45th Molodist Kyiv International Film Festival

Ukraine, October 24 - November 1 2015

The jury

Carmen Gray (Great Britain), Albert Gabay (Israel), Alik Shpilyuk (Ukraine)

Awarded films

The 45th edition of the Molodist Kyiv International Film Festival has come to a close. Despite funding difficulties and the ongoing strain of war in Ukraine, defiant energies assured that the cultural life of the nation could still count on this key annual cinematic event. It has grown from its beginnings in 1970 as a student short film showcase into a major eastern European festival for young cinema, and still gives invaluable support to short filmmakers in the early stages of their careers alongside its international and Sunny Bunny (LGBT) competitions for feature debuts.

The FIPRESCI jury evaluated the international competition, choosing to award Spanish-British co-production Pikadero by Ben Sharrock, a bittersweet comedy that filters Europe’s economic crisis through the practical limitations shackling the fledgling romance of a young couple in the Basque region of Spain. The film was also acknowledged by the main jury, as was Ixcanul by Jayro Bustamante, which sets its evocative coming-of-age tale of a young woman’s unexpected pregnancy among the Mayan culture of a coffee plantation that is suffering a blight of snakes. But the main jury saved its Grand Prix golden deer statuette for Princess, Israeli director Tali Shalom-Ezer’s provocative portrayal of the psychic trauma wrought on a teenage girl by sexual abuse.

The National Competition of Short Films showed that Ukrainian cinema may well find its future strength in the talents of women, as the three directors recognised at the award ceremony were all female. The section’s top prize went to Kateryna Gornostai for Away (Viddalik), which portrays a young couple who have fallen out of love and must decide what comes next for them.

The festival closed with Anomalisa, Charlie Kaufman’s first foray into animation, which brings his trademark mindbending, neurosis-tinged absurdism to a tale of doomed puppet-love at a Cincinnati hotel between a call-centre worker and a motivational speaker in mid-life crisis. It was a light, humour-infused end to a festival buoyant with enthusiasm but intent on addressing Ukraine’s current political woes head-on. The closing ceremony also featured takes on the emotional toll of the conflict by poets and musicians accompanied by projections of images of Maidan and the warzone. The subtext of their inclusion was that the role of art is more important than ever in such uncertain, conflict-riven times, as a means of collectively processing trauma, and as a way to stay human when hope is tested. Playing before screenings throughout the festival in the Cinema Kiev Culture Centre, an impressive Soviet-era venue constructed in the Stalinist Empire style (itself a reminder of Russia’s legacy of domination) was a declaration by festival director Andriy Khalpakhchi condemning the imprisonment of Ukrainian director Oleg Sentsov by the Russian authorities as a politically motivated injustice reminiscent of Soviet times, and calling for his release. All in all, it was a moving festival that celebrated cinema as a joy in itself, while never letting the high stakes involved in its survival be far from our minds. (Carmen Gray)

Molodist Kyiv International Film Festival: www.molodist.com