San Sebastian’s Nest program for student short films seeks out filmmakers from schools around the world, inviting them to screen their films in a dedicated competition at the Spanish festival.

Students are also invited to participate in discussions and masterclasses given by industry professionals. Each year, the section jury, together with the students, chooses the winning film which is awarded the Nest best short film award, sponsored by Orona Fundazioa.

Nest is organised in collaboration with the Tabakalera International Centre for Contemporary Culture.

2020 Nest Student Short Film Competition

“Catdog,” (Ashmita Guha, India)

Two kids – teen sister Rachana, her more timorous brother – wreak minor mayhem with games – letting loose kittens, or the brother pretending to be a dog, put on a leash by his sister. But their teacher single mother plans to send the brother away. An atmospheric take on the enclosure of childhood, shot with an aura of a slightly sinister fairy tale, made at the Film and Television Institute of India. Originally chosen for Cannes 2020 Cinéfondation.

“Ella I Jo,” (Jaume Claret Muxart, Spain)

A painter mother attempts to phone her daughter, also a painter, who’s just moved to Athens with her partner and their little son. Shot in 16mm in Catalan, the paintings and painting – the mother uses delightfully natural tones works in an airy apartment – are delightful. Mother and daughter don’t talk to each other, but their paintings do connect, have a remarkably similar style. Made at San Sebastian’s Elías Querejeta Film School.

“This is Not a Story About China,” (Francisca Jiménez Ortegate, Argentina)

In December, 1984, Colombian soldiers land in China and conquer the Asian nation in only 36 days, 14 minutes . “This is Not a Story About China” is the fictional first person account of a nurse who falls in love with a Colombian soldier, Rodrik, after the invasion. Archival photos, often deliberately edited, and her mournful narration tell the metaphorical story of the occupation, and Rodrik’s eventual return to Colombia, where another war wages.

“Filipiñana,” (Rafael Manuel, U.K., Philippines) (lead photo)

This year’s Berlin Silver Bear best short film winner, “Filipiñana” is set on a golf course where young Isabel works as a tee girl. Not one for following rules, Isabel constantly pushed boundaries with her overeating, TV-addicted boss. The camera never moves, only cuts, but there is plenty of action in scenes choreographed like a golden age musical, culminating in a colorful karaoke performance and accompanying fairway dance.

“I Want to Return Return Return” (Elsa Rosengren, Germany)

German Elsa Rosengren portrays a series of melancholic, talkative characters who dwell in a creative Berlin neighborhood with a hipster, alternative spirit. Speeches exploring the city’s past as well as building economic, social and political considerations are offered with an observational approach via static, medium shots. A choral portrait made with a noteworthy color treatment which turns the neighborhood into a warm indoor space. It was selected for Cannes’ Cinéfondation competition.

“The Bonfire,” (Carlos Saiz Espin, Spain)

When a foot disease bothering his father gets worse, Lionel is forced to revisit his rural childhood home and memories he’d prefer to forget. Authentic, overlapping dialogue turns into an argument before Lionel storms off. Regret sinks in when he tries to call the next day with no response. Gloomily hanging from his apartment window, Lionel is relieved and annoyed when dad pulls up outside, acting like nothing ever happened.

“Lata,” (Alisha Mehta, India, U.S.A.)

Unspooling in South Mumbai, 23-year-old Lata works caring for wealthy peoples’ well-furnished homes. As the camera follows the young woman through a workday, the audience and Lata herself are exposed to the demonstrable differences in lifestyles between the young woman and the people for whom she cleans. During her day she moves like a ghost, unnoticed by her employers, while at night she is vibrant and dances in the streets.

“The Wolf Kids,” (Otávio Almeida, Cuba)

In Cuba, two teenage brothers with vivid and shockingly violent imaginations fill their days inventing dystopian stories of war, reenacting them in the fields around their home. They share bunk beds in a one-room house with their wheelchair bound father, a veteran of the Angolan war with a tattoo of Che Guevarra covering his bicep, explaining in part the boys’ fascination with Castro’s revolution.

“Chinese Wall” (Santiago Barzi, Argentina)

Also selected at Cannes’ Cinéfondation, the only representative from Latin America, “Chinese Wall” focuses on a family in which Fernando, the 66-year-old father, announces to his son that doctors have limited his life expectancy to ten more years. Fernando is nonplussed when he doesn’t get the reactions from his family he expected. An intriguing slow-paced dramedy with controlled black overtones which gives food for thought.

“Opera Glasses” (Mila Zhluktenko, Germany)

Zhluktenko (“Find Fix Finish”) focuses on what happens behind the scenes of the spectacle at the Kiev Opera House, offering a contemplative, quotidian insight before the show begins as the orchestra rehearses off-camera; something never seen from the crowd. A gem of dialogue caught in the theater’s corridors: “Lenin was bald, right? Then came Stalin, hairy. Then Khruschev, bald (…) Yelstin, hairy. Now Putin, more on the bald side. In Russia they always take turns.”

“Perfect as Cats,” (Kevin Vu, U.S.)

Set in a surreal all-girls school, inseparable sisters Henriette and Anais, born without personalities, are driven apart after a new girl arrives whose profound differences make her irresistible to the latter. Henriette, devastated by her sister’s new-found friendship, is barely able to function and takes drastic measures resulting in unexpected consequences for them both. Out of tune, synthesized music and too-loud ambient noise accompany emotions of betrayal, existential dread and abandonment.

“Pile,” (Toby Auberg, U.K.)

A standout at June’s online Annecy Intl. Animation Film Festival, “Pile” takes a colorful, comedic look at the sociopolitical zeitgeist of the U.S., where an especially orange-faced Donald Trump sits on a porcelain throne atop the White House, presumably filling its halls with waste while angrily tweeting on his phone.

“The Speech” (Haohao Yan, U.S.)

Haohao Yan explores the impact that the 2003 SARS crisis had on three eight-year children living in a private boarding school during the lockdown. The three girls’ stories make up a naturalist fresco of a collective experience which has deep and less visible effects on children for whom games and relationships changed their meaning while quarantining. The director’s analytical eye alternates close, partial shots with others further away, capturing surprisingly fresh performances from the children in this timely story.

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