Impoverished By Jean-Marie Mollo Olinga

in 54th Mannheim International Film Festival Mannheim-Heidelberg

by Jean-Marie Mollo Olinga

The 54th International Film Festival of Mannheim-Heidelberg took place from the 17th to 26th of November 2005 and simultaneously in the two above mentioned towns of Germany.

Though reserved for beginning filmmakers, this festival is now considered as a factory for modelling cinema professionals. Celebrities like Fran çois Truffaut, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Wim Wenders, Krzysztof Kieslowski, Agnès Varda, and Lars Von Trier, amongst others, were all discovered here.

The Mannheim-Heidelberg Festival is considered as a forum for the presentation and sale of films and also serves as a forum for exchanges and contacts. It is therefore not by chance that this 54th edition was opened with a film titled… Contact (Kontakt). Directed by Sergej Stanojkovski – a Macedonian raised in Germany, who started out as a photographer and later studied cinema in Prague – the film stars the major actors Nikola Kojo and Labina Mitevska.

Contact is the story of an encounter between a man and a woman. Beyond this, it is the encounter between two different social groups. One, a delinquent (Janko), and the other, mentally deficient (Zana). They both have experienced prison in different forms. One in an area where convicts are detained, and the other in a dull and sorrowful establishment where mentally retarded patients are treated. The question is: are physical prisons worse than the internal prison which result from avoiding all contacts with others (Zana’s case), or which manifests in aggressiveness and self destruction (Janko’s case)? How could it be overcome if not by love?

Magisterially interpreted by Nikola Kojo (Janko) and Labina Mitevska (Zana), this 105 minute psycho-drama, taking place in a post-socialist Yugoslavia, and accompanied by soft music, was ultimately an interesting love story.

Among the 84 films projected over eight days to the 1,000 invitees of the 54th International Film Festival of Mannheim-Heidelberg, only two were African: the short film Diesis (19 minutes) by the South African François Coetzee, projected under the category of “International Discovery”; and the long film Hamlet of Women (Douar de femmes) (103 minutes) by the Algerian Mohamed Chouikh presented under the category of “Special Projections”. This under-representation of the African continent at a festival known to promote careers should have been a motivation to work harder on the part of young African filmmakers. The presence here of celebrity Balufu Bakupa-Kanyinda as a producer is evidence of greater participation for the future.