With Audacity and Sense of Responsibility In Front of Our Society

in 11st International Film Festival Bratislava

by Olga Markova

It is only natural for a relatively young film festival to provoke expectations of daring and venturesome art vistas, as well as experimental revelations. However, the young filmmakers generally stick to what they have learned in school. It is “by the books” that they want to test themselves and their concepts of art. Their quests are predestined by the extremely complicated and chaotic reality of life nowadays. No doubt these quests themselves will one day turn out to be works of art which provide the real picture of our age.      

What we saw at the 11th International Film Festival in Bratislava was not quite different from what we watched at the golden jubilee (the 50th anniversary) of Thessaloniki Film Festival a few days before.            

Very important social topics dominated the well-selected 12 films in the competition of first and second features at the IFF Bratislava: the 1994 bloody genocide in Rwanda in The Day God Went Away (Le jour où Dieu est part en voyage), a French-Belgian coproduction which won the Grand Prix for the Best Film; illegal emigration in Northless (Norteado) from Mexico; tragic physical and moral consequences of a bomb attack in Jerusalem in 7 Minutes in Heaven (Sheva dakot began Eden); aspiring to find somebody who would love you in a world full of brutality in the Russian Tale in the Darkness (Skazka pro temnotu); an entomologic look at groups of people: the community of the changing Chilean city Valdivia in Optical Illusions (Ilusiones ópticas) and a French company in Nothing Personal (Rien de personnel); inter-generational frustrations in There (Orada) from Turkey; the apocalypse of human relationships in the Hungarian Transmission (Adás), and the disillusioned juvenility of new generations in Eastern Plays (Bulgaria, Sweden) for which Kamen Kalev received The Best Director Award.        

Of all the competition films in Bratislava my favorite was Northless by the young Mexican director Rigoberto Perezcano who studied film at Centro Universitario de Estudios cinematográficos. Perezcano is known for his interest in the dramatic possibilities of documentary cinema. The film was my personal discovery at the Thessaloniki Film Festival this year: I am really happy that my opinion coincided with the decision of the international feature film competition jury, headed by Theo Angelopoulos, to give Perezcano the Best Director Award. It is evident that his professional experience in documentary and his knowledge of scriptwriting prepared him very well for this feature film debut. The film participated in ”Films in Progress 14” and won a few prizes at the 56th San Sebastian Film Festival last year. Here the theme of Mexican immigrants trying to cross the border into the U.S is not just another one of many similar stories. The young creator managed to find a new visual way to tell it. His understated, warm, non-exploitative take on a young man’s failed border-crossings and the temporary life he has in Tijuana eschews melodrama or tragedy. Andres’ simple story is not unusual at all, but it is told clearly with tenderness and humanism. All the very likable characters are created with suitable visual aesthetic means. As the purpose of the FIPRESCI award is to support cinema as an art and as an outstanding and autonomous means of expression, and to particularly encourage new and young cinema, we gave our prize to this impressive debut.            

An interesting peculiarity of the IFF Bratislava this year was the fact that we saw a collection of powerful portraits of women, starting with two Palestinians (Muna and Parga) in the non-competitive opening film Amreeka, an expressive debut by Cherien Dabis (USA, Canada, Kuwait). Then Galia, a survivor of a bomb attack in Jerusalem in 7 Minutes in Heaven; Angelina from Vladivostok who does everything possible to love and to be loved in Tale in the Darkness; the two excellent portrayals of Mexican women living temporarily (!) in limbo in Tijuana in Northless, and finally – Jacqueline, the Tutsi nurse, hidden by the Belgian family during the Rwanda massacres, a silent witness of the tragic events, in The Day God Went Away.          

The somber tones and dark atmosphere corresponded with the problems of our time. That is why the films with comic tones such as Matthias Gokalp’s feature debut Nothing Personal and Cristián Jiménez’s Optical Illusions served as a “ray of light” with their entertaining look at the world around us.          

As you remember that in the 1990s young Argentinian cinema was rising, it is now the New Chilean Cinema’s voice that can be heard. In the Bratislava programme we saw 3 films from Chile. The festival paid special attention to Israeli cinema with its 6 oeuvres and especially 7 Minutes in Heaven, the full-length debut by writer-director Omri Givon with its expressive images and evident achievements by the lead actress.        

The Documentary Competition offered many intimate stories, but also movies with much broader socio-political reach. In the Short Film Competition a stage was given to ideas and experiments and half of the films had their international premiere in Bratislava. The selection offered romantic stories, social dramas, comedies and provocative tales as well.

Edited by Yael Shuv