As most films from South Eastern Europe are rather small productions with a limited reach, film festivals play an important role in their marketing and further distribution. They serve as a hub for film professionals to meet and mingle and find collaborators and inspiration. Many professional festivals now offer so-called industry events that attract directors, producers, distributors but also actors of course.
Film festivals are also the place to see the newest films before their theatrical release, i.e. if they manage to find a distributor. With many films we are dealing with here on SEE Film Club, festivals and special screenings are the only way to see these films on a big screen or see them at all. Whereas there is an abundance of film festivals in general, there are only a few dedicated to Eastern European film – reason enough to give an overview about the most important ones world wide. Welcome to the Film Festival Spotlight!
We start our series with the Trieste Film Festival, one that holds a very special place in my heart. The city of Trieste is magnificent in her own right, with a tormented history. As the Eastern most outpost of Italy, the city was also the nearest Western city Yugoslavs could reach, therefore many have recollections of buying jeans at the infamous market, the only place to get them. The city developed as the imperial port of Austria during the times of the Austro Hungarian Empire, but it was allocated to Italy after the Word War II and subsequently italianized, even thought the surroundings are still very much Slovene and the border is just up the hill not even a 20min drive from the city centre, and an hours’ drive gets you into the Croatian peninsula of Istria.
With the dissolution of Yugoslavia, Trieste gradually emerged from it’s marginal position and is now a bustling regional centre boasting grand palazzi with a certain patina that give the city a somewhat melancholic atmosphere. The Film Festival played a vital role in this development: Founded in 1998, it strove to shed a light on the neighbours that were so close yet seemed so distant.
The Trieste Film Festival is held every third week in January, which is why it is the first festival featured here. The festival programme shows films from all over Eastern Europe, that compete for best feature, best documentary and best short film. Additionally, there are retrospectives or countries in focus, for example the new Romanian cinema this year.
Two events set Trieste apart from the usual film screening festivals: The week-long industry event “When East meets West” aims to connect up-and-coming filmmakers from the region with producers and funders from usually one Western European country or region. Now in its 5th year, filmmakers can apply with their idea, receive a master class and then pitch their project to selected funders. In 2016, the region in focus is Spain, Portugal and Latin America. Films that started out here now return to the festival in the category “Born in Trieste”. The other event, Eastweek, is a script writing workshop with benefits (such as Master classes, workshops in marketing and general tutoring) aimed at young talents and is organized in cooperation with film schools from central and Eastern Europe.
As many cultural institutions in Italy, the Trieste Film Festival has been affected by severe cut backs in funding for the arts in Italy and nowadays promotes also Italian films and includes them in the industry events previously reserved to filmmakers from Eastern Europe. In early 2016, the long-standing festival directrice and founder Annamaria Percavassi passed away. With many challenges ahead, you cans till feel that the festival staff put their heart into it and as it is a rather small festival, it makes for great networking. And Trieste is especially beautiful in the cold winter wind and the pale sunlight.
SEE Fest in LA is over and here are the winners:
“Director Tudor Jurgiu from Romania won Bridging the Borders award for Best Feature Film of the festival for his debut film, The Japanese Dog. Special Jury Mention went to Croatian filmmaker Tomislav Mršić for his debut film, Cowboys, and Special Jury Prize for Best Ensemble Cast was awarded to Albanian feature Bota, co-directed by Iris Elezi and Thomas Logoreci.
Down the River by Asif Rustamov from Azerbaijan won the Best First Feature award. Two narrative documentaries shared the Best Documentary Award, The Undertaker by Dragan Nikolić from Serbia, and Romania’s Flowers in the Shadows by Belgian director Olivier Magis. Awards for Best Cinematography went to Bulgarian Rat Poison director of photography Krasimir Andonov (feature film), and Dragan Vildović (documentary film) for his work in In the Dark from Serbia.
In the shorts category Strahinja Savić from Serbia won Best Short Fiction award for Nine Days, Alexandr Baev’s Once Upon Another Time from Georgia won for Best Documentary short, and Anton Octavian from Romania won Best Animation Short award for Elmando.
Winners of 2015 Audience Award were Albanian Bota (feature film), and Serbian In the Dark (narrative documentary).”
Congratulations to the winning filmmakers!
Browsing through the programme of World Fest, one of Houston’s Film Festivals, I was happy to find two productions from Croatia this year!
Sunday April 12, 7pm: Cvjetni Trg // Flower Square, Croatia, 2012
Synopsis: “Nationalism, church and organized crime make for an unholy trinity in Krsto Papic’s powerful story of a man trapped in a world he not only never made, but also wants no part of. The world is Croatia, where a mobster named Macko seems to controls everything — from the underworld to the Catholic Church to the fate of his brother, who resents the mafioso for sleeping with his wife and destroying his marriage years ago. The real focus of “Flower Square,” however, is a nobody actor in a puppet show named Filip, who is blackmailed into posing as a priest to trick Macko to confess to committing an array of crimes.”
get tickets here.
Monday April 13, 9pm: Most na kraju svijeta // Bridge at the end of the world, Croatia/Bosnia/Serbia, 20134
Synopsis: “The film “The Bridge at the End of the World” deals with the unfortunate human destinies from the war in Croatia. In fear of the return of Serbian refugees to their houses in which they lived before the war and that in the meantime populated with Croat refugees from Bosnia, an old man disappears, and the investigation that starts from a police officer who lives in a Serbian house, will become more personal.”
get tickets here.
Films screen at ACME studio 30, 2949 Dunvale St., Houston.
There are only a handful of festivals devoted to Eastern European film in the world, and one of them is SEEfest in LA. Taking place every year in April, the festival extends it’s program over a full week this year. Even though SEE stands here too for South Eastern Europe and it was decisively founded with the intention to promote films from this area, it also includes contributions from the adjacent region like Turkey, the Baltic States.
The festival is competitive, but unlike many others does not charge a submission fee. Films compete in the categories
Best Feature Film
Best Documentary Film (long and short)
Best First Feature Film
Best Short Film
And includes also an Audience Award.
And because the festival takes place in LA, the home of Hollywood and cradle of the US film industry, there is also a *free* industry event, this year on Saturday, May 2.
Check out the full festival program here.
The grand dame of film festivals, the Berlinale, had always had good connections with South Eastern Europe and many films have premiered there. Just the other day I was talking about the phenomenon of Sworn Virgins in the mountains of Albania, where women vow to live as men and subsequently enjoy a man’s privileges. I knew there were some documentaries about them, and now the first feature film on that topics, Vergine giurata / Sworn Virgin hails from Albania and Italy! The only other candidate in the competition is a Romanian-Bulgarian history piece set in 1835 multiethnic Wallachia, where a father and son embark on a Western-esque man hunt. Whereas Aferim! is shot in black and white, De ce eu? / Why me?, shown in the Panorama section, paints an equally grim perspective on contemporary Romanian society: a young prosecutor is assigned to a case he cannot win. Flotel Europa, the only feature from the former Yugoslavia and patched together from home videos, depicts life of Serbian refugees in a hotel ship in Copenhagen. Croatia contributes a short film in the generation 14+ section: in Piknik / Picnic a box fight is needed to break the ice between estranged father and son.
Read more about the films after the jump.