world but actually draws inspiration from our current reality. In an online interview with our ÉCU team,J.Brown, the director, explains : “I wrote the film originally in 2019 and the sort of original idea behind it was I live in British Columbia and we’ve had lots of wildfires here over the last 20 years. So kind of every summer smoke kind of pours into the city […]. So that was the impetus behind having everyone wear gas masks and suff.” Dragon fruit presents us a fictional reality that is not so far from us and strangely echoes the 2020 pandemic. 

“Dragonfruit”, by J.Brown, 2023

 I cannot speak but I can shoot, I can use my film to tell the story to bring more people, especially young audiences into this topic” says Vincent Zhou, ICU a film while revealing his creative decision to make it a silent film in a Q&A at our 2024 festival. A downtown Shanghai hospital is the scene of paranormal incidents at nightfall, where frightened hospital staff will have to wait until sunrise for the mystery to be solved. Vincent Zhou invites us into the medical world in a spine-chilling film. ICU directed in 2023 is our second jury mention this year at  ÉCU film festival.

“ICU”, by Vincent Zhou, 2023

This year’s non european dramatic short film winner is the emotionally moving It Turns Blue from iranian director Shadi Karamroudi which premiered in 2023. This film depicted a difficult but important subject.  It Turns Blue tells the story of Morteza who physically abused his three year old daughter, on his weekly visit. He then asks for Pari, his older sister, to cover up his doing, which we then see making an effort throughout the film to manipulate the child’s mind into thinking the accident was just a simple game.  

In an interview with our ÉCU team, director Shadi Karamroudi explains :

“ […]  in Iran as a patriarchal country, religion and tradition often cross over and empower each other to encourage the society to hide and conceal the violence.” 

This touching film tackles a revolting subject. Shadi Karamroudi hopes to bring light on the perpetuation of the violence and opens up the conversation about the cycle of abuse. 

“It Turns Blue”, by Shadi Karamroudi, 2023

Margos Margossian is an Armenian-american filmmaker who we believe does an impressive job when it comes to narrative filmmaking. In No light / No darkness, made in 2023, the director dives into his heritage and brings light to Armenia’s history that rarely gets represented in the media. We follow an Armenian informant facing a dilemma. She must decide if she chooses to leak sensitive data regarding the reopening of Armenians largest nuclear power plant following the fall of the USSR. This stress inducing thriller shines light on Armenia’s political history while discussing self-identity.

“No light / No darkness” by Margos  Margossian, 2023

 Warren Fischer from the New York art-pop duo Fischerspooner presents us an intelligent and psychedelic film about passion and creative power. 

The 2023 film,  The Serena Variations tells the story of a young  female violinist with undiagnosed autism who ventures into a psychedelic journey in quest for perfectionism. Influenced by a charismatic composer, the young violinist soon finds herself trapped between the lines of success and madness. 

 “The Serena variation” by Warren Fischer, 2023

The 2023 release, Won’t figure it out tonight from director Emily Niebuhr is a tale of an artist’s loneliness with the Alaskan wilderness at its center. In an interview with our team, she expressed her artistic direction : “[…]In this film, I tried to make the Alaska wilderness a bit of its own character and kind of go out filming in cold conditions”. However, such a setting as its own challenges, she recollected her adventures in Alaska: “I had to run from moose, I had to run from bears”, she added. 

All of these adventures gave us a successful exploration of the artist’s relation to nature as a way of self-expression. 

 “ Won’t figure it out tonight” by Emily Niebuhr, 2023

Where it Begins, is a short film directed by Iranian directors Mohsen Asdaghpour & Amirhossein Talebi in 2023. With its colorful palette and whimsical charm, it is an ode to magical realism and Iranian folklore. As stated by the directors : “We aimed to create an imaginary world within the boundaries of our reality, where we could highlight the moral dilemmas and complexities that arise when we try to control the destiny of others.”. 

The main character Ebraam, a humble tailor, has his life turned upside down upon the delivery of lucky buttons. Accompanied by Homera, his cat, he then becomes a guardian of justice. 

The film plays on the blurred lines between reality and magic to “highlight the moral dilemmas and complexities that arise when we try to control the destiny of others,” as affirmed by the directors. 

 “ Where it begins” by Mohsen Asdaghpour & Amirhossein Talebi, 2023

We, the ÉCU team, undeniably enjoyed watching the films and discussing with the directors to learn more about their creative direction and the inspiration behind each film. Each of these nine movies was a testimony of storytelling through filmmaking and we’re pleased to represent them through our 2024 non-european dramatic short selection. 

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