The Atmosphere of a Fine Film Festival By Jean Roy
by Jean Roy
Even for the most blasé film critic who has been touring the world festival circuit for decades, Motovun has something special and unique. It’s a small well preserved Croatian village surrounded by heavy walls where a central piazza (the Venetians have been there and most locals can speak Italian) is perched on a hill 277 meters high. Good for tourists willing to spend a few hours enjoying the view while sipping wine and tasting truffles, but for a film festival? Where are the theatres? Where are the hotels? Where is the audience? And, if not, why would any producer or seller be foolish enough to fly its print there?
But yes, the audience is there, thousands of young back-packers ready to see films unknown in the country and then listening to rock music, singing, dancing and shouting till the wee hours; don’t worry, the beer stalls remain open. So the theatres have to be there and they are, one small turn into the theatre room where you start at ten in the morning and two vast open air theatres at night, with screenings basically beginning at 9pm, midnight and 2am. So the films have to be there and they are. Due to a motivated team, the selection maintains standards of high quality. Just to prove it, four of the films offered to the audience have already won FIPRESCI: Look Both Ways by Sarah Watt, Something Like Happiness (Stesti) by Bohdan Slama, Innocence by Lucile Hadzihalilovic and Accused (Ankalget) by Jacob Thuesen.
Most of the main program had been selected from the major festivals, ignoring the blockbusters and many of the top names. From Cannes Summer Place (Yihe Yuan) by Ye Lou; A Chronicle of An Escape (Cronica de una fuga) by Israel Adrian Caetano; from Venice A Little Lieutenant (Le petit lieutenant) by Xavier Beauvois; from Berlin The Road to Guantanamo by Michael Winterbottom; The Free Will (Der freie Wille) by Matthias Glasner; Slumming by Michael Glawogger; from Locarno Buffalo Boy (Mua Len Trau) by Ming Nguyen-Vo; from Sundance Fifteenth Birthday (Quinceanera) by Richard Glatzer; The Wristcutters: A Love Story by Goran Dukic; Son of Man by Mark Dornford-May… Local audiences want to see what is supposed to be the best (you know) so the new selectors, Jurica Pavicic and Rajko Grilic, have been proved right by not trying to bring in world premieres – which often means titles rejected by the A-list festivals – but to concentrate on a more modest but more effective goal.
Still, there are so many films made every year that, even if you have been attending a lot of festivals, there is always plenty to discover, even things you didn’t have the faintest idea they were on the map. One single example, the incredibly beautiful Hungarian short Before Dawn (Pred Zoru) by Balint Kenyeres. Have you seen it? Maybe yes, probably no. Have you even heard about it? Maybe yes, possibly no. It was competing at Cannes 2005, won a prize in Tampere and a mention in Sundance and was among the nominees for the European Film Awards, but you just can’t remember them all. In Motovun, one thousand people have seen it, just because it was shown at the right time in the right place. That’s why festivals like Motovun are precious.
Tributes have been paid for their fifty years in cinema to the actors Vanja Drach and Semka Sokolovic-Bertok, the latter also being an incredible chess player who defeated fourteen opponents in simultaneous games in front of the audience. Just one of these afternoons where you have time to indulge a drink and feel the atmosphere between two movies.