During Extremely Different Times

in 44th Molodist International Film Festival

by Natalia Moussienko

44th Kyiv International Film Festival “Molodist” was held in the Ukrainian capital from October 25 to November 2, 2014, during extremely difficult times for this country. However, in spite of all hardships, the Festival program presented 220 films from 47 countries. “Molodist” completion program consisted of several blocks: International Competition (student films, short films, full-length films), National Competition (short films 2013-2014), “Molodist for Kids” International Competition, and the International Competition “Sunny Bunny”.

This year Molodist Grand Prix: the statuette Golden Scythian Deer and a reward of 10 000 USD went to  Anywhere Else (Anerswo) by director Ester Amrami, Germany. The film is consonant with a current situation in Ukraine. Its main events unfold in Israel, depicting its everyday life: war, digging bomb shelters, visits to the graves of soldiers in cemeteries, flags on the cars. All these precise sketches of Israeli life have become familiar to the Ukrainian audience. Anywhere Else also won the Audience Award in full-length films category and a Special mention of the Ecumenical Jury. The overlapping of the views of the Main Jury and the Audience is an important indicator of the quality of the film.

In his debut feature film Esther Amrami conveys with love and humor her heroine’s search for answers of eternal existential questions. Young Israeli Noa has moved to Berlin eight years ago. The viewer meets her at the moment when she has just finished her master’s thesis and has finally moved in with her boyfriend Jorg. She misses her parents, grandmother, siblings, friends and the warm salty taste of sea air on the lips. Her nostalgia becomes particularly acute when she runs into problems with her studies and at a time her boyfriend (a musician) is away for a concert in another city. She then takes an impulsive decision – and to a great surprise to her parents and grandmother – returns home. After a few enjoyable family days, Noa begins planning her trip back to Berlin, but she is up to a surprise herself when Jorg arrives in Israel. His sensitive artistic nature feels the emotional state of a girl who is torn between her wish to return to Germany and desire to stay in Israel.

Ester Amrami subtly raises complex historical issues about the relations between the German and Jewish peoples through the sad and tragic memories of Noa’s grandmother and through the jokes of Noa’s brother who serves in the Israel army.  How long it takes to heal the wounds of war…? This questions keeps coming up as a refrain in the film. One feels that the director, who herself moved to Berlin from Israel at the age of 24, tells an autobiographical story, sharing her thoughts and experience. Esther Amrami is also the script co-author, along with Momme Peters.

This year 36 short Ukrainian films and one full-length work took part in the “Molodist” competitions.  The short Faces (Oblychchia) by Nikon Romanchenko got the Scythian Deer in the National Competition. It tells the events on Maidan 2013-2014 by focusing on the faces of the people, gathered there. Two Ukrainian films were awarded Special Mentions: Snails (Ravlyky) by director Maryna Vroda, and The Ordinary Thing (ProstyeVeshchi) by Aleksandr Ratiy. The Audience Award in the National competition went to the film The Fish¬-Tailed Girl (Divchynkaz  rybyachymkhvostom) by the Ukrainian director Serhiy Melnychenko. Another Ukrainian film,  Imagination (Vyhadka) by Kateryna Chepik won a special mention in the International Competition.

At the International Competition, Ukraine was represented by the full-length film Brothers. The Final Confession (Braty. Ostannyaspovid) by Victoria Trofimenko. Returning to the traditions of the Ukrainian poetic cinema from the 1960s with a post-modern twist, the film tells the story of the two Hutsul brothers, who are used to sharing everything before a tragic accident tears them asunder. They have not been talking to each other for 40 years when a scholar arrives to their village, and rents a room at the house of one of the brothers. She writes about saints and god’s fools, and becomes the link between them. At the film presentation Natalka Polovynka, who plays the writer, devoted emotionally this work to the Ukrainian soldiers-defenders of Ukraine. It is interesting to note, that Mrs Polovynka won the Best Actress Award for this role at the last Moscow International Film Festival (Summer 2014). She could not receive it then and therefore got it in Kyiv.  The film Brothers. The Final Confession is also the winner of the Moscow International Film Festival Award of the Russian Cinema Critics, which was also granted at the “Molodist” festival.

The FIPRESCI (International Federation of the Cinematographic Press) award went to The Lesson (Urok) by Kristina Grozeva and Petar Valchanov (Bulgaria, Greece). This is a story about Nadezhda, an English teacher from a small Bulgarian town. After an wallet disappears in class, the teacher vows to teach the thief a lesson by exposing and forcing him to confess and return the money. But suddenly she finds herself into serious trouble, needing a large amount of money to cover within three days the loan her husband has irresponsibly withdrawn by using their house as collateral. Nadezhda goes through humiliation and suffering, while searching for the money to save her family home and especially her young daughter from homelessness. In her desperation she decides to rob a bank. And while the robbery seems to have gone smoothly, at the finale she accidentally catches the little thief in the act, but is unable to confront and teach him a lesson…

The film Difret by the Ethiopian director Zeresenay Berhane Mehari got a Special Mention by the International Jury and the Ecumenical Jury Award. Based on a real story, this is a touching film about Hirut, a 14-year-old Ethiopian girl that is  kidnapped and raped and thus forced into marriage. Trying to defend herself, Hirut shoots and kills her assailant, who is her husband-to-be. Meaza Ashenafi, a young and ambitious lawyer, seeks to prove that Hirut acted in self-defense.  Though kidnapping for marriage is one of the oldest Ethiopian traditions, she bravely challenges it, risking his own legal practice, and wins.

A film Correction Class (Klass Korrektsiyi) by Ivan I. Tverdosvky (Russia, Germany) became the winner of the International Feature Length Film Competition.   Flesh and Blood (En Carne Viva) by Federico Esquerro (Argentina) won in the International Short Film Competition. In the International Student Film Competition program, the award went to Berlin Troika by Andrej Gontcharov (Germany). The Sunny Bunny winner was Something Must Break (Nånting måste gå sönder) by Swedish director Ester Martin Bergsmark. The Kids Jury gave their award to The Black Brothers (Die Schwarzen Brüder) by Xavier Koller (Germany-Switzerland).

The film Russia / Ukraine Reality on Maidan (Rossiya/Ukraina. Realnostna Maydane) closed the “Molodist-44”, which was a symbolic gesture in anticipation of the 45th edition of “Molodist” in October 2015, when a number of films on this important for Ukraine topic would be definitely presented.

Edited by Christina Stojanova