Inexplicable as it is, instant connection between certain people exists. The details are blurry, and truth be told they need not be spelled out – knowing, in the traditional sense, is of no significance. It’s not a matter of fact, but a matter of the mind, energy, and how easy it is to laugh at the same lame joke.
It comes as no surprise, of course, that this strand of the Balkans Beyond Borders Film Festival kickstarts things with a film about romantic relationships, namely Vasia Ampatzi’s experimental short Uncontrolled Love (2021). The premise is clear from the opening shot: love is a game people instinctively play, despite the fact there’s no guarantee of a positive outcome. Ampatzi talks about a rush of energy going through each player when there’s no ability to direct the flow of one’s behaviour. This is manifested on screen not only through outbursts of rapid movement such as running, but also through the literal marks people leave on each other no matter the days or years that may have gone by.
While this topic is usually associated with romantic relationships, it need not be limited to that. Zeynep Dilan Sürenäs The Great Istanbul Depression (2020), existing solely within the walls of a small apartment, tells the story of two friends Didem (Nazli Bulum) and Ayşe (Kübra Balcan). As they’re two different people, they have a distinct reaction to the difficulties of kickstarting a career. Individual entities that, though clashing from time to time, as all opposites are expected to, they remain constant companions – even in the dubious decisions; even in the darkest of thoughts. Fascinatingly enough, both their appearance and the overall color palette employed (gradations of pink touch almost every surface) signal a natural likeness that doesn’t intrude on their differences. The film essentially conveys that the basis of a true friendship is not an identical worldview – just a readiness to listen.
Connected minds can be discovered outside one’s comfort zone, but they can also be found within the immediate bloodline. Through DNA, everyone carries a lineage on their cells. Some people talk of past pain and trauma being carried on from child to child. Others refer to medical history – that invisible distribution based solely on luck. Batuhan Ibrahim’s Twisted (2020) doesn’t believe in structuring a plot spoon-fed to each individual viewer’s needs. Open-ended and vague at times, it talks of a woman’s journey in trying to understand her mother’s death. The short, clearly following horror genre tropes in camera movement, shot sequence and soundtrack, has a gritty tone throughout its 20-minute runtime. A clear answer is not necessarily given, but the mother-daughter link is there for everyone to see.
Clarity is not always required when experiencing a piece of art, especially when the topic at hand is the workings of the mind. Ivelina Ivanova’s Personal Drama (2021) is an experimental short whose animation may have a trance-like effect on viewers. A visual amalgam of semi-liquid melted-metal extraterrestrial beings accompanied by synth-based sound effects brings to the fore nothing but questions. One thing is for sure – if an alien can read a human’s newspaper, who knows what the next day will bring.
Sometimes links pre-exist without any conscious decision on people’s part, and others the connection is deliberately created. Imaginary friends are such a gift – they’re the unsung companions of childhood; the copying mechanism that’s instinctively there, an internal switch away. Alexis Koukias-Pantelis’s quirky Iro /he.roː/ (2020), blurs the limits between real and imaginary and talks about the beauty of a child’s point of view. Though the audience never sees through Iro’s eyes literally (there’s no point-of-view shot on sight), every image on screen carries her innocence. Vibrant colors. Childish humor, enjoyable for the sheer connectedness between child and superhero. The plot is implicitly structured as a game with villains that need to be conquered in the adventure undertaken. At its core, Iro /he.roː/ is about the heroes children need in their lives that have no superpowers – it’s about an unquestionable feeling of safety and trust no supernatural being/alien/billionaire orphan can ever afford.
There’s no knowing the limits of the mind – not yet anyway. Some connections are familiar and others belong to the realm of the unknown. Perhaps what the strand is meant to convey is that connectedness, in any form it’s offered, should be cherished – no small step was taken in advancement without faith.