Super 16mm / experimental short / 06:45 / 2023

From sixpackfilm:

Salzburg at dusk. City church bells are drowned out by classical music playing at home. In contrast to the white winter landscape displayed in a Bob Ross calendar, there is barely any snow covering the Untersberg mountain. The fields are a shimmering lush green, likewise the garden where Tony’s summer house is located. The outdoor thermometer reads at 14° Celsius, while the refrigerator temperature stays at a constant 5° degrees – the ideal storage temperature for fresh cheese, yogurt, and milk – as well as for Tony, hibernating in his bed of leaves in the vegetable crisper. Tony’s portrait adorns the refrigerator door: He is Anthony’s turtle, 23 years young and weighing about 1300 grams.

G. Anthony Svatek films his mother Kathleen on 16mm film as she takes care of Tony. She has been carefully tending to the Greek tortoise ever since Winter in the Alps became far too mild to naturally accommodate the months of hibernation crucial to the Greek tortoise, or Testudo Hermanni. Fragments of homey, lovingly constellated living spaces seamlessly interweave with an amusing eye for detail, gently capturing attentive hands and small gestures that belie greater matters. Testudo Hermanni unfolds a lighthearted yet meaningful narrative, much as Kathleen’s grooming routine. Captions accentuate the simple, straightforward narrative, while Mozart’s opera buffa lends both amusing levity and soulful depth. And so it is that this portrait of a mother, a turtle and mild winters is more than what it might initially seem. It reveals a story of how relationships rise to the occasion of unpredictable climate change, the escalation of extreme weather events and strong temperature fluctuations, developing a resilience in which not only making provisions but above all providing mindful care plays a crucial role. (Martina Genetti)

A portrait of my mother, my tortoise, and mild winters:
In 2009, I moved from my home in Salzburg, Austria to the United States. At that point, the care of my pet tortoise, Tony, fell upon my mother, Kathleen. Testudo hermanni, Tony’s species, are native to the Mediterranean and hibernate for 4-5 months each winter at a predictable temperature that ensures a healthy body weight. Until a few years ago, our family’s insulated garage provided these perfect conditions, but recent erratic Alpine winters have forced my mother to find a more reliable, more future-facing, solution. Now, Kathleen no longer worries about Tony’s, and by proxy, my well-being.

Distributed by sixpackfilm

Transfer: Negativeland

Select Screenings:
Diagonale – Festival of Austrian Film
Athens International Film + Video Fest
Duisburger Filmwoche
IFSAK Istanbul
Science New Wave Festival