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IFFR 2020 Bright Future Competition

Review: Sebastian Jumping Fences

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- German director Ceylan-Alejandro Ataman-Checa makes his debut with an intimate drama about a boy from Hanover brought up by a single mum and trying to build himself an identity

Review: Sebastian Jumping Fences

The Bright Future Competition of the 49th International Film Festival Rotterdam hosted the world premiere of Sebastian Jumping Fences [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
, German director Ceylan-Alejandro Ataman-Checa’s touching first work. After graduating in History and Political Science from the University of Hamburg, Ataman-Checa began studying at Berlin’s film and TV school (Deutsche Film & Fernsehakademie Berlin), under the wing of director Angela Schanelec. His time at this prestigious academy led to his producing Thirty [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
by Simona Kostova, which was also presented in the Bright Future Competition, back in 2019. Fast-forward a year and Ataman-Checa is making his return to the Dutch event with his wonderful debut film, produced by Simona Kostova and funded by Deutsche Film & Fernsehakademie Berlin.

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Sebastian Jumping Fences is a polished, three-act drama exploring the process by which a person’s identity is created. The film follows the psychological evolution of the shy and self-contained Sebastian (played by Finn Freyer and Joseph Peschko), examining several traumatic episodes in his childhood and youth which help inform his adult personality. However, we never actually see the protagonist’s final state of maturity because the film ends shortly before Sebastian becomes a man. In this sense, Sebastian Jumping Fences isn’t just a psychoanalytical work which looks to identify a human being’s childhood traumas, highlighting their perpetuation and repetition in his daily adult life. Ataman-Checa doesn’t film the future, because this future is itself inscribed within each of the episodes depicted.

Ataman-Checa’s exquisite humanist drama takes the simple and mundane life of its young protagonist and freezes it in time, dividing it into three fleeting moments of Sebastian’s existence. These acts immortalise his first great love, his terrible, ensuing romantic disillusionment and the moment in which his professional dreams are born and then destroyed, as well as charting the independence and self-sufficiency which develops within him as a child as a result of the education imparted by his single mum, Ambar de la Horra (Victoria [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Sebastian Schipper
film profile
]
).

In terms of his approach, the neo-director develops a portentous style all of his own, whilst staying true to the usual formula favoured by the Berlin film school. Consequently, Sebastian Jumping Fences unfolds amidst a glacial, elegant realism, similar to that of Schanelec or Christian Petzold. The narration, meanwhile, flows at a very tranquil rhythm, counter-balanced by twists that are as harsh as they are unexpected.

Sebastian Jumping Fences is produced by German filmmaker Simona Kostova and Deutsche Film & Fernsehakademie Berlin, who are also tasked with international sales.

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(Translated from Spanish)

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