For the twentieth consecutive year, the “Balkan Survey” presents the most important from among the films produced in the Balkans this past year, thus helping to establish, as it has every year since 1993, a cinema which, for many years in Greece, was anonymous and misunderstood. Today, the cinema of “our neighborhood” is not only familiar, but well-loved, having stood out for its diversity and creativity.
The main program of this year’s anniversary edition presents films by established as well as newcomer filmmakers and is marked by diversity in terms both of subject matter and aesthetics. Turkish cinema, bountiful again this year, is represented by three films. In Thou Gild’st the Even, Onur Ünlü examines people’s tricky everyday problems through an aesthetically innovative love story, with touches of magic realism and dark humor. Also especially beautiful visually is the film Jin, by Reha Erdem, in which he tells the tale of Jin, a Kurdish teenager, and her doomed attempt to leave life in the mountain and lead a normal life in the city. An anti-war film, Jin extols the beauty of nature and denounces the destruction of the environment by man. In Nobody’s Home, newcomer Deniz Akçay concentrates on the relationship between a mother and a daughter. With narrative simplicity, she brings into sharp relief the problems of a middleclass family, as well as the emotional abuse suffered by the daughter. A mother-son conflict in Withering, Miloš Pušić’s second feature film, reflects the different paths chosen by different generations in a remote and forgotten Serbian village, and paints the portrait of a world that is vanishing. Conversely, in the directorial debut of Romania’s Tudor Cristian Jurgiu entitled The Japanese Dog, a minimalist and unsentimental study of the loneliness experienced by an old man, the co-dependent relationship between father and son overcomes their differences.
Three more films, very different in terms of style and the subjects they broach, complete the program. In Metabolism or When Evening Falls on Buchrest, Corneliu Porumboiu deconstructs the filming process, highlighting the relationship between the director and the medium, in an intellectual narrative that demands the viewer’s active participation. In The Priest’s Children, Vinko Brešan resorts to humor and satire in order to approach a delicate moral issue, such as that of the relationship between the Catholic Church and sex. Finally, in her film Panihida, newcomer Ana-Felicia Scutelnicu conveys earthly beauty and the domination of life over death through a poetical, ethnographic documentation of the funeral rituals in a province of Moldavia.
The element of death also lies at the center of three short films: in the lyrical Lament, a reference to the cinema of Semih Kaplanoğlu, Aydın Ketenağ explores loss, mourning, and humankind’s relationship with nature; Kolak Mirković, Nikola Ivanda’s last film before his untimely death, focuses on death’s liberating effect on a man in love and a oppressed woman who has just become a widow; in Shadow of a Cloud, Radu Jude tells the story of a priest who comes under fire by a family because of the prayer he read to a dying relative. Lendita Zeqiraj’s Ballkoni is a commentary on the social mentalities of modern-day Kosovo; The Blue Identity by Mümin Bariş illustrates the daily life of two Kurdish political refugees living in Berlin; while Ica Riding Hood by Eva Pervolovici tackles childhood eroticism and the transition to adolescenes. Finally, Rabbitland, an animation film by Nikola Majdak Jr. and Ana Nedeljković, is a metaphor for free democratic elections.
“Balkan Survey” Programmer