The Women of goEast!

in 17th Festival of Central and Eastern European Film - goEast, Wiesbaden

by Malik Berkati

The journey through the cinematographic landscape of Central and Eastern Europe as outlined by the films in competition, was highly interesting and diversified, despite the fact that one may have already seen some of them at other festivals. Which perhaps is the inevitable disadvantage of a festival, scheduled soon after one of the Big 3 festivals in the world, traditionally presenting films from Eastern Europe.

Nevertheless, goEast provides a very rich and strong events program – this year it included an important symposium, called Reluctant Feminism / Women Filmakers from Central and Eastern Europe, with talks, debates, films presentations and screenings. Furthermore, goEast paid homage to the famous and highly awarded Hungarian art house’s filmmaker Márta Mészáros (among her best known works is the trilogy Diary for My Children, Diary for My Lovers, Diary for My Mother and Father); organized a matinee with Agnieszka Holland (winner of the Silver Bear Alfred-Bauer Prize for Pokot [Spoor] at the 2017 Berlinale) – one of the festival highlights – who gave a master class for young filmmakers. Furthermore, goEast offered exhibitions, workshops, lectures, and a focus on Czech cinema; sustained various projects like Young Filmmaker for Peace, East-West Talent Lab, Project Market Pitch; and last but not least – allowed cinephiles to discover films in the parallel sections that they would hardly have the chance to see in Western movie theaters.

Je t’aime moi non plus!

This title of the famous Serge Gainsbourg’s song, which could be translated as I love you nor do I, depicts very well the common theme, which ran through all the sections of the festival: the love/hate relationships within a family. It is enough to mention a few titles from the competition: The Sun Blinded Me (Anka Sasnal, Wilhem Sasnal – Poland, Switzerland), A Father’s Will (Bakyt Mukul, Dastan Zhapar uulu – Kirgizstan), Filthy (Tereza Nvotová – Slovak Republic, Czech Republic), The Teacher (Jan Hrebejk – Slovak Republic, Czech Republic), You Have No Idea How Much I Love You (Pawel Lozinski – Poland), All Roads Lead To Afrin (Arina Adju – Russia), Quit Staring At My Plate (Hana Jušic – Croatia), The Citizen (Roland Vranik – Hungary), The Fixer (Adrian Sitaru – Romania, France).

As a matter of fact, there seems to be currently a global trend on non-mainstream filmmaking to tackle family issues – or rather, the perennial tension between the desire to preserve one’s individuality, and the need of a nest, where one feels protected against this harsh world.

Interestingly enough, the International jury and the FIPRESCI jury, gave their Best Feature Film Award to works, focusing on this topic. The similarities of these awardees goes further: both movies feature as a central character a mother, pillar of the family, who however makes a move to escape the entrapment of her traditional role. Moreover, both the Georgian film My Happy Family (FIPRESCI prize) with Ia Shugliashvili, and the Serbian Requiem for Mrs. J (International jury prize) with Mirjana Karanovic, are literally carried by these amazing actresses, who wear their roles like a second skin!


Our jury gave the award for the Best documentary to a wonderful short (35 minutes) Croatian film: Kino Otok (Islands of Forgotten Cinemas). The director Ivan Ramljak achieves an incredible harmony between content and technique – on one hand voice-over and sounds of old movies, and, on the other, static, meditative, warm-lit images of the eponymous ‘forgotten cinemas’ – thus recreating the environment of the Dalmatian Islands from the 50’. Besides the magnificent images of the movie theaters vestiges (film reels, projectors, open-air spots, etc.), the narrative is perfectly chiseled between tinged with nostalgia memories of people – recalling their childhood & youth by telling stories about funny screenings, about socializing in movie theaters, or describing films that marked their lives – and the sadness, prompted by the irretrievable loss of this open window to the world. Nowadays, the movie theaters are either in ruins or used as venues for rehearsals of choirs and brass bands, for sport shooting practice or yoga exercise.

One of the voice-over protagonists sums it up eloquently: “I don’t think films are just for entertainment. They are meant to leave an indelible mark. Television has been in competition with the cinema, and it won. With the stupid things one is watching on TV, one becomes stupid! Nothing can replace the experience of cinema, nothing! ” Kino Otok – a Croatian gem of a movie, akin to Cinema Paradiso!

As stated above, the FIPRESCI Award for the Best feature film went to Chemi Bednieri Ojakhi (My Happy Family), which, like Kino Otok, creates a rare polyphonic cinematic experience, where the story, the photography, the sound, the light, the editing, the music, the acting (with a special mention of the main actress), the humor, are all brought together by the directors Nana & Simon to produce a great piece of art, which shows a slice of Georgian life, yet remains universal.

Manana (Ia Shugliashvili) lives with her husband, her parents, her two grown-up children and her son-in- law. One day, out of the blue, she decides to rent a flat and move there on her own. And of course, it seems that the world would fall apart for the rest of the family…

The storyline is simple, and yet it carries a very complex and universal theme about the place of the individual in society. How to find the right balance between the need of personal independence and the responsibility towards societal structures? The emancipation of Manana is shown ingeniously, implying a global move towards liberation, without however provoking a disaster or a revolution: the mother was the center of the family, but she was invisible for the others. By regaining her individuality, she regains visibility and, step by step, the family links are restored and everything is back to normal. Indeed, this story is not only about the place of the woman in a traditional society, but also speaks about issues, often overlooked by societies in transition. Chemi Bednieri Ojakhi – two hours in Georgia that take you to a serene and open ending…

Edited by Christina Stojanova