Problems and Hopes

in 35th Moscow International Film Festival

by Hans-Joachim Schlegel

It’s quite a long time since 1935, when the great Sergey Eisenstein was the jury-president of the 1th Moscow International Film Festival. Not difficult, to imagine, how he would react on the fact, that this years’ 35th MIFF (20-29th June, 2013) was opened with Marc Forsters World War Z (USA, 2013), a special trivial Hollywood-blockbuster. Well, a big festival needs stars like Brad Pitt at the red cover and a popular cine-attraction. But, however: the shadows of this already many years usual practice casts quite dark shadows over the competition, with more and more quite pitiful genre-movies. Long ago the 70ies and 80ies, when great directors like Federico Fellini, Akira Kurosawa, Andrzej Wajda, Krzysztof Kieslowski and other leading filmmakers presented their masterpieces in Moscow. Long time ago also the perestroika-times, when the Dom Kino (House of Cinema) became in the time of festival a place of inspiring historical discussions … last, but not least with Elem Klimov, the liberator of forbidden Soviet pictures, who’s 80th birthday on 9th of July was even not mentioned — strangely enough for a festival, celebrating even minor important names with retrospectives.

That time the discussions have been overcrowded by journalists and critics from all over the world. Nowerdays the press conferences don’t even need English translations — due to the absence of international film critics, not invited by the festival: a quite serious for an International Film Festival of the A-category, which should be changed quickly, because the leg of an echo in the international medias causes also a lot of other problems — last, but not least, the interest and trust of serious international producers, beside of this quite sceptically because of the absence of a serious film market. The headed by the highly qualified Kirill Razlogov selection group has anyhow a lot of problems. Mainly: the get their budget so shortly before the festival, that they may start, to work only two months before the festivals begins. And the scepticism even of minor producers is beside of this hardly to overcome. No wonder, that for instance a Bulgarian producer decided, to screen his film rather at the quite regional Sarajevo IFF and an US-indie another movie in Karlovy Vary.

Due to the concurrence of a festival initiative in St. Petersburg the Moscow IFF became in the last three years more interesting and innovative. But meanwhile the St. Petersburg Film Forum crashed, and the innovation of the Moscow IFF is again in danger. Difficult, to understand, why they closed this year the competition section “Perspectives”, an important section for discovering newcomers from even not well known countries. Maybe because of that there was a huge number of debut-movies in this years’ main competition. Generally not bad. But due to the main tendency for commercial genre-movies quite a lot of this newcomer films screened globalist stories and images. Technical perfect, but empty.

In the Serbian-German coproduction Mamarosh the Serbian newcomer Momcilo Mrdakovic, a Kusturica-scholar, tell the story of a film-projectionist, who emigrates during the NATO-bombing of Belgrade together with his mother to the USA, where he is confronted with the digital world and decides, to show people the lost magic of Celluloid Cinema, the silver screen with his flickering light. An other example for a creative handling of the ready made pattern of commercial action is Lebanon Emotion (Le-ba-non kam-jeong) by the South Korean newcomer Jung Young-Heon. The chases of a young woman by a violent jealous man is here connected with very individual images, not repeating the usual clichés of South Korean action films and a socio/psychological conflict of strange, not understandable — “Lebanon” — emotions. But beside of trivial cop — and action — films (not worth, to be remembered here have been three films with gay-subjects, what was especially in Russia with huge and violent homophobic tendencies a brave accent. In the Swiss-film Rosie by Marcel Gisler the middle aged gay-writer Lorenz Meran finally accepts his love for a younger gay. In this a little bit too traditional film Rosie, the old and sick mother of Lorenz is excellent played by Sybille Brunner. But more deep develops the Dutch director Dieterik Ebbinge in Matterhorn the coning out of the locked and lonely protestant Fred, who finally marries in a little bit kitschy ending a handicapped gay. In Memories, they told me (A memória que me contam) by Lúcia Murat, a former member of the Brazilian leftist guerrilla and director of memorable films, the gay subject is integrated in a story about the today established 68th generation.

Russian films are traditionally strong presented in the MIFF-competition. This year even with three contributions. Anyhow a good possibility, to understand the current situation of film and society in a country, where Dmitrij Liwanow, the Russian minister of education and science shocking openly declared, that the post-soviet society needs qualified consumers instead of creative people. Wladimir Medinski, the minister of culture, responsible now for Russian cinema. Follows this general line by exclusively supporting commercial successful producers, who should meantime also protect patriotic-religious values. Individual creativity and critical reflection of actual reality have under such circumstances less and less chances. This year Russia presented even three films in the competition: movies, reflecting in a certain way the outcome of this strategy. Slide (Skolzhenie), the feature debut of Anton Rosenberg, a former director of advertising and commercial videos, is nothing more than a permanent violent action of drug police-investigators, fighting each other. Judas (Juda), the second movie of the 1985 born lead singer of the Russian rock band tOt, is a quite simple “bible-film” with the betrayer of Christ as an ugly looking and acting thief and tough Russian guys as the disciples of the light figure Jesus Christ. The movie is a strange and mixture of extreme gesticulation and even boring permanent moral and metaphysical sermons, directly quoted from Leonid Andreyevs beginning last century passionate discussed novel “Judas Ischariot”. Because of the unforgotten films Letters From a Dead Man (Pisma mjortwogo cheloveka, 1986) and The Museum Visitor (Posetitel museja, 1989) Konstantin Lopushansky’s The Role (Rol) was expected with great expectations. But beside of really fascinating images in the tradition of Alexey German senior we are confronted with a quite ambitious but finally empty story: a great Russian actor leaves the Finish Vyborg for revolutionary Russia, to fling himself into the role of a red Civil War commander and experiences the tragedy of revolutionary Russia in the NEP-period. But in spite of a dramatic process we see only a panopticum of selected situations. A pitiful disappointment of a great possibility…

The headed by the Iranian director Mohsen Makhmalbaf, who presented in Moscow his beautiful philosophical film The Gardener (UK, 2012), international jury anyhow found a film, worth the Golden George Award, the Grand Prix of the Moscow IFF. It was a quite wise decision and a sign of hope. to award the Turkish movie The Particle (Zerre) by Erdem Tepegöz. This is a little, but intensive film about the very difficult survival-fight of an Istanbul working woman, confronted with social and psychological very hard conditions.

Edited by Gerald Peary