Borderline Experiences

in 53rd International Filmfestival Mannheim-Heidelberg

by Wilfried Reichart

This year they have chosen a title that focuses on the festival at a glance: Worlds Of Experience. Borderline Experiences would have been a more appropriate title. Mannheim-Heidelberg presented in the competition a cinema that opened the door to strange worlds and confronted the viewer with stories that take place in border areas, both geographical and mental, mostly ending in death or helplessness. On one occasion there was a happy ending, but that could only be understood as a cinematic fairy tale.

These were the highlights of the competition: the boy from Macedonia, whose hatred of the Albanian minority turns him into a terrorist and who in this way loses his life in How I Killed a Saint (Kako ubiv Svetec), directed by Teona Strugar Mitevska (Macedonia/Slovenia/France); Mila, who flees to the Bulgarian-Macedonian border in order to rescue herself from her tormentor and to bring a child into the world in Mila From Mars (Mila ot Mars) by Zornitsa Sophia (Bulgaria); the twelve year-old N’Dala, who in Luanda flees from the shelter of the Christian Mission and fights his way alone through the jungle of the city, thereby meeting a tragic death in Hollow City (Na cidade Vazia) by Maria Joao Ganga (Angola/Portugal); two journalists on the Bosnian front searching for the Commander Jako, who is responsible for a massacre, become the victims of their own manipulation of the truth in No Problem (Nema Problema) by Giancarlo Bocchi (Italy); Ayda, released from prison, searching for her daughter in the border-country between Iran and Pakistan, lands in prison once again in Butterfly In The Wind (Parvanei da Baad) by Abbas Rafei (Iran); and the Bosnian Radtko, who, no matter where he passes through on his journey to the see in his stolen Mercedes truck, is continually confronted by tanks and new borders in the Srdan Koljevic directed Red Coloured Grey Truck (Sivi kamion crvene boje), a Serbian- Montenegro-Slovenian-German co-production.

The journey in a stolen BMW into the wintry wasteland of Russia ends with a bank robbery and the death of four friends in Bimmer (Bumer) by Russian director Pyotr Buslow; a successful Danish architect takes stock of his life and commits suicide in Day and night (Dag og Nat) by Simon Staho (Denmark). Sham existences destroy romantic relationships in the Swedish middle-class environment in Details (Detaljer) by Kristian Petri (Sweden). A week in a Dublin snack bar shows that the next day can always be even worse than the previous one The Halo Effect by Lance Daly (Ireland); the journey with his father’s coffin from Montreal to where he spent his childhood in Lebanon confronts a young man with the terrible truth that his mother committed suicide after his birth in Tideline (Littoral) by Wajdi Mouawad (Canada/Lebanon); and the young Chinaman, who, when visiting his home village after many long years of absence, meets the great love of his youth, crippled and married to the deaf and dumb gooseherd in Nuan by Huo Jianqi (China). In Norway we make the acquaintance of a husband under stress, a frustrated priest, an overworked single mother and a deceived wife in Chlorox, Ammonia & Coffee! (Salto, salmiakk og kaffe!) by Mona J. Hoel (Norway).

And then there was Ziggy in Doo Wop, a loser, struggling his way through life in Paris, permanently searching for a little friendship, a little love, a little money, and a little respect and always on the verge of crashing. But he doesn’t crash. He holds himself above water with his naïve optimism. He can find a smile for this cursed life. He has no illusions, but he allows himself the luxury of dreams. This, and music, keep him alive; a ray of hope in this dark landscape, in which the overwhelming majority of the cinematic stories of the Film Competition Mannheim-Heidelberg take place. The FIPRESCI-Jury awarded the price to David Lanzmanns’s Doo Wop . What conclusions could we draw from this?

Wilfried Reichart