Magical Tales - An overview of the New Horizons Section at the 8th Abu Dhabi Film Festival

in 8th Abu Dhabi Film Festival

by Subrahmanyan Viswanath

The 19 scintillating films that knit the sumptuous New Horizon’s section of the 8th Abu Dhabi Film Festival, were indeed a cinephile’s delight. Be it the range of themes, the individualistic styles, the tales they told or the delectable craft on show, the New Horizon’s section had it all and much more. It is indeed a rarity that such a diverse collection of films is put together to binge upon and mull over.

Leading upfront was a surreal, minimalist, visual haiku about an old farmer and his granddaughter who set camp on a tiny island in the Inguri river, which serves as a border between Georgia and Abkhazia. How both nature and the border police conspire to work against the blissful existence of the two individuals, form the fulcrum of George Ovashili’s Corn Island (Simindis kundzuli), which leaves one transported to another world altogether.

At the other end of the spectrum was the fast-paced, jolly and jaunty road movie From A to B, which traces the journey of three friends seeking to reconnect, driven by the memory of a friend they lost in their heydays of youthful exuberance and romance. Given his Emirati roots, the director, Ali Mostafa, was the toast of the festival.

While the Ethiopian film Difret, by Zeresenay Mehari, turned a spotlight on the disturbing tradition of kidnapping girls by their would-be husbands, Dietrich Bruggemann’s Stations of the Cross spoke of the impact of catholic practices and percepts on a young girl who seeks to help her mute brother, by adhering to the rigours of attaining sainthood and sacrifice.

South Korean films Entangled by Lee Don-Ku and In Her Place by Albert Shin, strangely and coincidentally dealt with mothers and childbirth, as tragedy strikes each of them in a different way. The two films provided a study in contrast while their underlying theme revolved around one couple having a baby and the other on the verge of becoming a surrogate. 

Likewise, if the Indian-Bengali film Labour of Love spoke of the economic rigours that drive a husband and wife to hold jobs that keep them away from each other, resulting in the couple’s angst and alienation, Exit, by Taiwanese director Chienn Hsiang, concerns an unmarried aging woman seeking to light her dreary existence by taking care of a sick man in a hospital bed.

Similarly, if in The Last Hammer Blow (Le dernier coup de marteau), by French director Alix Delaporte, tells of the 14-year-old Victor seeking to bond with his estranged musical maestro father, Magical Girl, by Spanish director Carlos Vermut, has a father taking to blackmail in order to fulfill the wish of his ailing daughter.

Children seemed to be the focus in several of the New Horizon features. If No One’s Child (Nicije dete), by Serbian director Vik Rsumovic weaves a tense  drama of a wolf-boy seeking to Integrate into society, Sivas, by Turkish director Kaan Mujdeci is a soulful coming of age tale of 11-year-old Aslan who bonds with a dying fighting dog that he saved. If Theeb by Jordanian director Naji Abu Nowar, turned out a typical western style saga of a young Bedouin boy braving the bullets of the Arab revolutionaries and the Ottoman mercenaries in the scorching Arabian desert, The Wonders (Le meraviglie), by Italian director Alice Rohrwacher, had a young teenage girl coming to terms with the brutal world of her father and a Cinderella world she dreams of.

In sum, the New Horizons section showcased some truly world class debutant directors that won audiences for their cinematic brilliance, embellishing their narrative with distinctive idioms of their own. Viva la cinema!

Edited by Yael Shuv