Karel van Bellingen and Ruda Santos explore a child’s story of World War Two and the power of escapism and baking in two touching shorts finished during lockdown
Despite lockdown continuing throughout numerous countries, creatives from across the globe are still producing countless pieces of inspiring and engaging work. Even with restrictions on movement and creativity, there have been endless campaigns, short films, and passion projects released by those continuing to work in the face of the crisis.
Great Guns directors Karel van Bellingen
and Ruda Santos have spent their time in isolation doing just that, finishing and releasing two touching short films – both focused on their grandmothers. One short is an emotional retelling of a young girl’s experience of World War Two, the other explores the importance of escapism, nostalgia, and an unbeatable recipe for Pão de Queijo. Both find countless ways of celebrating their subjects whilst echoing pertinent truths and emotions that relate to this difficult time, whether this is a reminder that we aren’t the only ones to have lived through life-changing events or a celebration of tactile memories and nostalgia that we crave in moments of isolation.
Agnes - Karel van Bellingen
Karel van Bellingen’s short film ‘Agnes’ focuses on his grandmother of the same name, as she recounts her experience as a child and teenager in Antwerp as World War Two broke out. Notably, she tells the story of the day before she turned 15 – the day her street was hit by a V1 bomb and she was rushed to hospital by Canadian soldiers stationed near the house. Karel was inspired to create ‘Agnes’ by the simple desire to document a story he had heard several times whilst growing up.
He notes: “As a child, you hear these things and accept them – they just become part of your world. It’s not until you get older and gain certain perspectives that it hits you; how otherworldly and violent and unfathomable reality must once have been for people you grew up with in cosy, sheltered peacetime. It made me want to record the story as simply and purely as I could.”
Never intending for it to become a film, Karel watched the footage and noticed that the current state of the world leant new layers of relevance to Agnes’ story – and realised he had to do more with the footage.
Karel adds: “The way in which small events in the past can have big reverberations through the following decades has definitely been something I’ve examined in my previous narrative work. So when I realised my own existence – and that of about 85 other people – only transpired because of the lack of hesitation of a single unknown soldier three quarters of a century ago, it seemed so obvious that I should do more with this wonderful testimony.”
Pão de Queijo - Ruda Santos
Ruda Santos, meanwhile, focuses on his grandmother Vovó Badia for his short ‘Pão de Queijo’. Growing up in the city, he would visit Vovó on her ranch at the weekends, finding it a blissful place of ‘sweet nothings’ and escapism – something that he captures throughout the film.
As Ruda lives 5000 miles away from his grandmother, he is only able to visit once a year. When she turned 76, he took the opportunity to film a practical recipe video that could teach others how to make her delicious cheese bread rolls, Pão de Queijo, whilst also capturing moments of her life and culture. He chose this particular recipe as it triggered a certain nostalgia for his childhood – a simple gastronomic pleasure that put everything in perspective.
Ruda comments: “I get quite nostalgic when I think about my childhood, how wonderful it was and how fortunate I am to carry these memories. The more I grow up, the more I realise this was because of my mum and dad, my big brother, family, and a great education. But it was also due to the fact that I was lucky enough to have very present grandmothers throughout my entire life. Vovó Badia taught me how to cook, clean, fish, play cards, heal myself – and many other things I could go on and on about. Most importantly, she taught me how to stay calm. This film comes from a desire to share this nostalgia and gratitude with the world.”
The two films are available to watch online.