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Best of the SISFC 2016 II

More of the best from the SISFC 2016.

Gangstas and zombies, love and sacrifice, steak and murder were all part of the on-screen action at the 2016 Shanghai International Short Film Contest earlier this month. In part two-of-two, we continue our review of the major award-winners at this year’s SISFC.

(If you haven’t already, check out part one of our look at the best of the SISFC 2016 right here).

With nearly twenty films screening—both in an out of competition—at this year’s event, the Shanghai International Short Film Contest has continued to grow well beyond its beginnings more than a decade ago. Furthermore, contest director Richard Trombly explains how a few new additions to the SISFC family have helped extend its impact beyond just the China Mainland.

“We’ve partnered with the Zimbabwe International Film Festival, which will screen some of our best films in a special showcase,” says Trombly. “As a result, this is the first year we’ve had a truly international reach.”

As in the past, SISFC organizers sought to promote opportunities for professional development for participants and this time around they were able to call on an experienced cast of mentors for help.

“We’ve always had some educational workshops,” Trombly continues, “but this year Shanghai Vancouver Film School partnered with us to provide a weekend of filmmaker workshops with some of their world-class instructors.”

We’ve been working to increase the collaboration and networking in the two communities.

This year’s contest also offered Shanghai-based filmmakers a chance to strengthen some of the bridges connecting them with other parts of the country.

“I think that the most exciting thing is that the Beijing community has grown along with us. In the past, the Beijing and Shanghai communities were very separated, but we’ve been working to increase the collaboration and networking in the two communities.”

Moreover, the event promotes this growing collective spirit in very real ways.

“For the first time, we had a cooperative screening of the contest at the Beijing Indie Film Festival and there were several entries from Beijing teams.”

All of this has served to take the SISFC to new heights in 2016 and, as Trombly says, “there was a level of enthusiasm for this contest that we just hadn’t seen in the past.”

Now, here’s a look at the rest of the major winners from this year’s Shanghai International Short Film Contest.

The Cool No Heaven for a Gangsta (Best Practical/Special Effects, Best VFX/CGI, Best Choreography)

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Back from the Dead: Troy Sandford looking more than a little haggard in preparation for his role in The Cool No Heaven for a Gangsta. (Photo: Yoan Boselli)

Beijing-based action crew Troy’s Team kicked, blasted, and chomped its way to a trio of SISFC awards with a gangsta-zombie flick inspired by rapper Lupe Fiasco’s 2006 track The Cool. The film features a zombified-Troy Sandford as a dude who comes around to exact some back-from-the-dead-style punishment on the guys who (as it turns out, only temporarily) put him in the ground.

As you would expect, the project showcases much of the ass-kicking combat work Troy’s Team has built their reputation on—all of which helped land the film the award for Best Choreography. As Sandford—who also wrote and directed the film—explains, success starts with ensuring he’s able to oversee the entire process from start to finish.

“I handle the role of director as well as action director, so I gain the best appreciation for preparation and completion of the action work from pre-production right through to post-production.”

From the beginning, this means incorporating detailed fight descriptions and effects elements into the script itself. But, the work doesn’t stop there.

“My workflow consists of continual description from the script and then brought to life through rehearsal and production elements then edited formally by myself.”

She brought Lupe Fiasco’s The Cool back from the dead.

Of course, any time you’re making a film involving a guy who returns from the grave, you’re gonna need some makeup and FX to get the job done convincingly. As Sandford states, this meant entrusting the task to the hands of the right people.

“D’Asia Darmesh came up from Shanghai to lend us her skills. She brought Lupe Fiasco’s The Cool back from the dead. Without her FX and makeup there would be no Cool.”

The film also employed numerous digital special effects.

“Like-wise with our talented friend Said Chaou. If it wasn’t for his gun FX and blood splashes there would be no way for The Cool to come back to life.”

Still, Sandford emphasizes that action remains at the core of what his team does best.

“I have talented action stunt artists based in Beijing who are my family and make the process very efficient due to their rich talent, beautiful personalities and experience.”

And, despite the all the fighting they do on screen, it’s clear there’s always a great deal of respect on set whenever these guys get together.

“I wouldn’t trade anything for the time I get to spend with my team. I love them with my whole heart and every moment is a blessing.”

Where to watch it: YouTube

How to get in touch: Follow Troy’s Team on Instagram (troysteam) or check out their website here.

Last Supper (Best Actor, Best Actress)

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Love and Sacrifice: Anthony Gavard and Charlotte Friis Lodahl swept the SISFC acting awards with their performances in Franz Rügamer’s short film Last Supper.

Last Supper tells the tragic story of a surgeon forced to confront the decision to sacrifice the life of her husband in order to save the life of their daughter by way of a risky operation. Along the way, the film tackles some very deep emotional questions and, as director Franz Rügamer confirms, it does so head on.

“The main idea was to show a situation in which love pushes you over the edge. We tried to give a glimpse into the different perspectives, about what true love could mean and what you might be forced to do because of it.”

The project marked the first time for Rügamer—already a seasoned theatre director—to take the creative reins on a film. As he explains, transitioning from the stage to the screen meant adapting to a whole new point-of-view.

“In theatre, you know where your audience is and you direct your actors accordingly so that the things you want your audience to see are viewable. For directing a short, you have the camera as the audience’s eye. You have to keep in mind the framing, what direction the camera moves and where the focus lies… and, of course, how the different images will fit together.”

I believe that this gives the characters their soul.

On the other side of the lens, the film also snagged the SISFC awards for both Best Actor and Best Actress for Anthony Gavard and Charlotte Friis Lodahl.

“They both brought an incredible performance to the short and a good understanding of the characters,” says Rügamer. “Of course, my vision while writing the dialogue was not the same as what they ended up performing. But, I believe that this gives the characters their soul.”

Furthermore, Rügamer states that getting the most out of his actors meant applying some of his own personal philosophy of directing.

“As a director, I’m not supposed to force them into a certain idea of my characters, but I do have to give them an understanding about the characters, so that they can create their own versions.”

Despite the level of performance delivered by both actors, the director admits he wasn’t really surprised.

“I’ve known Anthony since quite a while and he’s an excellent actor. Charlotte sent in a stunning audition tape and more than fulfilled the expectations I had for her. Also the two of them had a very good chemistry together.”

Of course, it took a whole team of people to bring the project to light and Rügamer reflects on the work of his cast and crew with some familiar-sounding words.

“No one got paid for providing their time, skills and efforts. For future projects I hope to get some funding, so I can pay my team for their work. I’m a strong believer in the remuneration of good work. As you can see from this movie a lot of folks put in some wonderful work to make this happen.”

Where to watch it: YouTube

How to get in touch: Connect with Franz Rügamer on Facebook, Instagram (franzruegamer), and Weibo (FranzRvgamer) or reach out via WeChat (Vic_Vinci).

Recipe (Audience Choice, Best Film, Best Student Film)

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Bon Appétit: Dinner (and more) is served in Gleb Torubarov’s SISFC Best Film winner Recipe.

Cheating husbands beware.

Writer-director Gleb Torubarov’s short film Recipe beat the rest of the SISFC competition to both the Audience Choice and Best Film awards with the tale of a loving housewife who finally cracks when she discovers her husband hasn’t been entirely faithful.

“I thought that Asian audiences would relate to the topic,” says Torubarov, ”since it’s known that many husbands in these societies cheat on their wives and some even consider it to be acceptable.”

Despite his prior experience in commercials and documentaries, Torubarov (as well as many of the others who worked on Recipe) is currently pursuing a graduate degree—technically qualifying the short as a student film (in fact, in addition to the two big awards mentioned above, the film also earned the SISFC title of Best Student Film). Nevertheless, he states that improving as a director is always an on-going process.

“The learning never stops. Every time I realize how important it is to plan everything ahead, but also to be prepared in case something goes wrong.”

Knowing that the judges and the audience appreciated the film equally made us feel very lucky.

And, although the team realized they had a quality film on their hands, it was still difficult to be over-confident heading into the screening and awards night.

“I had no idea about other the entries, their budget, their crew, or the resources they had, so it was hard to guess.”

As a result, when the big moment finally arrived, it was impossible not to get excited.

“The moment Recipe won Best Film was amazing,” he recalls. “And, knowing that the judges and the audience appreciated the film equally made us feel very lucky.”

Now that the film has tasted success in Shanghai, Torubarov and his team are preparing to take it overseas to a number of international festivals.

“Like with the case of the SISFC, we don’t know our rivals—which makes it hard to guess whether Recipe goes far. But, either way, we believe in our creation.”

Furthermore, with the film out there developing a life of its own, Torubarov plans to turn his attention to other topics such as intercultural communication and he’s already on the look-out for interested collaborators.

“The first step would be to find enthusiastic crew who would care for the project and the cause. I believe that is a necessary part of any great film.”

Where to watch it: Recipe is doing the festival thing right now, so you’ll have to wait to see it online (we’ll update you again when it’s available).

How to get in touch: Follow Gleb Torubarov’s official accounts on Vimeo and Youku, connect via Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and WeChat (gleb-rus), or check out his website here.


And, that’s it. Fade to black and roll credits.

If you’d like to learn more about the Shanghai International Short Film Contest (it’s never too early to start thinking about your entry for next year!) you can find them on the web right here.

Special thanks to Richard Trombly and all of the filmmakers who help make this article possible.

Finally, here’s the complete list of the award-winners from this year’s SISFC:

Best Student Film Recipe
Best Documentary Miss Sing Something
Best Animation Circus and Zord
Best Experimental/MV The Barman and the Songstress
Best Screenplay The Voiceman
Best Cinematography The Voiceman
Best Production Design The Barman and the Songstress
Best Practical/ Special Effects The Cool No Heaven for a Gangsta
Best Sound/ Music Jerry
Best VFX/CGI The Cool No Heaven for a Gansta
Best Actor Last Supper
Best Actress Last Supper
Best Costuming The Barman and the Songstress
Best Choreography The Cool No Heaven for a Gangsta
Meiwenti Indie Spirit Award Jerry
Audience Choice Recipe
Best Film Recipe

Michael Thede

Michael Thede

Founder & Contributor

Michael Thede is a Canadian screenwriter and story consultant. He studied Film & Philosophy at the University of Western Ontario and is a graduate of the Writing for Film & TV program at Vancouver Film School. He came to Asia nearly 15 years ago and is currently based in Shanghai, where he is also the founder and organizer of the Shanghai Screenwriters Workshop. WeChat: michaelthede78

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