Three continents, two worlds, one dilemma: Everything will (not) be fine

in Sofia International Film Festival

by Stojan Sinadinov

“Everything will work itself out” is a frequently used phrase in Mexican cinema in the second half of the last century. But does it?

Watching the 12 films in the official competition selection of the 28th Sofia International Film Festival (SIFF), this phrase emerges as a kind of mantra over the fate of the characters and families in the stories. And exactly the families and the relationships between their members are the dominant themes in the films of this selection. The three most striking films follow below.

Bittersweet family ties dominate Ádám Breier’s story formatting in All About The Levkoviches (Lefkovicsék gyászolnak, 2024), in which we witness a subtle twist on the complicated relationships in a Jewish family in today’s Hungary. The head of the family, Tamas (the excellent actor Zoltan Bezeredi), is more than just a boxing lover for him it is a kind of personal “religion”. His wife Zhuzha tries to maintain the broken relations in the family after the tragic loss of the older son and the departure of the younger one to Israel, where he formed his family and shaped his desired life as a zealous believer.

The woman’s sudden death will force the father and son to face each other again. They are not only picking at the painful scars of the past—in which the son felt abused due to the high expectations of the father and the imposed sense of inferiority about the dead brother—but they are also fighting for the soul of the youngest Levkovich, Ariel. His grandfather expects him to be a new boxing champion, and his father raises him as an orthodox Jew from an early age.

It is interesting that a certain generational inversion of the religious feeling, which contrary to usual expectations and prejudices, is dominant among the younger rather than the older members of the family.

The influences of established Mexican film directors such as Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Alfonso Cuarón, and Guillermo del Toro are evident in the epic drama Sujo (2024) but Astrid Rondero and Fernanda Valadez create a film with a slightly different atmosphere, rhythm and sensibility. Depicting the strained lives of a family on the social fringes of Mexico, Sujo shows the conflict in the family which is reversed than in All About The Levkoviches. The Levkoviches are fighting for their past self-righteous lives, while Sujo’s family —and him especially—for life itself, here and now.

That is why we are witnessing an “implosive” family conflict in Levkoviches and an “explosive” conflict in Sujo’s family. In the manner of Ephraim Kishon’s sarcastic humor, Breier creates a story that unfolds like the process of peeling an onion: with each layer removed, there are more tears. Of course, not literally…

Sujo’s father, Sicario (meaning “Hitman”), is executed by his gang as a traitor, and Aunt Nemesia fights to keep the little boy from that world of killers, raising him in her isolated poor estate in the mountains. As time passes, the moment comes when Suјo will have to enter the world of adults, and here the directors build the story perfectly, introducing the main character to a new stage, the urban environment with new challenges: will he be able to avoid his father’s fate and not be a Sicario? In that next phase, Sujo has a new protector, Susan (the delicate Sandra Lorenzano), and an old problem: he doesn’t believe in himself as much as others believe him too, especially Susan. Rondero and Valadez with a great sense of detail change the invoice in this part of the story, leading to Suјo’s final choice – can he avoid the family’s fate?

Although seemingly completely different, in Murase Daichi’s Beyond the Fog (Kiri no fuchi, 2023) we again follow a family drama with deep contradictions between its members. Daichi’s “less is more“ minimalism introduces us to the three generations of a family in a small remote village surrounded by a forest.

With an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, the image of the film emphasizes the different approaches of the author. Highly stylized in building a melancholic atmosphere, Beyond the Fog examines the relationships in the family through the point of view of 12 year-old Ihika. Her grandfather will never leave the small village in the mountains, and her parents, although they dream of a life somewhere else, cannot resist. Although a debutant in the feature length film, Daichi with the hand of an experienced author leads the story through the mountain forests, filled with “noisy silence” of traditionalism in the concept of family, through which the new generations want to break through.

By Stojan Sinadinov
Edited by Savina Petkova