Wiesbaden's goEast: Families in Crisis

in 16th goEast - Festival of Central and Eastern European Film, Wiesbaden

by Elena Rubashevska

The 16th edition of goEast film festival was, as always, surrounded by the blossoming parks, elegant buildings and peaceful pastures of Wiesbaden. But there was nothing peaceful inside the Caligari cinema, where the competition screenings took place. As goEast positions itself as a festival where filmmakers and buffs could gather to discuss global problems, it’s easy to understand why one should be prepared to face the advancing destruction of the shared basis of our existence, the growing chasm between rich and poor, failed states and even war on the cinema screen.

The FIPRESCI jury focused on both documentary and fiction features, which mostly came from post-communist countries. There were ten fiction features in this year’s competition, four of them made in co-production (with France and Canada, among other Eastern Europe countries). Directors concerned with the urgent problems of their own society revealed undeniable similarities of the problems that the whole of Eastern Europe is facing now.

The family crisis is probably the most poignant topic of Wiesbaden’s film festival. It refers to Bopem, directed by Zhanna Issabayeva from Kazakhstan, where the murder of his family becomes the only possibility for the young boy to deal with moral pressures. In We are Never Alone (Nikdy nejsme sami), directed by Petr Václav from the Czech Republic, a young boy kills his grandfather while his parents are afflicted by profound misunderstanding, both in the relationship between husband and wife and between parents and children. In The Waiting Room by Igor Drljaca, who was born in Sarajevo and now lives in Canada, the main character is lost and cannot find the slightest meaning, neither in his professional nor in his family life, roaming in a foreign country and looking for one-night stands which also cannot satisfy him. There is no understanding between the spouses in the Romanian Orizont by Marian Crisan, or in Eva Nová by Marko Škop from the Slovak Republic.  Unable to get pregnant from her husband, the protagonist of Insight by Alexander Kott from Russia desperately plunges into an affair with a blind man, who loves her deeply; yet finally she chooses the routine of her marital life from which she suffered before.

Neither the poetical nor historical exterior of Eva Neymann’s Song of Songs (Pesn pesney) from Ukraine can hide the same problems of impossibility to be happy in marriage; and even in genre films, such as Dawn (Ausma) by Laila Pakalnina from Latvia, The Lure (Córki dancingu) by Agnieszka Smoczynska and The Red Spider (Czerwony Pajak) by Marcin Koszalka (both from Poland), the expanding chasm between generations reveals itself.

Another thing that could be seen in almost all films, including documentaries: in every Eastern European country people still are surrounded by the Soviet heritage. Abandoned buildings, bumpy roads, grey panel houses and a political system that is no longer communist, but also far away from democracy. Political and civil indifference, not a hint of hope that anything will change soon, and the helpless projection of social issues onto private life – that is the general trend of the goEast fiction competition.

But one can’t deny that among such bleak aspects there is hope. It sprouts timidly through the soil of corruption and frustration in the guise of humour – sometimes black, sometimes insane, sometimes absurd. And all those socio-political cul-de-sacs don’t seem to be insolvable as long as they are run parallel to seeing the bright side of life.

The official jury (Karpo Godina from Slovenia, Tihana Lazovic from Croatia, Polish-born Ewa Mazierska from the UK, Miroslav Mogorovic from Serbia and Lenka Tyrpáková from the Czech Republic) awarded the Russian fiction Insight the Award for the Best Film, while the Polish thriller The Red Spider received the Award of the City of Wiesbaden for Best Director. The Russian documentary Not my Job (Chuzhaia rabota) by Denis Shabaev was awarded the Prize of the Federal Foreign Office for Cultural Diversity, and the actress Emília Vášáryová of the Slovak-Czech production Eva Nová received a Special Mention for her performance.

The FIPRESCI jury decided to award a film which perfectly fits into one of the main topics of goEast festival, namely the goEast Symposium “In the shadow – crime in Central and Eastern European genre film”. This fiction feature debut combines an intriguing plot and outstanding cinematography, and it also very well-performed. The FIPRESCI Award was given to The Red Spider by Marcin Koszalka.

Edited by Birgit Beumers