Archive for the ‘Karlovy Vary’ Category

The Lost Children (2023) Karlovy Vary 2023

Dir/Wri: Michele Jacob | Cast: Iris Mirzabekiantz, Liocha Mirzabekiantz, Lois Litt Magis, Lohen Van Houtte, Belgium, Fantasy Drama 82′

An unexpected disappearance is at the heart of this edgy psychological drama from Belgian director and screenwriter Michele Jacob.

Lost Children sees ten-year-old Audrey (Iris Mirzabekiantz) and her three siblings suddenly abandoned by their father – with no explanation – and forced to fend for themselves in their summer holiday hideaway deep in the woods.

In this first full length feature Jacob delves into the world of fantasy, betrayal and self-doubt as the four kids are initially thrilled at the prospect of exploring this bosky backwater free from parental control, but soon grow anxious as a hierarchy develops along the lines the ‘Animal Farm’, with Audrey naturally taking the lead as she assumes responsibilities far beyond her years.

Lost Children is not just a rites of passage story but a mature and inventive attempt to explore how kids process trauma by escaping into their imagination in order to deal with a crisis – and this can often be the making of them. Left to their own devices the children risk falling prey to their worst fears as a sinister ambiance permeates their surroundings enhanced by Andreas Moulin’s unsettling soundscape.

Here the trauma takes the form of a monster that haunts their subconscious but feels entirely palpable and visible as reality and fantasy merge in Nastasja Saerens’ bold visuals. And when night falls the forest seems to close in on them with a strange monster looming out of the darkness and weird noises echoing through the forest as events turn surreal. Shot on shoestring but none this worse for it, this slim but affective horror film marks Jacob out as an impressive talent in the making. MT

KARLOVY VARY | JUNE 30 – JULY 8 2023 | PROXIMA STRAND

 

Dancing on the Edge of a Volcano (2023) Karlovy Vary 2023 Special – Jury Mention

Dir: Cyril Aris | Doc. 87′

Graceful and elegant, a woman walks through the streets of Beirut. Despite her refined manners she feels driven to kill those responsible for the destruction of her city. The Paris of the Middle East is scarred and ruined. Yet again.

This film within a film serves both as an intensely personal record of the ongoing tragedy and a love letter to a cherished homeland in the wake of recent events that have left the country in total chaos unable to recover due to repetitive trauma.

Lebanese director and writer Cyril Aris sets his film against the backdrop of an ongoing film production initiated by some of his close friends who we see debating how to approach their story in the light of the catastrophic explosion that rocked the Port of Beirut on August 4, 2020 along with the pandemic. These events have not only delayed filming but changed everyone’s lives. Once again. But to abandon the project would be to admit defeat.

Friends and colleagues gather round an alfresco table to workshop their proposed film with the working title of Costa Brava. It follows the Badri family – parents and two girls and their grandmother – who have decided to leave Beirut to escape pollution and corruption. The kicker is a government decision to locate a landfill site right next to their property. The idea is to start afresh and build a sustainable life in harmony with nature.

Meanwhile widespread protests break out in the streets. People of all classes are raging against a state system that has trapped everyone with a corrupt government taking them all hostage in their own homes. It is claimed the explosion was caused by illegally stored material imported by Syrians who intended to use it to assist their own insurrection.

But should these Lebanese remain in their beloved capital city, even at the expense of human dignity that drives them into an impractical backwater where their lives and even their finances are frozen by the government, making escape a near impossibility. Or should they follow the words of the Lebanese poet Nadia Tueni: “I choose the sea in spite of shipwrecks”? MT

KARLOVY VARY FILM FESTIVAL 2023 | CRYSTAL GLOBE SPECIAL JURY MENTION

 

Arsenie: An Amazing Afterlife (2023) Karlovy Vary 2023

Dir: Alexandru Solomon | Doc Romania/Lux 96′

Arsenie Boca, a revered priest, theologian and mystic is the subject of this deep dive into faith and religious persecution from Romanian filmmaker Alexandru Solomon.

Since the advent of Jesus Christ, humanity has always been fascinated by visionary miracle makers holding them out to represent the holy grail in our everlasting search for the meaning of life.

Zian Boca, born in 1910 in Hunedoara, Romania, followed an orthodox religious path travelling to the legendary Mount Athos for spiritual training, before being ordained a deacon in 1935 and subsequently the abbot of Brancoveanu Monastery five years later, despite persecution by the communist regime, the holy man has been hailed as a saint by his many followers although he has yet to be canonized.

The film, the latest outing from seasoned cinematographer and director, Solomon, who started making documentaries in 1993, is composed of a series of re-enactments of Boca’s life and provides not only a vibrant insight into his work as a visionary and spiritual leader but also serves to reflect the state of contemporary society as believers desperately search for answers and cling onto the concept of miracles to sublimate them into a more edifying and meaningful existence in this increasingly troubled and perilous world. A film full of hope and insight that never takes itself too seriously in capturing the essence of this inspirational philosopher, scholar and cleric. MT

KARLOVY VARY FILM FESTIVAL | PROXIMA STRAND 2023

 

Red Rooms (2023) Karlovy Vary 2023

Dir: Pascal Plante | Cast: Juliette Gariépy, Laurie Babin, Elisabeth Lucas, Maxwell McCabe Lokos | Thriller Canada

Canadian writer director Pascal Plante offers a cold-eyed look at the dangers of hybristophilia in this striking arthouse thriller that shares the same airless chill as the work of fellow Canadian David Cronenberg, but somehow lacks the maestro’s resonance.

Sexual obsession with criminal offenders is a growing phenomenon particularly amongst women. From Ted Bundy to Charles Manson, serial killers have always had their female acolytes and here Plante focusses on the psychological rather than the physical in a hard-egded character study cum courtroom drama.

In a wintery Montreal aloof photographic model Kelly-Anne (Gariépy) surfs the internet’s illicit ‘red rooms’ and has become strangely fascinated by brutal child murderer Ludovic Chevalier (Lokos) whose grisly crimes are detailed in an informative opening scene by the prosecution barrister (a brilliant Natalie Tannous). The quiet almost unassuming murderer exudes a strange air of vulnerability, locked in his courtroom cage. In contrast Kelly-Anne is distant and detached in all her dealings and remains an impenetrable character throughout, apparently unmoved by the desperate pleas for help from one of the mother’s affected when the gruesome photos of the murders are revealed.

Kelly is gradually drawn under Chevalier’s spell attending every single court hearing in the hope of attracting his attention, even sleeping overnight outside the courtrooms despite the freezing weather. Here she meets a homeless drifter (Babin) and offers her board and lodging. The two form an unlikely bond as the enigmatic storyline drifts between reality and fantasy in a bracing psychodrama that explores female friendship, media manipulation, and probes the hitherto undiscovered recesses of the human mind and its capacity for both evil and benevolence. MT

KARLOVY VARY 2023 | CRYSTAL GLOBE COMPETITION.

 

Smiling Georgia (2023) Karlovy Vary 2023

Dir.: Luka Beradze; Documentary with Nana Papidze, Lamara Samkharadze, Nodar Labadze, Bezhan Labadze; Georgia/Germany 2020, 61 min.

In his pithy political expose Luka Beradse looks at how leaders lie and mislead voters just to stay in power.

The promise of subsidised dental care was the clincher for many, particularly seniors, in President Saakasvilli’s 2012 campaign spearheaded  by a promise to make “Georgia smile”. But the electorate laughed back in his face and the UNM (United National Movement) lost to the coalition of Georgian Dream (GD).

Smiling Georgia offers just one of many examples of political foul play that seems endemic nowadays all over the world. The ruling party’s policies appeared positive, well-intentioned and far-reaching with a focus on agriculture, employment and healthcare. Across the country, dentists had been having a field day removing rotten teeth – and even healthy ones – guaranteeing that state of the art dentures would be fitted shortly after the election. But in the end the older generation bore the brunt of the false promises and were left disgruntled and toothless to boot.  

Set between two elections, 2012 and 2020, Beradze’s sardonic social commentary shows how self-styled politicians have lost respect for the electorate and got carried away with their own importance. In the village of “No Name” the first round in 2012 ended with defeat for the ruling UNM President who subsequently fled the country and was arrested for corruption on his return from exile in 2021.

Ironically, the UNM had promised to provide a new set of gnashers for everyone in No Name and the surrounding villages. Alas, UNM lost and the hapless victims spent the next eight years regretting having trusted the powers-that-be, one man even carrying his wife’s used dentures around in a bag in a macabre act of defiance.

2020 saw a re-run of the dental promise strategy, this time with the GD promising to make the UNM’s empty promises a reality. But one of their candidates faired badly in front of the cameras she had hired to showcase her party’s virtues. It emerges that the GD candidate was a bully who had picked the only woman in the village fortunate enough to have her teeth. But the TV stint was a mismanaged fiasco and she ended up storming out of the interview in a huff. We don’t get to find out if she was successful in the 2020 November elections (law suits pending) but the party of the uninformed won the nationwide poll, with the UNM making barely ten percent of the votes.

An epilogue shows elderly farmers chuntering on about their feelings of disappointment in the elected party, while a pig scratches itself on a tree in the background. DoP Lomero Akhvlediani’s handheld camera is a busy witness to this tale of democratic disillusionment. Smiling Georgia maybe brief, at just over an hour, but Beradze puts so much verve and bitter-sweet humour into the free flowing narrative that the result far outweighs many other full-length features bolstered by repetitive footage and forced situational comedy just to make the 90 minute mark. AS

KARLOVY VARY FILM FESTIVAL 2023 | 30 JUNE – 8 JULY 2023    

Empty Nets (2023) Karlovy Vary 2023 | Special Jury Prize

Wri/Dir: Behrooz Karamizade | Cast:Hamid Reza Abbasi, Sadaf Asgari, Keyvan Mohamadi, Pantea Panahiha | Germany/Iran Drama

Behrooz Karamizade’s stark feature debut hides a simple truth: being with the one you love shouldn’t be contingent on class, entitlement or money. Such is the case in many traditional societies where marriage is reliant on a dowry, and particularly in Iran that provides the sombre setting for this well-paced and compulsive contemporary thriller.

France’s answer to Pierre Niney, Hamid Reza Abbasi gives a soulful turn as Amir, an unfortunate young man from a poor family background who is madly in love with his upper class sweetheart Narges (Sadaf Asgari) but lacks the financial means to marry her after being fired from his menial job on ethical grounds; and later falls foul of his girlfriend due to her strict moral principles.

As is often the case with Iranian cinema strong writing trumps aesthetic appeal, but Karamizade’s skill in crafting a convincing narrative with authentic characters shines out showing him to be a talent in the making this a well-deserved winner of this year’s Crystal Globe Special Jury Prize.

CRYSTAL GLOBE COMPETITION | SPECIAL JURY PRIZE | Karlovy Vary 2023

 

Karlovy Vary Film Festival 2023

Scottish actor, director and producer Ewan McGregor and Swedish actress Alicia Vikander will be the guests of the first weekend of the 57th Karlovy Vary Festival. Both actors will receive the Karlovy Vary IFF President’s Award and present their latest films.

This year’s edition of the festival will open with Firebrand, with Alicia Vikander leading as Katherine Parr, the only wife who survived Henry VIII and the first woman to publish in the English language.

Ewan McGregor will be there with his latest film You Sing Loud, I Sing Louder he stars alongside his daughter, actress and producer Clara McGregor.

KARLOVY VARY FILM FESTIVAL | 30 JUNE – 8 JULY 2023

A Far Shore (2022) Karlovy Vary Film Festival 2022

Dir.: Masaaki Kudo; Cast: Kotone Hanase, Yumeni Ishida, , Yumemi Ishida, Yoshiro Sakuma; Japan 2022, 128 min.

This epic drama from Japan’s Masaaki Kudo would be very much at home in the 1950s but despite the conventional aesthetic and narrative, is still manages to be quite overwhelming. In this age of minimalism and under-developed scripts, Kudo bucks the recent trend with an emotional blockbuster full of poetry and lyricism and told in a series of chapters that chart the heroine’s downfall. .

In Okinawa, seventeen year-old Aoi (a brilliant Hanase) has left school and works as a hostess in a nightclub, leaving her two-year old son Kengo in the care of her husband Masaya (Sakuma). Masaya is only interesting in gambling and drinking – and is on the verge of being fired from his job, leaving parental duties to Aoi’s grandmother.

Aoi tries to hide money from her husband, but he beats her up brutally, and eventually due to Masaya’s laziness and incompetence, the family slides into debt, and faces eviction. Aoi’s grandmother blames her granddaughter for the family’s disgrace, leaving only Mio (Ishida), a work collegue, to come to her rescue. But when Masaya gets in trouble with the police, Aoi becomes embroiled in a no-win situation with the authorities and she has to relinquish her job at the nightclub, and work as an escort as her life gradually implodes due to no fault of her own.

In this male-dominated society, Aoi is literally consumed by the men in her life, who exploit her to serve their own needs. While the feminism angle is under-played, Kudo never leaves us in any doubt at to his intentions. Set on the widescreen and in intimate close-up, A Far Shore contrasts the glittering night-scapes of the Japanese city with the squalor of ordinary people’s lives. DoP Takayuki Sugimura’s images of the seaside are a fitting highlight his third feature film. AS

KARLOVY VARY FILM FESTIVAL 2022

Borders of Love (2022) Karlovy Vary Film Festival

Dir.: Tomasz Winski; Cast: Hana Vagnerova, Matyas Reznicek, Antonie Formanova, Eliska Krenkova, Martin Hofmann, Hynek Cermak; Czech Republic/Poland, 2022, 95 min.

This first feature film for Czech director/co-writer Tomasz Winski could have been called daring some fifty years ago – the story of a couple who decide to have an open relationship is told with all the graphic details – but today it just feels awkward with its endless scenes of pulsating bodies seeming closer to soft-porn than intelligent cinema. Instead of addressing taboos, Winski creates a voyeuristic nightmare which hardly feels credible, the property porn more impressive than that involving the characters.

Hana (Vagnerova, also one of the co-writers) and Petr (Reznicek) are stuck in a rut with their marriage. To spice up their sex life they try some cheeky games but when that fails to spark things between the sheets, they decide to embark on affairs trying to retain a kind of intimacy and faithfulness to each other by discussing the fine details of their extra-marital adventures.

Experimenting with a foursome involving two colleagues, Vanda and Vit from their architectural practice comes next. This is a big turn on for Hana but Petr needs Viagra to get going. And in the ‘sharing’ aftermath, Hana expresses her delight at how brilliant Vit was at  cunnilingus. We get the drift: Hana is wild, and Petr would rather not repeat the experiment.

But things start to come unstuck for Hana and Petr when one of her lovers Marek introduces his girl friend and another couple into the equation: all five are gagging to go – apart from Petr.  Instead he teams up with barmaid Antonie and the two plan an escape to a mythical island – but first he has to save Hana from rough sex in a proverbial den of inequity. Will he remember the promise he made to Antonie, and do we care?

DoP Krystof Melka tries to keep inside the boundaries of art house cinema, but even at ninety-five minutes, Borders is a trivial and halfcock attempt to explore the senisitve nature of desire and fidelity in longterm love.

KARLOVY VARY FILM FESTIVAL 2022 | PROXIMA COMPETITION

Tinnitus (2022) Karlovy Vary Film Festival 2022

Dir: Gregorio Graziosi | Cast: Alli Willow, Joana de Verona, Antonio Pitanga, Indira Nascimento,

An addition to the female sports genre is this visually dynamic drama from Brazilian director Gregorio Graziosi who explores disability through the competitive world of women’s synchronised diving.

And where better to set the story than the nation’s capital with its all round summer climate and impressive architectural landscape with iconic 1920s skyscrapers jostling with Oscar Niemayer’s contemporary creations and colonial style churches dating back to the 16th century.

Marina lives here in a stylish apartment with her doctor boyfriend and has reached peak condition in pursuit of her dream of competing in synchronised diving events in Sao Paulo’s state of the art olympic sized swimming centre. But a sudden attack of tinnitus – an excruciating ringing in the ears – that hampers her progress with her diving colleague. And Marina is forced to abandon the season and take up another rather more dubious water-based job as a ‘mermaid’ in the public aquarium, entertaining tourists with her colourful costumes. Naturally this is a career comedown for Marina and impacts on her emotional wellbeing as well as her relationship with her boyfriend. Her swimming partner is now left in the lurch and is forced to start looking for another to take her place

The premise is a good and one Graziosi’s cinematic vision realised by DoP Rui Pocas (Tabu, Zama and Good Manners) is certainly exceptional. But the script involving three writers often feels over ambitious in trying to fathom out Marina’s reaction to her illness and the complexities of women’s relationships when the three main female characters fall out – and the ensuing (ubiquitous) lesbian twist feels contrived rather than natural along with the trip to Japan. Meshing these various narrative strands together weakens an otherwise original idea, so why not tell it more simply and trust in the strength of the original idea. Less is always more. MT

KARLOVY VARY FILM FESTIVAL | 2022 PROXIMA COMPETITION

 

 

 

Fools (2022) Karlovy Vary Film Festival 2022

Dir: Tomasz Wasilewski | Cast: Dorota Kolak, Łukasz Simlat, Katarzyna Herman, Marta Nieradkiewicz, Tomasz Tyndyk | Poland Drama, 107′

In his fourth feature, another unsettling domestic drama, Tomasz Wasilewski looks at the negative impacts of close family ties in a love story about a couple in modern Poland.

Polish filmmaker Wasilewski is fascinated by female centric stories: his debut In A Bedroom looked at sex and survival for a woman in mid-life crisis. In Floating Skyscrapers a woman struggles to cope with her partner’s gay sexual awakening; and United States of Love explores sexual freedom for four different women after the fall of the Soviet Union in Poland.

Just when Tomek (Simlat) thought he had found peace and happiness with his much older partner Marlena (Kolak), a doctor, she decides to take home her paraplegic adult son who has a life-limiting condition requiring full time care from both Tomek and herself. And not for the first time. As if they’d had a new baby without all the joy that entails, this puts enormous pressure on the middle-aged couple and their relationship, shifting the focus from their contented lives together to the fraught and often physically gruelling task of looking after a fully grown man who requires constant bathing and changing. Unlike Marlena, Tomek has no buffering feelings of love or compassion to bond him to this ‘interloper’.

The remote and often windswept terrain of Poland’s Baltic coast provides a brilliant background echoing the couple’s turbulent existence, Wasilweski and his DoP Oleg Mutu concentrating on compelling visual storytelling and stylisation in a detached narrative form, pared down dialogue and strong but always subtle performances from Kulak and Simlat illustrating the protagonists’ inner struggle.

Marlena comes across as a conscientious but not particularly appealing character, her own needs and those of Tomek totally subsumed by her son’s demanding condition and showing how easily even a strong relationship can be put to the test, and found wanting. MT

KARLOVY VARY FILM FESTIVAL | PROXIMA COMPETITION 2022

Silence 6-9 (2022) Karlovy Vary Film Festival 2022

Dir.: Christos Passalis; Cast: Angeliki Papoulia, Christos Passalis, Marina Skoula, Sofia Kokkali; Greece 2022, 81 min.

Christos Passalis continues to explore his filmmaking skills this time taking the helm for a slow-burning Kafkaesque Sci-fi love story which serves as a reminder that Greek cinema has not lost its roots in the wonderful world of the ‘weird wave’.

The enigmatically entitled Silence 6-9 follows the outstanding Berlinale entry The City and the City (2022) which he co-directed, and performances in Dogtooth and The Miracle of the Sargasso Sea. In this vision of dystopia he stars as Aris (Passalis) who fetches up in a city at night where he meets Anna (Papoulia) who shows him around a landscape dominated by rooftop antennas and audio tapes floating around in the wind, along with banners proclaiming the titular SILENCE 6-9. His task is purportedly to solve ‘technical problems’, the previous incumbent having suffered a nervous breakdown. And not surprisingly, social unrest in brewing: the mayor of town touring the place with a loudhailer on a pick-up-truck, calling for “NO MORE TAPE CASSETTES” There are disturbing images of IC stations in a deserted hospital, and the long shots in the hotel, where Anna and Aris are staying, feel like a nod to Kubrick. Soon Anna will have to drink a liquid which will force her to forget Aris. Will she be able to desist this threat?

Everything has a distinct 1970s vibe, the technology is rudimentary, and the inhabitants, particularly the women, are slowly going missing. Other characters appears on the landscape: A man playing the melodica is looking for ‘Katerina’, who, like many others, has vanished for good, forcing their male partners to undress and masturbate from voyeuristic holes in the wall. Anna and Aris gravitate towards the sea where they are put under surveillance by a sinister couple of women (Kokkali, Skoula). One of these “angels of death” takes pity on the couple, but her companion tells her to keep her distance.

Passalis conjures up another metaphor for modern times through the bleached and desiccated landscapes of DoP Girogos Karvelas, where the characters appear devoid of any kind of emotional existence. Although Passalis never never lets the audience escape from this strange deathlike environment the questions raised by the enigmatic narrative are never fully answered. Memorable.AS

KARLOVY VARY FILM FESTIVAL | PROXIMA STRAND. 2022

Ramona (2022) KVIFF 2022

Dir.: Andrea Bagney; Cast: Lourdes Hernandez, Bruno Lastra, Francesco Carril; Spain 2022, 100 min.

Lourdes Hernandez is the bundle of nervous energy powering this rather slim would-be screwball comedy forward. Pretentiously told in six chapters, first time director Andrea Bagney opts for black & white and a classical score that add a certain allure to the rather underwhelming, low budget tale of indecision.

In Madrid, Ramona (Hernandez), 32, makes ends meet as a translator and nanny but desperately wants to be an actress. After striking up conversation with Bruno (Lastra) in one of the city’s old-fashioned blue-tiled bars, the two spend most of the day together before Ramona takes exception to something Bruno has said, and goes home in a huff to her chef boyfriend Nico (Carril), telling him all about the meeting. It turns out Bruno, a filmmaker, is only too delighted when Ramona turns up the following day to audition for his new film and immediately offers her the part, even though the producer and other crew members are much less enthusiastic. But Ramona is tortured with indecision: does she focus on her translation degree or devote herself to acting? Torn between her career and the two men in her life, she procrastinates endlessly in a drama that outstays even a modest running time of a hundred minutes.

DoP Pol Orpinell Freixa flips between black & white and colour – for no apparent reason. The close-ups are conventional, as are the film-in-film sequences. Somehow, we are transported back thirty years to when Philippe Garrel was at the height of his comedy-dramas such as Emergency Kisses, also set in the world of filmmaking. But Ramona says nothing about the magic of movies; Bagney’s bland debut feels like a less successful take on The Worst Person in the World without any of that heroine’s appeal or Trier’s narrative firepower. AS

PREMIERING AT KARLOVY VARY | PROXIMA STRAND 2022.

 

A Room of My Own (2022) Karlovy Vary Film Festival 2022

Dir.: Ioseb “Sos” Bliadze; Cast: Taki Mumladze, Mariam Khundadze, Ioseb “Sos” Bliadze, Lasho Gabuna, Giorgi Grdzelidze, Giorgi Tsereteli; Georgia 2022, 105 min.

Georgian director Ioseb “Sos” Bliadze made a big splash at last year’s Karlovy Vary festival with Otar’s Death and he is back this year with a playful comedy of manners in the style of Eric Rohmer. But be warned, behind the easygoing atmosphere generated by Tbilisi’s millennials there lurks a constant reminder of the destructive power of patriarchy. And Taki Mumladze – who co-writes and also stars in this year’s competition entry – has certainly left her ideological fingerprints all over the feature.

Tina (Mumladze) can’t wait to move with her boyfriend Beko (Tsereteli) to his family’s spacious flat. Affordable living space is rare in the capital and Tina has had to pay 300 Lari for a room in a flatshare with her friend Megi (Khundadze) who is a party animal about to head off to New York. She doesn’t really like Megi’s crowd: Vajiko (Gabuna) and Dito (Bliadze) are particularly annoying. Then Beko tells her that the move to the flat is no longer on the cards because his brother Datuna is shortly to be released from prison, after serving a sentence for stabbing Tina (his ex) for cheating on him with Beko.

The romantic tables are suddenly turned when the lonely Tina finds herself falling for her ‘landlady’ whose departure is only a few days away. We are left wondering whether Megi’s trip to the US is just wishful thinking – and, what will happen to Tina, if Megi does decide to go.

All this happens in a haze of cheap alcohol and drugs, DoP Dimitri Dekanosidze tracking the party people in long shots as proceedings descend into a meltdown of drunken one night stands. Tina is astonished and disturbed by the debauched goings chez Megi but she soon finds her feet and joins in the fun with Giorgi (Grdzelidze), later sobbing into Megi’s arms, who comforts her: “Giorgi has a very small penis, but he knows how to use it.”

This fast-paced and flowing feature once again confirms Bliadze’s surprising maturity and integrity as a director with writing skills to match his confidence behind the camera, and for once the sophomore feature is not derailed by the success of the debut. AS

KARLOVY VARY FILM FESTIVAL 2022 | BEST ACTRESS WINNERS Taki Mumladze and Mariam Khundadze

As far As I Can Walk (2021) Karlovy Vary Film Festival 2021

Dir.: Stefan Arsenijevic; Cast: Ibrahim Koma, Nancy Mensah-Offei, Maxim Khali; Serbia/ France/Luxembourg/Bulgaria, Lithuania 2021, 92 min.

Serbian director/co-writer Stefan Arsenijevic transforms an epic medieval Serbian poem, ‘Banovich Stralinya’, into a modern migrant love story involving two Africans, once again illustrating the naivety of refugees hoping for streets of gold in Europe. Imaginatively shot by DoP Jelena Stankovic, this is a convincing drama with a refreshing take on the migration sub-genre. But the grating voice-over of the classic poem disturbs the natural rhythm. and feels at best pretentious.

Ghanian couple Samita ‘Stralinya’ (Koma) and his actress wife Ababuo (Mensah-Offei), both in their late twenties, have been deported from Germany to a transit camp in Serbia where their new existence exposes faultlines in their relationship. Stralinya, named after the epic hero, is a talented footballer who deserves to get a contract as a professional with the local team. Ababuo entertains the refugee kids with her spirited acting talents.

Returning to the camp after a night’s drinking Stralinka is told that Ababuo has left for London with some Syrian refugees. Bullldozing his way into a vehicle loaded with people being smuggled across the border, he learns that the driver charged with transporting his fellow refugees is delivering them straight to the police. Stralinya is furious, mostly at himself, because he feels a moral responsibility having led most of his friends to their ultimate fate. Evading the border police, Stralinya crosses into Hungary, where Ababuo has taken up refuge with a Syrian politician, Ali (Khali) in just another transit camp. Stralinya confronts his wife, who claims she needs “at least the illusion of something big”. After a massive argument the two approach the head of the transit camp in a bid to be re-deported. But while Stralinya is sitting in the bus, waiting to leave, he sees Ababuo being dragged by soldiers towards the bus. He must make a decision, and fast. AS

WINNER | THE ECUMENICAL JURY AWARD | KARLOVY VARY FILM FESTIVAL 2021

Karlovy Vary Film Festival – Tribute to Michael Caine

This year’s special guest of the 55th Karlovy Vary IFF will be British actor and winner of two Oscars, the European Film Awards, and more than forty other commendations Sir Michael Caine. At the festival’s opening ceremony, Caine will be presented with a Crystal Globe for Outstanding Artistic Contribution to World Cinema.

During a career spanning six decades, Caine has played more than a hundred roles in a variety of film and television genres. The great diversity of his filmography is proof of his exceptional range and his ability to become one with the characters he portrays, regardless whether he is appearing in dramas such as The Man Who Would Be King (1975, dir. John Huston) or Little Voice (1998, dir. Mark Herman), comedies (Miss Congeniality, 2000, dir. Donald Petrie), or action films such as Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy – Batman Begins (2005) The Dark Knight (2008), The Dark Knight Rises(2012) – or the spy parody Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014, dir. Matthew Vaughn).

Caine’s mastery of acting has earned him a number of awards. When he received his first Oscar for best supporting actor for Woody Allen’s Hannah and Her Sisters, it was his fourth nomination for the Academy Awards (having been previously nominated for Alfie, Sleuth, and Educating Rita). In 2000, he received his second Oscar for his performance in the film adaption of the bestselling book The Cider House Rules (dir. Lasse Hallström), and in 2003 he was again nominated for his appearance in an adaptation of Graham Greene´s The Quiet American (dir. Phillip Noyce).

His appearance in the film version of the mystery drama Sleuth brought him an interesting opportunity. For Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s original 1972 adaptation of the well-known play, he portrayed the lover of the wife of a famous author, a performance that earned him his first Oscar nomination, and in Kenneth Branagh’s 2007 remake he portrayed the cynical author himself.

Michel Caine also holds three Golden Globes and eight Golden Globe nominations. To all his roles, he brings the right dose of empathy, objectivity, and the basic acting requirement that the actor serve the role and not the other way around.

One outstanding example of his finely honed acting abilities was his performance in Paolo Sorrentino’s bitter comedy Youth (2015). Here, his portrayal of a composer who, faced with old age, looks back on his failures in life, earned Caine a European Film Award for best actor. At the same time, he was presented an honorary lifetime achievement award. The film was also well received in Karlovy Vary, where it earned the Právo Audience Award. In the fall of 2015, it was the first film to be brought to Czech cinemas by KVIFF Distribution. Last year, he created one of the roles in Medieval (Jan Žižka)by director Petr Jákl.

In 1992, Michael Caine was inducted into the Order of the British Empire, and in 2000 he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II.

At this year’s Karlovy Vary IFF, Michael Caine will personally present the comedy drama Best Sellers (2021), director Lina Roessler’s feature film debut in which he portrays a cranky old author who sets out on one final book tour.

KARLOVY VARY FILM FESTIVAL 2021 | 17 – 27 AUGUST 2021

Scandinavian Silence (2019) ****

Dir: Martti Helde | Cast: Rea Lest, Reimo Sagor

The life of three siblings is told by each of them in this stylish Scandinavian thriller from Estonian director Martti Helde 

Martti Helde was feted for In the Crosswind his experimental wartime feature debut back in 2014. This stylishly frosty foray into family territory is more intimate in focus despite its striking widescreen visuals and tells the story of siblings struck dumb by violent circumstances.

Essentially a two-hander that plays out in three parts, Scandinavian Silence muses over themes of false memory and subjective interpretation in an enigmatic film that is ultimately more visually arresting than entirely satisfying in its storytelling, leaving us with more questions than answers. But it certainly captivates and conjures up a Tarkovskian sense of resonance through expert camerawork from Sten-Johan Lill and Erik Pllumaa creating an arresting sense of place.

In a freezing forest landscape Tom (Reimo Sagor) joins his sister Jenna (Rea Lest) in a drive that is a one-sided monologue, Tom expressing his feelings of regret, confusion and self-doubt about a troubling family set-to that left him in prison and his sister Jenna exposed to their father’s abuse. Then back at the same starting point, Jenna gives her sides of the story while Tom keeps his powder dry at a table in a roadside cafe. And what emerges is a different take on the situation, Jenna partially exonerating Tom for his acute feelings of guilt. This diatribe is punctuated by a strange encounter with an older couple adding an unsettling vibe to the proceedings that resonates with their dysfunctional homelife.

The third section of the trilogy is like a silent film of what has gone before, neither Tom nor Jenna speaking, it relies entirely on body language, suggestive expressions and eye contact culminating in a surprising finale that somehow leaves us wanting given the weight of expectancy with what has gone before.

Style over substance this may be but Helde certainly creates an arresting piece of cinema that offers much food for thought in the frozen wastelands of the mind, where less can often mean more. MT

https://vimeo.com/314322683

The Last Autumn | Sidasta Haustio (2019) Bergamo Film Meeting

Dir.: Yrsa Roca Fannberg; Documentary with Ulfare Eyjolfsson, Oddny Snjolang Bordardottir; Iceland 2019, 78 min.

Icelandic writer/director Yrsa Roca Fannberg follows Salome with this thematically related story set in the Icelandic arctic ocean village of Norourfjordur where a couple are getting ready to sell their sheep. This is their last autumn on the farmland they have occupied all their lives, and their daughter and grandchildren, who live in Reykjavik, come and pay their final farewells.

The black and white footage of the opening sequences reflects their contented past, the rough landscape and the sea, making an imposing background where humans are dwarfed by mother nature. Soon we switch to colour and intimate domestic interiors where Ulfar and Oddny are listening to a radio broadcast about the ecological tragedy that led to the entire population of Iceland being evacuated to Denmark after a volcano eruption during the18th century.

The old sheep dog Loppa watches Ulfar bottle-feed two lambs. Later, he drives out to sea in his fishing boat coming back with a decent catch, then cutting wood to repair the barn wall – even though he knows very well that there will be no more sheep to shelter there. His daughter arrives on a small plane and they reminisce about the barn repairs: “It is beautiful to sustain life, even if it is not for yourself”.

This honest existence has been the mainstay of their lives together, but eventually the day arrives for them to round up the sheep. Loppa, his master and some other farmers go into the mountains to collect the animals, about 75 of them, herd them into the barn, and then huge travel containers. Ulfar seems to live in the past, his only contact with the outside world is the radio which brings news of those who have recently passed away. Afterwards Ulfar gives his granddaughter a ride on the tractor regaling her with an old fairy tale about Vera, a woman who fell down the cliffs.

Focusing on long panoramic panning shots, and connecting with the narrative of surviving communities and rural existence this is a melancholic journey. Carlos Vasquez’ images focus on the close interaction of humans and nature, showing that animals are far more intelligent than we often give them credit for. The relationship between Ulfare and his dog is particularly close. Dialogue is sparing reflecting the importance of action and reflection rather than ideas. Fannberg handles this slow-burner with care and patience, every shot has a function – an enchanting portrait of another disappearing world. AS

BERGAMO FILM FESTIVAL 2021 | KARLOVY VARY 2019 PREMIERE

Jan Palach (2018) ****

Dir.: Robert Sedlacek; Cast: Victor Zavadi, Denisa Baresova, Zuzana Bydzovska, Kristina Kanatova; Czech Republic 2018, 124 min.

Robert Sedlacek (Rule of Lies) transforms Eva Kanturkova’s concise script into a complex psychological study of the Czech hero and political activist Jan Palach who killed himself in January 1969 in protest of the Soviet invasion of his country in August of the previous year. Palach’s death was a particularly horrific one but director and writer steer away from hagiography, sensationalism or dry political drama to tell the human story exploring the complex personality and motives of the 20-year old student of history and philosophy.

1968 saw students all over the world on the barricades: in Paris, Berlin, Berkeley and Mexico City, where hundreds were shot just before the start of the Olympic Games. In Prague, students were the backbone of the resistance movement against the Soviet tanks, which rolled into Prague ending the Prague Spring of Prime Minister Dubcek, and dragging the country back into soulless, authoritarian Stalinism. The Prague students shared with their counterparts abroad, a love of spontaneous action and a lack of long-term strategy. They also fatally underestimated the powers they opposed. But theirs was not only an uprising against the state, but also against the values of their parent generation. In the case of Jan Palach, the target was his mother Libuse (Bydzovska), who lived in the small town of Vsetaty. She was hardly a staunch supporter of the communist regime, but having seen her husband, an entrepreneur, being punished by the authorities, she towed the line in order to make her son’s life easier. Since Jan’s father was classified as a bourgeois, only his mother’s ‘class-conscious’ behaviour made it possible for him to study at the Charles University of Prague. Whilst Jan was extremely obedient for his age – when he visited with his girl friend Helenka (Baresova), he slept in a separate bed, before Helenka asked him to join her – but deep down he blamed Libuse for her appeasement of the regime; and even the early death of his father, who lost his business and his drive. This did not prevent him from downing a puppy born to his beloved childhood dog Lassie. They could only find homes for the rest of the litter, so he obeyed his mother’s orders. 

Palach, like many of his believers, was more interested in the concept of equality than in a personal relationship with others. Whilst he supported a Russian comrade in a ‘Youth Camp’ in Kazakhstan, who rebelled against the sub-standard food, he felt much safer in groups, uncomfortable with one-to-one relationships. When he went to France to work for a few weeks picking grapes, he cut himself off from his co-workers. Jan always kept a slight distance from Helenka, who suffered from polio; he was more her helper than her lover. And when tempted, he fell easily for the advances of her attractive room mate Eva (Kanatova). Palach neither drunk nor smoked, his attitude was always to adopt the passive-aggressiveness of a martyr. Sedlacek plays this out in a scene where Palach has just been beaten up severely by a security officer in civilian clothes, and is examined by a medical student: Jan seems to revel in his injuries. In his farewell letter he suggests that there are many like him, willing to die by self-immolation, a boast which is untrue. It is much more reasonable to assume that Palach was inspired by Thich Quang Due, the first Buddhist monk who self-immolated in Saigon, and the Polish activist Ryszard Siwiee, who did the same as a protest against the Soviet Invasion of Czechoslovakia in September 1968. Jan Palach left behind his mother, girl-friends and his studies. He also left a stain on his relatives, friends and fellow students: they felt guilty for not having prevented his suicide, but decided to “wait” for a change, something Jan was not able to countenance. Finally, every suicide is half a murder – in this case a very violent one: proof of the enormous latent anger the young man was concealing behind his unexceptional facade. He was not only the victim of an authoritarian regime, but also of his own, unsolved contradictions. We feel his humanity poignantly, but never is this over-stated in Sedlacek’s treatment.

Victor Zavadi is convincing in the title role, and so is Bydzovska as his mother Libuse. They are likeable characters and decent people. Baresova’s Helenka is very much aware that Jan’s feels pity for her, rather than love or even lust. DoP Jan Suster evokes a bland but classically-styled Prague, the university halls seem uninhabited by the ghost from the past. Vsetaty looks like a bucolic pre-war village, the food supply behind the overriding concern of the day. Overall, this traditionally-styled feature has very much the feel of a Chekhov drama: an intransigent hero, full of great words, but finding no real human contact, until there is only one way out. AS

SCREENED AT THE CZECH EMBASSY | LONDON W11 | January 17th 2019.    

                                         

Jumpman (2018) Podbrosy **** Russian Film Week 2018

Dir.: Ivan I. Tverdovsky; Cast: Denis Vlasenko, Anne Slyu, Daniil Steklov; Russia/ROI/France/ Lithuania 2018, 87 min.

Ivan I. Tverdovsky follows up his zany Zoology with a darker feature, another harsh critique of Putin’s Russia. Very much in the mould of Loveless, Jumpman is a portrait of callous exploitation, the young victim literally sold by his mother to perform life-threatening stunts, just to fill her pockets and those of her cronies.

Sixteen years ago Oksana posted her newborn Denis through the baby-hatch of an orphanage where he has lived ever since, handicapped by a rare disease, congenital analgesia, which affects his ability to feel physical pain, and needs to be medically controlled. Now, forbidden from taking care of her son, Oksana (Slyu) tricks the orphanage staff, literally kidnapping little Denis (Vlasenko) and taking him home. It soon emerges that Oksana’s motive is anything but motherly. Denis does not fee pain when injured (his mates in the orphanage played some cruel games with him), and is trained to jump on cars so his mother’s friends can extort cash from the driver. First in line is Denis’ ‘instructor’ policeman Kusnetzov (Steklov), who drives a police vehicle alongside the one earmarked for the ‘accident’, and is first on the scene when Denis lays motionless on the ground. Kusnetzovs’s mother is a doctor at the hospital where Denis is taken by an ambulance crew (also on the make). But the most profitable jobs go to Judge Olga and the bribed defence lawyer. The driver is forced to pay up a huge sum of money – and Denis gets hardly a penny, after everyone else has taken their share. At home his mother treats him more like a lover, running around half naked in a drunken state, even trying to seduce him. That all changes after Denis puts his foot down –  and this leaves only one solution.

Jumpman is a portrait of a society corrupt on every level, a society where the most vulnerable victims are treated like commodities – whether they are rich, poor or just disenfranchised.. When Denis finally quits, Kusnetzov spits in his face: “We’ll find another one, the city is full of trash like you.” AS

RUSSIAN FILM WEEK | LONDON 25 November -2 December 2018 | BERLINALE 15-25 FEBRUARY 2018 | KARLOVY VARY FILM FESTIVAL | 29 JUNE – 7 JULY 2018

 

Made in Prague | Czech Cinema 100th Anniversary

This October marks the 100th year anniversary of the foundation of Czechoslovakia. The celebrations begin with an opening night gala screening of Jan S. Kolár’s silent epic St Wenceslas from 1929; accompanied by a musical ensemble specialising in medieval polyphony.

The 22nd MADE IN PRAGUE Festival showcases the best of contemporary Czech cinema cherry picked from international film festivals’ circuit. It features Barefoot by the Oscar-winning director Jan “Kolya” Sverak; Insects, the legendary filmmaker Jan Svankmajer’s swansong; the UK premiere of Martin Sulik’s drama The Interpreter starring the Oscar-winning director of Closely Observed Trains Jiri Menzel and German star of Toni Erdmann Peter Simonischek, fresh from the 2018 Berlinale. Also screening will be Olmo Omerzu’s Winter Flies, winner of the 2018 Karlovy Vary International Film Festival Director’s Prize. Complemented by Vit Klusak’s The White World According to Daliborek, a hilarious stylised documentary portrait of a Czech neo-nazi, and Cervena, Olga Sommerova’s portrait of a vivacious 92-year-old world famous opera singer, the mixture of fiction and documentaries with accompanying debates and Q&A showcases the best of Czech cinema mapping the country’s past and current achievements.

MADE IN PRAGUE | Czech Centre London and other venues across the city, including the Barbican, Design Museum, Regent Street Cinema, Tate Modern, UCL, plus others.

 

The Eyes of Orson Welles (2018)

Dir: Mark Cousins | Doc | UK |

Devotees of the great Orson Welles will be delighted by another in-depth look into the world of the charismatic legend Orson Welles by British director Mark Cousins who shares photos, drawings and paintings that add another dimension to our existing knowledge of the Hollywood maverick’s talents to amuse. 

THE EYES OF ORSON WELLES plays out like a person to person love letter to narrated by its director director Mark Cousins, in his lilting Belfast burr, bringing him up to date on how the world has changed since his departure on 10 October 1985 at the age of only 70.

Orson Welles was not just an actor, director and writer known for his wide-ranging films, plays and creative endeavours, but a pioneering maverick who wasn’t afraid to stand apart from the crowd and champion his  ideals. He was a towering figure both physically and intellectually, so much so that  J Edgar Hoover added him to the US security list.

This is not the first time Cousins has adopted this style for his documentaries: What Is This Film Called Love? and I Am Belfast are similarly crafted and mark him out to be an engaging writer who 2017 book The Story Of Looking, The Eyes Of Orson Welles is a also epistolary in style. Initially commanding there are times when his didactic, stentorian tone feels a little too heavy-going and you long for a lighter touch to the way he engages enthusiastically with his subject.

But this must undoubtedly be one of the most encyclopaedic films – possibly the defiinitive biopic of the master as Cousins embarks with the blessing of Beatrice (Welles third daughter by Dolores del Rio) on a peripatetic odyssey enriched with photos, paintings – even Christmas cards – and archival footage charting Welles’ birthplace in Wisconsin in 1915 and on to Ireland, Paris, Morocco and Spain to mention a few countries visited in his lifetime

Orson may have been outspoken but he was also generous and public-spirited and took great interest in charity work and espoused old-fashioned ideas of chivalry – in common with the  character of Don Quixote (his unfinished film commenced shooting in 1957 but never came to fruition); he was a natural in his performances as Winston Churchill, Louis XVII, Michelangelo, Benjamin Franklin, Emperor Justinian and other great minds and leaders .

This is a mammoth undertaking which Cousins pulls off with his customary aplomb as he delves deeper and deeper into the life, loves and singular visual style of this intriguing genius. But in a sense there is a feeling that he only scratches the surface in just short of two hours.

Daughter Beatrice Welles makes her presence known but never outstays her welcome which seems to add a dimension that could have been more thoroughly explored. MT

NOW SCREENING AT DOCHOUSE COURTESY OF DOGWOOF AND OTHER VENUES NATIONWIDE FROM 17 AUGUST 2018

Blossom Valley (2018) **** Karlovy Vary Film Festival 2018

Dir.: Laszlo Csuja; Cast: Reti Laszlo, Berenyi Bianca, Kozma Karoly; Hungary 2018, 83 min.

The original Hungarian title of Laszlo Csuja’s debut drama is symbolic: Viragvölgy is the last stop on a children’s railway that runs through Buda Heights and the woods near Budapest.

BLOSSOM VALLEY’s impressive cast of non-professionals, Laszlo Reti (a former Special Olympics skating champion) and Bianka Berenyi) performer and lead singer of Cannibal EU are largely the reason why this eerie, melancholic and angst-ridden road fairytale won the Grand Jury Price of the ‘East – West Section” of this year’s Karlovy Vary Film Festival.

Just for the hell of it, feisty Bianka (Bianka Berényi) has decided to kidnap a baby but she soon meets young Laci (László Réti), who provides a calming influence despite having been declared mentally unfit to make his own decisions. The couple and their new baby settle into a family unit of sorts and – after stealing a caravan – the police are soon in hot pursuit of the trio.

Bianca is a borderline sociopath who loves nothing more than attention and mischief. Like Laci, she has issues with regressive development, but unlike him – naïve and wanting to please – she has a certain malice, which is hidden behind a childlike demeanour. Her attention span is limited, she must be entertained and worshiped permanently. Contrary to her ex-boyfriends, who see her at a nuisance, Laci adores her non-stop, accepting most of her changing moods.

Mentored by Enyedi Ildico (On Body and Soul, last year’s Berlinale winner), Csuja, very much like Enyedi, goes all out to achieve a frightening atmosphere managing the film’s tonal shifts with surprising dexterity and adding a punk rock twist to the mix. The baby – played by two sets of twins, one actually named Laura – is in constant danger, but the ‘parents’ are too focused on themselves, even though there are some moments of closeness and intimacy. The impulsive Bianca and the love smitten Laci are always a step away from disaster.

Gergely Vass’s images are full of saturated colours, the scenes in the countryside are full of magic and the car journey’s a nightmare, but there are moments of grim social realism too. All said and done though, this zany drama belongs to the leading actors. MT

GRAND JURY PRIZE WINNER | EAST OF WEST | KARLOVY VARY FILM FESTIVAL 2018

I Do Not Care if We Go Down in History as Barbarians (2018)*** Winner | Karlovy Vary 2018

Writer/Dir: Radu Jude | Cast: Ioanna Iacob, Alex Bogdan, Alexandru Dabija, Lon Razia| Drama | Romania | 140′

After his contemplative paean to Romania’s lost Jews (Dead Nation), and Berlinale winner Aferim!, a drama exploring life in 19th century Jewish settlements, Radu Jude is back with another playfully bolshy and bruising indictment of ethnic cleansing, this time concerning the events leading up to the Holocaust.

Romania was as a Nazi ally – along with several other European countries – and it’s a subject that is close to his heart, and one that has divided his homeland. The film’s title refers to the words spoken by the Council of Ministers in the Summer of 1941 that announced another episode of genocide, this time on the Eastern Front. History always repeats itself and Radu Jude choses to depict this tragic era with a dark and spiky farcical doc-drama that recreates the tragic events on the Eastern Front preceding the Holocaust 

Set in contemporary Romania this experimental film within a film takes the form of a theatre production incorporating archive footage, lengthy critical diatribes Godard style, all driven forward by the feisty character of Mariana Marin (Ioana Iacob in her debut). This is a comprehensive and ambitious piece of meta-filmmaking but its sprawling verbosity and indulgent running time makes it sometimes heavy going.  

We first meet Mariana in the grounds of Bucharest’s National Military Museum as she is preparing to stage her outdoor theatrical extravaganza based on the tragic events of Autumn1941 when Romanian troops joined Nazi forces to wipe out some 30,000 Jews in the Ukrainian city of Odessa. The military dictator Ion Antonescu had sanctioned the routing before going over to the German side in 1944. In the event roughly 400,000 Jews, Roma gypsies and other ethnic minorities were massacred. 

As in many other European countries, antisemitism is still rife even today and this sentiment is echoed during Mariana’s rehearsals when some of the non-professional extras voice their concerns about acting alongside Roma gypsies and even challenge her version of events as proceedings almost turn into a bun fight. Meanwhile, Mariana’s complex love life with her married airline pilot Stefan (Serban Pavlu) is threatening to cause 

Also taking part in the production is Romanian theatre veteran Alexandru Dabija (Afterim!) who plays Movie and tries throughout to pacify the public by appealing to Mariana to adopt a less controversial take on the Odessa massacre, namely one that doesn’t offend Romania’s wartime heroes. Sparks fly as the two engage in a dialogue that pays homage to Hannah Arendt, Elie Wiesel, Steven Spielberg,  Leni Riefenstahl et al in lively scenes captured by handheld cameras accompanied by an ambient score. Not an easy film to engage with but a worthwhile effort to bring these controversial events to the public domain. However, with its 140 minute running time this is a docudrama that may prove commercially unviable for most arthouse cinemas and will likely find its viewers on home entertainment front MT

CRYSTAL GLOBE | EAST OF THE WEST | KARLOVY VARY INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL | 2018

The Guilty (2018) Karlovy Vary Film Festival 2018 ***

Dir: Gustav Moller | Doc | Danish | 85′

If you enjoyed Locke (2013) then The Guilty will come as a disappointment. Running along similar lines as Steven Knight’s gripping ‘phone-call drama, this rather bland affair from Danish director Gustav Muller focuses entirely on a uniformed official speaking into a headset in an emergency call center, The Guilty  intrigues but never quite hits the high notes of the Tom Hardy dominated thriller – not least because Olivia Colman and Ruth Wilson added that extra ‘je ne sais quoi’ to the proceedings.

In his feature debut, filmmaker Moller gives us a tense time, but 85 minutes is too long to be looking at a little known actor wearing a blue shirt, as we drift off into a reverie about what to have for dinner after the film. There will no doubt be some viewers who will find this a winner, namely the Ecumenical Jury at Baltic Debuts Film Festival (2018) who awarded it their prize. But with an English-language script and a more starry performance (Tom Hardy?) this could well be terrific.

The narrative revolves round a demoted former officer Asger Holm (a decent Jakob Cedergren) who has the task of answering distress calls, the first is from a man claiming he’s been mugged by a woman in his car. As the camera slides back to reveals Holm’s monitor, and location is the red light district, this is somewhat of a non- starter. Then comes a stressed out woman’s voice (Jessica Dinnage, who we never see) speaking from inside a car, claiming she’s been abducted and forced to leave her children at home. All this is reflected through Holm’s facial expressions viewed intensively through Jasper Spanning’s intimate camera shots, with the sound effects of cries and traffic noises in the background. Lighting is sombre and almost sinister, as he sits in the semi-darkness giving a slight Noirish feel to the piece. Emil Nygaard Albertsen’s script is tightly packed, although the ultimate reveal doesn’t quite have the dramatic heft we’re hoping for. Clearly Holm is looking to redeem himself and make up for his past misdemeanours, and this extra dimension adds grist to the mill in firing up his desire to save the woman’s life. MT

KARLOVY VARY FILM FESTIVAL 2018

Dream Away (2018) *** Karlovy Vary Film Festival 2018

Dir.: Marouan Omara, Johanna Domke | Documentary | Germany/Egypt 2018  | 86 min.

Egyptian filmmaker Marouan Omara and Johanna Domke a visual artist from Germany create a near-absurdist portrait of Sun Rise, a deserted luxury hotel in Sharm El-Sheik in southern Egypt. The whole place is geared-up for Western tourists – but there are hardly any there nowadays, and the staff are left wondering about the future: will their pay-cuts end in redundancy? How can they reconcile their traditional upbringing with the western lifestyle forced upon them in their own homeland. The Arab Sprig and the confusion of the post revolutionary era has robbed the entire place of its livelihood, where once it offered warm seas, fabulous coral gardens as one of the best places for Winter sunshine and diving. And nobody is a winner now.

Horreya Hassan is a member of the housekeeping team, a euphemist title for a cleaner. She is looked down upon by members of the entertainment/animation team such as Shaima Reda (“To share a room with a member of Housekeeping, outraging”). Horreya is finally accepted by the women from Animation, who dance in front of a empty space where the audience used to be. Horreya tries to make up for her lowly status by reading self-help books which tell her “How to connect the mind gaps”. Meanwhile, D J Taki (Khaled Ahmend) has to support an ill mother, and has a foreign girl friend, although in the old days he used to see things from his parents’ point of view. Now, a female member of the animation team is divorced and enjoys running around in bunny costume at night in the eerie desert. Driver Hossam (Abo Salama) is married to a much older but very wealthy woman who has bought him an expensive Dodge. He defends himself with his friends: “It’s okay to marry an older woman, really”. Masseur Alaa (Abo El Kassem), dreams about foreign women wanting a “private massage”. But when he talks one of his friends into giving up a staff room, we watch him treating a mannequin, whose arm comes lose during the process.  All fear they’ll be sacked eventually, but at the same time know “that staying here you will get stuck”.

DoP Jacob Beurle evocative images create a atmospheric  sense of place, particularly in the desert scenes, which have a strong other-wordly character. A more structured approach  make have worked better; but then, life in the void somehow invites the fluent and elliptical style of the filmmakers. Dream Away is a melancholic portrait of a young generation left to fight for a new identity: trying hard to copy the Western heroes of all the films they watch, they are still stuck in a country which is on the brink of a return to traditional authoritarianism.AS

SCREENING DURING KARLOVY VARY INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL 2018

The Swing (2018) | Karlovy Vary Film Festival 2018

Dir: Cyril Aris | Doc | 74′

The business of dying is never going to be fun. But with the lightest of touch and always with humour the director films his parents’ final months in a documentary that will resonate with anyone familiar with the issues.

Viviane and Antoine have lived together for 65 years, and while Vivi still has her strength, he is largely bedridden with poor hearing and heart problems. At least they have the dignity and comfort of being cared for in their spacious apartment thanks to the services of a cheerful ‘Bonne’.

It soon emerges that the apple of Antoine’s eye – their adored daughter Marie-Therese – has died suddenly, and the family make the decision not to tell Antoine for fear of weakening him further. He is man of great serenity and religious faith, certainly the most positive of the two who tells his wife of his love for her everyday day – often signing the words in Italian. One can only imagine the final knockings of life as we wait quietly for matters to take their course – and, especially in the case of a couple – wondering who will go first. Vivienne suffers her daughter’s death in silence, but often dissolving into tears. Not only because Marie-Therese had promised her mother that they would sit together on their favourite swing, come Summer, but also because she cannot share her loss with her husband, who comes across as one of the most romantic and docile old people ever. Gracious, uplifting and deeply sensitive, Aris should be applauded for this light-hearted and lyrical love letter to the memory of his parents. MT

DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION | KARLOVY VARY FILM FESTIVAL 2018

Diamonds of the Night | Demanti Noci (1964) | Karlovy Vary Film Festival 2018

Dir.: Jan Nemec; Cast: Ladislav Jansky, Antonin Kumbera, Ilse Bischofova; Czechoslovakia 1964, 63 min. 

This debut feature of director/co-writer Jan Nemec (1936-2016) is based on a short story by Arnost Lustig, to whom Nemec also turned for his graduation film at the famous FAMU filmschool in Prague. Shot in black-and-white with a mostly handheld camera by DoP Laroslav Kucera (Death of a Fly), Diamonds is one of the first examples of Czech feature films heralding the ‘New Wave’, which would be snuffed out by the Soviet invasion of 1968.

Set in 1944, two Jewish teenagers (Jansky/Kumbera) escape from a train destined to deliver them to Dachau KZ, and into the wooded hills. They are soon chased by a group of ‘Volkssturm’ or elderly soldiers (a bit like our own Home Guard) who had been called up for service by the desperate German Fascists. The boys’ flight is shown in parallel montages with their rather mundane past and fractured memories, not always in chronicle order, which not only adds heart-pumping suspense but also considerable poignance, as we feel for the boys in the plight. When they encounter a farmer’s wife, Jansky contemplates killing or seducing her in a dream sequence. But instead he steals a loaf of bread, and they make off again. Finally, the boys are rounded up by the cackling Germans, and are about to be shot, but not before the old gaffers enjoy their ‘hunting’ feast. Nemec ends the feature on a very ambiguous note: with the boys being spared their fate, or as walking away as ghosts.

Nemec got into trouble with the Stalinist censors because of his use of surreal Bunüel-like sequences, with  ants eating up everything around them. The director was accused of ‘Formalism’ by the authorities. His next feature, A Report on the Party and their Guests (1966), was seen as an affront to the ruling Party, and would have got him into more trouble, had The Prague Spring not intervened.

Oratio for Prague(1968) was Nemec’s answer to the invasion, and he was unable to direct any more films before he was exiled in 1974. He tried to establish himself in the USA and France, among other countries, but not as a filmmaker, he became a pioneer of video films. After 1989, he got back to his homeland and directed Code Name Ruby (1997), which won the Golden Leopard in Locarno. Later in life, whilst still working, he was critical of the current president Milos Zeman, whose anti-liberal laws Nemec opposed, sending his medals, received from President Havel, to Zeman –  completing the sad story of a truly liberal filmmaker, caught up in different form of authoritarian regimes. AS

CZECH CLASSICS | KARLOVY VARY FILM FESTIVAL 2018 | 29 JUNE – 7 JULY 2018

  

 

 

 

 

53 Wars (2018) Karlovy Vary International Film Festival 2018 ****

Dir: Ewa Bukowska | Drama | Poland | 79′

Ewa Bukowska’s stunning feature debut is a visceral impressionist portrait of anxiety, longing and psychotic meltdown seen through the eyes of a woman whose husband is a war correspondent in Chechnya. Based on a best selling book by Grazyna Jagielska, Bukowska builds up a collage of snatched memories, archive footage, thoughts and scenes from the couple’s life together and apart to palpably convey how it really feels to yearn passionately and to fear desperately for a loved one until it hurts, quite literally.

Anchored by a quivering, neurotic tour de force by Magdalena Poplawska (she also appears in this year’s festival’s Panic Attack) this tightly scripted and searingly affective psychological thriller mesmerises during its compact running time. Bukowska makes use an evocative score of romantic tunes, requiems, electronic buzzings and moments of deafening silence as she deftly manages the subtle tonal shifts between the heart-pounding good times when the couple are united, during love-making and with their little son, and those of sheer, dry-mouthed palpitating terror when Anka imagines Witek (Michal Zurawski) dead or on a gurney in some foreign hospital.

Eventually dark dread and purple passion meld into one chasm of terror as Anka downloads her angst-ridden neurosis to everyone in her sphere  – summed up in an extraordinary scene where her head-splitting palpitations are chanelled into a builder’s jammering drill in the street outside. She begs him to stop – but the angst is inside her own head. Later she threatens an innocent woman passer-by in a hijab to ‘stay away from her husband”. Stylishly captured in intimate close-up and on the widescreen by DoP Tomasz Naumiuk this is an inventive and unique way to show how anxiety can eventually take over and become completely destructive. Clearly fear eats the soul. MT

KARLOVY VARY FILM FESTIVAL 2018 | 29 JUNE – 7 JULY 2018 | EAST OF THE WEST

Bridges of Time | Laika Tilti (2018) **** | Karlovy Vary 2018

Dirs: Kristīne Briede and Audrius Stonys | Doc | 90′

This meditative essay from Latvian writer Kristine Bride and Lithuanian director Audrius Stonys captures the essence of the Baltic New Wave through a series of velvet vignettes and short films from the lesser-known filmmakers of the 1960s. Taking each director in turn, this doc compendium shows how – in contrast to the French, English and Italian pioneers of stark social realism and cinéma vérité – these cinematic auteurs were developing a more sensory, romantic and often whimsical approach even though their stylistically diverse work was still primarily concerned with stories of everyday life: raising children, studying nature and providing food for their families and local communities.

Book-ended with a deeply affecting and poetic portrait of childbirth, we experience Baltic bird life and animal welfare, school children reciting their own poetry, folklore in Estonia, bringing home the catch of Baltic herring in Latvia, a Lithuanian marriage ceremony and even a visit to Israel. What makes this so enjoyable is its overwhelmingly tender and often amusing approach to life. Absolutely enchanting and expertly crafted. MT

DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION | KARLOVY VARY FILM FESTIVAL 2018 

Suleiman Mountain (2017) | East of West Grand Prix | Karlovy Vary Film Festival 2018

Dir; Elizaveta Stishova | Cast: Daniel Daiybekov, Turgunai Erkinbekova, Perizat Ermanbaeva | Drama | Kyrgyzstan | 101′

Enlivened by offbeat humour and vibrant widescreen images reflecting the rugged beauty of this wild Central Asian nation, SULEIMAN MOUNTAIN is the first feature from Russian filmmaker Elizaveta Stishova. Largely funded by European finance this appealing arthouse drama explores an unconventional journey of discovery – both literal and metaphorical – for its passionate central characters: a woman, her long-lost son and husband and his other younger wife. In a drama fraught with tense uncertainty and often brutal rituals involving folklore and shamanism – a scene involving an unconscious woman is particularly alarming – Kyrgyzstan emerges as a region caught between the modern world and one of ancient traditions where women – predictably – get a rough deal as they compete vehemently for the attention of self-seeking macho men, in the hope that somehow, by smothering them with love and attention, they can make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. Sadly, twas ever thus.

Kazakhstani actor Asset Imangaliev plays the maverick male at the centre of the story, who cleverly plays his two wives off against one another. Karabas is an opportunistic adventurer who cons his way through life veering from violent outbursts to twinkling smiles as he tries to charm the pants off everyone he meets. Recently reunited with the couple’s thoughtfully endearing son Uluk, his older wife is a healing soul, desperately trying to hold the family together, while her coltish younger rival is also pregnant with Karabas’ child.

Kyrgyzstan initially feels exotic and remote, but the touching human story at its core is as familiar and everlasting as the hills. Stishova has certainly made a watchable and lively debut. MT

EAST OF THE WEST 2018 | KARLOVY VARY FILM FESTIVAL 2018

 

Reflections in the Dust (2018) ***

Dir.: Luke Sullivan; Cast: Sarah Houbolt, Robin Royce Queere, Aldo Fedalo, Ali Aitken; Australia 2018, 75 min.

Young Australian director/writer Luke Sullivan (You’re Not Thinking Straight) really pushes the boundaries out in this ominous post-aplocalyptic tale that combines elements of documentary and fiction by doing away with a conventional narrative, and casting a severely sight-impaired actress Sarah Houbolt, who is suffering from Hallermann/Steiff syndrome, in the lead role. And he succeeds. REFLECTIONS IN THE DUST breathes through claustrophobic, vivid imagery accompanied by an unsettling soundtrack.

In this tragic portrait of loneliness, we first meet Freckles (Houbolt) muttering ‘I don’t believe in love because I’ve never seen it’ to a faceless interviewer in the opening moments of the film. She ekes out an existence with her father who is an ageing paranoid schizophrenic clown (Queere) near a lakeside swamp, where the  act out a father daughter relationship, scavenging for food from washed up detritus. The clown oscillates between tenderness and aggression towards Freckles, who often blackens her face with shoe polish, and plays with an action man toy who she talks to like a child. One day she meets a moustachioed stranger in a beret, who reveals that her ‘Mom’ died in a circus accident, but the clown becomes aggressive towards the man and tells him to: “Go back! You are mad”. And later when a gypsy woman (Aitken) brushes Freckles’ hair lovingly, the clown sinks into a catatonic stupor, as he loses his adopted identity, acting out in bizarre ways: swinging a hammer, biting a tree and licking its bark. As fear, paranoia and anger consume these lost souls, the film sporadically switches between this fictional world and increasingly traumatic real-life interviews, until it reaches a shocking conclusion.

 It would be too easy to compare Reflections to a Beckett play or a drama by Tarkovsky, but Sullivan’s docu-drama is unique. This is total dystopia where everything is reduced to its lowest common denominator. The central characters play out base identities in re-enacting family life – symbolically, the few pieces of simple furniture slowly sink into the swamp.

DoP Ryan Barry-Cotter uses very little light for his grainy black-and-white images, and it comes as a shock when garish colour images occasionally flood the screen for a few seconds. But what really stands out is Houbolt’s tour de force that conveys the anguish of person lost in a world of voices and vague images. The ex-paralympian swimmer is simply stunning in her expressionist angst, in a performance that will resonate for a for a very long time.

Director Luke Sullivan is at the forefront of the next generation of Australian filmmakers. At a remarkably young age, he is now in the company of renowned Australian directors including Phillip Noyce (Rabbit-Proof Fence), Warwick Thornton (Samson and Delilah) and David Michôd (The Rover) who have previously screened at Karlovy Vary. MT

World premiere at Karlovy Vary International Film Festival 2018 | IMAGINA 

History of Love (2018) *** | Special Mention | Karlovy Vary Film Festival 2018

Writer/Dir: Sonja Prosenc | Cast: Dorothea Nadah, Kristoffer Jonah, Zita Fusco, Matja Vasti | Drama l Slovenia Norway | 106’

History of Love is a visually alluring mood peace with an enigmatic storyline that intrigues but never gets under the skin of its central character, despite a committed performance from Dorothea Nadah.

While exploring the various stages of family bereavement, an underlying enigmatic cat and mouse game plays out between the central character Iva and her mother’s ‘lover’ which ultimately fails to convince but provides food for thought in her denial phase when she is seeking someone to blame for the traumatic loss.
Seventeen-year-old Iva (an impressive Dorothea Nadrah) is in the process of coming to terms with the death of her mother. Influenced by this deep personal sadness and by the discovery that she didn’t know everything about her parent, she slowly immerses herself into a strange, almost dreamlike world where water is a recurring motif symbolising the ebb and flow or emotions.
Sonja Prosenc’s second feature is dominated by a sombre and reflective tone and a distinctive poetic style that uses visual impressionism to tell its loose-limbed, structureless story. She also makes good use of sound with an occasional elegiac classical score and soft ambient sounds conveying the shock, grief, denial and finally anger of post bereavement trauma.
The film captures the bosky riverside surrounds of its lush Slovenian locations creating a great sense of rus in urbis as Iva wanders around trying to come to terms with her grief. Discovering her mother’s things: a favourite scarf or a letter, delayed in the post, sends her spiralling into unspoken melancholy but the film is light on dialogue and never resorts to open displays of sadness or histrionics preferring to emote through Mitja Licen’s stunning visuals, a strong score and deftly managed tonal subtleties. MT
 
SPECIAL MENTION | KARLOVY VARY FILM FESTIVAL 2018
https://youtu.be/kjcg-6rSip4
 
 

Loves of a Blonde (1965) | Lasky Jedne Plavovlasky | Karlovy Vary Film Festival 2018 |

Dir.: Milos Forman; Cast: Hana Brejchova, Vladimir Pucholt, Vladimir Mensik, Milada Jezkova, Josef Sebanek; Czechoslovakia 1965, 90 min.

Loves of a Blonde, the second feature film by director/co-writer Milos Forman, who died this April age 86, is a bleak comedy about sex – but mostly about the absence of it. But couched in this seemingly innocuous little gem is a subtle and subversive critique of Stalinism that kept Eastern Europe under the cosh – politically and socially – during the grim 1960s, before the Prague Spring – for a while – put an end to it all.

In a small Czechoslovakian town, dominated by a shoe factory, the Forman attempts to inject a little fun  by inviting some soldiers to a ball, dominated by women who outnumbered the male of the sex by a staggering 16:1 ratio. But instead of hunky young men, pot-bellied reservists came to town, and gave those women no satisfaction at all. But there is one exception in the shape of Andula (Brejchova), who falls for Milda (Pucholt) the band’s pianist of the band, who comes from Prague. During their ‘accidental’ encounter Milda almost injures himself, trying to shut the blind and after the tender one-night stand, the musician goes back to Prague, and back to his parents. But that’s not the end of it, when Andula turns up with her suitcase to py him a visit, the whole debacle turns into the most hilarious ménage-à-trois in film history.

Almost three generations of viewers have been cheered as well as moved by this amusing tale which bears all the attributes of modern storytelling – a plot without classical dramatisation, an open ending, and straightforward characterisation. Even very early on in his career, Miloš Forman had already proved he was capable of creating an impression of sheer authenticity.

Visually Blonde is un-remarkable, shot in creamy, grainless, black and white by DoP Miroslav Ondricek who accentuates the shadows and the claustrophobic interiors of this rather touching scenario, where the working class are seen as an amorphous mass, struggling to gain individuality in a system where instead of collective joy, grey misery dominates but with a solidarity that is strangely comforting despite its hopelessness. Forman would repeat his melancholy chronicle of stunning mediocrity in his next feature The Fireman’s Ball. AS

LOVES OF A BLOND | KVIFF OPENING FILM IN TRIBUTE TO MILOS FORMAN | 29 JUNE 2018 | FIREWORK DISPLAY 

  

 

Tim Robbins | Honoured at Karlovy Vary Film Festival 2018

Oscar-winning Tim Robbins will be celebrated at this year’s Karlovy Vary Film Festival with a Crystal Globe for his Outstanding Contribution to World Cinema as an actor, director, screenwriter, producer and musician. Robbins won his Academy Award for his performance as Best Supporting in Mystic River (2003) and was later nominated for a best director Oscar for Dead Man Walking (1995). 

Tim Robbins grew up surrounded by artists from an early age and began his acting career on the New York stage with the experimental theatre ensemble The Actor’s Gang, which under his guidance earned widespread audience acclaim and more than a hundred critics’ awards. 

This early success led to various roles in TV and a film career that flourished with his performance in Ron Shelton’s popular sports film Bull Durham (1988). Proof of his undeniable talent followed with his role in the drama Jacob ’s Ladder (1990), and Robbins went on to work with legendary indie director Robert Altman – taking the sardonic lead role in Altman’s The Player (1992) which won him a Golden Globe and the Best Actor at the Cannes Film Festival. 

Honing his skills behind the camera, Robbins’ directorial debut was the impressive drama Bob Roberts (1992 left) which he scripted, co-scored (with his brother David), and also appeared in the title role, singing many of the songs himself.  And the following year he was back with Robert Altman to film Short Cuts (1993). The ensemble cast won a Special Golden Globe and also took home the Volpi Cup from the Venice Film Festival. 

There followed appearances in the Coen brothers’ The Hudsucker Proxy (1994), another outing with Robert Altman (the comedy from the world of fashion Prêt-à-Porter, 1994), and his work with Frank Darabont on The Shawshank Redemption (1994), which was nominated for seven Oscars. In 1996 Dead Man Walking earned him an Oscar nomination for best director, while his partner Susan Sarandon won an Oscar for best actress. His next auteur outing, Cradle Will Rock (1999) above, which premiered at Cannes, explored the relationship between the individual artist and society during a tumultuous time in the U.S. though this time in another era. As with Dead Man Walking, Robbins produced, and the music was written by his brother David. 

After Stephen Frears’s romantic comedy High Fidelity (2000) and Michel Gondry’s bizarre Human Nature (2001) – based on a script by Charlie Kaufman – Robbins appeared in one of his most successful roles – in Clint Eastwood’s crime drama Mystic River (2004), for which both Robbins and lead actor Sean Penn won an Oscar and a Golden Globe. Recently Robbins has appeared in Marjorie Prime (2017) and HBOs The Brink (2016) and Here And Now (2018). 

KARLOVY VARY FILM FESTIVAL | 29 JUNE – 7 JULY 2018 | TIM ROBBINS WILL PRESENT BOB ROBERTS and CRADLE WILL ROCK and perform with his ensemble The Rogues Gallery Band. 

Karlovy Vary Film Festival 2018 | Preview

New films from RADU JUDE, ANA KATZ and SÉBASTIEN PILOTE headline the main competition at the 53rd edition of the Czech Republic’s premier festival that unspools in the spa town of Karlovy Vary from 29 June until 7 July 2018.

The ten world and two international premieres in this year’s official competition include Jude’s follow-up to his sombre genocide documentary Dead Nation (2107). I Do Not Care If We Go Down In History As Barbarians is another exploration of the timely topic of national identity and culture. Argentinian filmmaker Ana Katz’s will present her bittersweet family drama  Sueño Florianópolis. The Fireflies Are Gone, is the story of a rebellious yet charismatic teenager, directed by Canadian filmmaker Sébastien Pilote. The line-up also features Russian filmmaker Ivan Tverdovsky’s poetic new film Jumpman and Peter Brunner’s dark Austrian-American drama To the Night, starring Caleb Landry Jones, while Israeli director Joseph Madmony will be at KVIFF with a subtly moving drama Redemption, that explores a fathers fight to save his daughter and his own musical dream. co-directed by cinematographer Boaz Y. Yako

Other titles competing for the festival’s Crystal Globe include: Miriam Lies (Natlia Cabral, Oriol Estrada, Dominican Republic/Spain); Brothers (Omur Atay, Turkey); and History of Love (Sonja Prosenc, Slovenia.)

The  East of the West competition strand  features the latest from Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Central Asia — and opens with Crystal Swan, a debut from Belarusian filmmaker Darya Zhuk in a selection from 12 female directors, including Iranian director Nima Eghlima’s social drama Amir and Elizaveta Stishova’s touching family drama Suleiman Mountain, that debuted at last year’s PYIFF.

In the Documentary strand, there is Putin’s Witness an exciting look behind the Kremlin’s Iron Curtain exposing new archive footage, from exiled Russian director Vitaly Mansky, Bridges of Time, a poetic essay from Lithuanian directors Kristine Briede and Audrius Stonys and filmmaker Marouan Omara explores the abandoned luxury Egyptian resort Sharm El Sheikh: Dream Away. Meanwhile, Andrew Bujalski’s Support the Girls,  looks at the  American middle class during a day in a traditional U.S. sports bar and plays out of competition.

OFFICIAL SELECTION – COMPETITION

I Do Not Care If We Go Down In History As Barbarians | Radu Jude | WP | 140′

Radu Jude’s follow up to his sombre study of wartime genocide (Dead Nation) is a more upbeat but potent feature that follows a young Romanian artist’s meticulous plans to reconstruct an historical event from 1941, when the Romanian Army carried out ethnic cleansing on the Eastern Front.

Panic Attack |Paweł Maślona | Poland | IP | 100′ 

Paweł Maślona’s debut is a dark comedy that looks at the cinematic potential of the emotional phenomenon known as the ‘panic attack’ seen through the experiences of a group of Poles in contemporary Warsaw.

The Fireflies are Gone | Sébastien Pilote | Canada | 96′ | WP

The sleepy town where Léo lives is a dead end, as far as her hopes and dreams are concerned. but happiness and self realisation beckons once she escapes her mother’s influence in this stylistically precise, pop-impressionistic film about a girl’s quest to find out who she really is. Featuring the captivating performance by Karelle Tremblay.

Domestique/ Director: Adam Sedlák | Czech Rep, Slovak Rep | 116′ WP

Adam Sedlák’s claustrophobic black and white drama explores our desire to succeed both professionally and personally in this grim domestic portrait of a top national cyclist and obsessional bicycle racer.

 

Geula/Redemption | Joseph Madmony\Boaz Yehonatan Yaakov Israel, 2018, 100′, WP

A deeply religious Jewish widower combines his love of music with his desperate bid to save his daughter in this gently moving drama from Israeli duo, Madmony and Yaakov.

 

Brothers /Kardeşler |  Ömür Atay | Turkey, Germany, Bulgaria, 2017, 103′  | WP

Directed with an assured hand, this intimate debut explores guilt and punishment in a close family set-up, showing how difficult it is to choose between moral rectitude, family, and tradition.

Miriam Lies\ Miriam miente| Oriol Estrada, Natalia Cabral |  90′ | WP

Shy girl Miriam is excited about her 15th birthday and wants to invite her online boyfriend to the celebrations, but the anticipated blind date only complicates things in this delicately drawn teenage portrait of growing up, competitiveness, and confusion.

Podbrosy / Jumpman / Skokan
Director: Ivan I. Tverdovskiy
Russia, 2018, 86 min, International premiere

Young Oksana put Denis in an orphanage, unable to cope with a new baby, but sixteen years later she wants to make amends for her neglect in Ivan Tverdovskiy’s follow-up to his stunning drama Zoology.

Sueño Florianópolis | Ana Katz | Argentina, Brazil, France, 2018, 103\, WP

Lucrecia, Pedro, and their teenage kids Julian and Florencia set out from Buenos Aires one sweltering day to the Brazilian summer resort of Florianópolis. Renowned Argentinian director Ana Katz draws upon gentle humor and light melancholy to relate a tale of first love, past lovers, fateful encounters, and fleeting joys.

To the Night | Peter Brunner | Austria, USA, 2018, 102 min, WP

As a child Norman survived a fire that killed the rest of his family. Married with a child, he is still struggling with the resulting trauma, in this atmospheric and visually spectacular study of troubled adulthood, portrayed impressively by Caleb Landry Jones.

 

Winter Flies | Všechno bude | Olmo Omerzu | 85′, World premiere

Capturing the mischievous essence of boyhood, this Slovenian bromance sees two eccentric souls Mára and Heduš set out into the frozen wastes in search of adventure.

 

History of Love | Sonja Prosenc | Slovenia, Italy, Norway, 2018, 105′ |  WP

In her freewheeling and gently poetic third feature, Sonja Prosenc explores family ties and bereavement through the story of  seventeen-year-old Ivan.

 

DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION

The Best Thing You Can Do with Your Life |  Zita Erffa | Ger/mex 93′

Erffa examines why her brother entered a conservative Roman Catholic order, severing all ties with the outside world in this fresh, inquiring documentary that works both as a self-healing document and a study of family estrangement.

Cielo | Alison McAlpine | Canada, Chile, 2017, 78′

After every scorching day in the Chilean Atacama desert of Atacama the night sky reveals an enigmatic gateway to the universe in this powerful cinematic experience brought to us by Canadian director Alison McAlpine (Second Sight).

Dream Away | Marouan Omara, Johanna Domke Germany, Egypt, | 86 min, WP

Sharm El Sheikh offered a paradise of golden beaches and coral gardens. But the Arab Spring and the confusion of the post revolutionary period robbed both the local workers and holiday makers of this exotic playground in the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula. The film offers a melancholy portrait of the resort’s dwindling employees who feverishly dream among the abandoned hotel suites.

In the Stillness of Sounds | Stéphane Manchematin, Serge Steyer | France | 90′

Marc Namblard, looks at the sedative effects of sound in this observational discourse on the tranquillity of the forest that permeates the very heart of man.

Bridges of Time / Mosty času | Director: Audrius Stonys, Kristīne Briede | Lith/Latvia/Est | 80′

Kristīne Briede and Audrius Stonys’s meditative documentary essay portrays the less- remembered generation of cinema poets of the Baltic New Wave. With finesse, they push beyond the barriers of the common historiographic investigation to offer a consummate poetic treatment of the ontology of documentary creation.

A Little Wisdom / Malá moudrostDYuqi Kang
Canada, Nepal, China, 2017, 92 min, European premiere

An isolated Buddhist monastery in southern Nepal not only provides refuge for monks, but also for orphans up to the age of sixteen. Far removed from civilisation, the boys learn about strict discipline and order yet, like all children, they hanker after adventure. An observational documentary which captures both the routine of the passing days and the vagaries of boyhood.

Breaking News / Mimořádná zpráva: Tomáš Bojar | Czech Republic | 75′, World premiere

A carefully composed observation of two newsrooms which, in March 2017, tried to cover the Czech president’s decision whether or not to run for re-election. Two teams of reporters, one extraordinary event, and two takes on one“objective” piece of news.

Putin’s Witnesses / Vitaly Mansky | Latvia, Switzerland, Czech Republic, 2018, 102 min, World premiere

On December 31, 1999 Vladimir Putin became president of Russia and renowned documentarist Vitaly Mansky draws on witness accounts of the aftermath. He then rounds it off with his own fascinating perspective and longtime experience of a man only separated by a movie camera from the frontline of Russian politics.

The Swing / Cyril Aris | Lebanon, 2018, 74 min, World premiere

Viviane and Antoine have lived together for 65 years, and while she still has her strength, he has long been bedridden. And so no one is able or has any desire to tell the weakened old man the distressing news that his beloved daughter has suddenly died. Indeed, the grief might cause his own death… A heavy, lyrical portrait tempered by familial love.

Inside Mosul / V Mosulu | Jana Andert | Czech Republic | 70 min, World premiere

A shock therapy of news coverage from the front line. Documentarist Jana Andert spent eight months with an elite Iraqi Army unit in the battle for Mosul, occupied by Islamic State fighters from 2014 to June 2017. An unflinching report from a city in ruins, robbed of its soul by one of the worst catastrophes of modern times.

Walden | Daniel Zimmermann | Switzerland, Austria, 2018, 100 min, World premiere

Gentle birdsong filters through dense forest vegetation only to be drowned out by the sudden roar of chainsaws. Thus begins a documentary comprising a mere thirteen 360° panning shots, whose uncompromising formal concept is not an easy watch. But as soon as we align our breathing with the slow rhythm of the shots, we can witness the paradoxical migration of wood from Austrian forests to a secret, far-off destination.

L’Île au trésor / Treasure Island | Guillaume Brac | France, 2018, 97 min, World premiere

The summer season at a recreation centre near Paris is in full swing, so there is no shortage of amusing interludes at the crowded swimming pool. A glimpse into the mindset of the visitors and employees of the extensive park – original French natives and immigrants who come here to relax, for want of a  more exotic holiday destination.

EAST OF THE WEST – COMPETITION

Crystal Swan / Crystal Swan  | Dir: Darya Zhuk | Bel,Germ, US, Russ, 2017, 95 min, WP

This year’s East of the West competition opens with Darya Zhuk’s spirited debut drama set in post Soviet Minsk where a young woman with a law degree dreams of going to the USA to work as a DJ.

53 Wars /53 wojny | Dir: Ewa Bukowska | Pol 2018, 79′ 

Anka is becoming extremely anxious about her war correspondent husband Witek, but where do you draw the line between reality and vivid imagination? An evocative psychological drama adapted from the autobiographical novel by Grażyna Jagielska about experiencing war second-hand: we don’t have to be there for it to have a destructive influence on our lives.

Amir | Dir: Nima Eghlima | Iran, 2018, 106′ | WP

Now in his thirties, Amir is beleaguered by other peoples’ problems, while he tries to keep his own family together. Amir is a timely film about contemporary Iran, about a generation whose private lives are determined more by the rules of society than by their own will.

Bear with Us/Chata na prodej | Dir: Tomáš Pavlíček | Czech Rep, 2018, 77′  WP

A family decides to sell a lovely cottage as none of them has visited it for some time, so they all decide to spend one last day there before the end. This slow-burning comedy is a riff on nostalgia with echoes of a Jaroslav Papoušek screenplay, and takes an agreeably detached view of the Czech phenomenon of weekending in the country.

Moments/Chvilky | Dir: Beata Parkanová | Czech/Slovak Reps, 2018, 95′ WP

This amusing and mature debut explores how explores how a young woman eventually takes control of her life despite her overbearing family.

Glyubokie Reki /Deep Rivers | Dir: Vladimir Bitokov | Russ, 2018, 75′

Under the watchful eye of Aleksandr Sokurov comes another searingly vivid and visually remarkable debut with profound humanistic appeal. Set in a stark landscape, the intense conflict of a family of lumberjacks comes to a head when the youngest returns to take the place of his sick father.

Breathing Into Marble | Dir: Giedrė Beinoriūtė | Lith, Latvia, Croatia, 2018, 97′ 

Lithuanian director Giedrė Beinoriūtė brings us a taut psychological drama debut adapted from the award-winning novel of the same name that sees a well-to-do family under pressure when they adopt a withdrawn little boy from the local orphanage.

Pause / Pauza | Dir: Tonia Mishiali | Greece, Cyprus, 2017, 96 min, World premiere

Elpida is trapped in a loveless marriage to a heartless, despotic man, and to make matters worse, she’s also going through the menopause. Emotional and physical changes affect her perception of reality in this formally mature, muted psychological drama that confront the issues surrounding the position of women in a patriarchal society.

Suleiman Gora / Suleiman Mountain | Director: Elizaveta Stishova
Kyrgyzstan, Russia, 2017, 101′

Drama and comedy collide in this vivid Kyrgyzstani road movie that sees a couple haunted by ghosts of the past who come back to stay, possibly for good.

Via Carpatia |Dir: Klara Kochańska, Kasper Bajon | Poland, 2018, 71 min, WP

Julia and Piotr and his mother decide on an alternative holiday| a trip across the Balkans, to a refugee camp on the Macedonian-Greek border. Student Academy Award holder Klara Kochańska makes her debut with this intimate, cinema verite road movie characterised by subtle performances.

Virágvölgy / Blossom Valley | Dir” László Csuja | Hungary, 2018, 83 min, WP

An punky, brash road movie about young lovers on the run, interwoven with poetic and realistic images. Psychotic Bianka kidnaps a child and dupes the trusting Laci into thinking that it’s his. Together they form an instant family who set off in a caravan, fleeing the law and a bunch of crooks.

Volcano / Vulkán | Dir: Roman Bondarchuk | Ukr,Ger, 2018, 106, WP

One day Lukas, employed as an interpreter for an OSCE mission, becomes lost in the middle of the steppe in southern Ukraine. His journey towards self-recognition andhappiness will be flanked by a series of strange encounters and bizarre situations…Roman Bondarchuk’s novel feature debut is a tragicomedy whose striking visuals aidhim in fleshing out the colorful world of southern Ukraine, a place which still bears unmistakable traces of the distant and not-too-distant past.

KARLOVY VARY INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL 2018 | 29 JUNE –  July 

 

Karlovy Vary Retrospective 2018 | Poetic Documentaries from the Baltic

In celebration of the 100th anniversary of the independence of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, this year’s Karlovy Vary festival has put together an extensive retrospective of poetic documentary films from the Baltic region. This collection of important works of the “Baltic New Wave” dating back to the early 1960s features the world premiere of Bridges of Time, a new documentary by renowned Lithuanian filmmaker Audrius Stonys and his Latvian colleague Kristine Briede.

The section Reflections of Time: Baltic Poetic Documentary, which will consist of six blocks of short- and medium-length films and two feature-length documentaries, represents a rare opportunity to see key works of documentary film from the Baltic countries within the context of films made in neighbouring countries. “Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia share with the former Czechoslovakia not just the year in which they declared their independence, but also an exceptionally artistic outpouring of cinematic production in the 1960s.

In the 1960s, Baltic documentary film underwent a narrative and aesthetic transformation. The works of the new generation of filmmakers contrasted with the earlier approach to documentary films, and this Renaissance in Baltic documentary film reflected worldwide changes in how documentaries were made. The newly created films were characterized by a sensitivity towards the story and the chosen subjects. They were based more on the image as such, and explored the possibilities of the wide-screen format, editing, unusual combinations of sound and image, working with time and space, and sometimes also staged re-enactments. These filmmakers were inspired by the legends of documentary film such as Dziga Vertov, but also by the latest trends of cinéma-vérité or direct cinema.

Among the documentaries in the retrospective are films by Latvian directors Ivars Kraulītis (his canonical 1961 short film White Bells), Aivars Freimanis and Herz Frank (the legendary 1978 film Ten Minutes Older, an intimate portrait of a boy watching a puppet theatre consisting of a single ten-minute shot). One of the early pioneers of the new cinematic style, Uldis Brauns, will be represented by his grand feature film 235,000,000(1967), which shows the life of people and important events in the Soviet Union.

Lithuania is represented by two award-wining documentaries by Robertas Verba, the founding father of Lithuanian poetic documentary film and the country’s most distinctive documentary filmmaker. The Old Man and the Land (1965) and The Dreams of the Centenarians (1969) both immortalize the ancient inhabitants of the Lithuanian countryside. Other Lithuanian films include Henrikas Šablevičius’s A Trip Across Misty Meadows (1973), which takes the viewer on a journey across the traditional Lithuanian landscape, and Apolinaras (1973), a film about an eccentric guardian of the law who, like Verba’s old men, is far removed from Soviet reality.

Estonia’s stylistically diverse documentary cinema, whose main focus was not only on village life, but to a large extent also on the city, is represented by films by Andres Sööt (The 511 Best Photographs of Mars, 1968, which combines real and imaginary states and experiments with a hidden camera), Ülo Tambek (Peasants, 1969, which spent 20 years locked in the vaults for its critical view of the Soviet system) and Mark Soosaar (The Woman of Kihnu, 1974, an anthropological observational documentary).

The section also presents the newest generation of filmmakers who began to work during the collapse of the Soviet Union and whose poetic style was significantly influenced by the New Wave of Baltic documentary film. Lithuanian documentarian Audrius Stonys will presents his film The Land of the Blind (1992), which earned him the European Film Academy’s Phoenix Award for Best Documentary Film, and also his later Anti-Gravitation (1995). We will also be showing renowned Latvian director Laila Pakalniņa’s trilogy The Linen, The Ferry and The Mail (1991–95), which launched her international film career (The Ferry and The Mail were screened as part of the Un Certain Regard section at the Cannes Film Festival).

The retrospective’s highlight is Bridges of Time, a remarkable metaphysical essay by renowned Lithuanian filmmaker Audrius Stonys and his Latvian colleague Kristine Briede – an untraditional look at the generation of filmmakers of the “Baltic New Wave” and a meditation on the ontology of documentary film. “Baltic poetic documentary cinema created an independent world, free from soviet ideology, lie and propaganda. It was a declaration of inner freedom. The black and white world of poetic documentary films was full of colours. Sadness was full of joy. And joy was touched by deep existential sadness. These films reminded us about the very core of cinema—to film and to enjoy the beauty of the leaves, moving in the wind.” adds Audrius Stonys. The film’s presentation at Karlovy Vary will be its world premiere.

KARLOVY VARY FILM FESTIVAL | Czech Republic | 29 JUNE – 7 JULY 2018

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