ByDesign [Online] Festival 2021

Screening online
Mar. 19–28, 2021

All ByDesign 2021 film programs are pay-what-you-can, priced on a sliding scale, $5–25.

Full festival passes are also priced on a sliding scale, from $75–125, with $50 passes for NWFF members.

Each passholder is granted online access to every film program in the festival, with the following considerations:

TAMING THE GARDENTHE AMERICAN SECTOR: Available only in the Pacific Northwest (Washington, Oregon, Alaska, Idaho, Montana, British Columbia, and the Yukon Territories).

No one turned away for lack of funds; email about free community tickets!

Complete film details and trailers are available on Eventive. Enter the virtual cinema here or via any “Tickets” button below.

Festival - ByDesign Festival


ByDesign Festival is a cross-cultural exploration of people, structures, and ideas at the intersection of design and the moving image.

Featuring a broad, inclusive selection of films, performances, and interactive activities, ByDesign invites festivalgoers to interrogate their own relationships to personal and collective identity, by examining how humanity’s understanding of itself is central to the ways in which it creates the physical world.

All programs in the 2021 festival will screen virtually. Browse the program below, or visit the virtual catalog on Eventive!

2021 Film Program:

A Machine to Live In

** Co-presented with the Center for Brazilian Studies at UW! **

(Yoni Goldstein & Meredith Zielke, US & Brazil, 2020, 87 min, in Portuguese & Esperanto with English subtitles)

A Machine to Live In unfolds like a feverish prophecy. Exploring the imaginative and material process of building one’s own “utopia,” the film draws upon vignettes and stories from architects and builders to document Brazil’s history of UFO cults, pyramids, monuments, and futurist projects, which have forever been embedded in the city’s architectural design.

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(Mo Scarpelli, Italy, 2019, 86 min, in Amharic with English subtitles)

Displaced by condo developments and struggling to make ends meet, an imaginative young Ethiopian boy processes his isolation and displacement by creating an alternate identity as a ferocious lion (anbessa). A testament to resiliency that pushes the boundaries of standard nonfiction form, Anbessa gently probes the young boy’s interior world, through sweeping camera work and quiet moments filled with light.

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** Co-presented with Velocity Dance Center, this film will be preceded by a new short film commission from Amanda Morgan with The Seattle Project! **

(Henrique Pina, Portugal, 2020, 50 min, nonverbal)

Fusing dance, architecture, cinema, and music, BODY-BUILDINGS presents six distinct choreographies presented at six architectural sites in Portugal. Each segment is a feast for the senses, presented by a different word that encapsulates a theme: VOID, DAWN, BEAST, TAME, DUSK, and MEMORY.

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Built-Beautiful: An Architecture & Neuroscience Love Story, With Narration by Martha Stewart

(Mariel Rodriguez-McGill, US, 2020, 78 min, in English)

Guided by recent developments in neuroscience, Built Beautiful presents ideas, architects, and researchers who have a scientific interest on the built environment’s impact on societal health and individual well-being. Using a wide selection of trends and patterns from all over the world, the documentary reflects on past architectural choices and highlights the emerging paradigm shift towards more human-conscious design.

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Havana, from on High

** Co-presented with Seattle/Cuba Friendship Committee! **

(Pedro Ruiz, Canada, 2019, 79 min, in Spanish with English subtitles)

Through intimate character studies with the city’s roof-dwelling residents, Havana, from on High sheds light on colorful perspectives regarding family, religion, politics, work, and more simply, the rich complexities of being Cuban.

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Making a Mountain

** Available only in the US. **

(Rikke Selin Fokdal & Kaspar Astrup Schröder, Denmark, 2020, 51 mins, in Danish & English with English subtitles)

Can a waste treatment plant become the site of spectacular architecture and recreational urban space, complete with a ski slope on top? With his visionary project Amager Hill, Danish architect Bjarke Ingels boldly believed the answer was yes. Making a Mountain is a cinematic construction site symphony that follows the project through stages of completion, all the while questioning: how much ecological change can an architectural vision bring?

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Taming the Garden

** Available only in the Pacific Northwest (WA, OR, AK, ID, MT, BC, Yukon). **

(Salomé Jashi, Switzerland, Germany & Georgia, 2021, 91 min, in Georgian & Mingrelian with English subtitles)

A visually poetic documentary, Taming the Garden slowly reveals the unfortunate beauty to be found in the calculated reappropriation of nature. When a powerful and mysterious man excavates massive 100-year-old trees from the coastline of Georgia, the country’s residents are left with conflicting feelings about wealth, progress, and their lands.

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The American Sector

** Co-presented with Goethe Pop-Up Seattle! Available only in the Pacific Northwest (WA, OR, AK, ID, MT, BC, Yukon). **

(Courtney Stephens & Pacho Velez, US, 2020, 68 min, in English)

The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 marked a powerful turning point in the history of the Cold War and offered prospects for a reunified Germany. It also began a new chapter in the life of the wall itself. Over the past three decades, this powerful symbol of freedom has migrated piece-by-piece, all over the world. In The American Sector, filmmakers Courtney Stephens (Terra Femme) and Pacho Velez (Manakamana) travel across the United States to seek out these fragments of history, and find themselves encountering all walks of life along the way.

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Those That, At a Distance, Resemble Another

** Co-presented with Jacob Lawrence Gallery! Available only in the US. **

(Jessica Sarah Rinland, UK, Argentina & Spain, 2019, 67 min, in Spanish, English & Portuguese with English subtitles)

With an elephant’s ivory tusk as its main protagonist, Those That, at a Distance, Resemble Another meditates upon the tactile nature of museological and ecological conservation, by inviting viewers to reflect upon the representations and embodiments of objects through various materials, disciplines, and institutions.

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Within | Between | Among: Short Film Program

** Co-presented with Jacob Lawrence Gallery & Velocity Dance Center! Available only in the US. **

A short film program exploring ByDesign’s central themes of one’s relationship to personal and collective identity, as shown through dance, environmentalism, artificial intelligence, surveillance, music, life, and death.

Chanel | Sharing all my colours with you

Chanel | Sharing all my colours with you

(Arjen Schotel, Netherlands, 2021, 8 mins, in Dutch with English subtitles)

In Chanel | Sharing all my colors with you, Dutch-Surinamese dancer Chanel Vyent removes society’s imposed straitjacket and steps outside — to freely explore her body’s relationship to architecture, shape, color, and form.

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(Stefano Santamato, Italy, 2020, 16 mins, nonverbal)

Over the course of a single night, rain and wind tore down 14 million trees in Northern Italy, transforming a lush mountain region into an apocalyptic landscape. TROIANE tells the tale of 400 tree trunks that were retrieved and transported to the opposite end of Italy, where they played one last role: as the backdrop for a famous Greek tragedy. Ending in a city on fire, TROIANE symbolically links the historical fall of Troy with the current climate change catastrophe.

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Recoding Art

Recoding Art

(Bruno Moreschi & Gabriel Pereira, Brazil, 2019, 15 mins, open captioned in English)

What makes art ART? Digital media researcher Gabriel Pereira and Brazilian artist Bruno Moreschi seek the answer to this question by using commercial artificial intelligence products to analyze contemporary art. Glitches, errors, and unexpected readings emerge, in addition to algorithms that turn artistic subjectivity into capitalist byproducts. Yet perhaps the true surprise is when the filmmakers at last involve Amazon Mechanical Turkers — remotely located “crowdworkers” who can be hired to perform tasks that computers are presently unable to do.

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(Farhad Pakdel, Canada, 2019, 11 mins, nonverbal)

A speculative fiction which anticipates a near-future reality, Frames follows a woman as she walks through Montreal, being surveilled and tracked every step of the way. Each movement she makes is logged and interpreted by the city’s system, but is it drawing an accurate picture of who she truly is?

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Symphony of the Body

Symphony of the Body

(Mónica Ruiz van Hattem, Netherlands, 2019, 15 mins, in English)

A soulful ode to the body’s ability to claim space and generate warmth amid the cold and overwhelming architecture of Rotterdam. Can an interaction between two men, presenting softness with dance and music, break the rigidity of steel and stone?

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(Alison Klayman, US, 2019, 29 mins, in Japanese with English subtitles)

Japanese artist Azuma Makoto has tantalized the world by launching bonsai trees into outer space and plunging floral sculptures to the bottom of the ocean. Flower Punk takes a hypnotizing look into Makoto’s process, illuminating his punk rock ethos and honoring his deep contemplation of the life and death cycles of flora.

Trailer >

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