True Stories: Spaces review – impressive short docs from folk horror to a Lebanese marvel

This short film collection from the True Story platform ranges across continents to look at how we interact with our environments

Deeply psychogeographical, this collection of documentary shorts from the streaming platform True Story roams among spaces old and new, and across continents. Personal and public memories are intertwined, creating portraits of how human beings interact with their environments, and vice versa.

Paul Heintz’s nocturnal Shānzhài Screens is a meditative study of liminal urban spaces, shot in a Chinese district that specialises in fine-art reproductions. Rectangular frames populate the screen, from flickering apartment windows, hurried video calls, to endless replicas of Van Gogh’s Sunflowers. Authenticity is elusive, and loneliness reigns.

Watch the trailer for Juan Camilo Olmos Feris’s Burning Land

Equally intriguing, though somewhat slighter, are Juan Camilo Olmos Feris’s Burning Land and Natalie Cubides-Brady’s Beyond the North Winds: A Post Nuclear Reverie. Shot in northern Colombia, the former is arrestingly cyclic: it begins with the quiet washing of the prize bulls, then plunges straight into the manic energy of their fights, only to end with a stunned silence. Blood is shed, but the violence also binds the community together. In contrast, Cubides-Brady’s short has the feel of a folk horror. After the disappearance of a fictional researcher, the film explores the facts and lore surrounding the Dounreay nuclear power station in Scotland. While the fictional elements prove to be a crutch, the 16mm short is visually mesmerising, viewing the station as a thing of terror and beauty.

A still from Concrete Forms of Resistance
Compelling ... a still from Concrete Forms of Resistance Photograph: PR Handout

Nick Jordan’s Concrete Forms of Resistance is the most compelling work in this selection. Centring on Oscar Niemeyer’s abandoned, dilapidated International Fair project in Tripoli, Lebanon, this architectural marvel takes up 8% of the city’s area, and is beautiful yet ominous; its walls bear the bullet marks where Syrian firing squads carried out executions during the country’s decades-long civil conflict. Originally conceived as a communal, peaceful space, the complex becomes an unwitting, yet resilient monument to wars, unrest, and now the climate crisis.

• True Stories: Spaces is on True Story from 6 August.


Phuong Le

The GuardianTramp

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