And 'TXL – Berlin Tegel Airport' too

'Skin of Glass' Wins at BARQ

John Hill
2. October 2023
Skin of Glass by Denise Zmekhol (Photo courtesy of BARQ Festival)

The third edition of BARQ, the International Architecture Film Festival Barcelona, took place from September 26 to October 1, 2023, with the winners announced yesterday, on the last day of the festival. Over six days, BARQ screened six feature-length documentaries, twelve short films in three sessions, and four special screenings. 

The award for Best Documentary Feature went to Skin of Glass, the 90-minute USA/Brazilian film from 2023 produced and directed by Arab-Brazilian director Denise Zmekhol about the São Paulo building familiarly known as “Pele de Vidro” (Glass Skin). The 24-story building was designed by the filmmaker's late father, Roger Zmekhol, in the early 1960s, not long after immigrating to Brazil from Syria. The modernist glass tower was taken over by a military dictatorship before it was completed, subsequently used as the federal police headquarters, then later abandoned and occupied by squatters.

More than a film about an important work of architecture, Skin of Glass is a personal film that finds Denise Zmekhol learning about her father, who died four decades ago when she was just a teenager, and facing “the brutal reality of a global crisis: one in six people in the world are squatters.” The film's website continues: “Through [the residents of the building], we come to understand the symbolic importance of the building as a reflection of Brazil’s political and economic turmoil over the last half century.”

Trailer for Skin of Glass

BARQ's second major award, for Best Documentary Short Film, went to TXL – Berlin Tegel Airport, the 2023 German film by Lukas Schmid. The 14-minute film looks at the hexagonal terminals at Berlin Tegel Airport — “the airport of short distances” — which were designed by architects Meinhard von Gerkan and Volkwin Marg early in their careers. “A symbol of modernity and innovation,” according to the BARQ website, “after its abandonment [in 2020] Tegel airport illustrates a part of the history of Germany before and after the fall of the Berlin Wall.”

TXL – Berlin Tegel Airport by Lukas Schmid (Photo courtesy of BARQ Festival)

Finally, a Special Mention from the BARQ Festival jury was given to Above the Mine (Ovan Gruvan), a 2022 French short film directed by Théo Audoire and Lova Karlsson. The film captures the transit of houses that needed to be moved following "a series of strange events" and the threat of landslides.

Trailer for Above the Mine (Ovan Gruvan)

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