18th Cottbus Festival of East European Cinema
Germany, November 11 - November 16 2008
18th Festival of East European Cinema. The city of Cottbus in Eastern Germany, only a 20 minute drive from the Polish border, celebrated the 18th year of its biggest cultural event, the Cottbus Film Festival. A charming showcase for the cinema of Central and especially of Eastern Europe, the festival offered over 130 films from nearly 30 countries. Along with the main competition program of 10 features, the festival introduced a short film competition; a ‘Focus’ section on the new Baltic cinema; a selection of children’s and youth films, and several retrospectives and special programs. Prizes worth of 67 000 Euros were awarded.
The celebrations of the anniversaries of three well-known directors were the highpoints for many film enthusiasts. The festival’s honorary president István Szabó from Hungary and the Czech maestro Jirí Menzel both turned 70 this year, and attended the screenings of their respective new films. Roman Polanski’s 75th birthday was remembered with a selection of short films and the screening of Oliver Twist. The Polish guru himself was not present, but his (and Andrzej Wajda’s) set designer Allan Starski was around for Q&A.
The international jury — including the FIPRESCI chairman Andrei Plakhov — handed the main prize to the Russian war movie Captive. Russian cinema was showing its strength in many ways. From the five best films in the competition, three were from Russia — Captive (Plennyy), Wladimir Kott’s sympathetic debut film Mukha (Muha) and the FIPRESCI Prize winner Wild Field (Dikoe Pole) by Mikhail Kalatozishvili. (The terrific opening film Tulpan came from Kazakhstan, the director being Sergei Dvortsevoy, a well known documentarist, who studied in Moscow). The festival also had a special program called “A Russian Day”, featuring a selection of five new films.
Listed by “Variety” as the most important film festival in Germany after the Berlinale, Cottbus — this year hosting 450 international guests — is recommended for everyone interested in the state of new European cinema. (Eero Tammi)