Life on the Edge By Eberhard von Elterlein
As the Festival in Troia on the west coast of Portugal is situated geographically on the edge of Europe, it is fitting that most of the 140 films from 48 countries shown in twelve sections show people who experience life on the edge. Lots of films deal with war, with family values, generational conflicts and the dark side of life.
The three very best movies in the festival weren’t shown in competition but in the sections “First Works” and “Man and his environment”. The strongest was Earth and Ashes from Afghanistan. Atiq Rahimi shows, in very clear images, lonely people waiting in a bright and expansive desert – for the truck to the mine, for the end of the bombing of the villages, for hope. It is also a story about an old man and his deaf grandson. The family sticks together although the environment is full of hatred and oppression.
This is also the main item in the wonderful film Moolaadé by Sembene Ousmane shown in the section “Man and his environment”. He shows the fight against circumcision of women in traditional African villages. A woman protects four young girls from circumcision – against the advice of old wise men of the village, who have celebrated this rite for years. Sembene focuses on strong images of daily life, without neglecting his great sympathy for the heroine.
Watching different movies from different countries in different sections at the 21st Festroia one would get the impression that war and fights are everywhere – but while they are happening outside Europe outside the families, as a result of old traditions and political circumstances which give families the possibility of sticking together, you can see, that in Good Old Europe the fights and wars are within the families and within mankind.
The best example is Straehl from Switzerland, shown in “First Works”, where the director Manuel Flurin Handry jumps directly into the daily life of Zurich’s drug dealer scene, where the pale, sweating, tired face of drug agent Herbert Straehl is one of the weirdest, most broken and disillusioned images you could see in modern cinema. There is no attention, just addiction; no family but failure and no friendship but fish here, especially piranhas in an aquarium at Straehl’s home.
The saddest and darkest stories always come from Scandinavia. Accused from Denmark by Jacob Thuesen, running in “First Works” as well, tells the moving story of a father who is convicted of abusing his daughter – but who knows the truth? Producing Adults by Finnish first time-director Aleksi Salmenpera deals with the failing attempts of a couple to have a baby – unfortunately the director fails as well, because his story drifts apart. But nevertheless, visiting the dark side of humankind in cool-temperatured cinemas while outside the very hot sun was shining from a mostly very friendly Portuguese sky, fortunately sometimes accompanied by a fresh wind, was a nice experience here in Troia at the very edge of Europe.