Voting for Human Rights

in 18th Lecce Festival of European Cinema

by Natalia Moussienko

The 18th edition of the European cinema festival in the Italian city of Lecce was held from April 3 to 8, 2017, at the Multiplex Cinema Massimo. The Festival aims to act as an intermediary between different cultures and film languages, becoming a potential mean of promotion of European cinema.

Already on the first day of the Festival, an action was held in support of the Ukrainian film director Oleg Sentsov, unjustly convicted in Russia. The documentary film by director Askold Kurov impressed the audience greatly. The world premiere of the film, The Trial: The State of Russia vs Oleg Sentsov (The Trial: The State of Russia vs Oleg Sentsov, 2017), was held in February 2017 in the 67th Berlin International Film Festival. In March 2017 the Film was presented at the International Human Rights Documentary Film Festival “Docudays UA”. Currently, the European Film Academy actively promotes special screenings of the film at various film festivals, in support of the Ukrainian director-prisoner in Russia. Thus, in Lecce, southern Italy, the film has collected a full house, including many Ukrainian, who gathered to the screening from far and near suburbs. The film director Askold Kurov, the director of the festival Alberto La Monica, the Chairman of the European Film Academy, Polish director Agnieszka Holland, and Head of the Academy Secretariat Marion Doring – presented the film to the public. The audience greeted the film with long applause and raised to mount posters “Freedom Oleg Sentsov!”. There were many questions to the director, and a lot of emotions were sensed in the cinema hall.

The main prize of the European Film Festival is the Golden Olive Tree. This year there were in the official selection films from Ireland, Norway, France, Macedonia, Spain, Slovenia and other European countries. However, it was Nana & Simon’s Georgian movie, My Happy Family (Chemi Bednieri Ojakhi, 2017), in co-production with Germany and France, that won both: the Best Film Award and the prize for the Best Cinematography.

The FIPRESCI jury, comprising of Colette de Castro, Natalia Moussienko and Alberto Alfredo Tristano, opted also for My Happy Family, because “with an accomplished and spirited style it represents the complexity of a whole society, through a female figure with a rich personality and a whole host of contradictions”.

The film directors, Nana Ekvtimishvili and Simon Groß, were not at the Festival, and the film’s leading actress, Ia Shugliashvili, took the Golden Olive Tree from Lecce to Georgia. The film is about an ordinary Georgian family that lives with three generations under one roof in Tbilisi in our days. The story portrays their generation’s relationships, difficult decisions and simple pleasures. All the members of the family are shocked when 52 year old Manana decides to move out from her parents’ home and live alone. suddenly she has realized that she needs her private space to live and work. She works as a schoolteacher, and it is financially not easy for her to rent this private apartment, but she did it. She has not divorced, still actively helps to her adult son and daughter and her parents, but stays alone. The film tells, simply and elegantly, about a person who lives among us and became very close and familiar to us, like an old friend if not a family member. It was this Georgian film, at the general landscape of contemporary cinema, which was in search of stunning scenes and extraordinary heroes – that touched the audience in Lecce.

Edited by Nachum Mochiach