Reports from Jameson CineFest

in 14th Jameson CineFest - Miskolc International Film Festival

by Giuseppe Sedia

This year Miskolc granted clear sailing to the event-goers hunting for common threads among the 21 titles selected for the main competition. The titles were cherry-picked by Géza Csákvári, Artistic Director of Jameson CineFest and former film reporter of Népszabadság, the most significant opposition newspaper in Hungary that shut down its operations less than one year ago. The 14th edition of the festival brought to the table several coming-of-age stories and tales of “bad motherhood” – sometimes against their own will.

The latter was the case for Darren Aronofsky’s Mother! and Martin Koolhoven’s Brimstone, where the main roles played by Jennifer Lawrence and Dakota Fanning, respectively, are cinematically doomed to suffering and damnation, and this, despite their drive towards well doing. On the other hand, the episode of child theft in Michel Franco’s April’s Daughter and infanticide in Willian Oldroyd’s Lady Macbeth granted Emma Suárez and Florence Pugh a precious opportunity to display the “evil at work” on the big screen. Certainly, most of the audience in Miskolc did not empathise with the dark heroines from the main competition. Nonetheless, such inflexible and obscure characters were not a matter of indifference to the festival-goers.

As previously mentioned, the transition to being an adult was the other dominating leitmotif this year at the event hosted by the fourth largest city of Hungary. More precisely, it was the topic of sexual education that took the lion’s share of Luca Guadagnino’s Call Me By Your Name, as well as of the surprising God’s Own Country, directed by British rookie Francis Lee. No wonder, however, that the aestheticising mise en scène in Guadagnino’s fifth feature film, shaped in the vein of Bertolucci’s Stealing Beauty, did not succeed in winning the hearts of any of the juries.

Dave McCary’s Brigsby Bear was a moderately pleasant and unexpected surprise in the vein of Wes Anderson and potentially a good catch for the distributors that stuck around in Miskolc. In Children of the Night, a thriller film about the coming-of-age of the Italian future ruling class, Andrea De Sica lingered between dream and reality without taking determinedly one side or the other. In A Ciambra, a more bitter than sweet tale of growing up set in an illiterate Romani community from southern Italy, Jonas Carpignano succeeded in elaborating on the fresh and direct cinematic approach he displayed in his debut feature-length film Mediterranea. Eventually, A Ciambra won the International Confederation of Art Cinemas Award.

Obviously, not all the films could fit into those two categories. Overall, the worst but also best efforts showcased in Miskolc were to be found among the features that couldn’t be pigeonholed using any of the two common threads identified previously.

At the lower end of the ranking, Roderick Cabrido’s Purgatoryo, an uncanny but disjointed crime movie in which the Filipino cineaste took to the extremes the aesthetics of Brillante Mendoza’s oeuvre. The time has come for film critics to say enough is enough to a mannerism that attempts to exploit, at any cost, the most rentable trends in world cinema today. Similarly, M.F.A, a glossy rape and revenge film directed by Natalia Leite, did not entirely convince the jurors despite Francesca Eastwood’s magnetic performance in a role inspired by her real-life story. Leite and Czech glory Jirí Menzel were among the main guests who walked the red carpet at the Jameson CineFest in 2017.

The main jury, headed by Hungarian filmmaker Arpad Sopsits, gave the Emeric Pressburger prize to Valeska Grisebach’s Western, a captivating story of immigration “the other way around” from Germany to Bulgaria. Pedro Pinho’s The Nothing Factory, an epic film about the Portuguese working class blending Italian political cinema, musical numbers and Godard, received the Zukor prize. The Ecumenical Jury Prize went to Boris Khlebnikov’s Arrhythmia, a more than solid Russian drama centering on the story of a young couple in crisis formed by a paramedic and an emergency physician. The FIPRESCI squad in Miskolc opted instead for decorating Columbus, the delicate directorial debut of Seoul-born filmmaker Kogonada filmed with static shots in one of the hottest spots of modernist architecture in the United States.

Edited by Amber Wilkinson