A Celebration of Youth

in 14th Motovun International Film Festival

by Aruna Vasudev

Nearly a hundred films are screened at the Motovun Film Festival — features as well as shorts. There are four “cinemas” — one normal theatre, one “even smaller theatre” where the shorts are shown, and two open air theatres for the night screenings. Of course when, if, it rains, it spells disaster for the open air screenings. Luckily this year there was only one evening of cold rain which cancelled not only the screenings but also the late night/early morning rock concert — to universal disappointment!

There are three juries — the main Festival jury, the FIPRESCI jury and since the past two years a jury to judge films from the region, meaning, presumably, the Balkans. You get to see films from Serbia, Macedonia, Croatia, Slovenia… and get an insight into the cinema, the culture, the politics, the social reality of this region which has undergone such sweeping changes in recent times.

The competition is an eclectic mix. Sixteen films principally from Europe, with a handful from other parts of the world, compete for the Propellor award — so named because the inventer of the boat propellor had once lived in Motovun — and for the Fipresci award. The Bauer award for the best film from this region was only started two years ago and is named, like the one regular cinema in Motovun, after the great Croatian director of the 70s — Branco Bauer.

Each year, Motovun has a partner country. The Festival highlights its films and introduces the evening screenings with some sort of performance of music or dance typical of that country. Its is a wonderfully informal atmosphere where even for the inauguration in the open air theatre all the speakers came as casually dressed as the enthusiastic young audience.

Despite the informality, there is a serious core to the festival. Every morning an open discussion with one of the film directors, every afternoon, a special discussion session on cinema for students and in fact anyone seriously interested in film. They call it the Motovun Film School. It is the festival s way of adding a film literacy aspec to the actual viewing of films. The discussions are lively and characterised by a passion for cinema.

The Motovun festival was launched with the idea of getting the young back into the cinema, the cinema as it was and is meant to be. A large screen and an audience that shares the experience — with the film itself and with each other. Not the way in which films are viewed today, on television or computer screens, in passing, in bits and pieces, but Cinema with a capital C, the way it was invented and meant to be experienced.

This year the difference in the taste of the Festival jury and the Fipresci jury was diametrically opposed! It only goes to prove that reactions to films are, in the final analysis, subjective and awards depend heavily on the composition of the jury. The Festival jury chose to award the Belgian film Bullhead (Rundskop), directed by Michael Roskam with a Special Mention for Familiar Ground (En Terrains Connus) directed by Canadian Stephane Lafleur. Bullhead has a powerful performance by the main actor Matthias Schoenaerts in a another film about relationships, but here it has more to do with greed, money, and finally destiny against a background of drug dealing but this time for animals not humans…

Martha, the debut film by Mexican Marcelino Islas Hernandez was the chosen favourite of the Fipresci jury for the extremely sensitivite cinematic handling of loneliness, ageing, relationships and hope. The Bauer award was presented to Serbia’s Tilva Rosh directred by Nikola Lezaic.

Many films, many tastes, but overall a Festival characterised by passion, on the part of its creators and director, its team and its audience.