2019-20 Backcountry Film Festival
&# 171; Darkness of history does not negate beauty and humor
The 50th Rotterdam Film Festival (IFFR) ended on Sunday 7 February – one of the key shows of world independent cinema.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the festival organizers have developed a new model in which streaming is the main focus. Accredited journalists, including a correspondent for the Russian Service «Voices of America», got access to the program on a specific schedule. Views «window» averaged 3 days. Some films in the virtual screening were absent or were shown only in the Netherlands, presumably at the insistence of producers fearing piracy.
Time to reward «Pebbles»
«Tiger award», the main prize of the competition, received a drama «Pebbles» (Pebbles) by the Indian director Vinotrai P.S. Monetary «appendage» to the prize is 40 thousand euros.
The jury motivated the decision by the fact that this Indian tape is «a lesson in pure cinema, captivating with its beauty and humor despite the gloom of history».
Act «Kameshkov» takes place in a Tamil village in southern India. In the middle of a road movie – an alcoholic father and his son, who are walking along a rural road under the scorching sun. They walk for a long time, about 13 kilometers, to see the mother of the child, who ran away from home from the beating of her hot-tempered and rude husband, and to try to restore peace in the family..
&# 171; Pebbles. Courtesy photo
As director Vinotrai P.S. told the festival’s selector Stefan Borsos, this is his first full-length film as a director, filmed with a mobile camera in Tamil and played by non-professional actors, whom the director helped, as he says, to get rid of panic in front of the camera..
«We were supported by our Tamil colleagues, to whom we showed the first assembly of the film, – told the director. – I think there is no need to be afraid that viewers in other countries will not understand the lifestyle of the villagers of southern India. After all, domestic violence – universal phenomenon».
Search for a genre
In the parallel Big Screen competition, the Argentinean «The dog that will not be silent» (The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be Quiet) directed by Ana Katz. Launched by IFFR and Dutch Public Broadcasting (VPRO), this competition aims to bridge the gap between art house and commercial cinema. Five movie enthusiasts act as a collective judge. The winning film gets the right to be shown after the festival in five cinemas in the Netherlands and on national TV. Half of the cash bonus of 30 thousand euros is intended for his future distributor.
&# 171; A dog that will not be silent. Courtesy photo
Critics note the genre uncertainty of Ana Katz’s film, the sixth in her directorial career. This is a tragicomedy about an innocent and honest hero, and a satire on modern society, full of ridiculous prejudices and conventions, and a philosophical «comic» sci-fi with dystopian elements. The director, it seems, cares little about the script logic and the progressive development of the action. On the contrary, the accents seem to be deliberately shifted, and events of great importance slip on the screen in a few seconds, but insignificant ones are stretched in time..
The main character Sebastian, a graphic designer and illustrator by profession, is played by Daniel Katz, the director’s brother. His problems begin with the dog, about which Sebastian’s neighbors complain about being mistreated around the house, and co-workers demanding that he stop bringing the dog to the office..
The director said that the filming lasted for several years. The film was shot sequentially by five operators, all of whom worked in black and white. Important events in Sebastian’s life, like global phenomena, are illustrated with drawings created by production designer Mariela Ripodas.
Critics drew attention to the similarity of the motives of the film in its fantastic part with the psychological reactions we all know to the covid pandemic. When the world around Sebastian suddenly became different due to events of a cosmic order, the simplest questions like «How are you?» acquired a deep existential character.
«Sebastian, like many of us, is faced with the insane actions and words of others every day., – the reviewer writes «Hollywood Reporter» Sheri Linden, – and not only them. Sometimes the Universe itself launches strange tailed comets in our direction.».
Special Jury Prize «Tiger competition» got «Comets: Corsican Summer» (I Comete – A Corsican Summer) directed by debutant Pascal Tagnati and tape «Searching for Venus» (Looking for Venera) Kosovo director Noriki Sefa, also a debutante. Laureates will receive 10 thousand euros each.
«Comets» represent a set of different-sized micronovels of Corsican life, where heroes, people of different ages, are engaged in a variety of things, mostly of an everyday nature. The ordinariness is elevated here to the rank of a fetish, and the director, obviously, expects that the audience will be imbued with the poetry of both situations and characters..
&# 171; Comets: Corsican Summer Courtesy photo
In a psychological drama «Searching for Venus» the young heroine has to adapt to the tough dictatorship of patriarchy and the complete absence «privacy». Venus lives in a small village in Kosovo, at home her relatives are watching her vigilantly, everyone knows each other on the street and in cafes, and it is almost impossible to hide, and even more so to build a personal life. The girl gets a new chance when she makes friends with the independent Dorina, who is ready to share her experience of fighting the house-building.
The Audience Award went to a war drama by Bosnian director Yasmila banić «Where are you going, Aida?» (Quo Vadis, Aida?). The UN translator travels at her own risk to Srebrenica, where her husband and sons are. They are threatened with death, and the woman is determined to save them. The film is nominated by Bosnia and Herzegovina for an award «Oscar» in the international category.
As previously announced, American director Kelly Reichardt, whose new film «First cow» (First Cow) has appeared in one of the IFFR programs, and before that at several prestigious festivals, including Toronto and New York.
The world premiere of the new film by Renata Litvinova took place in Rotterdam «North wind», included in the Big Screen program, but he did not receive any prizes. In this eclectic half-devilish story, based on her play of the same name, Litvinova is both the scriptwriter, the director and the leading actress. The music was written by Zemfira. Litvinova was clearly inspired by the absurdist poetics of her mentor Kira Muratova. Critics use words «baroque», «decadence», «Gothic», to describe a kaleidoscope of strange, extravagant heroes of Litvinova, performing strange, unmotivated acts.
The program of the festival favorites of the Limelight season featured a film by Andrey Konchalovsky «Dear comrades!» about the shooting of a demonstration of workers in Novocherkassk in 1962. Previously, the film received a special jury prize at the Venice Film Festival and was nominated by Russia for the award. «Oscar».
The festival in Rotterdam, its new director Vanya Kaludersich, decided to divide it into two segments. The first one, February, has just finished, the second is scheduled for June 2-6, entirely in live offline format. It is assumed that films of a special retrospective program dedicated to the 50th anniversary of the show in Rotterdam will be shown before the start of the summer segment..