Young Takes on Different Forms

in 43rd Molodist International Film Festival

by Sven Gerrets

As the Molodist Film Festival in Kiyev is going strong with its 43rd edition this year, the ‘young’ that Molodist means in Ukrainian clearly doesn’t apply to the festival itself. It does, however, make clear what the festival stands for: young and/or debuting filmmakers, fresh talent and new cinema. This is illustrated by the numerous titles of (student) films being shown by up-and-coming directors. Directors are often present and eager to talk to fellow filmmakers, journalists and other moviegoers about the art of cinema, in official interviews and Q&A’s, as well as at more informal gatherings, accompanied by some beer in the local pub. Fuelled by some wonderful movies, it turned out to be a breeding ground for interesting discussions.

One of the most talked-about titles this year was Sarah Prefers to Run (Sarah préfère la course), in which a young girl’s life changes when she is offered a place at Quebec University’s athletics program. With a subtle hand, director Chloé Robichaud mixes drama and comedy as the running-obsessed Sarah slowly learns what’s most important in her life. The movie touches on subjects such as love, sexuality and friendship, but always stays light, making it a definite crowd-pleaser. Young protagonists are often the perfect way to channel hopes and dreams. As Sarah just wants to run and to feel free, so do Juan, Chauk and Sara in The Golden Cage (La jaula de oro) ‘just’ want to go to America. Born and raised in the slums of Guatemala, their poverty and spirit take them on an adventure towards a hopefully better life. But although director Diego Quemada-Díez makes his feature debut with this film, being born in 1969 he is also hardened by life and reality. So in their quest he burdens his young heroes with a naiveté that can only bring them hardship. After seeing The Golden Cage it comes as no surprise that Quemada-Díez began his career as an assistant to Ken Loach. In mesmerizing visuals the dream of the trio becomes a horrifying tale of the search for an illusion. They travel on top of trains, crowded with hundreds alike, all in search of the same unattainable goal. By contrasting the beauty of the countries they travel through with the brutalities they have to endure along the way, Quemada-Díez establishes a raw play of emotions. With three young actors, filming locations spanning several countries and hordes of extras, combined into a story that is both a small and touching tale of friendship, as well as a meta-comment on the current state of human affairs, this is truly a tour de force of the director.

Where Quemada-Díez punches you in the gut, director Anthony Chen paints a smile on your face with his Ilo Ilo, a movie that already had big success over the world, even winning the Golden Camera at the Cannes Film Festival. It’s a lovely gem that sometimes doesn’t even differ too much from the harsh reality of The Golden Cage: a husband without a job, a wife pregnant and working hard, their young son out of control. Chen adjusts his cinematography to the story and paints a bleak world, with a palette of limited colours, where the everyday routine of an average family takes centre stage. Amidst all this, however, he lets a fragile friendship blossom between a little boy and his nanny. Heartfelt, at times darkly funny and without getting to heavy-handed, you come away feeling hopeful for the future. Ilo Ilo is one of the stunning highlights of this year’s festival.

And as new filmmakers fire up their cameras every day to make all kinds of cinema-goodness, there will surely be new highlights to look forward to at the 44th edition of the Molodist Film Festival next year.

Edited by Birgit Beumers