Pearls in "Concha"

in 51st San Sebastian International Film Festival

by Dubravka Lakic

This year’s Fipresci golden winner – Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s “Uzak”, also the Fipresci awarded Cristoffer Boe’s “Reconstruction”, Winterbotom’s “In This World”, Patrice Chereau’s “His Brother”, Chabrol’s “The Flower of Evil”, Babenko’s “Karandiru”, Bertolucci’s “The Dreamers”, Yimou’s “Hero”, Kim Ki-duk’s “Spring , Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring”, are just some of the films, which as this year’s true pearls are worth being in the traditional very precious “shell” called “Zabaltegi” or “The Open Zone” program.

But this year “Zabaltegi” also made space for young director’s films and we had the chance to get to know them or curiously follow their new projects. For that reason it was a pleasure to find among the films in “Zabaltegi”, a new one, made by Yugoslav born (Vrsac, 1968) Austrian director Goran Rebic – “Donau, Dunaj, Duna, Dunav Dunarea”, co-produced by Lotus Film GmbH nad Wega-Film from Wien (A 2003-90 min. – 35mm – color) whose previous films, the feature film “Jugofilm” and the documentary “The Punishment” we seen in Karlovy Vary and Berlin.

At the mouth of Urmea River in the Atlantic Ocean it was very strange to see the film about Europe’s main artery, which through history more often separated than joined people who live on its banks in ten countries. Most of these ten European countries, through which this mythic river flows, are still not in the EU. The river Danube of course knows nothing about this, as she also doesn’t know that it takes ten visas to get from her source to her mouth.

This is the essence of this film story, which begins in Vienna and ends at the mouth of the Danube in the Black Sea. This is a story about an unusual journey to the east, through which we get to know the lives of the main heroes: Franz, captain of the ship “DONAU” (Otto Sandler), his recently found son (Robert Stadlober), Ukrainian assistant (Voloddymir Goryansky), ship’s engineer Nikola (Svetoyar Cvetkocic), a Serbian deserter, who after ten years of absence steps on the ground of the country, whose bridges are destroyed by NATO bombing, a drug addict woman (Annabelle Mandeng), who will find sanctuary and the new meaning of life just during this trip.

Under the surface Rebic descreetly but clearly speaks about both West and East European brothers, about how Western men fear that Eastern men would probably take their jobs, their women, their little place in the sun by their coming. That they will bring in their “luggage” a social drabness, migration problems, human and narcotic trafficking, all the evil that is reputed to come from the East. But the East in Rebic’s film is not at all like that. The East is full of love and desire for a new and better life, which could be easily shared with a brother from the other (western) side.

Rebic’s “Donau…” is a poetic film, a film “on the river”. It’s almost shy, its rhythm is very calm, sometimes even lazy, just like the river he’s talking about. It’s a little but no less important pearl in this year’s San Sebastian “shell”.