A Good Panorama of Contemporary Cinema

in 44th Molodist International Film Festival

by Gaetano D'Èlia

The 44th edition of Molodist (Cinema for Young People), which took place in the capital of Ukraine, Kiev, offered a good panorama of contemporary cinema. Here, we focus on half of the competition program in order to show the vitality of the young actors and directors.

Let us begin with Brides (Patardzlebi), a Franco-Georgian co-production, whose female director  Tinatin Kajrishvili links admirably sequences, presenting poor and dirty locations and the  unspeakable personal circumstances  of the characters –  three prisoners and their wives – whose marriage has taken place in prison so that the husbands could be granted visitation rights by their wives.  And while we are not made privy to the reasons for their imprisonment, the director suggests both forcefully and tactfully  the psychological and behavioral changes that have affected the men since their internment. Similarly, we are left in the dark as to who of the three prisoners has attempted suicide after the love-making night, permitted by the authorities. Like the wives, we rush back to the jail to find out, but only see a pair of eyes, pressed against the central slit of the gate. High drama in the service of minimalism and vice versa: as a whole, a subdued story, wonderfully performed by Mari Kitia and all the other actors.

The German entry,  Anywhere Else (Anderswo) is also by a woman director, Ester Amrami who, like her Georgian colleague, has much to say, in this case by structuring her film in two alternating layers. The first layer consists of interviews, which amount to an original dictionary of untranslatable  words (such as ‘saudade’,  ‘magone’, ‘gluck’). The second layer entails a research into an old cliché expression (homecoming). Which allows Amrami to show Israeli’s everyday life (with a short reflection on today’s relationship between young and old Israeli people, and between them and young Germans. Most of all, her sense of humour bestows this film with its special blend of merriment and seriousness. Anywhere Else exemplifies, through the stories of the women featured, the difficult search for better life  people from poorer nations are forced to pursue in richer ones, in this case Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Here, too, we meet with an excellent actress, Neta Riskin, who offers an emotionally nuanced interpretation.

 A work, shown in Kiev and partially shot in Hungary (and co-produced by Switzerland), focuses on another girl who needs money (Franciska Farkas). Viktoria – A Tale of Grace and Greed (Viktória: A zürichi expressz) is a valuable film in the first part, where prostitution is dealt with energy and understanding.  Stubborn and obstinate Viktoria decides to go to Switzerland to earn money, fully aware of her decision. The film shows her sincerity and honesty when, to the question concerning her job in that country, she candidly replies she is there  ‘to prostitute’ herself.  Unfortunately, the psychological tension, which governs the first part of the film, gradually morphs into a crime story, depicting the pimps (‘the exploiters’), fighting among themselves and conniving against the girls.

Margita Gosheva is the tenacious and reliable teacher, protagonist of The Lesson (Urok) , made by Petar Valchanov and Kristina Grozeva and co-produced by Bulgaria and Greece. This joint venture of two small national cinemas won the FIPRESCI Award. The focus (pivot) of The Lesson is the eternal theme of the search for money in order to pay a debt, which is thrown into high relief by the moral righteousness of the protagonist who, before finding out the serious financial trouble she is actually in, keeps giving her students stern lessons  in frugality and morality. Notwithstanding some  improbable turns, used as ‘coup de théatre’ to facilitate the story and thus disturbing its dominant realist aesthetics, the film deserves attention.

Other two women at the wheel: Sudabeh Mortezai and Kheda Gazieva are, respectively, the director and the principal actor of Macondo, produced by Austria. Indeed,  the film is made in the vein of ‘The Children Are Watching Us` (to refer to Vittorio de Sica`s 1944 film), for Macondo is seen through the eyes of its young protagonist, the 11-year-old Chechen refugee Ramasan, who becomes everybody’s enemy after he overhears his mother saying she was abducted into marriage. His concern grows after the mother remains silent when asked by the social worker whether she loved her husband. The film is thus based on what remains unsaid whether due to a language barrier or to emotional repression, thus powerfully implying deep-seated inner conflicts.

Meron Getnet and the intense Tizita Hagere are the two women who act in an Ethiopian-American film, Difret, which means ‘oblivion’.  The film often runs the risk to remain a paradigm or an emblem  of the emancipation women movement in Ethiopia. Fortunately, the dramaturgy is well-designed and the main characters –  a teenage girl who has killed involuntarily during an attempt of abduction into marriage and her legal-aid lawyer –  emerge as authentic characters and not just stand-ins of the conflict between Ethiopian old rural traditions and the growing Westernized urban culture. The film is at its most sincere when the lawyer admits that the sexual violence and murder that have taken place have been an eye-opener for the Association in defense of women she belongs to as it has helped  her understand the need to pursue the fine-line between enforcing civil authority and abiding by customary law.

Edited by Christina Stojanova