The Means of Its Ambition?

in 14th Jameson CineFest - Miskolc International Film Festival

by Pierre-Simon Gutman

Opening this year’s Jameson Film Festival, the mayor of Miskolc, the city hosting it, doesn’t mince words and goes straight to the heart of their claim: “Welcome,” he said, “to Hungary’s cinema capital.” And that is effectively the point. The Jameson Film Festival has been trying hard recently to be the main event of the region, with the workshops and special screenings to back this ambition. And because the festival doesn’t try to to compete in the international big leagues, by not respecting the “international premiere” rule, it is therefore free to be the first regional stop for all the critical successes of the past year. The liberty allows it to present a full picture of what Hungary, and neighbouring countries await and expect when it comes to arthouse cinema and its possibilities in the region.

The Palme d’Or winner The Square is there, of course, as are many prize winners of the last Cannes edition (Western, The Nothing Factory). Just like the famous festival, the programme allows the viewer to take a concentrated shot, by watching, in 10 days, all the notable auteur films of the past year. The result is a kind of a subliminal vision of the year in the cinemas and, of course, in society. It is, evidently, hard to watch pictures like The Nothing Factory, Western and God’sOwn Country without making assumptions, and dark ones, about the rise of inequality, or the sudden omnipresent fear of immigrants. Cinema is once again a mirror, as it should be, and in Miskolc, it is painting a brooding, fearful image. A few patterns emerge, as they often do in these large selections. Identity, sexuality and, more specifically, homosexuality, are on the frontline. Call Me By Your Name, the Italian movie which has already received a good critical reception and generated strong Oscar buzz, revisits with a twist, Bernardo Bertolucci’s Stealing Beauty, with its emphasis on spring, the beauty of nature and the awakening of sexuality. In this case, it’s a journey of self-discovery that can be seen in other pictures, like NatliaLeite’s M.F.A., starring Francisca Eastwood. Confusion, uncertainty about oneself, about your place in the world ; all these subjects infiltrate the whole selection, showing, between the lines and the films, a world awash with introspection.

Even the big Hollywood movie selected to play the part of the necessary event, Darren Aronofsky’s Mother! Is exploring the same themes. On the downside, and this is a logical developpement, the festival doesn’t really act as a window for the new Hungarian cinema. Very few movies are presented (but this is, of course, also linked to the production rate of the country), and there are no workshops or meeting with young filmmakers from the country. The Jameson Festival is about the world, seen from Hungary, but not really about Hungary itself. A choice that makes sense, since the aim is to create a notable event, but that can be frustrating, the selection sometimes seemingly ending up as a little brother of the bigger beasts around.

The frustration can extend to the retrospectives: two Bond movies for an homage to Roger Moore is definitely not a lot, to name one example among others. On these grounds, the Jameson Film Festival fails to be an celebration for movie buffs, with a programme too sparse to really achieve such an ambitious goal. The Jameson Festival then has some places to conquer before it can be what it wants to be – the focal point for the whole region, and even outside the Hungarian frontiers. Still, it has room to grow, a solid team and a reputation on the rise. The coming years will be crucial but, for the moment, everything is still possible for them.

Edited by Amber Wilkinson