Forum and Focus

in 8th Split International Festival of New Film

by Tomislav Kurelec

Split is among the most interesting festivals of new film (and video) in Europe. Its program is divided into six sections happening simultaneosly. They include the experiments in the film and video expression, the new technologies and even the video installations on the borderline between moving pictures and visual arts. The FIPRESCI jury attended two of probably the most traditional sections: “Forum” – eight quite long (50 – 90 minutes) documentaries and “Focus” with eight feature films that could be defined as art house movies.

The choice of documentaries was a little bit surprising for the festival whose intentions are to show the new tendencies in filmmaking. All these films dealt with very important social or political topics, often with the exceptional courage to express provocative views. So, in “Jenin, Jenin” by Mohammad Bakri there is the very selective Palestinian view of the Israeli army operation. Bernd Fischer (Germany) had the original idea of mixing today’s life with the very well known historical facts in “From Dachau with Love”. Lisa Hogarth (USA) made a very controversial documentarty on AIDS – “The Gift”, Paul Poet (Austria) a shocking picture of contemporary nationalism “Foreigners Out”, etc. But the problem of all these documentaries is the style. No matter how provocative their messages or statements are, all of them were made as conventional TV-reportages. There are the talking heads explaining what the movie is about and the rest of images are very rarely more than the illustration of what was said.

The feature films’ section “Focus” was much more interesting, but the problem for the FIPRESCI jury was that three of them had received the FIPRESCI prize at other festivals. Two of them would be otherwise very strong candidates for the prize in Split: “Edi” by Piotr Trzalskaski (Poland) and “I am Taraneh, 15” by Rassul Sadri (Iran). The best of the rest and the winner of the FIPRESCI prize was “Public Toilet” (Hong Kong, Korea) by Fruit Chan, a very complex and beautifully shot movie about the sickness of the present-day world with a lot of the elements of the fantastic. “The Brothers” (specially mentioned by the FIPRESCI jury) is the unusual story of reaching maturity in the suburbs of a big city, made with a lot of sincerity and passion with some unexpected twists in directing. As the other movies in this section were also interesting it was important to give the Croatian public the possibility to see the kind of movies that is not present in the cinemas.