A Week in the Wild East By Joan Dupont

in 36th Kiev Molodist-International Film Festival

by Joan Dupont

The 36th Molodist International Film Festival of Kiev is a rare event, a festival of young talent that actually lives up to its promise. It is also a special place in the world today where you can feel the winds of change. This sensation of shifting history was palpable in many of the movies we saw during our week in the Ukraine.

With my colleagues Steven Yates from Great Britain and Sasa Jankovic from Serbia, we awarded the FIPRESCI prize to the Russian film Euphoria (Eyforiya), by 32-year-old Ivan Vyrypaev, a film that stirred us both aesthetically and emotionally. It hit us as a sign of the stormy changes in Eastern Europe. The main jury also awarded Euphoria the prize for best feature film, while giving their Grand Prix to the Romanian East of Bucharest (A fost sau n-a fost?), winner of the Camera d’or at Cannes.

Alexei Guerman Jr., 30, son of the famous Russian director, who was on the main jury, told me that Vyrypaev is a brilliant and well known playwright, and that his reputation helped him with the project. Guerman feels a kinship with the director and this kind of filmmaking, and was proud to find the film in competition and to award it. While we enjoyed East of Bucharest, and admired the Hungarian Fresh Air (Friss Levego), which had won the FIPRESCI award at Warsaw, my colleagues and I felt that Euphoria, in only 74 minutes, was a sheer cinema shock, the kind of experience you hope to have at a festival. The film takes place along the not-so-quiet Don River. It is an intense look at an isolated farming family whirled around, in a rush of sound and fury, by a love affair that happens like an accident and turns into tragedy. Euphoria feels fresh, and smacks of new hope for Russian cinema; it shows that not only commercial movies are being made.

We saw 13 films in four days under rather hectic conditions. The festival has been moved, temporarily, to a vast amusement centre, The Butterfly-Ultramarine Cinema Theatre complex. The ambiance, with video games blasting their special music, made movie watching tricky. Then, there is the unfortunate habit of audiences to wander in — and out of — the theatre at whim, answer cell phones, and talk during the screenings. The most agitated screening was that of the Ukranian film Orangelove, directed by Alan Bade, a movie made like a music video on a love story in the age of AIDS, a feverish huis clos. It was highly appreciated by the young audience that sat on the steps and vibrated to the sounds, drumming their feet to the beat.

At Kiev, we were rewarded by the quality of the films. For there was not one bad movie in the selection — including the shorts and student films, and with a coup de coeur going to Rabbits and Bears by Hyo Jeong Kim. This quality is not to be found in that many festivals. General Director Andriy Khalpakhchi, the festival’s founding father and guide for the past 16 years, felt the pressures from this year’s changes, and visibly suffered from the chaos brought about by the new venue, as well as other structural problems. A few days into the festival, he announced that he was retiring from his chief duties, but he remained — and will remain — a superb host. I also met Mila Novikova, chief programmer, who described how she forages for films in the basement at the Cannes market, and talked about her quest on the festival trail throughout the year. “We are fortunate,” she said, “that, unlike Cannes, we are not under pressure to show premieres. What counts for us is showing the best, the freshest, in young cinema today.”