Posts Tagged ‘Karlovy Vary’

The Edge of the Blade (2023)

Dir: Vincent Perez | Cast: Vincent Perez, Doria Tillier, Damien Bonnard, Guillaume Galiléenne, Roschdy Zem | France, Historical drama 101′.

Vincent Perez has chosen a bold theme for his capable fourth feature, a historical drama set in 1887 about the honour of duelling. The Edge of the Blade is interesting more than gripping with its horseback sabre fighting, use of epees, firearms and other 19th century weapons.

Duelling was banned in France although armed duels still took place as a way of solving disputes and to preserve the honour of those seeking prompt justice in the higher echelons of society. The practise continued in France until the Second World War.

Best known for roles in Cyrano de Bergerac and Le Bossu, Perez also stars here as the agile but utterly charmless one dimensional antihero of the piece, Louis Berchere, who seems hellbent on dying in the name of honour – and to be honest perhaps that’s better than ending up in a care home. A ferocious combatant in the battle to preserve his honour we see him demanding a duel to the death in the film’s early part. 

Despite the masculine nature of the subject the Swiss actor turned director manages to weave in a timely side-plot about a real life suffragette style feminist called Marie-Rose Astie de Valsayre (Doris Tillier) whose left hook causes some serious damage not least to the honour of the solid French cast of Damien Bonnard, Guillaume Galiléenne – and Roschdy Zem, a swashbuckling instructor at a fencing school, who she later seduces although there’s no bodice-ripping to speak of here.

Perez and his co-writer (and wife) Karine Silla have certainly done their research; the rolling titles at the end of the film explain that Marie-Rose was a significant figure during the Franco-Prussian War in 1870 and is remembered for her campaign to get women the vote, and attempting to overturn legislation prohibiting women from wearing trousers.  

The men all brush up against Marie-Rose’s brazen assertiveness – it was unknown at that time for women to be other than feminine and pliant. In a surprising twist, she challenges Bonnard to a duel but he manages to delay proceedings claiming her rig-out is unsuitable, whereupon the police are seen arriving on the brow of a nearby hill.

Mostly unfolding in interior scenes there are several impressive outdoor duel sequences – one in the woods and another in an open barn in remote fields. And while there’s no real dramatic arc or complexity in the characters, Perez and his DoP Lucie Badinaud manage the fighting set pieces with verve, and the finale is spectacular both for the duellists and the horses involved. @MeredithTaylor



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



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



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


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.



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.


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.


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





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


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


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

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


Volcano (2018)

Dir: Roman Bondarchuk | Writer: Dar’ya Averchenko, Alla Tyutyunnyk | Cast: Serhiy Stepansky, Viktor Zhdanov | Comedy Drama | 106′

Roman Bondarchuk honed his craft during the Maidan uprising as co-director of the documentary Euromaidan followed by Ukrainian Sheriffs his tragicomic look at  lawless village life. His feature debut is a visually alluring, darkly sarcastic, wildly nostalgic portrait of quiet desperation set in a surreal backwater.         

In one of the most impressively-crafted opening sequences of this year, Lukas (Stepansky) an OSCE interpreter from Kiev, disembarks from a ferry in a car escorting four delegates that promptly breaks down on the road to a conference in the city of Beryslaw (Kherson). With no mobile signal, he stumbles off despondently looking for help in what seems like a forgotten Ukraine, abandoned after the collapse of the Soviet Union, of which it had been a part. The only sign of modern life is a dam that provided electricity   but at a human cost in flooding local villages – to whose memory the feature is dedicated. 

Lukas soon finds himself in a dusty smallholding where he meets Vova (Zhadanov), an ageing veteran of the Soviet system, and once was the director of a fishing collective. “After 1989”, he complains to Lukas, “they grabbed everything and paid me off with glue, and there’s no market for it”. Vova sees Lukas as his ticket out of the daily misery. But the two women in his household are dead against him leaving: his possessive mother (Sotsenko), who drove away Vova’s wife accusing her of infidelity, and an attractive daughter Marushka (Deilyk), who is keen for to him stay, for other reasons. Desperate to break away from this timewarp, Lukas’ existential angst takes over and after losing his belongings at a raucous party, he is beaten up by two soldiers, waking up in a deep manmade hole in the ground, from which there is no escape. After Vova rescues him, Lukas will have to make a choice. 

VOLCANO is clearly a metaphor for the current status quo and the contradictions of modern Ukraine echo all around: “Weren’t you a hero of Maidan?”, Lukas demands to know from Vova. The answer is, of course “yes’, but the reality of everyday life in this war-torn country is anything but heroic: this is a society stuck in the dark ages of the early 20th century – despite mobile ‘phones. Wages are so low that hardly anyone bothers to work, living on bribes and petty crime. While hating the Russians for stealing their country, they ambiguously hark back to a time of order and stability, paid for by repression. 

DoP Vadim Ilkov catches this nostalgia evocatively on the widescreen, and the under-water shots of the flooded villages are particularly impressive. Bondarchuk directs with great sensibility, never denouncing his protagonists, who are seen as children asked to play adults in a world whose rules they do no understand any more. The director tells the slow-burning story of loss and self-determination: the traditions that once made them proud are distant memories as they cling on to the  void between a past and a present they fear, not to mention a future of more uncertainty. Moving and passionate. MT


Putin’s Witnesses (2018) *** Karlovy Vary 2018 | Best Documentary Winner

Dir: Vitaly Mansky | Doc | Latvia/Switz/Czechia | 102’

On New Year’s Eve 1999 the former head of the Federal Security Service (FSB), Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, became president of Russia. In his latest offering the exiled documentarian Vitaly Mansky (Truba) threatens to blow the lid on his own entente cordiale in a film that gives intimate and unprecedented acces to Putin himself and other protagonists on the Russian Political scene including Mikhail Gorbachev, and Boris Yeltsin, who chose the ambitious 47-year-old politician as his successor.

Ukrainian-born Vitaly Mansky bases his film on witness accounts of the events that happened in the years following that fateful day in December, perhaps the most important moment in 21st century Russian history. Making his presence known both behind and infront of the camera as he relaxes with his wife (who openly admits her hatred of Putin) and kids durimg the New Year holidays, the filmmaker offers his own telling perspective on the current man behind the iron mask who is seen delivering red roses and a hug to his former teacher and giving his own personal take on the responsibilities of being a president, while being driven to his private gym: “you have to create a world which you are happy to live in..and not hang you head in shame..when your term of office is over”. Throughout  all this bonhomie and bumfluffery, Putin smiles but remains cold-eyed.

During their voluble encounters, Mansky probes the president on his decision to restore the Soviet anthem and his reasoning behind doing appears candid and unguarded in a film that allows this entertaining expose to speak for itself. This is not about the here and now but how it all came about and throughout a sinister soundtrack signals doom and bleak resignation. At one point a sick and bloated Yeltsin puts a call through to Putin to congratulate him on his victory only to be told that Putin will ring him back. He never does. Although Mansky seems keen to humanise the whole affair, Putin’s glare never really melts, although he cracks the odd fake smile. He is man who plays his cards close to his chest, and we can see all see through the charm offensive. Mansky’s final words offer a chilly takeaway:  “Tacit consent turns witnesses into accomplices” MT








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 

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.


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.



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.


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 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

Karlovy Vary Film Festival 2017 |

Fans of Eastern European films should head to Karlovy Vary this summer where the 52nd film festival has the best and latest in Eastern European cinema in its East of the West strand. This year’s main competition line-up includes an international premiere of Polish director Krzysztof Krauze’s swanson Birds are Singing in Kigali which was recently completed by his wife and explores the aftermath of the mass genocide in Rwanda.

Other features competing for the CRYSTAL GLOBE include Boris Khlebnikov’s new drama Arrhythmia, Václav Kadrnka’s Little Crusader, Peter Bebjak’s criminal thriller The Line and Giorgi Ovashvili’s Georgian historical drama Khibula. Ovashvili returns after winning the main prize in 2014 for his touching drama Corn Island nominated for an Oscar the following year. 



Director: Boris Khlebnikov Russia, Finland, Germany, 2017, 90 min, International premiere

Oleg is heading for his thirties. He works as a paramedic and, after a hard shift, he likes to take a few swigs. His wife Katya is also a doctor, working in the hospital’s emergency department. But her patience with Oleg is running thin, so she announces one day that she wants a divorce… One of the most intriguing filmmakers on the Russian scene today, Boris Khlebnikov returns to the big screen with a meticulous piece of direction. Along with precise performances from the cast, the film examines a relationship experiencing an arrhythmia similar to that affecting the hearts of the patients Oleg treats in his job as a paramedic.

Breaking News

Director: Iulia Rugină
Romania, 2017, 81 min, International premiere

A difficult assignment awaits TV reporter Alex. He must film a memorial portrait for a coworker who died in a tragic accident they both experienced but that only he survived. His colleague’s daughter becomes his guide, although her relationship to her father was more than complicated. Alex becomes an involuntary witness to the girl’s handling of her father’s death, and he also comes to believe that chronicling a person’s life involves more than just a short news report…

the-cakemakerThe Cakemaker (Cukrář)
Director: Ofir Raul Graizer
Israel, Germany, 2017, 104 min, World premiere

After the death of his lover, Thomas heads to Israel – the birthplace of the man he adored. Despite prejudice at his German origins he becomes the pastry chef at a local café owned by the widow of the deceased Oran. Yet she hardly suspects that the unnamed sorrow that connects her to the stranger is for one and the same man.

the-lineThe Line (Čiara)
Director: Peter Bebjak
Slovak Republic, Ukraine, 2017, 108 min, World premiere

Adam Krajňák is head of the family and also boss of a gang of criminals smuggling cigarettes across the Slovak-Ukrainian border. The failure of one of the transports triggers an avalanche of consequences that compels him to question his own boundaries, none of which he had planned on crossing until now.

corporateCorporate (Korporace)
Director: Nicolas Silhol
France, 2016, 95 min, International premiere

The life of an uncompromising HR manager named Emilie changes the instant she witnesses the suicide of one of the staff. The investigation of the case becomes a moral test for a woman whose actions, although motivated by her unlimited devotion to work, have caused grief for many an employee.

moreMore (Daha)
Director: Onur Saylak
Turkey, 2017, 115 min, World premiere

Fourteen-year-old Gaza lives with his father Ahad on the shores of the Aegean Sea. The intelligent kid would like to continue his studies, but Ahad sees his son’s future differently. He gets Gaza to help with his side business – smuggling refugees from the Mideast. A directing tour de force, this disturbing psychological study of an adolescent boy’s transformation under the influence of those around him bears dark tidings about the contemporary world.

keep-thechangeKeep The Change (Drobné si nechte)
Director: Rachel Israel
USA, 2017, 94 min, International premiere

Stylish but apathetic, David meets bundle of energy Sarah at a support group. While he’s just fulfilling a court-ordered obligation, she is thrilled to be there. But as they move past their initial conflicts, they become participants in an uncommon romance that won’t yield to convention. Keep the Change is a different kind of romantic comedy about people who are not the same – like most of us.

khibulaKhibula (Chibula)
Director: George Ovashvili
Georgia, Germany, France, 2017, 98 min, World premiere

Shortly after the first democratically elected president of Georgia came to power he was ousted in a military coup. He sets out for the mountains with a group of loyalists to regroup with his supporters. Set against an imposing Caucasus backdrop, we witness a man fighting for power while waging an internal struggle as he heads to meet his fate. The winner of KVIFF 2014 returns with an archetypal story told with light melancholy and an unmistakable visual poetic.

little-crusaderLittle Crusader (Křižáček)
Director: Václav Kadrnka
Czech Republic, Slovak Republic, Italy, 2017, 90 min, World premiere

Little Jan, the only descendant of the knight Bořek (Karel Roden), has run away from home. His anxious father sets out to find him but his despair at the fruitless search gradually starts to overpower him. Václav Kadrnka has turned out a stylistically well-contoured adaptation of the poem by Jaroslav Vrchlický, where he employs a taciturn film form in order to encourage our imagination to engage in a poetic, cinematic pilgrimage.

men-dont-cryMen Don’t Cry (Muškarci ne plaču)
Director: Alen Drljević
Bosnia and Herzegovina, Slovenia, Croatia, Germany, 2017, 98 min, World premiere

When a diverse group of veterans gathers at a remote mountain hotel to undergo days of therapy less than two decades since the war ended in Yugoslavia, it’s hard to expect absolute harmony. This brilliantly directed drama, about the ability to forgive others only after we have forgiven ourselves, presents the pinnacle of the Balkan male acting scene.

birds-are-singing-inkigaliBirds Are Singing in Kigali (Ptaki śpiewają w Kigali)
Director: Joanna Kos-Krauze, Krzysztof Krauze
Poland, 2017, 120 min, World premiere

We meet ornithologist Anne in 1994 just as genocide is raging in Rwanda, perpetrated by the majority Hutus against the Tutsis. Anne manages to save the daughter of a colleague whose family has been murdered, and she takes her to Poland. But the woman returns to Rwanda to visit the graves of her loved ones. The director originally worked on the movie with her husband Krzysztof Krauze (My Nikifor – Crystal Globe, KVIFF 2004), but after his death in 2014 she eventually finished this challenging picture alone.

ralang-roadRalang Road (Cesta do Ralangu)
Director: Karma Takapa
India, 2017, 112 min, World premiere

The stories of four individuals intertwine in a maze of Himalayan countryside, village buildings, and the local social microcosm. With a captivating internal rhythm and the stylistic elements taken firmly in hand, the film presents a narratively courageous look at the region’s social web and the influence of cultural immigration on local life.


The East of the West strand will open with Ilgar Najaf’s Azerbaijani drama Pomegranate Orchard.  Marina Stepanska’s Ukraine-set love story Falling and Mariam Khatchvani’s Dede are amongst the the outings from female film directors. Juraj Lehotský returns to the festival after his debut Miracle with Slovak-Czech drama Nina.

absence-ofclosenessAbsence of Closeness (Absence blízkosti)
Director: Josef Tuka
Czech Republic, 2017, 65 min, World premiere

After another failed relationship Hedvika takes her three-month-old daughter Adélka and her dog to stay with her mother and her mum’s boyfriend. Hedvika doesn’t get on all that well with her mother, nor are her feelings towards Adélka as maternal as they could be. One day she finds some diaries that her late father left behind… This small-scale psychological drama by debutant Josef Tuka is shored up by its realistic characters, an understated performance from Jana Plodková, and perceptive, discreet lensing.

blue-silenceBlue Silence (Modré ticho)
Director: Bülent Öztürk
Turkey, Belgium, 2017, 93 min, International premiere

After his release from the military hospital where he was receiving treatment for a past trauma, Hakan tries to resume a normal life and form a proper relationship with his daughter. Excelling for its mature performances and its stylisation of image and sound, the film foregrounds Hakan’s wounded soul and underlines his vehement efforts to break free from his own private prison.

Director: Mariam Khatchvani
Georgia, United Kingdom, 2017, 97 min, World premiere

It’s 1992. Young Dina lives in a remote mountain village where life is strictly governed by centuries of tradition. Is it possible to defy the firmly established order? And, if it is, what price must a person pay for doing so? Debut director Mariam Khatchvani set her first film in Svaneti, the stark mountainous region in northwestern Georgia where she herself was born, and she presents us with an authentic portrayal of a number of customs and traditions associated with this province.

how-viktor-thegarlic-took-alexey-thestud-tothenursing-homeHow Viktor “the Garlic” took Alexey “the Stud” to the Nursing Home 
Director: Alexander Hant
Russia, 2017, 90 min, World premiere

This inventive road movie about a son and father finding their way to one another has none of the sentiment normally associated with this kind of subject matter. The film introduces an ensemble of wild characters from the lowest social strata, viewed through a lens that finds a balance between the work’s profoundly human dimension and its stylishly ironic commentary on contemporary society.

the-end-ofthechainThe End of The Chain (Keti lõpp)
Director: Priit Pääsuke
Estonia, 2017, 81 min, World premiere

Have you ever had a bad day? Well, it would be difficult to top the catastrophe facing a waitress at a fast-food outlet, where people come not for a quick meal but simply to have a good cry. This high-spirited comedy, about the worst that can happen when you’re slaving from dawn to dusk, also examines existential dilemmas, unconcealed selfishness, and the essential desire for compassion.

Director: Cristi Iftime
Romania, 2017, 100 min, World premiere

Thirty-year-old Costi decides to spend a few days with his family. His parents have long since divorced, but Costi thinks it would be a great idea to arrange a surprise reunion, and he persuades his father to travel with him to meet up with his mother and siblings. Taking the old family car, affectionately known as Mariţa, they head out on a journey that will ultimately help to heal past wounds and allow Costi to finally understand not only his parents, but also himself.

the-man-who-looks-likemeThe Man Who Looks Like (Me Minu näoga onu)
Director: Katrin Maimik, Andres Maimik
Estonia, 2017, 100 min, World premiere

Music critic Hugo is going through a post-divorce crisis and just wants some peace to finish writing his book. When his bohemian father suddenly appears on his doorstep, it becomes clear that the new life he has chosen for himself is about to go in quite a different direction. A tragicomic tale about parents and children and their shared mistakes and complexes.

pomegranate-orchardPomegranate Orchard (Nar baği)
Director: Ilgar Najaf
Azerbaijan, 2017, 90 min, World premiere

Gabil returns home to the humble family farmstead, surrounded by an orchard of venerable pomegranate trees; since his sudden departure twelve years ago he was never once in contact. However, the deep emotional scars he left behind cannot be erased from one day to the next. A private drama set in a picturesque landscape which tells of wrongdoings simmering below the surface of seeming innocence.

Director: Juraj Lehotský
Slovak Republic, Czech Republic, 2017, 86 min, World premiere

Nina is twelve years old and her world has just been shattered to smithereens: Her parents’ marriage has broken down and they are getting a divorce. After his internationally successful debut Miracle Juraj Lehotský now brings us an intimate drama in which the viewer looks upon the world and the selfish, visionless behaviour of adults through the eyes of a 12-year-old girl. A girl who is resilient and belligerent, but also vulnerable and just as fragile as the miniature world she creates for herself in the garden shed.

fallingFalling (Strimholov)
Director: Marina Stepanska
Ukraine, 2017, 105 min, World premiere

Anton and Katia happen upon one another in night-time Kiev. Both are trying to find their bearings in life, and their encounter changes everything… This psychological drama by debuting Marina Stepanska offers up both a fragile love story and a strong statement on the current young generation as it searches for its place in post-revolutionary Ukraine.

unwantedUnwanted (T’padashtun)
Director: Edon Rizvanolli
Kosovo, Netherlands, 2017, 85 min, World premiere

Teenager Alban lives in Amsterdam with his mother Zana, who left Kosovo during the war in the Balkans. When he starts going out with the sensitive Ana, neither of them has any idea that unresolved injustices and shadows from the past will make their way to the surface. This insightful, mature debut by a Kosovan director reminds us how difficult forgiveness and reconciliation can be.

the-stoneThe Stone (Taş)
Director: Orhan Eskiköy
Turkey, 2017, 96 min, International premiere

Emete would swear that the young man seeking refuge in her home is the son she lost long ago. But in her isolated, wasteland village it’s almost impossible to differentiate real hope from self-delusion. Especially since the only way to survive is to throw in with the collective myths and seek comfort in cold stone.


The 11-strong documentary strand features three world premieres: The White World According To Daliborekby Vít Klusák, Lots Of Kids, A Monkey And A Castle by Gustavo Salmerón and Another News Story by Orban Wallace.

another-news-storyAnother News Story (Další čerstvá zpráva)
Director: Orban Wallace
United Kingdom, 2017, 90 min, World premiere

In today’s chaotic era, what is the “who, how, and why” of news spewed forth on world conflicts and crises? A young British director turns his camera lens on the journalists sent by their employers to the Mediterranean to cover the unfolding humanitarian tragedy. When faced with immeasurable suffering, do they maintain a fundamental sensitivity or do they fall back on sensationalized treatments of human misfortune?

Atelier de conversation
Director: Bernhard Braunstein
Austria, France, Lichtenstein, 2017, 72 min, International premiere

One room, twelve red chairs, and a common language. Foreigners from all corners of the world meet each week for free lessons to hone their French. This formally minimalist documentary captures the fleeting moments in which grammatical fumblings or the painstaking search for the right word inadvertently open a window into the human soul.

before-summer-endsBefore Summer Ends (Avant la fin de l’été)
Director: Maryam Goormaghtigh
Switzerland, France, 2017, 80 min, International premiere

Even after studying in France for five years, Arash hasn’t completely gotten used to the place, so he decides to return home to Iran. But friends Hossein and Ashkan are determined not to accept the loss of their closest pal. This documentary comedy, about a goodbye road trip across France, boasts beer chugging and French girls, but it’s also about cultural differences and the natural need to find and hold onto kindred spirits when living in a foreign land.

a-campaign-oftheir-ownA Campaign of Their Own (Kampaň)
Director: Lionel Rupp
Switzerland, 2017, 74 min, International premiere

Partaking of the Direct Cinema documentary style, A Campaign of Their Own tells the story of the loyal supporters of democratic socialist Bernie Sanders, who lost to Clinton in the Democratic primaries. Subtly engagé and skillfully incorporated into a stylistic frame, the film lifts the lid on a newly-inflamed radical skepticism towards political representation in the United States and the general frustration at the breakdown of representative democracy itself.

land-ofthefreeLand of the Free (Země svobodných)
Director: Camilla Magid
Denmark, Finland, 2017, 95 min, International premiere

In the economically depressed neighborhoods of South Central Los Angeles it’s far too easy to get on the wrong side of the law. One fateful day 42-year-old Brian, who has just been released from serving a long prison sentence, experiences it firsthand. The vicious cycle of social determination, however, also begins to effect the lives of teenager Juan and seven-year-old Gianni. The debuting director immerses herself in the depths of human vulnerability in order to draw out fragments of hope.

A Memory in Khaki (Vzpomínky v barvě khaki)
Director: Alfoz Tanjour
Qatar, 2016, 108 min, European premiere

A Syrian director dusts off memories of the past, when people were persecuted for their political beliefs. A poetic portrait of people whose homes have been turned to rubble, and a story that tells us that a free life can never be monochromatic, let alone khaki.

my-life-without-airMy Life without Air (Moj život bez zraka)
Director: Bojana Burnać
Croatia, 2017, 72 min, European premiere

The most important moments in the life of Goran, a Croatian free diving record-holder, take place exclusively underwater. This portrait of an extreme athlete features intentional dramatic minimalism in order to guide the viewer toward a shared physical experience of performances that push the boundaries of what is humanly possible. Between each inhalation and exhalation we experience an endless emotional fall into the depths of the deep blue sea.

lots-ofkids-amonkey-andacastleLots of Kids, a Monkey and a Castle (Muchos hijos, un mono y un Castillo)
Director: Gustavo Salmerón
Spain, 2017, 90 min, World premiere

Julita always wanted lots of kids, a monkey, and a castle. After finally realizing these wishes, however, her family loses their property in the economic crisis. But they have not lost the disarming ease and kindheartedness that mark their domestic squabbling.  A film chronicle with elements of absurd humor that serves as a madcap allegory for the contemporary situation in Spain.

tarzans-testiclesTarzan’s Testicles (Ouăle lui Tarzan)
Director: Alexandru Solomon
Romania, France, 2017, 105 min, International premiere

A research center in Sukhumi, the capital of today’s Abkhazia. Legend has it that it was built at the end of the 1920s to create a hybrid between man and monkey. The hypothetical creature never saw the light of day, but people and primates, like sad relics of the past, live together in the derelict wings of the medical institute to this very day.

Richard Müller: Unknown (Richard Müller: Nespoznaný)
Director: Miro Remo
Slovak Republic, Czech Republic, 2016, 90 min, International premiere

This uncompromising, sometimes painfully revealing but always deeply insightful portrait presents the life of Richard Müller from a fresh perspective. We get to know the famous Slovak singer as a still uncommonly charismatic man who has become exhausted by his struggles with addiction, mental illness, and the demands of show business.

The White World According to Daliborek (Svět podle Daliborka)
Director: Vít Klusák
Czech Republic, Poland, Slovak Republic, United Kingdom, 2017, 105 min, World premiere

A stylized portrait of an authentic Czech neo-Nazi, who hates his life but doesn’t know what to change. Corrosively absurd and starkly chilling in equal measure, this tragicomedy investigates the radical worldview of “decent, ordinary people.” And just when it seems that its message can’t get any more urgent, the film culminates in a totally uncompromising way.


We are Never Alone (2016) | Made in Prague Festival 2016

NIKDY NEJSME SAMI | Director:  Petr Vaclav | Cast: Karel Roden, Lenka Vlasakova, Miroslav Hanus, Zdenek Godla, Klaudia Dudova | Czech Republic/France 116min

Director Petr Vaclav’s latest film is a provincial drama full of passion, violence and mental health issues. The characters could be straight out of a Sartre play and Vaclav certainly asks many existential questions.

Zena (Vlasakova) runs a grocery shop in a small town where he lazy hypochondriac husband is her husband (Roden) is out of work and makes life for Zena and his two sons a living nightmare. He befriends his prison guard neighbour, Zivatem, who is a racist neo-fascist. Driven out of her mind by her husband, Zena falls in love with the local brothel owner (Godla), who himself is obsessed by one of his girls, the pouting Sylva (Dudova) – who in turn is still in love with her husband (and father of her daughter), who is in prison.

To make matters even worse, Zena, after a one-off romp with the brothel owner, decides to become a prostitute herself. The adult characters here are totally out of control and this disturbance filters through to their children: Zena’s oldest son, and Zivatem’s boy (who feeds his father’s paranoia with putting dead animals outside their house). They take great pride in wanting nothing to kill their fathers and discuss this loudly during hikes in the countryside. And when the tension becomes unbearable, violence is the only way out: Zena’s oldest shoots his grandfather, a stingy emotional cripple, and then her husband and his friend Zivatem shoots the brothel owner for having led Zena astray. As a final twist, Zena’s youngest pockets the money from the body of the man his father helped to kill – and sets off on a journey as a blind passenger on a HGV.

We are never Alone is certainly wild and passionate, but the characters are entirely believable: stuck in the middle of nowhere with no love life to speak of, the adults opt for violence, physical and psychologically. And their mostly neglected children follow their ‘role models’. The characters here are always on the move creating a frenetic energy. But they invariably return – even the middle-aged Zena on her Vespa. Whilst Zivatem looks back fondly to communism – he preferred the authoritarian regime to democracy – the other characters – apart from Zena – are totally without any values – apart from wanting to get rich quick. They are soulless materialists, desperate to exploit each other.

DoP Stepan Kucra creates an eerie atmosphere, his images changing regularly from black-and-white to colour and back providing ghoulish world in which the buildings are as decayed as these human souls: the environment mirroring the moribund population, washed-out, bled dry of any colour. The assembled cast is impressive, with Vlasakova’s Zena a towering performance. A brilliant ride on the wild side from the Czech Republic.

UK PREMIER AT THE BARBICAN | 30 NOVEMBER 2016 | Berlinale Review

Karlovy Vary International Film Festival | 3 – 11 July 2015 | Winners

The 50th Anniversary of Karlovy Vary International Film Festival takes place at the Spa Town, just a stone’s throw from the Czech capital Prague. This year’s Crystal Globe was won by a charming American feature film BOB AND THE TREES where the main character, logger and rap fan Bob Tarasuk, plays himself. US citizen Tarasuk, hails from Czech stock: his grandmother was Czech and grandfather Ukrainian. 238-home-care

Czech films included in the Competition included some great performances: Alena Mihulová received the Best Actress Award for her portrayal of a dedicated nurse in Slávek Horák’s debut HOME CARE (right) and Kryštof Hádek received the Best Actor Award as the problematic younger brother in the drama THE SNAKE BROTHERS directed by Jan Prušinovský.

938-antoniaThe Special Jury Prize was awarded to Austrian director Peter Brunner for  THOSE WHO FALL HAVE WINGS, (below right), a drama on coming to terms with the death of a loved one. Kosovan Visar Morina received the Best Director Award for his film BABAI, a story about a small boy setting off on a journey to find his father. The jury also awarded two Special Mentions to animated biography THE MAGIC MOUNTAIN, directed by Anca Damian, and the drama ANTONIA, (right) a tragic story of Italy’s most famous female poet .

The prize for the best film of the East of the West Competition was awarded to social drama THE WEDNESDAY CHILD by the Hungarian director Lili Horváth, a tale of a young girl who wants to secure better circumstances for her child than she had. A Special Mention was awarded to Romanian film The World Is Mine.

606-those-who-fall-have-wingsThe Grand Prix for Best Documentary Film went to Helena Třeštíková for her latest long-term documentary MALLORY. The jury also awarded a Special Mention to Austrian film The Father Tapes. The prize for the best documentary film up to 30 minutes in length was awarded to WHITE DEATH, a story of a Chilean military company trapped in the snow told using a variety of formats and animation techniques. The Special Mention in this category was granted to WOMEN IN SINK, a visit to an Israeli beauty salon. The Forum of Independents Award went to American transgender comedy TANGERINE, shot by director Sean Baker on an iPhone 5.


Seven World premieres and six international premieres competed including HEIL Dietrich Bruggemann’s satire centred on neo-Nazis, which sounds quite different from his sombre 2014 Berlinale outing Stations of the Cross. Polish director Marcin Koszalka’s debut THE RED SPIDER (left) created plenty of buzz – it’s a psychological thriller inspired by true events from the Fifties, where we’re encouraged to see things from the killer’s perspective.  GOLD COAST (main pic) is a Danish drama about a young maverick who embarks on a journey to the Danish Colonies to set up a coffee plantation. BABAI is a rites of passage road drama from Kosovar filmmaker Visar Morina. ANTONIA explores the tragic life of poet, Antonia Pozzi, Italy’s greatest female poet.


song-of-songsThere is a distinctly Eastern flavour to the features from the two female filmmakers in Competition. Another title that has been getting some good reviews is Eva Neymann’s tender and touching  SONG OF SONGS: images of the lost world of the Jewish Shtetl at the turn of the 20th Century is seen through the eyes of two teenage lovers (right), and Anca Damian’s THE MAGIC MOUNTAIN explores a mujahedin fighter’s adventures during the Afghanistan wars.

There were seven screen debuts in the Competition line-up – the winner THE SOUND OF TREES, is Canadian filmmaker François Peloquin’s coming of age feature debut set in the Québec landscape (main pic).


Brazilian director Ives Rosenfeld’S world premiere of HOPEFULS (Aspirantes), takes light-hearted look at the world of football through the eyes of a young man and his girlfriend. And Kim Ki-duk’s latest offering STOP is a bizarre drama centring on a couple who are gradually descending into meltdown in the aftermath radiation sickness caused by Japan’s Fukushima nuclear reactor.


202-i-am-belfastThe Documentary Films strand included the international premiere of ‘poetic and moving’ I AM BELFAST, from English director Mark Cousins who reveals the history of Belfast through the ancient eyes of an 10,000 year old woman. The score is composed by David Holmes.

At finally, it takes an English woman, Cosima Spender, to make a film about the Sienese Palio, an ancient and daring horse race that takes place annually in the Florentine city. PALIO’s editor, Valerio Bonelli, was the editor of award-winning titles: Philomena, Hannibal Rising and Gladiator and the documentary won a prize at Tribeca earlier this year (below).513-palio


The Deep (2012)

Director: Baltasar Kormakur

Olaf Darri Olafsson, Johann G Johannsson, Porbjorg Helga Porgilsdottir, Theodor Juliusson, Maria Siguroardottir

Iceland     95mins   Drama

Baltasar Kormakur originally came to fame in Iceland through his acting talents. But recently he has made superb drama 101 Reykjavik (with Victoria Abril) and crime thriller, Jar City, that screened last Autumn as part of the London Nordic Film Festival 2012.

His latest outing is based on an extraordinary incident in 1984 when an Icelandic trawler capsized off the coast of the West Islands leaving only one survivor. THE DEEP is the story of a miracle and Kormakur creates a convincing and tangible sense of place and suspense in the opening sequences that see a group of fishermen preparing to set sail for the high seas.

Tragedy ensues and the aftermath, staged in flashback, shows Gulli (Olafur Darri Olafsson) surviving against all odds in icy waters in a feat that will make him a national hero.  His will to live and sheer determination is portrayed in a gripping and realistic performance by Olfur Darri Olafsson (who has recently won Best Actor at Karlovy Vary Film Festival) and is set against gloomy and atmospheric visuals of the treacherous volcanic landscape and choppy seas echoing his sense of fear, pain and desolation.

But rather than a superhero, Gulli emerges from all this as a nice enough, overweight bloke who is just looking forward to getting back for a drink with his friends and family. When faced with adversity he just took it all on board, or not, as it transpired.

And it’s due to this close engagement with the local community that the The Deep ultimately fails as an exciting narrative. A story that could have been moving or even devastating just seems to end up rather deflated. Perhaps Kormakur felt a need to protect the sensibilities of the locals by shying away from depicting what really happened in this fishing village.  After the excitement and build-up of the first half, the film shifts in tone from drama to banal reality as it laboriously picks apart the aftermath of the tragedy, detailing the subsequent scientific findings in a procedural way that eventually descends into tedious documentary-style fare.

Presumably some of the people affected by the losses are still alive and, out of sheer respect for their feelings, one is left with the impression that Kormakur has reined back from giving full exposure to the grim reality of how tragedy ultimately affected this small fishing community. A missed opportunity then but nevertheless a remarkable piece of filmmaking that marks Kormakur out to be a technical genius with an eye for a story. MT

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