What was interesting on the Hill of Movies?

in 22nd International Motovun Film Festival

by Marijana Jakovljevic

The 22nd Motovun Film Festival took place at the top of the hill in the picturesque small Istrian town of Motovun from July 23 to 27. There were a lot of good movies on the Hill of Movies, as it is called. In the main program of 20 feature films, 13 were in competition. Only two awards are presented: the Motovun’s Jury – Propeller and the FIPRESCI Jury Prize. The great Icelandic film A White, White Day (Hvítur, Hvítur Dagur), directed by Hlynur Palmason and co-produced by Denmark and Sweden, won the Propeller Award. The jury included Hana Jušić, a director from Croatia, Ognjen Glavonić, a director from Serbia and Michal Chacinski, a producer from Poland.

TatooThis year, the novelty of the Motovun Film Festival was amongst 30 short films from all around the world, one was directly nominated for selection of EFA (European Film Award) short film. The jury consisted of members, representatives of partner festivals whose winners are also in EFA competition. These are: Brigitte Weinberger of Odense, Denmark; Daniel Ebner of Vienna, Austria; and Sven Schwarz of Hamburg, Germany. They decided on the film Reconstruction (Rekonstrukce), directed and written by Jiři Havliček and Ondrej Novak, Czech Republic, because the winner and winner of the Propeller Award is the Iranian movie Tattoo, directed and written by Farhad Delaram, and therefore cannot compete at EFA, as it is not from Europe.

Our FIPRESCI jury was: Jasmina Šepetavc, Slovenia; Jelle Schot, Netherlands; and Marijana Jakovljević, Croatia. Our winner is the macedonian film God existes, her name is Petrunya (Gospod postoi, imeto i’ e Petrunija), directed by Teona Strugar Mitevska, co-produced with Belgium, Slovenia, France and Croatia. Writers are Teona Strugar Mitevska and Elma Tataragić. We agreed on this film because the lead actress Zorica Nusheva’s excellent expressiveness which quickly convinced us that the main character is a spontaneous and smart woman who is a symbol of the need for freedom in many areas, and points to the necessary changes in society, the Church and the media. The film is black comedy, well-directed, edited, dynamic and easily draws the viewer into its own world. The social aspect and the problem of employment are particularly pronounced. Even Petrunya has no job. The problem of church traditions that women do not fit in it is also highlighted. Her “sin” is that she spontaneously jumped into the water and emerged with the cross, which is traditionally done only by men, when a priest throws it into the river on the feast of Epiphany. It is believed that the one who emerges with the cross will be happy for a year. Interestingly, the clergy of the Macedonian Orthodox Church declined to help with advice to the screenwriters.

The relationship of faith, religion, Church, priests and peoples was a frequent motif, and sometimes a topic in films at the Motovun Film Festival this year, indicating that this is an important part of modern society. But what is especially important is the intention of the filmmakers to keeping the faith. They have criticized the Church as an institution. The polish film Clergy  (Kler ), directed by Wojcech Smarzowski, is leading the way. But the movie is overflowing with events and characters. The three main characters of the three priests represent all kinds of problems. The director was a guest of the festival, so in an interview he said that he had priests who helped him and advised him on the script. Oleg is a Latvian film and the name of the main character who leaves for work in Belgium, engages in modern economic slavery, and all the while wonders as a believer about the sacrifice of the Lamb of God and his role in it. The director is Juris Kursietis. The drama Let there be Light from director Marko Škop, produced by Slovakia and the Czech Republic, portrays the problem of a young militant group gathering around the Church, and the role of the priest is not entirely clear. In addition, while everyone is celebrating Christmas, love between people is neither sincere nor effective.

The problems shown in the films are not just in Christianity. The German film Oray also raises questions about Islam. The director is Mehmet Akif Büyükatalay. The main character wants to be a good Muslim, but some interpretations by the imams of Oray’s words lead to drastic changes in his life. The question is what matters more – marital love or interpretation of the rules. In relation to spirituality, religion, the workings of the dark powers and supernatural phenomena, the Swedish-German film The Innocent  (Der Unschuldige), which employs horror-elements, poses the most questions.

The MFF 2019 shows the Poland in Focus and Populism for Beginners movie cycles. The lead guest was American director Andrew Bujalski, the creator of the mumblecore sub-genre, whose films Funny Ha Ha, 2002, and Support the Girls, 2018 were screened. He was a student of director Dušan Makavejev Mak in the USA. Makavejev was always close to the Motovun Film Festival, and he died this year. In his honor, a movie theater was called Mak. The laureate 50 Years Award went to Croatian cinematographer Živko Zalar, who graduated in Prague.

Two Croatian feature films were out of competition: the excellent feature-documentary The Diary of Diana B (Dnevnik Diane Budisavljevic) by director Dana Budisavljević and the world premiere of the documentary Tusta by director Andrej Korovljev.

Of course, in Motovun also offered a lot of good music and concerts on a daily basis.

Marijana Jakovljević
Text edited by Karsten Kastelan