Mum, I’m back is a 5-minute short film by Greek director Dimitris Katsimiris (his previous short-film Birthday has won a number of international awards).
Tackling the sensitive topic of (trans)gender identity, the film begins by showing us a woman dressed in black, her fingers holding an old, black-and-white photograph depicting a mother with her two boys. What follows is the film’s characteristic long tracking shot — defined as long when one realises it lasts longer than the overall duration of this short film. However, the existence of this shot is so crucial that I would go as far as to say that it is this tracking shot that comprises the heart of this short feature, and not the film’s climax. During the shot, the attention to detail that Dimitris Katsimiris so skillfully displays manages to capture exceptionally well the vibe of the story in such a short period of time.
And now more on that tracking shot: as it begins, we see the camera following the mysterious, veiled woman walking decisively along some walls, and only when we hear the funeral toll of a bell and see a parked hearse, do we realise these are the walls of a cemetery. As the protagonist reaches the entrance, she stops momentarily —as if to finalise her decision— and continues her furious entry into the cemetery. All this time the camera follows her through the narrow footpaths with the trees and white gravestones filling the moving frame.
And it is such fine detail that drives the plot forward: the woman’s menacing pacing setting the momentum, unfolding it rhythmically, into the unsettling void of the cemetery. When, during an overcast deep-grey sky, beams of sunlight briefly shine right above the protagonist’s head, the halo effect breathes new life into the grim inner and outer setting.
It is important to note that there is absolutely no dialogue during the tracking shot — this is pure imagery and sounds to suggest the protagonist’s determination: silence at first, then the sound of the clattering footsteps, the barking of a dog in the distance, the knelling bell, birds chirping; all in all natural sounds — the sounds of a Greek drama. And it is only with the help of some understated electronic music that this short feature reaches its climax.
Mum, I’m back is sensitive but at the same time powerful filmmaking, which, in just under 5 minutes, manages to convey great anguish. It shows how very few cinematic means, when used with virtuosic technique, can have the emotional impact of a full-feature film.
Mum, I’m back (teaser):
Title: Mum, I’m back
Director: Dimitris Katsimiris
Release date: (currently showing in festivals worldwide)