Looking Back

in 12nd T-Mobile New Horizons International Film Festival

by Müge Turan

Besides focusing on arthouse fare by debut and sophomore directors, Poland’s largest international film showcase, the T—Mobile New Horizons Film Festival, featured five directorial retrospectives this year: Dušan Makavejev, Ulrich Seidl, Carlos Reygadas, Peter Tscherkassky and Witold Giersz.

One of the most exciting things about film festivals is retrospectives that focus on a diverse range of outstanding filmmakers, such as the Polish animator Witold Giersz. He was a discovery for both local and foreign film enthusiasts. Starting with his debut in 1956, as a renowned animator and creator of nearly 50 films he revolutionised animation films in Poland in the 1960s. But the most outstanding retrospectives were of Dušan Makavejev and Ulrich Seidl.

Dušan Makavejev is a prominent figure in Yugoslavian film history. His cinema, spanning more than four decades, is deeply rooted in communist Yugoslavia’s painful experience, which he criticised with an anarchic humour. His films veer from gritty realism to found—footage farces, where he treats Socialist classics as comic strips. With his startling feature debut, Man Is Not a Bird (1965) he violated many political and sexual taboos. His international breakthrough with the film, WR: Mysteries of the Organism (1971) was itself a sensation. Having presented 10 of Makavejev’s features as well as a large selection of his short films, the festival allowed us to discern the genuine richness of works by this founder of the so—called “black wave” of Yugoslavian cinema. Most of these stimulating and bold films are hardly known today, even by cinephiles.

The Austrian director and producer Ulrich Seidl was the other most talked about retrospective, which presented 14 of his films, including his latest, Paradise: Love, which competed for the Palme d’Or 2012. Seidl’s controversial oeuvre blurs the boundary between fact and fiction with a gaze of cinéma vérité. Like in Paradise: Love, the characters don’t find what they are looking for in their artificial paradises. Beginning in 1980 with a short called One Forty, the audience had the chance to encounter Seidl’s cold and minimal reality.

Cinephiles will long cherish the discovery of these two arthouse provocateurs of European cinema.