Overall Impression

in 17th Sofia International Film Festival

by Eithne O'Neill

The overall impression of the dynamic and joyful Bulgarian Festival is one of spring signs and expectations. Thus the twofold emphasis on both filmmaking and film-distribution, harbingers of the future, is made evident, thanks mainly to the substantial part played — in addition to the various competitive film-categories — on the section Sofia Meetings, with literally hundreds of representative of the industry being present, distributers, buyers and producers. Creating a special buzz, the Taviani brothers, Paolo and Vittorio, in person add luster to the homage paid them by the Festival, and the Press interview with loquacious Tony Palmer awakes response among the local listeners.

In the Awards, the Focusfox Grand Prix Award given by the International Jury for First and Second Feature films goes to Oh Boy! By young Jan Ole Gerster, who lives in Berlin, a city which he lovingly films. A delightful, subtle neo Nouvelle Vague testimony in black and white, and with subtle editing, the film brings the spectator back in several ways, to the struggles of early youth, and the father and son struggle, to the roots of latter-day cinema, German and worldwide, while reminding us of the grace of Pina Bausch who was fond of seeing ordinary people so elegantly filmed. Gerster leads us through the German capital at night, up and down its winding staircases with feeling. The Turkish film Beyond the Hill, by Emin Alper, already a laureate of the Forum Section at the Berlinale 2012, wins the award in the important Balkan Section. This year, the best short film-and we found the shorts shown before the features, a wonderful idea, enchanting — is Bulgarian: The Paraffin Prince by Pavel Pesnakov. For its part, the South-American Continent is proud to receive the Young Jury prize for the The Last Elvis (Ultimo Elvis), by the Argentine director, Alexander Bo. Passion counts, even if the cost is high!

The best Director Prize goes to Gimme the Loot, by Adam Leon, an American independent-style film with a social conscience, about class-distinctions, growing-up and the leveler of being just a young person wanting to be loved. Doesn’t this tell us something about the messages of hope and understanding that all really good Film Festivals should propagate?

Long Life to Sofia and its Festival Director.

Eithne O’Neill