The films of this year’s Balkan Survey revolve around modern-day man and his multidimensional reality. The stories told by the Balkan film directors featured in this segment explore the personal dramas of people which often stem from their sociopolitical situation, echo trauma from their past, or result from their difficulty in dealing with their social and interpersonal relationships.
In Children of Sarajevo, set against a backdrop of the past, Aida Begić looks through the eyes of her female protagonist and tells us about the life of two orphaned adolescents in Sarajevo today, documenting their daily struggle for survival in the muddled state of a country that has been through war. Adolescent heroes seeking their identity star in Clip, by Maja Miloš, a coming-of-age drama that unfolds in Belgrade’s poorer suburbs. The director chronicles the change in social values, boldly and unequivocally tackling the sexuality, the obsession with pornographic images, the violence and online communication of the post-war generation. In Goran Paskaljević’s When Day Breaks, the past revisits the life of an elderly music teacher and shatters the certainty of his identity, in a film that bears the seal of the great Serb director, filmed simply, honestly and feelingly.
The films from Turkey address the impact on Turkish citizens of their country’s cultural and political reality. In Night of Silence, a minimalist drama that takes place in a village in the Turkish mountains, Reis Çelik tells the tragic tale of a man who, having gone though life obeying rigid patriarchal traditions, has a hard time carrying out his role on his wedding night. An equally pared down, heartfelt film is Mold by Ali Aydin (International Competition), which narrates the story of a solitary and withdrawn father who, for the past 18 years, has been asking the authorities for information about his son who is missing. Emin Alper’s Beyond the Hill, an allegory of the current political situation in Turkey, contemplates the nature of human society by examining the demonization of the “Other” and the manufacturing of enemies for the sake of keeping a community united. Zeki Demirkubuz navigates man’s darker side in the film Inside, setting Dostoevsky’s Notes from the Underground in modern-day Ankara. Transcending national traits, Demirkubuz conveys – through the masterful use of cinematic means: photographic composition, editing, sound, but also a fine performance by Engin Günaidin – his protagonist’s alienation, obsessions and self-destructiveness.
The problems of interpersonal relationships are the focal point of this year’s Romanian films. In Everybody in Our Family, Radu Jude turns his lens on the inability to communicate and the decomposition of family ties. Jude records the harrowing clashes between his characters in almost real time, yet managing to balance the tragic and the comical, and to reflect, through the verbal, psychological and physical forms of family violence, on human nature. In A Month in Thailand (International Competition), Paul Negoescu, known to us by his short films, captures the emotional uncertainty of a young bourgeois and his vacillation between his current and ex girlfriend.
Finally, The Color of the Chameleon (International Competition) by Bulgaria’s Emil Christov, is an atmospheric thriller that satirizes, through the action of his antihero, political and police intrigues – an inheritance from the country’s communist past.
A more light-hearted approach to the relationship between man and his environment can be found in the short films being screened, which cover a wide range of themes and styles. With the exception of Silent by L. Rezan Yeşilbaş – which won this year’s Golden Palm at Cannes and which relates the wordless (due to the prohibition of the use of the Kurdish language) visit paid by a wife to her imprisoned husband in the eighties – and The Ornament of the Soul by Irena Jukić Pranjić – an animated film in the tradition of the Zagreb School on the visualization of people’s inner world – the rest of the stories all have a humorous side to them. Serhat Karaaslan’s Musa, about the encounter between the filmmaker Zeki Demirkubuz and an itinerant seller of pirated DVDs (including some of his own films!); the three-part 30-40-50, in which three directors, Iulia Rugina, Eva Pervolovici, and Stanca Radu, focus on woman at three different times in her life; House Party by Adrian Sitaru, an ordinary familial situation depicted with candor and realism; and, finally, Can I Drive, Daddy? by Miha Hočevar, that satirizes the invasion of a farm by globalization.
“Balkan Survey” Programmer