The longest possible human lifespan is not yet lengthy enough to completely satisfy existential curiosity. Scientifically speaking, this long-lasting search is especially vulnerable from birth up until the point when the prefrontal cortex, the part of our brain that helps curb impulsive behavior, is fully developed. In my personal experience, up until true self-awareness can begin actively and positively affecting the ways in which a person goes about their life. Before this point that many have yet to reach, the environments that permeate eachperson’s upbringing are a lot freer to deeply enmesh with its inhabitants.

Growing involves relentless constant change for a human as it does for a plant, a baby owl or a butterfly. However, for us, even past the sprouting seed, the hatching egg or the opening of the chrysalis, growth most likely implies prolonged metamorphosis. The introductory section of the 13 th Balkans Beyond Borders Short Film Festival centers on diversifying our understanding of the concept of human formative life moments through cinema.

Проблемот на Тина / Tina’s Problem (2021) represents a sincere portrayal of one such situation as it deals with a 22-year-old woman’s (played by Dusica Nastova) inevitable experience of a first gynecology visit. Part of a larger conversation surrounding sexual health, often absent but very necessary in the years leading up to a person becoming sexually active, the director’s approach inspires the viewer with much-needed reassurance through conveying normal feelings of worry, anxiety, fear, discomfort and awkwardness characterizing Tina’s young adulthood uncomfortable firsts. On the other hand, it is clear from the more desensitized, slightly ironic and intruding nature of the interactions sparked by the girl acting toward fixing her so-called “problem”, that Tina is expected to learn as she goes through these experiences, to adapt as she grows and, ideally perhaps, to even align her values with those of the culture created around how the social systems that she comes in contact with tend to regulate women behavior.

For Karlo (Karlo Vorih), the protagonist and director of Jesen našeg ljeta / Fall of Our Summer (2021), the final school break before graduating from university appears to be a part of a time of waiting, or as his father puts it, “a transition time” before change, or growing, if you will, is anticipated to dramatically take place. For the dad, one good indicator of his son’s readiness and ability to support himself would be even just knowing that, when invited for dinner as a guest, he would not end up having to correct his kid’s way of preparing the meal. By perceiving this brief but telling exchange next to the opening scene, for example, the viewer might sense a difference in meanings attributed to feeling lost in your 20s. One calls for more urgency in taking the next step and the other calls for more self-reflection, a pause to question it. Fall of Our Summer chooses its preferred course of action by following a wondering Karlo, with seeking being his only real aim and way of determining whether following the path of nostalgia and its fuzzy memory of stability may or may not hold any potential for clarity on the uncertain future ahead.

I can recall my own childhood involving a game of blind man’s buff or, in Romanian, “de-a baba oarba” aka “the blind old woman”, which ended up in an unexpected frightening accident and a hospital visit. I can also recall the moment I understood why someone would write the lyrics “Teenagers scare the living shit out of me. They could care less as long as someone’ll bleed.” or why people will never stop showing interest in the coming of age story trope. The two short films with which BBB concludes its first Short Film Competition segment bring forth characters somehow familiar to all of us through their still biologically justified predisposition to pay little to no mind to the consequences of their actions.

Bulgarian filmmaker Orlin Menkadzhiev captures in the look of his two protagonists in Игра/ Game (2020) the increasingly intense seriousness which characterizes each impulsive phase of the boys letting play turn into an unpredictable zone of getting even. Game’s editing and cinematography (not just in terms of appearance but, and more impactful, in terms of choices related to camera movement vs stillness and framing) work together intuitively. In other words, the intelligent use of the chosen location and montage pacing express attunement with the diegetic dynamic unfolding between two main characters. Kids on the Moon (2022) director Dinko Draganovic opts for an almost 13-minute-long uninterrupted take to lay bare, from careless set up to unfortunate aftermath, one fragment of the unfortunately still ever-present (online) culture of dangerous trends and challenges that, to this day, some youths will still choose to mindlessly engage with. After a second watch, what ends up most striking about the colorful hiding somber undertones Kids on the Moon are the few seconds of eye contact we get to share with Luna (Melanie Sidhu) as the sequence starts; the unsuspecting assigned narrator of this cautionary tale unaware of how the 4 th wall breaking look directed at the audience could very well suffice as a touching warning sign: “learn from my mistakes”.