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Astra Film Festival

Astra Film Festival 2016


The urban world can be a playground or a theatre of war. It may offer a comfortable, even luxurious life, or squalor, insecurity, fear for one's own life. The city breeds its own fauna, who knows to adapt chameleon-like to the urban backdrop to survive. The city is fascinating for everybody, and for artists in particular. Stories from Urbania brings four documentary cinema visions of the urban world.

With ''City Play'',  Paloma Yañez Serrano presents her research "City Play: Exploring temporality and space in Cairo’s play dynamics" undertaken for the MPhil in Ethnographic Documentary for the Granada Center of Visual Anthropology at the University of Manchester. The project originated in the author's reaction to the degradation of the violent confrontation between the different social players in Cairo. The split screen shows simultaneously the constrasting roles children have in the city and how they change as they grow up. It is a technique both interesting and meaningful for a documentary experimenting with the thin line that distinguishes play from reality.

In ''Govandi Crime aur Camera'', the making of the documentary mirrors its subject. A goup of young filmmakers produce and broadcast on youtube a local crime show modelled on a popular crime series running on Indian TV. A second group of young filmmakers stumble upon the subject and it becomes obvious that there is great material in it for a documentary. The first group come from the slums situated by India's largest dumping ground, while the second is a group of filmmakers from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences located in the affluent part of the city. They share the passion for filmmaking and the desire to create compelling content

Winner of The Metropolis Grand Jury Award at Doc NYC (2014), Thomas Wirthensohn's feature debut ''Homme Less'' is a documentary about the love-hate relationship of a hundred percent urban creature, ex-fashion model now fashion photographer Mark Reay and the city of New York. From all outside appearances, the handsome and always dapper ex-model lives the glamorous New York City life that many would envy. The harsh reality is that the place he calls ''home'' is a dark hideaway on the roof of a building, where he must sneak unnoticed by the residents. The most obvious small gestures of daily routine, like of washing up, teeth brushing, changing clothes, are challenges that must be approached with inventiveness. The film unveils in a skillful way how the protagonist shapes his life to the rules of the unwritten city life code of conduct in order to survive with grace and elegance.

Alexander Hick makes an essayistic inquiry into survival and adaptation in ''Scorched Water '', a documentary about Mexico City under the metaphoric form of Axolotl, a.k.a the Mexican walking fish, a fascinating creature that is capable of regenerating itself, can morph into diverse shapes, and has the grothesque appearance of a grown-up embrio, due to its neoteny, meaning that it retains characters of the larval stage all through its  adult life. Same as the creature Axolotl, the places, the people, the protagonists, the atmosphere, everything changes gradually while the film itself goes through metamorphosis. (Adina Marin)