What I Love the Most
Every choice we make should ideally be based on the above phrase. The sixth year of Independence Days begins from the end, with the last addition to this year’s program which is none other than Delfina Castagnino’s feature debut entitled What I Love the Most. A film from the heart. And the same holds true of the entire program, at a time which is very difficult in many ways – and not only for Greece. You see, the economic crisis permeates the film industry worldwide, and independent cinema – relying more than any other on hard work, very little money and a great deal of love – is no exception. Yet despite the surrounding gloom, last May the limelight shone on a handmade film fromThailand, the Palme d’Or-winning Uncle Boonmee Who Recalls His Past Lives, helmed by one of the most groundbreaking directors of world cinema. The coincidence couldn’t have been better for the retrospective of the films of our beloved Apichatpong Weerasethakul, already in the works and booked since the beginning of the year. But even more important is the presence of the filmmaker himself inThessaloniki, during a year when his commitments have been exhausting – a fact that shows the director’s trust in a festival that already awarded him for his directorial fiction debut Blissfully Yours and is now hosting his entire oeuvre, including his rarely screened short films. Going back to the title of my introduction, the main corpus of this year’s ID-10 selection comprises sixteen titles, mainly divided among the segment’s great loves and obsessions: Latin American cinema, Asia, and even Africa, with Sara Buyain’s first feature, The Place In Between, a film split between Burkina Faso and France, just like its heroine. And speaking of obsessions, we could hardly leave out the Philippines: The Bridal Quarter comes from the Moslem part of the archipelago and is the opposite of the harsh images we have come to expect. Some of the filmswe have selected communicate through their écriture, such as the lyrical To the Sea and the somber Summer of Goliath from Mexico, or the poignant Lips by Iván Fund and Santiago Loza. Each one in its own way crosses all dividing lines between the documentary and fiction film. Then there are the films that seem to stand alone, like Locarno’s Gold Leopard-winningWinter Vacation – a startling, slow burning comedy from China; a true, anarchic ode to “lost” time – or the exquisitely stylized October from Peru, or even the atmospheric debut feature that was awarded at Cannes and London, Bi, Don’t Be Afraid! from Vietnam. Yet others mark the return of old favorites, like Kelly Reichardt, whose film Meek’s Cutoff, an unusual Western with a timeless political relevance, will be presented at a special screening of the Independence Days segment. Or like DenisVilleneuve, whose Polytechnic of last year is followed by Scorched, a wrenching family saga set against a backdrop of the strife in the Middle East, or Christoph Hochhäusler (The City Below) and Pia Marais (At Ellen’s Age), who depict a country, Germany, and an entire system in crisis. A similar dystopian picture ofWestern affluence is drawn by Geraldine Bajar, a former AD to Valeska Grisebach, in The Edge, a film that displays a distinct fondness for the thriller. Two truly demanding films come to us from Spain. Caracremada relates, in an utterly elliptical way, an episode of the Spanish CivilWar, the year of the film’s production coinciding with the 70th anniversary of the War’s end. On the verge of experimental cinema, José María de Orbe’s Father, which received the best cinematography award at San Sebastián, “stars” the director’s family home and reminds us that cinema is made of memories and ghosts, bringing to mind the work of Victor Erice. There’s also a special place in our heart for American cinema, which is represented this year by five young filmmakers. One is an old friend. He came to Thessaloniki in 2007 with the European premiere of his graduation film Motorcycle. This year, his Happy Poet screened at the Venice Days segment of theVenice IFF, offering an ideal form of resistance to the hard times we’re living. Equally light-hearted, 23-year-old Lena Dunhambrings us Tiny Furniture, a bittersweet vignette about the emotional frustrations of her generation; the kind of film only a New York girl could make. The Myth of the American Sleepover and Putty Hill, whether by coincidence or not, are two very different yet complementary looks at the adolescent adventure. These are two films that shine thanks to their youthful casts and their unique sensibility. I’ve left Aaron Katz’s Cold Weather last. This is the most mature work by a filmmaker whom we have been following for several years. In fact, we had been planning a small tribute to his entire body of work, but unfortunately space was limited. Finally, it is with great emotion that I come to A Useful Life by the Uruguayan FedericoVeiroj, a director who also works at the cinémathèque in Montevideo. We were fortunate enough to screen his directorial debut Acné two years ago, but this short film is a unique hymn to the power of cinema and the passionate people who have literally devoted their entire life to films, simply because that’s what they love the most.
Artistic Director, “Independence Days”