Viareggio, the oldest festival of European film, was founded 20 years ago at the initiative of Felice Laudadio, the festival’s director, and with the great support of Federico Fellini. The festival went through different phases, changed its program concept, but it has always been a good indicator of current trends and the state of European film.
In the competition, this year’s festival presented mostly films by young European directors, with practically all the films being world or European premieres. By doing so, the festival’s intention was to show that the best way to promote European film is to focus on the potential of young directors.
There were 12 films from France, Italy, Sweden, Great Britain, Belgium, Hungary and Serbia and Montenegro in the competition. The films differed significantly, both thematically and stylistically, so one can speak of a broad range of the film-makers’ interests and completely different film expressions: from black comedies (“The Professional” by Dusan Kovacevic), through social topics (“Prendimi e portami via” by Tonino Zangardi and “Evil” by Mikael Hafstroem), to historical films – classically conceived, such as the film “Pontormo” by Giovanni Fago, or resorting to stylization, like “The Emperor’s Wife” by Julien Vrebos.
The jury, presided over by Italian director Francesco Maselli, awarded, quite deservedly, the Grand Prix of the festival and the Best Screenplay Award to the Serbo-Montenegrian film “The Professional” directed by Dusan Kovacevic (screenwriter of the Palm d’Or winner “Underground” by Emir Kusturica). It is a political black comedy centering on the characters of a dissident writer, persecuted by the Milosovic regime, and a policeman of the State Security, who had kept the former under surveillance for a full ten years. A film with great drama, exceptional dialogue and brilliant acting, especially by Bora Todorovic in the role of the policeman and Branislav Lecic playing the writer. (This film was excluded from the competition for the FIPRESCI award as it already received the same award at this year’s festival in Montreal).
The Best Actor Award (Andreas Wilson) went to the Swedish film “Evil” by young director Mikeal Hafstroem.
The festival also had well conceived parallel programs. The documentary film program (selection by Frederique Westhoff) presented a series of intriguing, interesting and politically toned films, among which one should especially single out the films “Resist” by Dirk Szuszies (about humanist and pacifist ideas and acts of the Living Theatre company), “Mao’s Photographers” by Claude Hudelot (the life story of two of Mao’s official photographers is actually a story about China in the second half of the 20th century) and “Life Goes On” by Mark Alan Cairns (an interesting story about a film which the Nazis shot and planned to premiere in June 1945, two months after their capitulation).
Marking the festival’s 20th anniversary, and in memory of one of the founders of the festival, the great maestro of world cinema, a retrospective of films by Federico Fellini was shown.
This year again, the festival was host to the General Assembly of the International Federation of Film Critics, FIPRESCI.
At the closing press conference, the festival director Felice Laudadio announced for next year a special program of the current Italian production. The idea is for Italian film critics to choose what they consider to be the best 10-15 Italian films from the previous year, the festival will show these films and an international critics’ jury will evaluate them and present awards in that category. This will be yet another form of constructive cooperation between the International Federation of Film Critics (FIPRESCI) and the European Festival in Viareggio.
© FIPRESCI 2003