Posts Tagged ‘VILNIUS FILM FESTIVAL’

Vilnius International Film Festival – 24 March – 3 April (2022)

Vilnius IFF will be the first international festival to actively boycott Russian film with the focus of this year’s 27th edition firmly on the recent petition from the Ukrainian Film Academy. Day Zero – on March 23rd – will be dedicated to the latest crop of features and documentaries from the besieged European country. With Lithuania now welcoming hundreds of thousands Ukrainian refugees – and adding children’s films to the line-up – there will free screenings to entertain all ages.

Five films in particular will highlight Ukraine cinema and will open this year’s celebration on 23 March 2022:

BAD ROADS  Dir: Natalya Vorozhbit (image above)

Lithuania knows a thing or two about staying silent. That silence ended on 23 August 1989 when two million people across Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia formed a human chain: the Baltic Way. Seven months later, on March 11 1990, Lithuania was the first Soviet republic to declare independence.

MARIUPOLIS  Dir: Mantas Kvedaravicius

Daily news reports have shown the devastation of this Ukrainian sea port. In his sophomore feature Lithuanian filmmaker Mantas Kvedaravicius centres on ordinary life and happenstance in a community unaware that 2022 would bear witness to a tragic loss of life and destruction.

THE DISTANT BARKING OF DOGS  Dir: Simon Lereng Wilmont (main image)

Set in Eastern Ukraine town of Hnutove, on the frontline of the war, the film follows a year in the life of 10-year-old Oleg who lives with his grandmother. As his friends gradually leave the village we witness the gradual erosion of his innocence amid the constant pressure of the unfolding conflict.

 

ATLANTIS  Dir: Valentyn Vasyanovych

Ukraine’s Valentyn Vasyanovych would go on to win a slew of awards for his first feature that highlights the camaraderie and resilience that has been the life force of this year’s Russian invasion. It sees a soldier suffering from PTSD befriending a young volunteer and hoping to restore peaceful energy to a war-torn society.

MY THOUGHTS ARE SILENT Dir: Antonio Lukich (image above)

Vadim, a sound engineer, has decided to emigrate from Ukraine to Canada at the age of 22. But before he leaves he must undertake an unusual assignment: to record the song of a very rare bird native of the Transcarpathian mountains of Ukraine.

As part of the European Capital of Culture celebration in the city of Kaunas, the festival will build a one-off theatre for a special screening of Laurynas Bareiša’s PILGRIMS (Venice, Best Film Orizzonti 2021) in the village of Karmelava where the film was shot. Vilnius IFF’s industry program Meeting Point Vilnius (MPV) also disinvited Russian projects in line with the festival’s boycott. Instead It will dedicate a special Ukrainian day to its program on April 1 with panels on political, institutional and film industry levels. The Vilnius Film Festival is supported by the Lithuanian Film Centre, co-funded by the Lithuanian Council for Culture, Creative Europe MEDIA Programme of the European Union, Vilnius City

DAY ZERO | VILNIUS INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL 2022 | LITHUANIA 

 

Rascal (2020) Vilnius Film Festival (2021)

Dir/scr: Peter Dourountzis | Cast: Pierre Deladonchamps, Ophelie Bau, Sebastien Houbani | France, Thriller. 96′

Rascal is a an everyday story of a psychopath played with hard-eyed nonchalance by Pierre Delardonchamps.

There’s nothing sensationalist about the story of Dje. The title might suggest a cheeky playfulness but this couldn’t be far from the truth. Not without charm when he wants something, Dje he can also being quietly menacing as he goes with the flow living by his wits, casually violent if he needs to be. In fact, ‘casual’ sums up a man who never gets worked up about anything. This homeless opportunist is none too shabby in his stylish anorak. A recidivist bottom-feeder who gets by on the streets of Limoges, where we first meet him on a train, rudely intruding on the privacy of his neighbour in a train carriage. But that’s the most harmless trait in his repertoire of antisocial behaviour.

Peter Dourountzis’ first feature takes a detached view of his psychopathic protagonist seen through the steely lens of DoP Jean-Marc Fabre. Limoges is seen as a joyless urban centre where danger lurks at every turn as Dje slips unnoticed in the crowd until he spots an unsuspecting female glance and returns it with a smirking stare. What follows could be a seduction or something more deadly but it mostly occurs off camera, and some women can be extraordinarily accommodating to this enigmatic stranger who is never there when the going gets tough. Of no fixed abode he has no identity papers. Meanwhile, street signs in bus shelters warn women to be vigilant. There’s a killer on the loose. But why would anyone suspect Dje with his boyish looks and clean complexion?.

Rascal was originally made as a short film, Dourountzis cutting himself plenty of slack with the textured script that plays to our fertile imagination and works in a subplot about Dje connecting with an underground network of homeless misfits who offer him room in their squat. Here he meets Maya (Ophelie Bau Mektoub, My Love) and the two have a thing for a while until Dje loses control and needs to move out of the spotlight and back into the shadows. MT

EUROPEAN DEBUT COMPETITION  | Best Actor: Pierre Deladonchamps | AT VILNIUS FILM FESTIVAL | 18 MARCH – 6 APRIL 2021 |

 

 

 

 

Bad Roads (2021) Vilnius Film Festival 2021

Dir.: Natalya Vorozhbit; Cast: Igor Koltovskyy, Andrey Lelyukh, Vladimir Gurin, Ekaterina Zhurakovskaya, Ekaterina Zahdanovich, Anastasia Parshina, Yulia Matrosova, Marina Klimova, Yuri Kulinich, Zoya Baranovskaya, Oksana Voronina, Sergej Solovyov; Ukraine 2020, 105 min.

Ukraine’s Natalya Vorozhbit shows how women are exploited sexually and emotionally during wartime in this award-winning feature debut adapted from her play of the same name that staged at the Royal Court Theatre in London.

In 2014 Ukraine’s Donbass region was the setting for ongoing hostilities with neighbouring Russia. Women bore the brunt of both sides of the conflict, humanitarian rules were abandoned in the survival of the fittest. Bad Roads explores four episodes in very different settings detailing man’s barbaric treatment of the opposite sex during wartime.

At a casual road stop in the war zone, a headmaster (Koltovskyy) of a nearby school is trapped in a Kafkaesque showdown with two soldiers. The teacher clearly came out with the wrong passport, that morning, and the Kalashnikov rifle in his boot doesn’t help matters. He claims it is a toy model for teaching the students, but the militia men are suspicious. Then it becomes clear why the teacher is driving around: he is looking for a female student; after spotting her, he asks the soldiers to let her go: “You are saying that you defend us, but you are fucking our children. Please leave this one alone, she is an orphan”. The headmaster retrieves his passport and the Captain (Lelyukh), gives the him “the word of honour of an officer that there is no girl in the compound of the militia”. These assurances fall on deaf ears: Both know that he is lying.

Three school girls wait at a bus stop for their soldier friends who bring them cigarettes and cosmetics in return for sex. There’s nothing new in this transactional relationship, but it has a brutal edge as the girls know full well they may be lynched when the soldiers retreat. A grandmother (Matrosova) recounts the past when she and her friends sat on the same bench waiting for their boyfriends to come home from work.

In the most inhumane scenario a human rights journalist (Klimova) has suffers an attempted rape after being detained by soldiers one of whom (Kulinich) shares his childhood memory of a pet hamster who bit him so hard he made the animal drown in his own blood. War makes monsters of these men, death becomes meaningless “at first, you were glad that you were alive, but now there are no feelings left”. The episode ends shockingly.

A young woman (Baranovskaya) driving in the countryside accidentally runs over a chicken. She tries to compensate the old couple (Voronina/Solovyov), who think she has stopped for another reason. “Have you been raped? We can call the police”. They ask candidly. Later on the couple try to bargain with the woman, putting a priceless value on their hen. Bitterness and desperation turn ordinary people to irrational acts of mental cruelty. And there are no happy endings in Bad Roads: Later on the old people hear on their radio that a young local woman was severely injured when her car ran over a landmine.

DoP Voladymir Ivanov oscillates between hyper-realism in the Spa episode, poetic realism in the episode with the three girls and a bit of horror-treatment in the last section. The ensemble cast is brilliant, particularly the three girls, who are non-professionals. But the narratives are grim and unforgiving. Bad Roads is a Hieronymus Bosch painting come to life: utter depravity of mind and body.

VILNIUS FILM FESTIVAL ONLINE | 18 MARCH – 5 APRIL 2021

People We Know Are Confused | Vilnius Film Festival (2021)

Dir.: Tomas Smulkis; Cast: Milda Noreikaite, Gabija Jaraminaite, Arunas Sakalauskas, Paulius Markevicius, Dainus Svobanas, Jolante Dapkunaite; Drama, Lithuania 2021, 102 min.

Hanging on in quiet desperation is the Lithuanian way. 

Founded in 1387, Vilnius is still shifting on the fault-lines of its turbulent past according to debut filmmaker Thomas Smulkis, who has made this resonant, unworldly feature debut with a distinct cinematic voice.

Over four summer days Smulkis distills the essence of a modern capital in flux through the surreality of three bewildered inhabitants calling it home – for the time being. An airy feeling of serenity wafts through the summery settings in the limpid light of the Northern hemisphere softened by Sigita Simkuaite’s stylish hues of eau de nil and taupe. Nature plays a signicant part here and Smulkis’ dazzling eye for detail captures everyday life on the streets in unexpected and eerily serendipitous ways.

Goda (Jaraminaite) is the most straightforward of the trio, even though her glorified existence is anything but stable. Will she be able to see the gilded trap she has built for herself? We first meet her overladen with designer shopping bags making her way into a chic apartment in a smart part of town. Goda lives alone so why are a pair of men’s shoes in the hallway? Her sister has invited a colleague to stay, although she lives somewhere else. Clearly Goda is put out, to say the least, calmly asking the stranger to leave via  email. But he stays on oblivious taking his leave on his own terms while she wanders round displaced and uncomfortable longing to regain the peace of her sanctuary.

In another part of town, medic Juste (Norakaite) and her partner and co-worker Paulius (Markevicius) are also going through a confusing time. Paulius has been offered a flat in a high rise block outside the city, but Juste does not want to live “in the middle of nowhere”. They carry on oblivious until a negative pregnancy leaves her relieved at the result. The two cycle off, and at the lights Paulius has a something unexpected to say.

In their stylish urban kitchen Vytas (Sakalauskas) placidly asks his wife of twenty years for a divorce. Later he visits his old flame Audrius (Svobanas), who is dying of cancer. A literal and metaphorical car crash sees Elena (Dapkunaite) quietly reflecting on how her ife carried for so many years in tacit denial of an emotional truth that has always been obvious for everyone concerned.

DoP Vytautas Plukas pictures these characters silently reeling in the face of calm contradiction. Vilnius reflects the silent chaos in the rubbish-strewn building sites of the centre: the character of the old city has changed forever, the capital will soon look like any other metropolis in Europe as the past is gently aid to rest – without reflection. Mostly relying on an ambient soundscape, the occasional score by Lina Lapelyte makes a weird intrusion into this perplexed but passionless world. A sensitive and aesthetically mature debut feature. AS

SCREENING AT VILNIUS FILM FESTIVAL 2021

Mighty Flash | Destello Bravio IFFR 2021

DIR: Ainhoa Rodrigues | Spain, Fantasy Drama 90′

Life in Southern Spain hasn’t changed for God fearing and deeply suspicious rural communities locked away but dying to burst out from landlocked Extremadura, especially the womenfolk. Or at least that’s the impression we get from Ainhoa Rodriguez deliciously dark and delightfully observed feature that unfolds with a cast of non-pros on the widescreen and in intimate – often voyeuristic – closeup.

Serving as an ethnographic portrait of this remote community and an amusing story of country folk and their women’s sexual frustrations spiced up with magic realist touches. These country dwellers may be cut off from the rest of Spain but they are tightly knit and as thick as thieves supporting one another and sharing tales of farming exploits, folklore and strange happenings in the surrounding countryside – not to mention vicious social gossip. Like Dickens’ Mr Micawber they are constantly waiting for something to turn up, not just the Madonna at the local Semana Santa processions. 

Isa records suggestive messages to herself that speak of strange events: “A mighty flash of light will appear above the village, which will change everything”, she hears herself say. “It is magnificent. We will all get a headache, we will lose our memories and we will disappear.” Cita is not satisfied with her existence and sets he hopes on something more, leaving her warm matrimonial bed she heads to the church to pray, all dolled up in a mini dress and blow-dry. This naturally sparks criticism and wagging tongues amongst the other women: “nothing will come of her” they chunter conspiratorially. 

The men are content with their daily grind. The women are dissatisfied with in this deadbeat backwater. Nothing happens but actually everything happens. High hopes are met with unrealised dreams. But the tone is dry and upbeat, always positive, never bitter.

Loneliness has no place in the community, despite its lack of potential. Days are fraught with the social round. All done up in pearls and fur coats – not to mention high heels – ladies lunch together and talk of sexual desire and personal fulfilment – and their dissatisfaction with the menfolk in scenes enlivened by surrealist flourishes. María mourns her deceased husband, Paco. Sometimes, someone hears a sound that escapes everyone else. Can it be real or just a fantasy.? Female imagination catches fire while the men simply hunker down with their mates and animals – especially the little goat farmer who describes tricking a female goat into bringing up a kid from another litter.

Cleverly observed, pert and well-paced with its punchy electronic soundtrack and touches of magic realism deftly woven into the narrative, working hard – and successfully – to build a bond of trust with her cast Rodriquez’ first feature fizzes with intrigue behind its zipped up facade. A brilliantly observed portrait of modern Spain that could be from the dark ages. Ironic, inspired and in the delicate spirit of Victor Erice. MT

ROTTERDAM FILM FESTIVAL | TIGER COMPETITION | VILNIUS FILM FESTIVAL | EUROPEAN DEBUT COMPETITION Best Director: Ainhoa Rodríguez

 

 

 

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