Girl Power

in 18th Motovun Film Festival

by Josip Grozdanic

The most notable link between most of the films screened in the main program of this year’s International Motovun Film Festival – including Magical Girl (written and directed by Carlos Vermut), the FIPRESCI Prize crowned drama with elements of a thriller – are colorful, powerful, intriguing and distinctive female characters. Women rule the world and men are powerless to resist their strength and powers, so it is quite logical that they are magical, as the two women characters of different ages in the film Magical Girl, who are God’s daughters and sisters of Jesus. This is also the case with bright girl Ea, interpreted by Pili Groyne in the satirical humorist drama The Brand New Testament (Le tout nouveau testament) by co-writer and director Jaco Van Dormael. Or, they are mature and smart kids, who in coping with life’s difficulties are more successful than their adult temporary guardians, as is the case with the girl Stacey, played by Lauren Kinsella in an appropriately calm and restrained role.      

In the films shown at the festival in Motovun, women are brave warriors during pregnancy, stoically prepared to face all the troubles that surround them, and at the same time in spite of everything and by risking their own life to show strong maternal and protective feelings, such as the young protagonist in the war drama Alias María by José Luis Rugeles. As with the character played by the very suggestive Karen Torres, they are rebels against society, meaningless existence and oppressive school, or the social system itself, as do the girls in the true story based psychological existential teen-drama Bridgend by director Jeppe Rønde, and their peers in the horror-genre marked drama The Falling by Carol Morley, a relatively successful open devote to the Peter Weir masterpiece Picnic at Hanging Rock.        

Women at this year’s Motovun Film Festival were sometimes the rulers of the world, like in the ironically and satirically turned upside down absurd comedy Jacky and the Kingdom of Women (Jacky in Royaume des filles) by Riad Sattouf, where in the fictional kingdom Bubunneu men wear the veil and do housework, or in the overrated misanthropic dystopian fantastic black comedy drama The Lobster by Yorgos Lanthimos, in which we can find references to the Ray Bradbury novel “Fahrenheit 451” and its film adaptation directed by François Truffaut, as well as to the prose of George Orwell, where women can humiliate and torture and kill men, but also to love them and to lead them in the fight against the repressive system.

Finally, women can be fighters and diggers for love, or the direct and indirect victims of love itself, like the protagonist of the three stories omnibus drama The High Sun (Zvizdan) by Dalibor Matanic, the characters wonderfully interpreted by Tihana Lazovic; young girls who we first see just before the start of the war in Croatia in the first half of 90s in the last century, shortly after the war and then only a few years ago, stoically and courageously trying to cope with the consequences of ethnic hatred and distrust. That hatred and distrust is often expensive, women paying the price of their pride and consistency, and in the finale, they leave the door ajar to the possibility of a better and happier future.      

A different and possibly more beautiful future, or at least a change in the protagonist’s character, is indicated in the finale of the weak and sometimes very irritating humorous existential drama Diamond Tongues made by directors Pavan Moondija and Brian Robertson, a story about the not so gifted and pretty unsympathetic, arrogant and self-centered girl Edith Welland, played by Leah Fay Goldstein, whose actions and behavior remains ununderstandable to viewers who don’t have enough patience.        

Although it would be nice to be optimistic and believe that the different and better tomorrow is really possible, because of the dominant pessimism shown in these movies coloured by misanthropy, faith in a brighter future unfortunately has no foundation.

Edited by Steven Yates