Nineteen Not Out and Counting

in 19th Motovun Film Festival

by Vladimir Seput

This year, the 19th edition of Motovun Film Festival screened 19 movies in the Grand Competition from all over the world. From Berlinale winner Fire at Sea (Fuocoammare) by Gianfranco Rosi to new movies by Alejandro Jodorowsky and Bruno Dumont, the festival’s increasing quality of the competition raised the stakes for the upcoming 20th edition of this beloved place. For any film lover or film critic Motovun is still truly a unique experience that brings together art and festivities in the best possible way. If one looks for an ideal summer vacation, this is not a place to go. It’s not quiet, there is no sea and you probably won’t feel well rested after its ending. Nevertheless, the Motovun Film Festival will enrich you with a lot of new experiences, works of art and it will make you share ideas during a casual get together with other film enthusiasts and professionals.

The opening film this year, Tangerine by Sean Baker as well as the winner of the main competition, Viva by Irish director Paddy Breathnach, are two important pieces that deal with similar subjects but remain unique in their own right. Both films opened a new chapter of accepting topics such as transgender and transsexual communities in the mainstream narrative. Both of them are strong, natural and beautifully shot – one of them in the local streets of Los Angeles on a bizarrely wonderful and sunny Californian Christmas Evening and the other one on the streets of Havana, surrounded by music, ocean waves and rain. The Latin American wind certainly didn’t stop here. It also brought us a new work by Alejandro Jodorowsky, straight from the alley ways and bars of Santiago, Chile. In Endless Poetry (Poesía sin fin), the now 87 year old Jodorowsky tells us a story of his own childhood and formative years that led him to Paris where he would become one of the major influences in the fields of filmmaking and graphic novels. Surreal, beautiful and poetic, Jodorowsky’s imagination is still as vivid as in the times of The Holy Mountain and El Topo.

The festival’s partnership with Italy gave a unique opportunity to see some of Italy’s best living directors in Motovun. The nature of retrospectives is that the work shown isn’t new and most of the film goers are already familiar with the work of screened directors. Still, it was enjoyable to see movies by Nanni Moretti, Paolo and Vittorio Taviani, Paolo Sorrentino or Matteo Garrone in one place and to once again become aware that Italy is one of European’s most productive and creative cinematic areas.

The FIPRESCI award went to Good Wife by Serbian director and actress, Mirjana Karanovic. The film tells the story of a woman confronting the immorality of her husband’s past and guilt for war crimes and it was chosen for its great acting and superb directing.

This year’s edition of the MFF Maverick Award went to Želimir Žilnik, one of Serbia’s major film directors known for his experimental approach and criticism of censorship while his colleague Nenad Puhovski, well known Croatian documentary author, was awarded for 50 long years of active filmmaking. The jury’s decision (this year’s president was the renowned Icelandic director Fridrik to give a special mention to the film The Student by Kirill Serebrennikov makes it evident that the quality of the films in competition was pretty high and we hope that Motovun will keep up the good work and prepare us an exciting surprise for its 20th anniversary next year.

Edited by Steven Yates