Canadian Doc ‘Clebs’ Wins Best Short Film at Berlinale

Clebs director Halima Ouardiri and editor Xi Feng at the Berlinale
Courtesy of Telefilm Canada

By Pat Mullen

Canadian films continued their banner Berlinale with some wins on the shorts front today. Halima Ouardiri’s short documentary Clebs (Mutts) won two prizes including the Crystal Bear for Best Short Film. Clebs also took home a Special Prize of the International Jury in Generation 14plus for the Best Short Film. The win carries a purse of 2,500 Euros, courtesy of the Bundeszentrale for politische Bildung (the Federal Agency for Civic Education).

A Canadian-Moroccan co-production, Clebs is an effective and unexpected portrait of the global migration crisis told through the stories of 750 dogs. The strikingly-shot film observes the restless dogs of Le Cœur sur la Patte sanctuary in Morocco as they await adoption. Ouardiri draws startling parallels between the dogs and the millions of refugees displaced worldwide as they wait in limbo for shelter and security.

“I first came to the Berlinale with a short about a little boy and an owl called Mokhtar and now I’m back with 750 dogs,” said Ouardiri in a statement via Telefilm Canada. “When you start a generation, you become part of the family, and you can return when you good work. Hopefully I can come back again with another film—maybe with a monkey.”

Ouardiri, who called the win “unexpected” and likened the experience to a dream-within-a-dream, said that she hoped the Berlinale spotlight would give a platform to the gravity of her subject and raise awareness for refugees in dire situations. “It’s pretty strong comparison that I’m making, but it is even worse in reality in terms of how they are living now. It’s in my mind very often. I hope this film can remind people that human beings are living under the worst conditions right now.” The filmmaker also acknowledged Michèle Augsberger of Le Cœur sur la Patte for her devotion to the dogs. “It’s all about having a better future,” said Ouardiri.

Today’s ceremony also brought a win for the short drama Goodbye Golovin by Mathieu Grimard. The film received a Special Mention by the Youth Jury in Generation 14plus. Canadian films had a strong presence at the Berlinale beginning with the opening night selection of Philippe Falardeau’s drama My Salinger Year. Matthew Rankin’s The Twentieth Century won the FIPRESCI prize earlier this week. Other Canadian films at the festival included Joshua Bonnetta’s doc The Two Sights, Kazik Radwanski’s Anne at 13,000 ft., Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette’s Goddess of the Fireflies, and Stump the Guesser by Guy Maddin, Evan Johnson, and Galen Johnson.

CLEBS (Mutts). A short film by Halima Ouardiri from La Distributrice de Films on Vimeo.