The Balkan films featured in this year’s main selection are marked by the powerful presence of newcomer women filmmakers and the interweaving of the personal and the political – elements which find their expression in matters such as familial ties, paternity, the female condition, political corruption and the resonances of the past.
In Our Everyday Life by the Bosnian Ines Tanović, a superb character drama and an insightful portrayal of the present-day middle class and the country’s transitional reality, the family is the only refuge from which to tackle the traumas of the past and the challenges of the future. Bulgaria’s Svetla Tsotsorkova, in the family drama Thirst, focuses on the relationships between five people who live in the poverty-and drought-stricken hinterland, and highlights people’s need for love and their inability to control their fate. The issue of paternity is examined within the context of war and refugeedom in Kosovarian film director Visar Morina’s Father, a film that soberly explores a problematic father-son relationship from the son’s point of view. By contrast, in Corneliu Poromboiu’s The Treasure (Special Screenings), a comedy of manners with references to Romanian history, the father-son relationship is governed by the father’s need to appear as a hero in the eyes of his son. Paternity (which contains a feeling of nostalgia for former Yugoslavia), also lies at the center of two short films – Heavens by Ivan Salatić and Jelena Maksimović, and Sunday by Goran Dević.
The oppression women suffer in Turkish, as well as in Albanian society is another major theme of this year’s selection. In Motherland by Senem Tüzen, the failure of a mother and daughter to live together goes beyond emotional relationships, illustrating the generation gap and the conflict between the modern and tradition in terms of a woman’s place. In Mustang, Deniz Gamze Ergüven mixes humor and drama and adopts a playful, fairytale structure to tell the story, through the viewpoint of her young heroine, of the tyranny of patriarchy and tradition which demonize female sexuality. Two short films, Mother Virgin No More by Derya Durmaz and Tuesday by Ziya Demirel, highlight mores and behaviors which are linked to female adolescence. Finally, Sworn Virgin by Italian filmmaker Laura Bispuri, having as its starting point the Kanun, the Albanian code of social behavior according to which an oath of celibacy ensures that a woman will be accepted as a man by the local community, tells the tale of the gradual awakening of the heroine’s sexuality when she visits Italy.
The discourse between the past and the present is a theme chosen by three film directors whom we know very well. In Aferim!, a historical drama reminiscent of aWestern and dealingwith the slavery of the Roma in 1835 Vlachia, Romania’s Radu Jude explores the mores of the time and points to the roots of racism and the similarities that exist in the present. In One Floor Below, a perceptive character study, Radu Muntean observes the survival of a mentality of moral inertia and social irresponsibility, in a film/reflection on the remnants of the Ceaușescu era in modern-day Romanian society. In The High Sun, Dalibor Matanić sums up twenty years of Croato-Serbian contention and hostility through three different love stories (featuring the same actors), offering a glimmer of hope in the end.
Corruption and vested interests lie at the heart of two political thrillers. In Emin Alper’s Frenzy, the limits between the real and the imaginary are blurred, as suspicions and conspiracies drive the informers used by the political system to paranoia and violence, in an allegory of the situation in Turkey today. Honey Night, by Skopje-born Ivo Trajkov, a remake of the Czech filmmaker Karel Kachyňa’s Orwellian The Ear (1970), goes beyond the intimacy of a conjugal crisis and turns our attention to the intimidation, manipulation and control which can be exercised by any authority.
In the remaining films, Dutch director Marinus Groothof’s The Sky above Us follows the daily life and the efforts of his three heroes to cope during the NATO bombing of Belgrade. In the International Competition segment we find Turkey’s Tolga Karaçelik and his film Ivy, a study of faltering power in a ship that has been abandoned by its owner company; and Florin Șerban, whose Box centers on an encounter and the attraction between two people from very different worlds. This year’s program is rounded off by two short films from Romania: Ramona, a stylized genre film by Andrei Creţulescu, and There’s Nothing in the World by Andreea Vălean, a commentary on the culture of manele music.
“Balkan Survey” Programmer