New Horizons International Competition

in 15th New Horizons International Film Festival Wroclaw

by Bartosz Zurawiecki

In this year’s Competition during New Horizons we could see thirteen films, including three Polish ones. All these movies tried to be very innovative and unconventional, but, as we all know, there’s a huge gap between trying and making. For example, How to Disappear Completely (Jak calkowicie zniknac) by the well-known Polish independent director Przemyslaw Wojcieszek is a one-night-love affair story about two young women wandering, clubbing and dancing in Berlin — so banal and clichéd, but also superficial, just like a video clip that’s too long. In contrast, another Polish movie Calling (Wolanie) by Marcin Dudziak — depicting father and son on holiday in the forest — seems to be a far-too-long student étude. The most peculiar work from the competition was A Spell to Ward Off the Darkness (made by two Bens — Rivers and Russell), which combines documentary, ethnological movie and a black metal concert, but its aim remains unclear and, frankly speaking, uninteresting. Also Butter on the Latch, directed by Josephine Decker, “an experimental psychological drama inspired by a Bulgarian folk song” — as we read in the catalogue — is so experimental and enigmatic that you can’t see through it. There are two girls involved, there’s also a guy and some sexual tension, but most of all, there are words, words, words… The same applies to Cherry Pie, afilm from Switzerland directed by Lorenz Merz — a pretentious mix of naturalism and fantasy, increased with so-called poetic monologues spoken, for example, in Russian (because, of course, Russian is the language of the soul). It could be an intriguing, intimate portrait of a lonely woman wandering along the highways of France and the beaches of Dover, but Merz couldn’t achieve balance and moderation in his visions, so in the end you are rather confused than seduced. The list of the pointless movies is closed down by Canopy (directed by Aaron Wilson). It takes place in Singapore’s jungle in 1942. An Australian pilot is shot down and finds himself in the heart of darkness. Surrounded by Japanese soldiers, he walks through a dense forest and meets a Chinese guy. And now begins the very clichéd film with the obligatory scenes when our hero sees, weeping, a photo of his wife or when he tries to understand the Chinese fellow, even if they don’t understand each other’s languages, etc.

Actually, there were only a few films, which could satisfy art-house viewers. For example, The Sheep (Mouton), made by Gilles Deroo and Marianne Pistone — a movie about a young man, which provocatively loses its protagonist in the middle of the story. Mouton (the nickname of the main character) leaves town, but the camera stays. Also the Austrian film My Blind Heart (Mein blindes Herz) by Peter Brunner — a portrait of a man who suffers from Marfan Syndrome, which causes his blindness — can fascinate the viewer with its black-and-white images and devastated sets composed of ruined houses and abandoned places. But it’s too melodramatic, especially in the last sequences.

The best two films of this year’s Competition were History of Fear (Historia del miedo), a debut from Argentina made by Benjamin Naishtat, which won our FIPRESCI award; and White Shadow — a movie which received both the Audience Award and the Grand Prix. The director, Noah Deshe, depicts the life of Alias, a young albino in South Africa, who is persecuted by his countrymen. An intense, violent and truly innovative film. The camera vibrates, escapes, is frightened to death and struggles, just like the main character. No wonder the movie conquered the public and the jury.

Edited by Birgit Beumers