Another Glance Eastwards!

in 3rd goEast Film Festival

by Bojidar Manov

The timetable of festivals dedicated to world cinema is so crowded with events that it is impossible even to have a view of their quantity and their geography, let aside to apprehend them in all detail and to assess them by looking more closely. In this overburden situation, every attempt to set up a new festival can’t be but a mixture of well-intentioned ambition, of organizational energy, of provided funding and of an inevitable desire of the founders for a sort of romantic adventure. This should of course be supported by a long-term cultural policy, a well-considered strategy and a reasonable programming.

Two years ago, in April 2001, a new festival was born in Wiesbaden (the capital of the German state of Hesse – and it had all those conditions and an additional devotion of the organizers. With a regard to politics, culture and cinematography, it focused its attention on Central and Eastern European countries, or to be more precise, on post-communist cinema of the former socialist countries. The idea arose at the German Film Institute in Frankfurt (established back in 1949 exactly in Wiesbaden). For three years now the goEast festival has been looking eastwards and performed successfully its important mission.

Actually, the Western interest in the Eastern developments during the last 14 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall is by no means a coincidence. Back in 1991 Cottbus (in the former German Democratic Republic) gave an immediate response and launched the first festival of Eastern European films, and now it is already well-established and has an international reputation. However, today, in the new period of integration with the West, Wiesbaden establishes itself as a second center of development of this interest. In this sense it is again not coincidental that an organizational support for goEast is guaranteed not only by the municipality of Wiesbaden and the government of the province of Hesse, but also by the most respected federal culture-related institutions (Foreign Ministry, press department of the Berlin government), by the media (Hessen Media, the tv stations 3sat and Arte) and by some sponsors (Skoda Cars, TaunusFilm, Crowne Plaza Hotels). Of course, this is just a detail, but it is also an indication of the attention to this event and its place in the general attitude to and interest in the future of Eastern Europe.

The program outlines a broad range of political, social and human-related issues; the selection shows an attempt to find explanations for the national identity of Eastern European countries, for the inherited and newly emerging conflicts and crises in the region, for the path of the society and the ordeals of the individual.

On the other hand, there is a will to find, to screen and to support the most significant feature films and documentaries, produced by the national cinematographies of these countries and thus to give them one more chance to survive and to be noticed in the international market.

Nine features and six documentaries from Russia, Hungary, Bulgaria, Tajikistan, former Yugoslavia (Serbia & Monte Negro), Czech Republic, Slovakia, Croatia and Estonia were included in the competition program, directed by some well-known directors such as Kira Muratova (Chekhov’s Motifs), Martin Sulik (The Key for Determining Dwarfs, or the Last Travel of Lemuel Gulliver), Livia Gyarmathy (Ballroom Dancing), or coming from young directors like Dzamshed Usmonov (Angel of the Right), Ivan Vojnár (Forest Walkers), Dusan Milic (Jagoda in the Supermarket), Vera Storozeva (The Sky. The Plane. The Girl).

The international jury has been composed by Czech director Jiri Menzel (president), Romanian director Nae Caranfil, Polish screenwriter Macej Karpinski, German film manager Kurt Kupferschmid and Bulgarian film producer Rossitsa Valkanova.

The festival organized also a symposium “Images of the German in Soviet and post Soviet Cinema”, a retrospective of adaptations of Anton Chekhov and a students films section (40 films from Budapest, Ljubljana, Berlin, Kassel, Mainz, Offenbach and Cologne).

Official Awards. Best film: The Key for Determining Dwarfs, or the Last Travel of Lemuel Gulliver, Czech Republic, 2002, directed by Martin Sulik. Best documentary: Bred over the Fence, Bulgaria, 2002, directed by Stephan Komandarev. Best director: Livia Gyarmathy (Ballroom Dancing), Hungary, 2003. Special mention: Angel on the Right, Tajikistan, Italy, Switzerland, France, 2002, directed by Dzamshed Usmonov.