19th Ljubljana International Film Festival (LIFFE)
Slovenia, November 12 - November 23 2008
The 19th edition of Ljubljana’s International Film Festival (LIFFE), which opened on November 12th, exhibited a rich program selection, screening 110 films, 17 of which were shorts. Headed by Simon Popek for the second time, this year the festival faced the specific challenge of living up to the standards of its last year’s excellent selection, great audience numbers and enthusiasm. Number two is, in Popek’s own words, “the hardest.” Can the huge success of the 18th festival edition be attributed to sheer luck or is it rather related to an exquisite savoir-faire and strong motivation to meet the expectations of film-loving audiences? Although the audience numbers have dropped somewhat and the generally lively atmosphere of the last year’s edition — permeating its exuberant post-screening Q & A sessions and the various dynamic press events, the autumn film school and round table discussions — was somewhat subdued, number 19 — in spite of its director’s concerns — did not let the high expectations down.
Consisting of its usual sections (Perspectives, Avant-premieres, Kings and Queens, Panorama of world cinema, Extravaganza, Against the Wind, Focus, Retrospectives and Short Films), this year’s novelties included the cancellation of the Amnesty International award (which would be given, instead, to a documentary film at the forthcoming Ljubljana documentary film festival); doubling of the Kingfisher prize money (to 10,000 Euros), and the introduction of Best Short film award.
This year’s focus was on Catalan cinema, giving Slovenian audiences a unique opportunity to get acquainted with the works of such authors as José Luis Guerín, Joaqim Jordà, Pere Portabella, Albert Serra etc. There were also two interestingly conceived retrospectives — that of the Indian author Adoor Gopalakrishnan and of Terence Davies — juxtaposing an Eastern and Western perspective.
This year’s FIPRESCI winner was Ballast, by Lance Hammer (USA), a winner of two FIPRESCI awards, in San Francisco and Buenos Aires. The Ljubljana FIPRESCI jury however believed that its third International Critic’s award was well deserved: being the first in Europe, the award would, hopefully, facilitate the film’s European theatre distribution. Using minimalist cinematographic means, this socially realistic film about the Mississippi Delta inhabitants poetically weaves the seemingly disconnected stories of its protagonists, formidably played by non-professional actors. (Maja Bogojevic)
Ljubljana International Film Festival (LIFFE): www.liffe.si