Powerful Works By Bálint Szalóky

in 10th Bratislava International Film Festival

by Bálint Szalóky

The Bratislava IFF has been growing bigger with every year. The programs of this 10th, anniversary edition, featured most of the big hits of the A-category festivals alongside with first works by rookie foreign and local filmmakers, waiting to be discovered.

Among the big hits were Clint Eastwood’s Changeling, Atom Egoyan’s Adoration, Takeshi Kitano’s Achilles and the Tortoise (Akiresu to kame), Wim Wenders’s Palermo Shooting, Michael Winterbottom’s Genova, Laurent Cantet’s The Class (Entre les murs), Mike Leigh’s Happy-Go-Lucky and Richard Eyre’s The Other Man. Matteo Garrone’s Gomorrah (Gomorra), the winner in almost all categories of the European Film Awards, was exceptionally well received by the Bratislava audiences and played in crowded houses.

The interest, generated by the fourteen films in the main competition for First and Second Film was just as strong thanks to some unusually powerful works.

The main prize-winner, the Italian film Mid-August Lunch (Pranzo di ferragosto), is a charming story, based on Gianni Di Gregorio, the middle-aged director’s moving autobiographical reflections on his relationship with his mother. The film was thrown in high relief not only by its success with the audiences, but also by its contrast to the much grimmer world view, displayed by most of the works in competition.

The movie Under the Bombs (Sous les bombes) collected the Best Actress Award, the FIPRESCI award as well as the Ecumenical Jury’s Special Mention. Despite its somewhat one-sided approach, this pacifist film — shot on location and featuring amateur actors (excluding the two principal characters) — tells the gripping story of a woman’s desperate search for her young son during the Israeli bombing of Lebanon.

Conversely, the dreary French film Versailles reveals the world from the point of view of a lost (or rather abandoned) child. Five-year-old Enzo lives on the street with his mother, but during a trip to Versailles she disappears, leaving him with Damien — one of Guillaume Depardieu’s last roles shot just prior to his untimely death — in his isolated hut, completely cut off from the outside world.

The Zone (La zona), recipient of the Ecumenical Jury Award, takes another look at contemporary social inequalities through the eyes of yet another young boy, Alejandro, who also lives a secluded life, but this time around in a wealthy and sheltered neighborhood (therefore the film title). The life of the elite inhabitants of the zone however is turned upside-down by a simple power failure. Taking advantage of the ensuing blackout, three young muggers break into the zone, but only one of them survives the clumsy robbery attempt, causing havoc and innocent deaths.

Amat Escalante’s The Bastards (Los Bastardos), recipient of the Best Director’s Award, is made on a similar subject. And while foreshadowing a pending tragedy, it spins with an excruciating pace the tale of two illegal Mexican workers in Los Angeles.