Three Spanish short films are among the 81 selected at the Sharjah Festival. Two of them, made by students of the "C.I.P. Serrería" of Valencia and coordinated by the filmmaker Javier Navarro; the other one bears the stamp of a group of students of the School of Cinema of Barcelona

Three Spanish short films compete at the Sharjah Film Festival for Children and Young People

Eudald Rojas y Mariana Ferreira
photo_camera PHOTO/ANTONIA CORTÉS - Eudald Rojas and Mariana Ferreira

Three Spanish short films have made it to the Sharjah International Film Festival for Children and Young People, after a selection of more than 1,700 films. Two of them, made by 5th and 6th grade students from the "Serrería" school in Valencia under the supervision of the film director Javier Navarro: "No sé qué me pasa" and "Cuando nos dimos cuenta". The third one, "Pobre Antonio", has been directed and produced by Eudald Rojas and Mariana Ferreira together with other eight colleagues of the Master Stop Motion of the Barcelona Film School.  

These filmmakers are in the Emirate this week to publicly present their work and wait until Friday for the jury's decision, made up of prominent personalities from the film world from different countries. The public has already been able to enjoy these short films at Vox Cinema, in the centre of the city of Al Zahai where, in addition, conferences, meetings, screenings... After the screening, Atalayar took the opportunity to talk to them.

The Festival is divided into eight categories. The short films by Valencian students, says Javier Navarro, compete for "The best film directed and made by children and young people". Following the condition set by the award itself, the competition was open to any nationality and with the possibility of it being a live-action, animation or documentary short film.  

PHOTO/ANTONIA CORTÉS - Javier Navarro
PHOTO/ANTONIA CORTÉS - Javier Navarro

Navarro, whose sensitivity has led him to direct educational shorts with social values, already participated in this Festival eight years ago with his proposal "Acabo de tener un sueño", in which he delves into existing inequality. A film that brought him much joy, as it won more than 250 international awards and was widely screened, which also led the "Serrería" School to propose educational film workshops to him. The result of these workshops, which began in 2019, are the short films that are competing in Sharjah and were made by students between 10 and 12 years old in 2021 and 2022. 

"No sé qué me pasa" tells a four-minute story. Divided into two parts, the screen shows two groups of children. In one part, they are cheerful, fun, communicative, sporty, with a healthy diet...; the other group, on the other hand, eats badly, is always tired, discouraged, they don't have fun with each other, but with their mobiles, they sleep little... "We wanted to defend a healthy life. We wanted to contrast and criticise the bad habits of children", says Javier Navarro. 

PHOTO/ANTONIA CORTÉS
PHOTO/ANTONIA CORTÉS

The second short film, also four minutes long, focuses on environmental education. The protagonists, faced with the deterioration of the world in which they live because they have not taken better care of it, wonder if there is still time to turn back the clock. "The children are very aware of this problem. The theme is raised by the school, when we film, at the end of the workshop, they have already done many activities throughout the school year", Navarro points out. 

Now it's time to wait to see whether or not the award arrives. Although this director has already had his special triumph. The enthusiasm with which he tells how the students collaborate, participate, get involved, shoot, act, give their opinions and propose things at all stages of the filmmaking process, in the technical, artistic and scriptwriting aspects, is already a real prize. "The students get involved, I'm delighted, we have a great time".

PHOTO/ANTONIA CORTÉS - Javier Navarro y Thomas Kucera
PHOTO/ANTONIA CORTÉS - Thomas Kucera, Javier Navarro and Sahar Abdallah

Both shorts have already been submitted to numerous festivals and with good fortune, as together they have won almost 60 awards and are awaiting others, such as the one at the Valencia Festival. "No sé que me pasa" has been seen at festivals in Korea, the United States and Europe. "If we win, the prize will be for the school, so that they can continue making films", says Javier Navarro who, although the possibility is always there, does not hesitate to praise the high level of his competitors, with very varied short films, with humour, entertaining, with a lot of social message. And we are talking about "Remembering", directed by the young Dylan Scott, from the United Kingdom, whose age already shows another depth and professionalism. 

"A-Yong's day of confinement" (Taiwan), "Carrot" (Belgium), "Conscience" (Saudi Arabia), "From the other angle" (UAE), "Insomnia" (UK); "Little Puppet in the gaps" (Taiwan) and "The Damsel" (USA) are the rest of the short films in this category. 

On this occasion, the jury is made up of 20 promising young Emirati filmmakers who are participating in the festival for the first time.

PHOTO/ANTONIA CORTÉS - "Cuando nos dimos cuenta"
PHOTO/ANTONIA CORTÉS - "Cuando nos dimos cuenta"

"Pobre Antonio"

Pobre Antonio, the protagonist of the other Spanish short film, arrived in Sharjah stuffed in a box, albeit protected in cotton wool.  

"Pobre Antonio" was born in the middle of the pandemic. Eudald Rojas, who wrote the script with another colleague, tells us about it. The inspiration, he adds, came from the conveyor belts in some Japanese restaurants. "It was born from the desire to explore, as a challenge, and also from wanting to look for something different, with a different approach, after seeing other very deep and dramatic stories at other festivals", says Eudald Rojas. 

And with this idea, they began to draw, design and create the main character, a work of the group of colleagues who were doing the Stop Motion Master's Degree at the Barcelona Film School at the time. They looked for a typical, traditional character, "a Spanish-style Simpsom", says Eudald with a laugh, and many sketches were made, at first, faceless dolls, until the face came out in tests in volume. 

The inspirational tape becomes the recycling tape of the factory where Antonio works at night; the day takes place at home, with the furniture, the food, the holidays, the TV... that they impose on him. And that's how life goes by, wrapped up in his routine. Until one night... he decides to change. In the end, his family abandons him. For good? For bad? 

Mariana Ferreira, who returned to her country, Portugal, after completing the Master's degree, says that, through this animated short film, what they want to transmit is that each person has to become aware of their own life, not remain passive in the face of what is happening and change what they don't want to change in order to find what they like. "Act, even if things don't turn out the way you thought they would", adds Eudald Rojas. That's why they also leave the ending open to each viewer's thoughts, so that they can see that whatever happens, the important thing is to decide.

"Pobre Antonio"
"Pobre Antonio"

This short film, both directors tell us, arrives in the United Arab Emirates after being screened in other countries and winning several awards. It was precisely in Lisbon where they were told about the possibility of presenting it in Sharjah. It was said and done. He arrived at the weekend, but Mariana gave this interview a few hours after landing. "We are happy, very happy", they say.  

They have every reason to be. Not only for having been selected and for being in Sharjah, "we are here, but it has been a super-collaborative work, very group-based in all the processes", they stress, but also for the acceptance that "Pobre Antonio" has had among the young women. The doll has passed from hand to hand, has been photographed, and has aroused more than curiosity. That's why they don't want to forget the rest of their colleagues who have participated in this dream: Elisa Albanelli, Guillem Ignasi Bauzà, María Beltrán, Michelle Blix, Lucía G.Rico, Natalia Rivas, Valeria Salinas and Xixita Tasca.

The director of the 10th edition of the International Film Festival for Children and Young People, Sheikha Jawaher bin Abdullah al-Qasimi, stressed at the opening ceremony the importance of cinema for these generations to see that there are other cultures, other religions, other origins and to promote peace and tolerance, something essential, says Eudald Rojas, because not only do they learn, "it is reciprocal, we also learn from the other participants, from all the short films screened and from the audience's reactions", an affirmation shared by Mariana Ferreira.

PHOTO/ANTONIA CORTÉS
PHOTO/ANTONIA CORTÉS

Like Javier Navarro, they are now waiting for the decision of the jury in the category "Best Film Directed by University Students", made up of Abdul Rahman al Ghannam, academic and professor at King Faisal University in Saudi Arabia, and Geza M. Toth, Hungarian film director, university professor and founder of the animation studio KEDD. The Spanish short film is up against 18 other original stories coming mostly from France, but also from Belgium, United Arab Emirates, Syria, Czech Republic and Uzbekistan. 

The luck has already been cast. Win or lose, they already got their reward by being and enjoying the Sharjah Festival.

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