Each January, when the Festival’s international program gets back on course, there is one question I must answer: what will be the topic of this year’s Focus? The truth is that the answer can only be found in the films. Because Focus is nothing more than a reflexive action of the body of world cinema, the endings of those nerves that mentally connect ten films from ten different parts of the world.
Because, what could connect a couple that decides to start a new life on the delta of the Danube, outside social conventions and inside the natural flow of a unique ecosystem, to a Canadian teenager who is left outside his friends’suicide pact and, thus, remains inside life? Delta and Everything is Fine are very different films, both stylistically and thematically. But in their heart lies the need for people to create groups and the freedom of choosing their members. There is this fiber that connects a group of people. Is it a mere wish or is it instinct? Is it communication? Society? Communal life? It’s “Focus: Commune 2008”.
We only come across actual “communes” in two of the films of this year’s selection: in the Argentinian Salamandra and the American The Way I See Things, two films that explore the ideological heritage of the sixties and the evolution of the hippy mentality in a new-age farce. Standing by like a younger cousin is Last Illusions, that casts the freshest and most subversive glance on the events of May of ’68. Around them, Delta and Everything is Fine, but also Adhen (Dernier maquis), a penetrating gaze into the unifying and divisive lines of religion and social class, and Megane, a light-hearted, refreshing depiction of the East’s Zen philosophy. The selection closes with Country Teacher and the painful attempt of a man to become part of the insular society of a small village.
Along these lines, shifting from the literal to the metaphoric, Focus: “Commune 2008” seeks out the things that unite people so distinctly that they usually set them apart from the wider social framework. “No man is an island, entire of itself,” John Donne wrote five hundred years ago. The same could be said about films today. Focus is an experiment in that direction.