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New Europe Competition
When selecting films for this section representing the starting generation of European filmmakers, we basically follow just one criterion – quality. Since we want to present various trends of European filmmakers trying to succeed in the cinema world, we have included not only formally complicated artistic testimonies over the last eight years, but also purely genre films: horror, thriller, low-budget sci-fi, or romantic comedy. This year is no different. However, it is interesting to note that this section, without our intention, is interconnected by one topic: the feeling of loneliness, displacement, segregation, social handicaps and exclusivity, and mental handicap. This characterizes almost all the main protagonists of the selected films, which take place from Iceland to Africa.
The main protagonist of Patrick's Day is 26-year-old Patrick, a likeable young man who has just one problem – he suffers from schizophrenia. Yet his condition is not that hopeless, and it significantly improves after a night spent with a young attractive woman, who originally wanted to commit suicide. Patrick falls in love. Unfortunately, there's also his ultra-protective mother, who is determined to shelter her son from all dangers. Terry McMahon, an Irish director, made a use of his own experience from a long career in psychiatry in his second feature film, and it enabled him to make a powerful and convincing drama which can rival many already classical films on similar topic.
Similarly to Patrick from the Irish drama, the duo of protagonists of a Swedish debut, Aerobics: Love Story, directed by Anders Rune. Maria and Janne are mentally handicapped, but they are able to somehow manage their lives. Yet everything gets rather complicated when they fall in love with each other and want not only to live together, but also to be on television with their own aerobics show. The director succeeded in creating an unusual film which cannot deny its Scandinavian origin, and which might remind the viewers of the best films by Lars von Trier. On one hand, it is so authentic that it resembles a documentary with the protagonists' spontaneous performances, on the other hand, it's a great comedy with more than just a dash of empathy.
The main character of X+Y, a British drama, is Nathan, a young autistic mathematical prodigy, who is supposed to take part in the International Mathematical Olympiad in Taiwan. Once there, he falls in love with a Chinese girl of the same age and tries to overcome all his limitations. Originally a documentary director, Morgan Matthews cast seventeen-year-old Asa Butterfield in his feature debut inspired by one of his documentaries. The young actor is already a well-known star thanks to Hugo, Ender's Game, and The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas (Febiofest 2009). The cast boasts also other famous British actors such as Sally Hawkins, Eddie Marsan, and Rafe Spall.
The issue of displacement and escape from the world, reaching to metaphysical spiritual dimensions, characterises the Finnish They Have Escaped, which was presented at festivals in Venice and Toronto, and was also awarded the Sven Nykvist Award for the best cinematography at the Göteborg festival in Sweden. Nineteen-year-old Joni began his prison sentence in a youth detention centre. He gets acquainted with one of the wards, a rebellious girl named Raisa, and they decide to escape somewhere far from people. Director J.P. Valkeapää drew attention to himself previously with his debut, The Visitor, which is interesting for us because it cast a well-known Czech actor, Jan Liska, in one of the main roles. In his second film, he is once again true to his poetic approach: his characters don't talk much, but the director strives to uncover their very core, the essence of human existence. What starts like an often seen story of rebellious youth on the run, gradually reaches unexpected depths.
The protagonists of the French competition film, Hope, are also complete outsiders – two lonely African refugees on a stressful journey to the promised land, Europe. Dramatic circumstances bring together a young woman from Nigeria and a man from Cameroon, and although they don't get along initially, they have a common goal. Boris Lojkine, a French documentary director, chose a rather frequent topic for his feature debut, yet his novel approach fascinates with the uncompromising view of his protagonists, without any sentimentality or embellishment. However, he does not deny them deep humanity, smouldering at the bottom of their souls.
Similarly to Hope, the Israeli candidate, The Kindergarten Teacher, had its world premiere in Cannes. At least one of the main characters cannot be described as a mere mortal. Teacher Nira discovers a miraculous child in her kindergarten class, a five-year-old genius who sometimes creates verses that would put many a poet to shame. The director of this Israeli-French co-production, Nadav Lapid, has revealed that he used poems he had written as a child. You can see for yourselves whether he's just as gifted a filmmaker.
Imprisoned by loneliness, hidden from the dangers lurking around every corner, that’s the situation of the main protagonist of the Dutch representative in the competition, Helium, the stylistically refined debut of Eché Janga. Frans is an ageing gangster boss who is losing his footing, so he decides to hide from the adverse world, where new gangs start to wield power, and takes refuge in a completely abandoned holiday resort on the nearby island of Texel. The rough man, who treated others equally harshly, gradually realizes that he lost control long ago, and that he himself is nothing more than another link in the chain of events, which he cannot influence in any way.
A lighter note is offered by Pause, the debut by Swiss director Mathieu Urfer, who is living proof that not every young filmmaker must inevitably start with a depressing and experimental auteur testimony. The main character of his “feel good movie” still has his faults, though. A young introverted musician named Sami does not really fit in real life and he's interested solely in country music. When he meets Julia one day, it seems that there might be a place for her in his life. Yet it won't be easy. The music plays a significant role in Urfer's romantic comedy, and its impact increases with “Kaurismäki's” actor, Andre Wilms, in the role of the elderly bluesman and incorrigible alcoholic, Fernand.
Nobody can be as uprooted from the world of humans than the child protagonist of the Serbian-Croatian co-production, symptomatically named No One's Child. Haris, which is a name given to him much later, was found in the deep Bosnian forests where he grew up among wolves. Wardens in an orphanage take the wolf child in, but it takes years before a human can be found within the hopeless case. Director Vuk Rsumovic was inspired by a true story that was documented in former Yugoslavia in late 1980s, before the savage war erupted. Originally a theatre director, he immediately recognized the story's immense dramatic potential, concealing numerous topics and material appropriate for his directorial film debut. His instinct was proven correct by the award for the Best Film during the Critics' Week in Venice. The film's quality is enhanced by the acting performance of the main protagonist, Denis Muric, who is heading to Prague to personally introduce the film together with the director.
The main protagonist of the Hungarian film Liza, the Fox-Fairy, also isn't the type of a person who would lightly and confidently walk through life. Liza is a fearful nurse who doesn't have much fun in her life. Finally, she goes to the local McDonald's to celebrate her thirtieth birthday and comes across the man of her dreams. In the best tradition of films such as Amelie, Karoly Jjj Mészáros directed a fairy-tale for adults, a black comedy, an absurd musical full of visually attractive ideas, lacking neither crime, a former Japanese pop star, or especially love.
We are glad that this year's competition also includes a Czech representative. Although its director, Stepan Altrichter, studied film direction in Germany, where he also lives, he comes from Brno. His debut in a Czech-German co-production, Schmitke, was equally created by representatives of both countries, from producers and technical professions to actors. The main protagonist, Schmitke, is an elderly widowed engineer who is sent from Germany to the Czech borderland to repair a broken turbine, which been causing unpleasant noises far and wide. When his young assistant mysteriously disappears in the Ore Mountains, he begins to succumb to loneliness as well, lost in the foreign and bizarrely absurd environment where time has stopped. The film premiered at the prestigious festival in Busan, Korea, and won the award for the Best Debut in German Cottbus, and eventually will be screened in Czech cinemas.
We can also find a trace of Czech in another competition film, the Icelandic-Czech co-production, Life in a Fishbowl. Debuting director Baldvin Zophoníasson brought together three losers: a once successful writer devastated by alcohol, a single mother trying to earn her living by prostitution, and a former footballer who unsuccessfully tries to break through as a banker. These three people in the dramatic Icelandic mosaic complete our list of unusual characters brought by this year's New Europe competition. We hope you will enjoy them as well.
Helium / Helium / Helium (Netherlands) Director: Eché Janga (New Europe Competition )
Hope / Hope / Naděje (France) Director: Boris Lojkine (New Europe Competition )
Life In a Fishbowl / Vonarstræti / Život v akvárku (Iceland, Finland, Sweden, Czech Republic) Director: Baldvin Zophoníasson (New Europe Competition )
Pause / Pause / Pauza (Switzerland) Director: Mathieu Urfer (New Europe Competition )
Schmitke / Schmitke / Schmitke (Germany, Czech Republic) Director: Štěpán Altrichter (New Europe Competition )
They Have Escaped / He ovat paenneet / Uprchlíci (Finland) Director: Jukka-Pekka Valkeapää (New Europe Competition )
X+Y / X+Y / X+Y (United Kingdom) Director: Morgan Matthews (New Europe Competition )
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