Loss: The Sliding of Things Known By Ronald Rovers

in 56th International Filmfestival Mannheim-Heidelberg

by Ronald Rovers

One of the things that demanded attention at the 56th International Film festival Mannheim-Heidelberg was the extraordinary number of films that dealt with loss in one way or another.

In the international competition there was Mirush (Blodsbånd) by Marius Holst (boy loses father and follows him from Kosovo to Norway), Coverboy (Cover boy: L’ultima rivoluzione) by Carmine Amoroso (loss of humanity), Mona’s Daughters (Le cèdre penché) by Rafaël Ouellet (loss of mother), Dead Endings (Descaminhos) by eight Brazilian directors (loss of society and human relations), Desierto Sur by Shawn Garry (loss of mother), The Park (Gongyuan) by Yin Lichuan (loss of traditional society), Tricks (Sztuczki) by Andrzej Jakimowski (loss of father) and more.

This constant changing, sliding of things known to us, was also illustrated by festival director Michael Kötz in his opening speech when he pointed to the pivotal and continuous need for reinvention of the festival. We no longer adhere to tradition, he said, so the audience has to be convinced, persuaded to come, one year after the other. We are no longer convinced, it seems, a good festival this year is a good festival next year. “We boycott dress codes (…), no longer bow in front of someone else (…), no longer stick together in marriages (…), and no longer wash the car on Saturday.”

Kötz talked about the context of the festival but one could also — and many directors obviously did — take this in the context of a ‘culture of loss’, of constant renewal and choices which are evaluated and re-evaluated and taken each time as if it were the first time. Without or with little concern for history because choices become the cold calculus of advantages and disadvantages with dramatic consequences.

The father in Tricks leaves his family and decides to start a new life elsewhere. So does the father in Mirush, though initially this is about money and working in the west. But when his son Mirush arrives in Norway, he discovers his father decided to stay because he now has another life. This is loss, perpetuated by economy. That was also the story behind Coverboy, which portrays western culture’s inhumanity in treating its most vulnerable inhabitants. A new western front, as someone has probably remarked somewhere. It ties the treating of refugees as low paid meat to the meat business at the top of the food chain, big money catwalk coverboys. Dead Endings travels all around Brazil to show small societies fell apart when railway lines were canceled.

Through their portrayal of loss these directors tell us, as did Kötz in his own way, that we should be careful with what we choose to renew.