Tragicomic Travels

in 15th goEast - Festival of Central and Eastern European Film

by Jean-Max Méjean

Two men wander in a strange country; one is boxing and the other not. This road movie takes place in a melancholy universe; the colours are faded but the whole film is full of amazing poetry: it is the film Koza by Ivan Ostrochovský (Czech & Slovak Republics), which received this year’s FIPRESCI Prize at Wiesbaden’s GoEast, not only because of its great artistic qualities, but also because it sets the tone in the difficult times that the world at large and Eastern Europe in particular are going through, especially with recently gained independence and fratricidal wars, not to mention issues of migration that these countries have experienced. The documentary Logbook_Serbistan (Destinacija_Serbistan) by Želimir Žilnik shows African refugees who discover the Serbian campaign. Each film in the competition, be it documentary or fiction, showed a tough world and a hard life, which is questioned in such locations as Natalya’s farm surrounded by the buildings of Kiev in the beautiful documentary by Czech filmmaker Jirí Stejskal titled My Home (Jáma). Of course, there are also Yugoslav refugees hosted in the early 1990s on the floating hotel of Copenhagen, which makes the location for the Danish-Serbian co-production Flotel Europa by Serbian filmmaker Vladimir Tomic. A great melancholy emerges from all these films, which is maybe characteristic of the Slavic soul, but beyond a certain amount of despair tinged with a degree of humour that commands respect. A teacher forced to steal in order to escape the crisis in The Lesson (Urok) by Bulgarian filmmakers Kristina Grozeva and Petar Valchanov; a young woman faces ruin in Georgia and sells her house to escape dishonour in Line of Credit (Kreditis Limiti) by Salomé Alexi. On their way, the employees in Kebab & Horoscope (Kebab i Horoskop) of Polish director Grzegorz Jaroszuk apply a method full of absurd humour to get their carpet business out of the crisis. Why me? (De Ce Eu?) from Romanian director Tudor Giurgiu is a very dark film about political corruption that now undermines many European countries. There are only three films that make people laugh or dream, but curiously they are less memorable: Angels of Revolution (Angely Revoliutsii) by Russian director Aleksei Fedorchenko; Citizen (Obywatel) by the Polish filmmaker Jerzy Stuhr, with his humour that seems to come straight from Mel Brooks; and The Postman’s White Nights (Belye nochi pochtal’ona Alekseia Triapitsyna) from the Russian Andrei Konchalovsky, who needs no introduction for his masterpiece of Russian melancholy and poetic humour that makes you dream. Finally, we should honour No One’s Child (Nicije Dete) by Serbian director Vuk Ršumovic, which garnered the Grand Prix. The international jury chose to honour this film about the social inclusion of a wolf child brought to a children’s home in Belgrade at the beginning of the war.

Edited by Birgit Beumers