[With just over a week until the Melbourne International Film Festival programme is launched, Julian considers how he would fill out the festival if he was given the opportunity.]
Last year MIFF partnered with Festival Scope, the online portal for film professionals to view new works screening at festivals, to put together a showcase of filmmaking talent from the European Union. Featuring twelve features from twelve different countries, the section contained confronting, dramatic and a couple of comedic features across a range of genres. It was also one of the few sections at MIFF with an award attached, last year judged by six FCCA members.
It is difficult to understand where the cut-off point is for a programmer in this section, but I have tried to keep my selected filmmakers to three features or less. While films like Just the Wind, Terraferma and Tabu were considered, I felt they were more appropriate for the International Panorama section.
So, let’s take a look at my selections for the TeleScope: New Talent from the EU section:
Aloïs Nebel | dir. Tomáš Lunák | CZE/GER
The Czech entry for Best Foreign Language Feature at this year’s Academy Awards, the animated drama is based on the comic-book trilogy by Jaroslav Rudiš and Jaromír 99. Following a train dispatcher who begins to suffer from hallucinations where he sees trains from the last hundred years pass through the station, the film employs black-and-white rotoscope animation to question memory and dreams while delving into Czech history and central European mentalities. Lunák’s feature film debut is a bold effort that has already played in Venice and Toronto.
Children of Sarajevo | dir. Aida Begic | BIH
One of the titles picked up at the Cannes Film Festival, where it won the Special Distinction Award in the Un Certain Regard section, Begic’s sophomore effort tells the story of two orphaned siblings trying to survive during the Bosnian War. A potent metaphor for a damaged transitional society, the film features appropriately cold cinematography and a loud naturalistic soundtrack.
Clip | dir. Maja Miloš | SRB
A polarising award winner at this year’s International Film Festival of Rotterdam, the Serbian director’s debut feature looks to be a deeply disturbing insight into contemporary youth in the region. Focusing on a girl in her mid-teens, living in a remote Serbian town, the film dissects every part of her life, including her experimentation with partying, drugs, and sex. Raw and graphic, this would cause heated debate during MIFF.
Cracks in the Shell | dir. Christian Schwochow | GER
When the “invisible” Josephine is given the lead role in a theatre director’s new production, she does everything possible to keep the part, even if that means slipping into the character’s identity. The second feature from writer-director Schwochow supposedly contains a stunning turn from actress Stine Fischer Christensen, as well as many parallels to Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan.
Extraterrestrial | dir. Nacho Vigalondo | ESP
Nacho Vigalondo’s sophomore effort after the criminally under-seen Timecrimes, Extraterrestrial is a science-fiction romantic-comedy where a man finds the girl of his dreams – one he has just met – right when an alien invasion begins. Filled with undeniable charm despite its thin premise, Vigalondo continues to present the originality he teased in his debut feature. This is much-needed lighter fair.
Hemel | dir. Sacha Polak | NED/ESP
“A sexually frank character portrait that has been compared to Steve McQueen’s Shame on numerous occasions, Polak’s Hemel explores a Dutch woman’s sexual conquests, and the importance of her relationship with her father. On the verge of the next, independent phase of her life, the film looks at the difficulty associated with moving on. Featuring breathtaking cinematography and a fearless central performance,” the film has already played at the Sydney Film Festival and the FIPRESCI Prize winner at Berlin will generate plenty of discussion in Melbourne.
The Invader | dir. Nicolas Provost | BEL
After a string of successful short films, Belgian visual and installation artist Nicolas Provost makes a bold feature debut with the utterly intriguing The Invader. Looking at immigrant culture in Europe, the film chronicles the inevitable destruction of an initially honourable man as the temptations of a foreign culture are dangled in front of him. The film has already played in Venice, Toronto and Rotterdam, so it should play in Melbourne too.
L | dir. Babis Makridis | GRE
The first ever Greek film to be selected in the World Drama Competition section at the Sundance Film Festival, Babis Makridis’ L is written by Efthymis Filippou, who co-wrote both Alps and Dogtooth. Following a man living in his car who gets caught up in the undeclared war between motorcycle riders and car drivers, the film contains an incredibly strange concept, complete with deadpan humour. L has received plenty of negative press but there is a small group of people that consider it a gem. I’m hoping to help that group find some new members.
Nana | dir. Valérie Massadian | FRA
The debut feature of artist/photographer Valérie Massadian, Nana is told from the perspective of a four-year old girl who arrives home to find it deserted. Following the girl’s innocent sense of wonder towards a world she is yet to understand, Massadian explores the cycle of life and death in a poetic manner with beautifully controlled compositions. The film was strongly received in Locarno, taking home the Best First Film Award, and at IFFR.
Oslo, August 31st | dir. Joachim Trier | NOR
Premiering in the Un Certain Regard section at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival to universal praise, Danish-Norwegian filmmaker Joachim Trier’s Oslo, August 31st follows a deeply unhappy man who wanders the streets of Oslo after being granted a one-day pass from his rehab clinic. Containing an outstanding performance from Anders Danielsen Lie, as well as some stunning cinematography, this is an intimate and devastating sophomore effort.
Sister | dir. Ursula Meier | SUI/FRA
One of the titles from the First Glance announcement, the winner of the Silver Bear Special Award at this year’s Berlin International Film Festival explores the mindset of a 12-year-old boy living with his older sister in the valley below a wealthy Swiss ski resort. An observational drama recalling the naturalistic style of the Dardenne brothers, this looks to be a controlled bittersweet crowd-pleaser.
Twilight Portrait | dir. Angelina Nikonova | RUS
“The confronting and often challenging debut feature from Angelina Nikonova will divide and provoke heated debate in its aftermath, featuring a baffling central character and a twisted world where bureaucracy is synonymous with brutality. Unafraid to explore the ambiguous consequences of vile actions, co-writer Olga Dihovichnaya looks impressive in the film’s leading role. A film likely to impress as many as it infuriates.”
So that’s what I would have in the programme for MIFF 2012. Have I missed anything? What would you want if you had free reign?