The 2021 International Film Competition [OPEN CALL] Jury Panel met on 11 June 2021 to discuss and finalize the winners of this year’s shortlisted selections. The debates centred around a number of prominent themes, including the shifting relationships between architects and inhabitants, particularly when it comes to domestic design, global politics and spatial appropriation; ethics of filmmaking; the role of architecture in the formation and alteration of national identity; the fluidity of festival categories and the ways in which this year’s winners often push the boundaries of said genres; and, in relation to the festival’s overarching theme, the interconnections between film, architecture, and the provocative, contradictory ways in which we can evaluate interdisciplinary projects. Panellists brought multiple perspectives to the table, ranging from filmmaking to architecture to urban design, leading to a rich and inventive engagement with this year’s shortlisted films.
Feature-length, Max. 120min
Discussions of the three films in the documentary category highlighted the inventive nature of each work, including the narrative and production strength of The Proposal, the innovative cinematography and explorations of national identity in On a Clear Day You Can See the Revolution from Here, and the conceptual framing and political impact of Not Just Roads.
Jill Magid, US, 2018, 83′
Known as “the artist among architects”, Luis Barragán is among the world’s most celebrated architects of the 20th century. Upon his death in 1988, much of his work was locked away in a Swiss bunker, hidden from the world’s view. In an attempt to resurrect Barragán’s life and art, boundary redefining artist Jill Magid creates a daring proposition that becomes a fascinating artwork in itself—a high-wire act of negotiation that explores how far an artist will go to democratize access to art.
Short, Max. 30min
While jury members deliberated over the different qualities of the Fiction category’s shortlisted films, several key, interconnecting themes emerged: for The Tower of a Forgotten India, the political impact of architecture, as well as the convergence of national identity, heritage and conversation, prove critical; Live in Cloud-Cuckoo Land plays with traditional narrative structures by applying a surrealistic approach to tone, editing and plotlines; and Landing invokes the figure of the photographer as an intermediary between a building and its filmic unfolding. Each film, in its own right, meditates on the potential power of fiction as an effective framework for architectural and cinematic storytelling.
The Tower of a Forgotten India
Uday Berry, UK, 2019, 10′
Exploring the politics behind architectural heritage, conservation and the state’s role as a custodian of culture, The Tower of a Forgotten India follows the story of The Architect, a man desperately trying to save the nation’s past. A narrative of passion and madness unfolds within the Tower, a megastructure that reinvigorates forgotten buildings and fragments, reintegrating them into the city’s urban fabric. Given the status of modern-day India, heritage-related threats come from every direction, including religious fundamentalism, thoughtless modernization, the culture of collectability and political corruption—themes that this film closely examines. The Tower of a Forgotten India is a modern parable spanning decades, suggesting that control of a city’s past is ultimately a fool’s paradise.
Short, Max. 30min
The experimental category sparked engaged debates about this broad and boundary-pushing genre. Described as ‘probably the most interesting category of films that brings us into the very personal, where we really see a sensorial stamp or signature.’
Each shortlisted film in this section, including the winner, Bab Sebta, reveals a remarkably different personal stamp, inviting further discussions around the nature of experimental media at the intersection of architecture and film.
Randa Maroufi, France/Morocco, 2019, 20′
Synopsis: Bab Sebta is a series of reconstructed events observed in Ceuta, a Spanish enclave on Moroccan soil. This place, where thousands of people work every day, is a crossroads for the transportation of manufactured goods that are sold at a discount.
Best New Media *
* The New Media category encompasses AR, VR, MR, drone footage, and Point Cloud data (3D scanning/ photogrammetry) turned into a moving image. This category could include moving image submissions created with the use of AI.
This category sparked several debates surrounding the state of new media and architectural representation. The winner, Humanitas Ex Machina [humanity from the machine], was highlighted for its sensitivity to its concept as well as its poetic approach to contemporary experiences of mediation and physical isolation.
Humanitas Ex Machina [humanity from the machine]
Kanto Maeda & Uwais Hafizal, UK, 2020, 8′
In these strange times, which push us to find communion in isolation and deny us our sense of touch, how do we fulfill our innate desire to connect? This film is the culmination of a student architecture project that explores this question in the virtual realm, proposing speculative ‘body devices’ that simulate senses and spatial awareness within our bodies. The film blends installation, projection, photogrammetry, performance and poetry to tell the stories of how people may come together in a post-pandemic future, of how ‘humanity’ may be attained from ‘the machine’.
Best Commercial **
Short, Max. 30 min
** The Commercial category encompasses films/videos created with a purpose of promoting unbuilt projects to gain funding or created to showcase a completed/built project. This category’s submissions could include moving image renders.
After discussing the state of commercial architectural film today—its classic forms versus potential new futures—the jury decided to award The Modern House: Nithurst Farm. As panelist Rosa Rogina remarked, this film ‘bring[s] in the professional into the domestic,’ inventively integrating the role of architect and owner.
The Modern House: Nithurst Farm
Edward Bishop & Jim Stephenson, UK, 2020, 5′
In 2019 architect Adam Richards revealed Nithurst Farm, his self-designed family home in the South Downs National Park. We’re pleased to share a new film made for The Modern House, exploring the far-reaching ideas and references that informed the convention-defying design of the house, as well as the intimate realities of daily life in the space, one year on.
The Care category, created in tandem with the theme of the 2021 London Festival of Architecture, included three films that incorporated different, multivalent takes on the subject at hand. The winner, 13 Square Meters, showcases the ways in which global politics and architecture intersect.
13 Square Meters
Kamil Bembnista & Ayham Dalal, Germany, 2021, 15′
In 2015, Berlin received thousands of refugees overnight. To accommodate them, new types of refugee camps called Tempohomes were constructed, establishing new typologies of shelter. In this short documentary, the notion of the refugee camp as space of care and control is explored, providing a provocative perspective on the meaning of shelters today, their connection with everyday urban architecture and the production of mass housing. By juxtaposing the initial design of these shelters and refugees’ rearrangements of the space, the documentary questions the role of architecture: how can we offer displaced populations better conditions in which to dwell?