Institute History

  • 2008 Sundance Film Festival


Veit Helmer’s inventive, allegorical comedy introduces us to Absurdistan, a once beautiful, now utterly desolate, land. In a water-starved village, two childhood sweethearts, Aya and Temelko, await the date (foretold by Aya’s grandmother) that a perfect celestial alignment will bless their first night of love. An intrepid inventor, Temelko plans to repair the aging water pipe, but the apathetic older men scoff at his designs. The women, fed up with the men’s inaction, take matters into their own hands and declare a strike. No water, no sex. The gender lines are drawn, reinforced with barbed wire, and our young lovers find themselves on opposite sides of a fast-escalating feud.

The imprint of Helmer’s imagination is ubiquitous. He directs like a kid tearing through his toy chest. Mechanically obsessed, Helmer filters life through outlandish, homespun contraptions. If Aya’s first night of love is to elevate her soul, in Helmer's world, the flight comes courtesy of a rickety scrap-heap rocket atop rusty barrels of kerosene.

Brilliantly satirical (here are villagers who build an elaborate aqueduct, and then collectively forget how it works), ever witty, and dipping self-reflexively into a myriad of cinematic styles, Absurdistan contains the signature theatricality of Helmer’s many shorts and earlier feature, Tuvalu. It’s a philosophic parable that glides weightlessly along (no doubt suspended by pulleys and ropes hooked to a donkey). Welcome to Absurdistan.

— John Nein

Screening Details

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