Magma International Short Film Festival

The 15th edition of Magma – Mostra di Cinema Breve, Italy’s dedicated short film and animation festival took place in Acireale 24-26 November 2016. Encounters was chosen as one of Magma's main festival partners, representative Charlotte Micklewright writes of her experience at the festival

Last month I had the pleasure of attending the 15th edition of Magma – Mostra di Cinema Breve, Italy’s dedicated short film and animation festival taking place at the foot of a bubbling Mount Etna in the town of Acireale, Sicily. As part of its commitment to promoting an international network celebrating the short format, this year Magma chose Encounters as one of its main festival partners, which I happily accepted to represent.

Arriving into Catania airport, I was greeted by a gentle 18°C – unfortunate weather according to locals but a glorious late-November treat for a Brit. The festival in fact provides a great incentive for tourism during Sicily’s low-season. Before diving into the film mix, I took a pleasant stroll past the beautiful Baroque churches, through quiet streets with ornate balconies and orchards dripping with citrus and tropical fruits and down a steep path flanked by cactuses up to the sea edge. What a setting!

Audience at MagmaBack at the Acireale’s Margherita Multisala cinema, I presented the Best of British selection from this year’s Encounters Festival. The dark humour of The Wrong End of the Stick and Three Woman Wait for Death translated very well and delivered roars of laughter. Lots of people also commented on the magical quality of Stems by favourite Encounters alumni animator Ainslie Henderson, and it was wonderful to hear that the 2016 Brief Grand Prix winner Sweet Maddie Stone was a startling highlight for many guests.

Magma’s international competition included 31 films and took place over 3 nights. There was a great variety of works, from Polish animation Gyros Dance – featuring the kebab-sculpting talents of a lady-mouse – to the unflinching gaze of a homeless hostel unstuck in time, portrayed in the British documentary Camrex (which was also selected for this year’s Encounters competition). Among my favourites were Big Bunny Again, Bon appétit, la vie! and Réplique, which I found tender, absurd and of sharp comic timing.

My other role at Magma was to serve on the jury, along with filmmaker Antonello Faretta and actress Marina Rocco – an enjoyable task nevertheless not made at all easy by the exceptional quality of the shorts and animations in competition. From a curation point of view, it made me reflect a lot on the differences between the set of considerations applied when selecting films for an interesting programme, and those called upon to judge a standout winner. Magma’s Lorenzo Vecchio Award is also particularly poignant as it also serves as a tribute to the late founder of the festival.

Festivals are also, of course, a meeting point for emerging talent. It was lovely to get to know some of the European filmmakers who had been invited along with their films. A particularly nice occasion was a round-table discussion, in which directors, editors, festival organisers, volunteers and jury members all shared their experiences, production details about their films and their views on what they expect from a short film festival. The responses to this last point, I feel, really confirmed to all of us present a mutual vision and a sense of accomplishment: sharing films, getting feedback and making connections.Magma up Etna

The Magma team were brilliant, adventure-loving hosts! On the last day of the festival we all went on an excursion to Mount Etna, guided by festival travel partners Etna Mareneve Escursioni. We crunched along the bleak volcanic landscape and descended into creepy caves, then I dozed off with a view of the sea below. A big lunch of Sicilian specialties then it was back to the cinema for the awards ceremony.

It was with great enthusiasm that we chose Çevirmen by Emre Kayiş as the winner of the 2016 Lorenzo Vecchio Award, a beautifully shot and bittersweet film about a Syrian boy discovering love, which also screened at Encounters this year as part of the 2015 European Film Awards nominations.

Another giant grazie to Magma for the invitation and to all of the brilliant filmmakers who make this festival such an exciting event!

Charlotte Micklewright