четвъртък, 3 януари 2013 г.

Stories only exist, when remembered 16th International Sofia Film fest (9-18-29 March, 2012)

For the 16th time in a row Sofia became, at least for a week, a cross point for the ever moving in different directions world cinema and the emotions, evoked by the films in the competition and the meetings with their young authors will reverberate for a long time in reflections, conversations and publications. Because "stories only exist, when remembered” - this is the literal translation of the title of young Brazilian director Julia Murat's feature length debut "Historias que so existem quando lembradas" (2011, Brazil/Argentine/France) (the official English title is “Found Memories”), which won the Grand Prize for best film at the festival. And we can go on and say that stories exist, when they are in constant motion, when they are being told, acted out, reconstructed and interpreted…But most important of all – when the movies stick in the mind of the audience for a long time. And indeed, it felt like if after the festival screenings, we were all carried away in the dreamlike rhythm of a road movie to an endless wandering between time and space, escapes and devotion, yearning and impossibility; to an amalgam of dreams, memories, realities and all kind of film stories.
“Found memories” begins with a stylized observation of the repetitious daily routines of a group of old men and women in a remote and lifeless part of the Brazilian country. Then a young female photographer appears out of the blue and her presence shakes up the whole village. Initially, she is met with mistrust and cold detachment by the locals but gradually, she manages to enliven their memories and stir up their stagnant yearnings. She unwittingly revivifies their dull lives. The juxtaposition of the pastel character portraits, pictorial landscapes and still lives with details from the everyday life, shot by the director of photography Lucio Bonelli on one hand with the incrusted in the story symbolic black and white photographs, made with a camera obscura technique, on the other, creates a metaphorical contrast. The photographs depict the same objects, but by blurring their concrete physical outlines, they are delving deeper, beyond the exoticness of the visible. “Found memories” is a personal and intimate film, because director Julia Murat inserts into the story the experiences she had while shooting her documentaries about the same desolated Brazilian country, where her fiction debut is set - Jotuomba, as well as her own relationships with the local people. The main character in the film - young Ritta (Lisa Favero) somehow resembles an Agnes Varda character. She has no biography and she is going in no particular direction - she just follows the rails with her camera, without roof or law. She doesn’t settle for too long in a particular place and it looks like it is in fact the lens of her camera that determines unwittingly which way she will go. Much alike is the female character in the feature length debut of Bulgarian director Konstantin Bojanov “Ave” (2010; Award for best director and three others) – she is painfully frivolous, fairy and enchanting. Trying to shake off from herself, Ave (Anjela Nedialkova) sets out on the road, with a last hope of finding her brother. That hope soon blends with fantasies, mythomania and a desire to change identities. On the road she runs into Kamen (Ovanes Torosian), who is going to Ruse to attend the funeral of a friend of his, who has committed suicide. In an interview, made for “Kultura” (see issue №41, 2011), director Konstantin Bojanov stated that: “I have always found something cathartic in the process of travelling. Being on a move helps me escape from myself and it’s also a way to avoid the constant self-examination.” “Ave” is a small, tender and poetic movie about a yearning for dissolution of the ego, about disappearing, but also about maturing. The narrative is moving in moderate tempo along the lonely highways and the young actors are delightful in depicting the anxious, emotional fluctuations of their characters, whether they are hitch-hiking or standing in the muted light of a hotel room, lost together at a nondescript railway station or getting to know each other at a deserted port. The movie follows the inner rhythm of its characters and decidedly, even though in a slow and delicate way, changes its mood from cheerfulness and vitality to hopelessness and tender melancholy. Each frame is like a painting spread in motion, in which the dramaturgy of the fine story is unfolding. The other Bulgarian feature-length fiction debut in the competition “Faith, Love and Whisky” (2012, coproduction with USA, director Kristina Nikolova) also shares some of the specifics of the road movie genre. Like “Ave”, it examines closely the themes of love, escaping and maturing, but in this case, through the dilemma of the main female character, who’s torn apart between two contrasting worlds. Nelly (Ani Stoyanovska) comes to Bulgaria to make her choice between the symmetrical, well-arranged life with her fiancée in America and the careless, lax, directionless existence of her infantile childhood friends, among whom is her first love – Val (Valery Iordanov). She finds out that nobody has grown up and not much have changed in her old world and she let herself be gradually carried away by the “unbearable lightness of being”. She runs away on a road trip with Val, and while they are wandering around night clubs and deserted beaches, only the empty bottles, lit by the tender light of the sunset, measure their time. “Faith, love and whisky” is a confessional film and the fact that it’s somewhat uneven makes it sounds like an anxious, breathless love essay. Although the movie lacks character depth and a bit of passion, has some rhythmical problems and it’s also clumsy at times, it still manages to tell its story in a sincere and emotional way. Like in the debut movie of Valery Iordanov as a director - “Sneakers” (co-directed with Ivan Vladimirov), here we also have two endings. Kristina Nikolova interweaves beautiful visions of possible conclusions of an impossible love. “Future lasts forever” (2011, Turkey/France/Germany) is director Ozcan Alper’s second feature length film. Three years ago, his first – the beautiful “Autumn”- was showed during the 13th Sofia film fest. Both films are chamber pieces: internal collisions that are developing in a larger political context. Like Rita from “Found Memories”, Sumru (Gaye Gursel) travels alone, but she has a particular aim – she’s gathering elegies and stories about the Kurd genocide. Somewhere on the road her beloved one has left her and later on in the movie, we find out that he has died. Painful secrets from the past are revealed through the innocent eyes of Sumru. There are interviews with widows of Kurds that has been killed, made in a quasi-documentary style and their sobs and groans sound like mournful chants. “Future lasts forever” is a tender and ascetic movie with beautiful landscapes from the vast Turkish wilderness. It is an elegy, which delicately, almost unnoticeably blends together a love story, a road movie, a drama and an important historical and political theme, although it tends to lose its focus at times. The Jameson short film award also went to a road movie of a kind - the 15 minutes short movie of the young author Neda Morfova, “Morning” (2012, Bulgaria). The story is told almost in real time - in the middle of the night, a teenage girl that has committed some minor offence (the wonderful Kalina Stancheva) and a young policeman (Vesselin Anchev), who must drive her home from the police station, are travelling in his car. Gradually, through some little story twists, the long ride becomes an occasion for the two to become closer to each other. Like the movie “Fish tank” by director Andrea Arnold, “Morning” examines the teenage years as a swift and dynamic period full of internal transitions, mood changes and also a period when it’s very easy to form objects of admiration, and eventually experience the first unclear, tenderly-juvenile thrills of falling in love with them. The narrative unfolds smoothly in a moderate tempo through the dialogue and the movie astounds with its vision and also the ability of the young director to work with the actors. Two other films from the competition deal with teenage problems – the Canadian “The Odds” (2010, director Simon Davidson) and “Magic Valley” by director Jaffe Zinn (2011, USA), which won the Special prize of the jury. In both movies we see manifestations of juvenile cruelty, evoked by painful monotony and the deadly blankness of the young characters. While in “The Odds” it’s the seemingly harmless flirting of the youths with gambling that leads to obsessions and excess, in “Magic valley” the futility of existence and the loss of all values have totally taken over. While tons of fish are rotting in the surroundings of the small town of Buhl, Idaho, tension is rising because of the disappearance of a young girl. The fish, suffocated because of the lack of oxygen is a distinctive metaphor for the soulless, apathetic existence of the teenagers in the isolated American country. In the same vein as Gus Van Sant’s “Elephant” and Susanne Bier’s “In a better world”, “Magic Valley” makes a serious analysis on the subject of sadistic impulses and innocent violence, aroused by the lack of an adequate attitude of the parents towards their children’s problems. A different kind of a rotten reality is observed in the Russian chaos of the 90-ies, after the fall of the communist system. After the dying out of the old phony values, the Russian society is openly overtaken by a hollow and brutal “eat up the whole world” kind of consumerism. And unfortunately, this world is as empty as a thrown out can of Pepsi Cola. It’s a dummy hallucination, an aggressive promotional campaign, a stupid and intrusive advertising line. In his screen adaptation of Victor Pelevin’s eponymous novel “Generation P”, director Victor Ginzburg follows closely the original text. But the malicious textual flirting of Pelevin with different significations and meanings is translated to the screen as a tidal wave of overwhelming information, abundance of quotations and references, visual kitsch and sham staging… Even though the ending refers ironically to multiple cultural and historical examples of empires falling apart, the film leaves you exhausted with its deliberately bad taste, that’s blown out of scale. Another rather superfluous film is “Holy flying circus” (2011, UK) by director Owen Harris. It is funny, although it seems pale and lifeless compared to the genius Monty Python movies and TV skits. It is a movie made by cinephiles for cinephiles. Precisely because of their love for the cinema and because of their dedicated work for many years of bringing the world cinema in Sofia, Sofia Film Fest director Stephan Kitanov and his crew received the recently established Award of the Association of film producers in Bulgaria. The 16th edition of the International Sofia Film Fest left us on the crossroads between the tender melancholy of careless living and the seriousness of mature choices; between the etherealness of the road movies and harsh critic of social reality. We will surely wander about the different film pieces for a long time and we will continue to talk about the stories we’ve seen, in order to remember them. Katerina Lambrinova This text is published in the 30th of March, 2012 issue of “Kultura” newspaper. http://www.kultura.bg/bg/print_article/view/19532

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