Love, Violence, Nostalgia and Other Arguments

in 61st Valladolid International Film Festival

by Oscar Peyrou

The disasters of war, glory and the misery of the human condition, love, violence, nostalgia, mental illness, and the eternity past, are some of the arguments of the films in the Official Section of the 61st edition of the Valladolid Film Week (SEMINCI), which took place between 22 and 29 October in the Spanish city.

French director Anne Fontaine’s presented Les Innocentes (The Innocents), the FIPRESCI Award winning film, which is a dark parable about the consequences of war and human sacrifice. This drama, set in Poland at the end of World War II is inspired by real events. It tells the story of a French nurse who serves in Warsaw at the last soldiers returning from the front. One night a nun comes to beg ger to accompany her to her convent. There, she will meet a group of nuns who have become pregnant after being raped by Russian militia. The filmmaker hopes to raise this work ‘universal questions about the war, the fragility of women or hope’. The FIPRESCI jury was composed by Salvatore Farfella (Italy), René Marx (France) and Oscar Peyrou (Spain).

Like Crazy (The Gioia Pazza), directed by Paolo Virzi, is a co-production between Italy and France. The film won the Espiga de Oro, the highest award of the competition. This year the oficial Jury comprised Chilean Matias Bize, Spaniard Sílvia Munt, Italian Angela Prudenzi, Mexican Martin Hernandez, Frenchman Marc Baschet and Indian producer Bobby Bedi.

Virzi tells the story of two women inmates in a psychiatric instituction. They escape to the outside world. The film relies heavily on the chemistry between its two protagonists, Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi and Micaela Ramazzotti,, who play two characters fleeing from reality – the first, with enthusiasm and extroversion, the second with timidity and silence. Their roles also earned them, ex aequo, the prize for best actress.

The Distinguished Citizen (El ciudadano ilustre), by Gaston Duprat and Mariano Cohn, (Argentina), received the Espiga de Plata. The film is a chronicle of the misadventures of the Nobel Prize for Literature winner Daniel Mantovani in his hometown, Salas, which he returns to after many years and that inspired him to create the bulk of his literary production in Europe. The lead actor, Oscar Martinez, won the Volpi Cup at the Venice Festival for a delicate and full interpretation of nuances in his performance. The Argentine film also won the Miguel Delibes Award for Best Screenplay for Andrés Duprat.

The film is full of bitter criticism of political and cultural bodies, as Mantovani ponders higher concepts such as creative imposture, a writer’s relationship with his audience and his characters, and the art of storytelling itself.

Don’t Call Me Son (Mãe só há uma), by the Brazilian filmmaker Anna Muylaert received the award for best director. This filmmaker has built her film on a real event of stolen children, which occurred in Brazil more than 20 years ago. She tells the story of Pierre, a teenage reflection of today’s youth of Brazil as his search for identity, inherent in the formation of personality over the years, is complicated by the discovery of his biological family.

Anatomy of Violence, directed by Deepa Mehta is a co-production between Canada and India. The film combines reality and fiction in an impromptu inquiry about the lead up and aftermath of the gang rape of a girl by six men inside a bus in New Delhi on 16 December, 2012. A dozen actors work with Deepa Mehta to elucidate the motivations that led these men to commit such an atrocity. The film also recreates the life of the young lady, her circle of family and friends and her hopes and dreams before she becomes the victim of aggression. The film deals bluntly the question, ‘What turns men into monsters?’

The film does not provide unequivocal answers, but it opens the door to an inquiry that can feed a thorough examination of the complexity and the hidden causes of this kind of brutality against women, which is unfortunately a widespread phenomenon. Aquarius, by Kleber Mendonça Filho, is a co-production between Brazil and France. Dona Clara, a widow and music critic, 65, who was born into a traditional family of Recife (Brazil), is the last resident of Aquarius, an original building built in the early 1940s. A building developer has purchased all the apartments, but she refuses to sell hers and begins a cold war with the company. The situation, not without mystery, disrupts and disturbs her daily life, and prompts her to think about her life and loved ones.

Dev Bhoomi (Land of the Gods), by Goran Paskaljevic, coproduction India-Serbia.

After a long exile, Rahul returns to his village in the Himalayan region. His return causes a stir among the locals, who have never forgiven the sins he committed in the past. Now he will face an isolated world full of old prejudices, gender inequality and injustice caused by the caste system – a world in which women have no right to choose their own destiny. Other interesting films in the official section were: Dokhtar (Daughter), directed by Reza Mirkarimi, Iran; Eshtebak (Clash), by Mohamed Diab, Egypt; Forushande (The Salesman) by Asghar Farhadi, Iran, France; Inhebek Hedi (Hedi), Tunis, by Mohamed Ben Attia; King of the Belgians, by Peter Brossens and Jessica Woodworth, Belgium, the Netherlands and, especially, Kasoku wa Tsuraiyo (What a Wonderful Family!), by  Yoji Yamada, Japan.

Edited by Amber Wilkinson