The preoccupation of Balkan filmmakers with the past is a recurring practice in the cinema of the region, proof of the imperative need for communication and a renegotiation of major social and political issues or traumas. This year, almost all the films comprising the main program turn their gaze, in one way or another, to the past.
In Time of the Comet, Albania’s most expensive production to date, Fatmir Koçi freely adapts Ismail Kadare’s novel Black Year in order to depict the political and cultural clashes that accompanied the liberation of Albania from the Ottomans in the early 20th century, thus touching upon a series of issues which are still topical today, such as the fluidity of the Balkan borders and the constant shifting of the war from one region of the peninsula to another. The two other films that are set in the past come from Bulgaria. Yavor Gardev’s Zift takes us to Sofia and the totalitarian regime of the sixties, through a game of synthesizing different film genres in which the film noir and socialist art dominate, creating a parable on freedom and justice, as well as commenting on the socialist past. In A Farewell to Hemingway, Svetoslav Ovcharov uses the past as a vehicle with which to access the Hemingway myth of his war correspondent years. The result is an atmospheric film that emanates an intense eroticism.
The Survey’s films from Serbia and Bosnia have as their point of reference, once again, the war in the former Yugoslavia. In Goran Markovic’s The Tour, a theatrical troupe that has preserved its innocence and playfulness travels to the front line during the worst year of the civil war. The actors’contact with the opposing ethnic armies is a rude awakening, and the reality of the war will change them forever as people. In Aida Begic’s Snow, even though the war has been over in the isolated and ruined village where the story takes place, it still remains the film’s true protagonist. The director explores the mental state of the surviving women, shedding light on their emotions, their loneliness and their effort to deal, in a dignified manner, with their post-war daily life.
The political and social reverberations of the previous films are absent from Radu Muntean’s Boogie. Though looking to the past, Muntean focuses more on the personal and the existential, examining the way in which people come to terms with their past. This is a universal story, filmed in the familiar realistic style typical of Romanian cinema of the past few years.
The small tribute to Romanian short films is in recognition of the fact that the new wave of Romanian cinema sprung precisely from short films. Most of the present generation of acclaimed filmmakers (Cristian Mungiu, Cristi Puiu, Cristian Nemescu, Corneliu Porumboiu, Radu Muntean) have important short films to their credit. Thus, today’s short film directors are Romanian cinema’s next generation, with some of them already planning or in the process of making their first feature film. Just as the feature films of the past ten years, so are the short films linked by common thematic and stylistic interests. Stories inspired from everyday life and rendered in a detailed realism that tugs at our emotions, with an emphasis on human relations (Megatron, Alexandra, Thursday), amusing incidents which are sometimes tender (The Yellow Smiley Face) and other times dipped in dark humor (You Know What I’m Talking About, Chronicle of a Death Foretold). These films are also marked by an intense irony (A Good Day for a Swim, At Home, Waves), with the exception of Afterimage, a science fiction story and an exercise in style.
Finally, the tribute to Contemporary Turkish Cinema aspires to present what is the most dynamic cinema in the Balkans today, through the new films of two generations of directors: the one that emerged in the mid-nineties, which renewed and established Turkish cinema internationally, and the other, a younger set of filmmakers who, inspired by the example of their precursors, are making their first remarkable films.
Balkan Survey Programmer