Providing a Stage for Young Filmmakers

in 9 th Jameson Cinefest Miskolc International Film Festival

by Dineke de Zwaan

Why does an international film festival in Hungary select films that refer in particular to the world of young adults? Is there a message to be discovered? Do we see a surprising new tendency within the selection of 16 films that made up the international film competition of the 9th Jameson Cinefest in Miskolc this year? Well. In the past Miskolc, a former industrial city, used to be known for its national short film and television festival. And when I think of it, most of the competition films we watched as the FIPRESCI jury (first or second fiction features) of young filmmakers were rather conventional – perfect for television on a lazy Sunday morning or late at night. But few were outstanding. In general most of the films were well-made and easily accessible. Films like Smashed by director James Ponsoldt (USA) or Compliance by director Craig Zobel (USA) dealt with issues like ‘fighting an alcohol addiction’ and ‘vicious power-abuse’.

More cinema and fantasy were to be found in Berberian Sound Studio, directed by Peter Strickland (UK). Or Electrick Children, an American debut feature by Rebecca Thomas. This film about Rachel, a pregnant fifteen-year-old Mormon girl (immaculately conceived) connects separate worlds in one magic story: the totally dogmatic Mormon community versus wild life in Las Vegas. Another American fantasy independent was Safety Not Guaranteed by director Colin Trevorrow (USA). It was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. The story concentrates on a group of young journalists researching a spectacular ad that invites the reader to participate in time travel.

Of course the jury was curious as to what kind of ‘stories’ young filmmakers would come up with living in Central European countries such as Hungary, Slovenia, Austria and Romania. Anything new, particular, or typical out there?

The Trip (Izlet) from Nejc Gazvoda (Slovenia) is about three high school friends who reunite during a trip after dramatic personal experiences. One, a university dropout, is gay, the other was in the army and is afraid to be sent to Afghanistan, and their young female friend had breast cancer. Unfortunately the screenplay could have used an extra draft. So there was little new to be found. Director Hüseyin Tabak (Austria) made another film that could be broadcast late at night.

Your Beauty is Worth Nothing (Deine Schönheid ist nichts wert) from Austria tells the story of a little Kurdish boy living in Vienna and his love for a Bosnian girl in his school class. It is a modest story of immigrant life from a child’s point of view.

Again, the drama was rather small, and didn’t reveal much we weren’t aware of already in Austria or elsewhere. However the Romanian contribution Everybody in Our Family (Toata lumea din familia nostre) from director Rade Jude (awarded best film at this year’s Sarajevo Film Festival) was truly interesting. It tells the story of a divorced father who wants to take his little daughter out for a trip to the sea. But they won’t let him and he becomes very angry with his ex-wife and former family-in-law. Here, we liked the way it was filmed and how the story was told. Did it matter that this contemporary story was set in Romania? I think so, when you look at it from the perspective of authenticity. Or at least it might be typical for Central or Eastern European countries. The conditions, like three generations living together in one apartment, intensify the playground for this well-written, well-acted and well-visualised personal drama. The film Beast Paradise (Le Paradis des betes) from director Estelle Larrivaz (France) dealt with a similar sort of family situation. So be it. Here the father tries to run off with the children to Switzerland, while their desperate mother goes out searching for them. However despite its qualities, the plot was not satisfying.

Could the Jameson Miskolc Cinefest have been situated elsewhere? Yes, when you look at the programming. Most of the selected fiction films were shown before at well-known international film festivals like Sundance, Toronto, Cannes, Berlin, Rotterdam and Locarno. And that’s okay. But regarding the international film competition the festival had little to add. It missed a coherent vision in its selection. Beasts of the Southern Wild (USA), the much-awarded debut film of Benh Zeitlin (winner of the Golden Camera and FIPRESCI award at Cannes this year), is truly great for many of its special cinematic qualities. But one or two films couldn’t save the level of quality of this competition as a whole. We felt that Everybody in our Family by Radu Jude was the best film, so winning the FIPRESCI prize. But aside from the various international film competitions, Cinefest offers opportunities to learn, from its film-related conferences, filmmaking workshops for young filmmakers, and a Roma Picture Day.

Edited by Carmen Gray