Complicated Conditions

in 34th Panorama of European Cinema, Athens

by Gena Teodosievska

Directorial Concepts of Construction and Deconstruction at the 34th Panorama of the European Cinema

Selecting a film festival program in the last two years has been a heroic endeavor, particularly if the organizers are aware that, perhaps, concessions will have to be made in the manner that the festival is presented. Encouraging the audience to leave their comfort zone or their safe haven, and enter the wonderful and magical half-lit movie theatres to be treated to a good film, is quite often a difficult—but not an impossible—mission.

The organizers of the 34th Panorama of European Cinema, which took place in Athens from January 27th to February 2nd 2022 as an online edition, selected 13 feature films for its main competition program. The selected films engage concepts with the following themes: loneliness and constant fears, young people and their more complex and vulnerable maturation, bullying, the unpredictable difficulties in the daily life of LGBT+ community members, migrants and their rejection.

Alongside the mature directing and comprehensive film production that achieves watchable films, the selection also contained films that experiment with the visual, deconstructing the story and breaking the classical film framework. Among those who succeeded in “carrying” the story through with exceptional directing and producing craftsmanship was My Night (Ma Nuit, 2021), by Antoinette Boulat, her directing debut. Her extensive professional portfolio includes serving as Casting Director of renowned and awarded films, and collaborations with Ridley Scott, Lars Von Trier, Wes Anderson, etc. She creates an exceptional atmosphere with the main character, Marion (played by Lou Lampros, whose natural and laid-back portrayal is enticing), and the city of Paris is depicted from an intimate angle. It is not surprising that the Dardenne Brothers are the producing team of the film, which won the International Federation of Film Critics (FIPRESCI) Prize.

Among the directorial achievements rightly chosen is As Far as I Can Walk (Strahinja Banovic, 2021) by Serbian director Stefan Arsenijevic, his second feature film, with which he triumphed in Karlovy Vary last year. Arsenijevic gives the story of lost and frightened migrants across the Balkans a different dimension, filled with expectation. The film involves great characters who have plans for the future and do not give up on them, even at the cost of losing love and trust—a visually thought-out and exceptionally “packaged” production. Next, I would mention the two Italian films: the third feature film signed by the famous Leonardo di Constanza, The Inner Cage (Ariaferma, 2021), and the excellently directed documentary Californie, by Alessandro Cassigoli, in which the protagonist wins our hearts despite all her flaws.

The Inner Cage is a saga of prisoners and guards who, at one point, are united by the daily routine they share—it is a film about the paradox of closed space, a film that relies on the exceptional acting performances of the Italian film veterans: Toni Servillo, Silvio Orlando, and Fabrizio Ferracane.

I would also like to mention the furious psycho-drama film Troubled Minds by the Lithuanian directing duo, the brothers Raitis and Lauris Abele; the experimental drama-essay REM-Rapid Eye Movement by the Greek director Karolos Zonaras, who attempts to balance the actor’s role and function in a film; and Nikos Nikolopoulos’s Musa, whose script intrigues with its cruelty, selfishness, and paranoia caused by the unexpected indifference that appears between two lovers. And it is worth paying attention to the visually well-done atmosphere in Sisterhood (Sestri, 2021) created by cinematographer Naum Doksevski. All 13 films were made in very specific and complicated conditions, so they should be seen.

Gena Teodosievska
Edited by Robert Horton