17th International Film Festival Bratislava

Slovakia, November 12 - November 17 2015

The jury

Michael Pattison (UK), Luca Pellegrini (Italy), Robert Pospis (Slovakia)

Awarded films

Although Bratislava International Film Festival (BIFF) has had to downsize due to financial restraints in recent years, the consequently smaller scope seems only to have sharpened its consistent curatorial eye. For its 17th edition, which took place between 12 and 17 November, the festival screened a fine selection of features, documentaries and shorts under the thematic rubric of family—complete with an enticing, somehow catchy trailer built from old nostalgically textured home videos.

Though programming high-quality films to fit an umbrella theme can be a difficult task for more sizeable festivals, BIFF benefits from a navigable, audience-oriented slate across three screening venues, and its unpretentious sense of community is vivid. In addition to screening titles from the present production year, BIFF also hosts several non-competitive programmes. These included a retrospective on Slovak director Mišo Suchý, a selection of recent documentaries looking back at the golden age of VHS, and a special screening of Martin Hollý’s 1970 film Copper Tower (Medená veža) to celebrate the latest in the festival’s ongoing Film Walk of Fame strand, a tradition that began in 2009 to reward outstanding achievements by Slovak screen actors, and which this year went to Emília Vášáryová, star of Marko Skop’s Eva Nová (a FIPRESCI prize-winner in Toronto this September). BIFF’s national focus this year was Greek cinema.

Five three-member juries were present. The international jury, tasked with awarding four prizes, decided upon Colombian drama Land and Shade (La tierra y la sombre), by César Augusto Acevedo, for its Best Film prize. Its remaining three prizes were shared by the two Iranian films that featured in the nine-film lineup: Ida Panahandeh and Navid Mohammad Zadeh won Best Director and Best Actor respectively for marital drama Nahid, while Niki Karimi and Sahar Ahmadpour, stars of Wednesday, May 9 (Chaharshanbeh, 19 Ordibehesht), received ex aequo honours for Best Actress.

The documentary jury opted for A German Youth (Une Jeunesse Allemande) by Jean-Gabriel Périot, with a special mention for Vladimir Tomic’s Flotel Europa. The prize for Best Short Film went to Konstantina Kotzamani’s Washingtonia, while a student jury awarded Wednesday, May 9 its one prize.

Our Critics Prize coincided with the international jury’s top gong: Land and Shade, in which an intergenerational home in rural Colombia is encroached upon by the suffocating forces of a for-profit industry reducing humans to wage slaves. As we wrote, Acevedo’s debut feature is “a composed, considered and precise riff on family as the last victim of capitalism, a parasite that destroys the very resources it depends upon.” (Michael Pattison)

International Film Festival Bratislava : www.iffbratislava.sk