21st Athens Panorama of European Cinema
Greece, October 13 - October 21 2008
Athens’ film festival was launched 21 years ago as a “Panorama of European Cinema”; it now stands as an important event on the European cinematic calendar. This is primarily due to the thoroughness and thoughtfulness of its programs. In this year’s edition the International Competition paints an understandable, emotional and accurate picture of goings-on in the “larger Europe” beyond the triangle of Paris, Berlin and Rome.
Czech youngsters attempt to overcome their fears of puberty in Karin Babinská’s Dolls (Pusinky). Three Slovenian sisters, like Chekhov’s famous heroines, experience suffering in a provincial town in Teona Strugar Mitevska’s I Am from Titov Veles (Jas Sum od Titov Veles). A fifteen-year-old travels from the Balkans to North Europe — where his tragic perception of the world expands — in Marius Holst’s Mirush (Blodsbånd). A Russian officer is entranced by his prisoner’s ideal beauty in Aleksei Uchitel’s Captive (Plennyy).
Workers at a French family-planning center instill pragmatic and practical knowledge of sexual freedoms to those still living “in the darkness of fear” due to their cultural traditions or personal convictions in Claire Simon’s God’s Offices (Les Bureaux de Dieu). A not-so-young maniac fights for his love fantasies in Jerzy Skolimowski’s Four Nights with Anna (Cztery Noce z Anna), and middle-aged lovers fight for theirs in Selim Evci’s Two Lines (Iki Cizgi). Ninety-year-old Mme Aniela fights for the house where she grew up in Dorota Kedzierawaska’s Time to Die (Pora Umierac). Overall, the festival’s audience has an opportunity to sample problems across Europe’s glorious geography, as highlighted by the different films.
The festival’s director, Ninos Fenek Mikelides, posits the main challenge thusly: The festival must inspire Greek film distributors to show as many European films as possible, the better to bring European cinema to the nation’s screens. The festival’s winning picture receives free publicity in Greece’s largest newspaper, “Eleftherotypia”.
Along with the Competition, the festival included several satellite programs featuring major films from the past two years. The program “The Day After” offered a very interesting perspective on the future from retrospective background films’ point of view. A special retrospective on “Eros in Cinema” featured a selection of films from the 1930s to 2000s which were not originally shown on big screens. Greek cinema was elegantly represented by the “Fantasy in Greek Films” program, stretching from the 1960s to the 1990s. Every year the festival also honors modern filmmakers: This year’s guest of honor was Alain Corneau, whose virtuoso works explore the nuances of European identity in playful commercial genres. The “Panorama of European Cinema” selectors’ and organizers’ approach to the festival clearly combines an inspired view of cinematographic culture with its elegant yet pointed realization on-screen. (Marina Drozdova)