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The Balkans in 480 minutes

By analyzing the effect of digital technologies on cinema, many think of digital cameras, special post-production effects, DCP projections, etc. Yet with the expansion of Internet, especially with the rise of web 2.0 and its utilities, a new type of festivals appeared on the scene – produced and held entirely virtually, they embody the ancient concept of δημοκρατία. So no wonder it is our Greek friends AltCine who stand behind one of the most exciting online festivals showcasing and supporting filmmakers from the Balkans – altcineAction!. Also from the very heart of the Balkans comes our new contributor Katerina Lambrinova, who dedicated one month to follow this impactful kaleidoscope and report for you.

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Lights, Camera, Africa!!!

Nigeria – the most populous country and the largest economy in Africa, whose cinema industry, known as Nollywood, competes with Hollywood and Bollywood. Definitely a good starting point for our first visit to this continent! Luckily, we have a great guide – our new contributor Oris Aigbokhaevbolo (alumnus of Talents Durban 2014), who plunged into the Nigerian megapolis Lagos to report from the 4th edition of Lights, Camera, Africa!!! Join the ride!

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3 x 25 FPS


In 2013, Greg de Cuir, Jr covered the Croatian hot spot for experimental and avant-garde cinema 25 FPS, enough to tease our appetite for more. This year, for the 10th edition of the festival, he teams up with Michael Pattison for a three-act debrief, in which two of our most distinguished pens deconstruct film, cinema experiments, festival audience, and non-human narrative. This is an edited transcript of a series of recorded dialogues that took place between the two from 25th to 28th September 2014 in Zagreb, join the hype!

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National vs international in Gdynia

While Paweł Pawlikowski’s IDA (2013) has been touring the world for one year and currently tops many early Oscars predictions, it is in Gdynia, on native Polish soil, where the magic happened for the first time last September (eat your hearts out, Telluride reviewers!). In fact, there has been a long tradition of national showcase events in countries behind the Iron Curtain, where a certain man was believed to had said something like “Of all arts, the most important for us is cinema,” so for decades film there was considered art and weapon, by people from both sides of the ideological barricade. Respectively, these events were mass celebration of the new aesthetic heights achieved. In today’s political and industry reality, cinema is being consumed quite differently, yet many of these festivals continue to take place, and the Polish titan Gdynia, now looking forward to its 40th anniversary, is one of the most well-know and prestigious among them. Irina Trocan tells us more about it…

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In the balance: OK for everyone or not OK at all

Common Ground film critics workshop; photo: Dokufest

Michael Pattison is one of the youngest well-established film critics, programmers, and mentors out there, as well as a strong, opinionated voice. In 2013 he took part in the Locarno Critics Academy, this year her returned with a handful of advice and not only that – so far he was invited on several festival occasions to share his experience as an aspiring professional, the latest one being the Common Ground workshop during Dokufest in Prizren. Here are some thoughts from him…

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STP 2014 / Vassilis Economou - Friend Request

A QUINTET (2014) is an omnibus feature film that explores the different aspects of emerging filmmakers who are living and working in countries that are different from their homes. The film had its world premiere during the 20th Sarajevo Film Festival.

Elie Lamah’s short film entitled FRIEND REQUEST takes place in Berlin during the homonymous film festival. Rami (David Berton), a Lebanese director, spends his night in a bar where he meets Ayala (Maryam Zaree), a director from Israel. As expected, there is some high tension between them due to the unsolved conflicts of their countries. A walk and chat during the night will help them discover that they are not that different. Although, could they really be friends?

FRIEND REQUEST is trying to deal in the most detached way with the unsolved and crucial problems that the Middle East faces. Both Rami and Ayala are forced to present themselves as typical representatives of their origins and the harder they try to do that, the easier it is to lose all those seemingly unbridged differences. Their ideas and basically their identities could easily blend and coexist with each other just as they do during that night. Unfortunately, this process of embracement goes through some cliché topics that revolve around cinema, food, and culture. This lack of any true originality could easily restrict the film into an already predictable banality.

Elie Lamah delivers a film that could be watched pleasurably but at the same time loses some of the high targets already set. Apart from the final plot twist„ which could or could not be a surprise, the rhythm and the evolvement of the film are quite predictable. For that reason there is a constant been-there-seen-that feeling while watching the characters’ discussions.

To sum up, FRIEND REQUEST is a decently built short film that tries to touch on some highly sensitive issues. Despite the aforementioned problems in the storytelling, in the end the film leaves a bittersweet sense on how some unrelated factors of our personalities (like politics) could truly affect us, our thoughts, and probably our decisions on whom to consider as true friend.

STP 2014 / Tara Karajica - The House in the Envelope

THE HOUSE IN THE ENVELOPE is an episode from A QUINTET (2014), an omnibus feature told from the perspective of five international up-and-coming filmmakers who are searching to find their identity in the modern world. The five segments take place in different regions of the world, Germany, the United States, Italy, the Balkans, and Turkey, and yet they are all, in one way or another, connected to the cosmopolitan city of Berlin – the place where the five filmmakers (Sanela Salketić, Ariel Shaban, Roberto Cuzzill, Elie Lamah, and Mauro Mueller who also wrote the script) met each other for the first time.

The film is having its first festival bow at the 20th Sarajevo Film Festival, where it is being screened in the Feature Film Competition.

The first segment of the omnibus entitled THE HOUSE IN THE ENVELOPE, written and directed by Sanela Salketić, follows the Bosnian director’s short film success from 2013 2 CM MORE / NUR 2 CM. Set in Istanbul, Turkey, it focuses on a young Turkish woman residing in Berlin who comes back to Turkey to make amends with her family. In fact, it tells the story of a Turkish family who left its homeland to move to Germany, something the grandfather was opposed to. Later, the father dies, leaving the family house in his will to his daughter. The message behind THE HOUSE IN THE ENVELOPE is not only that families split up yet remain families nonetheless, but also that we have to live with our own differences.

The cast delivers natural performances that highlight the realism of the film’s premise. However, even with its noble intentions and premise, the film does not address deeply the issues it raises, unfortunately looking incomplete and insufficiently polished.

STP 2014 / Sead Vegara - The House in the Envelope

A feature film allows more time to develop a longer story, build characters, and try to figure out the relationships between them, but in a short film you have to do it very quickly. It is a difficult job, yet THE HOUSE IN THE ENVELOPE, the first part of the omnibus A QUINTET (2014), shown at the 20th Sarajevo Film Festival, Bosnian director Sanela Salketić does a pretty good job.

The story is about a young Turkish girl Layla who comes from Berlin to Istanbul only to finds herself in a situation, where she has to search for her grandfather and try to convince him to forgive his son (her father), so he takes the house his heir left him after he passed away.

The story starts and ends at the same point. In the opening we see Layla entering the taxi by the seashore. At the end she is sitting on a bench by the shore talking to her grandfather. She drives twice with the same chatty taxi driver. Two scenes, in which the character of Layla is developing – towards the ending with her grandfather she speaks about herself and her father, sometimes making pronunciation mistakes, which is natural for someone not living in Turkey. All this time Layla is trying to convince her grandfather to reconsider his attitude about her late father.

Demet Gül, a Turkish actress portraying Layla, is confident in her role; what is more, the screenplay is co-written by her and director Sanela Salketić. THE HOUSE IN THE ENVELOPE displays a fine sense of humor. It is an emotional experience and by far the finest film from the omnibus, A QUINTET.

STP 2014 / Oana Ghera - The Bridge of Sighs

French New Wave veteran Jean-Luc Godard was one of the thirteen filmmakers who were invited to participate in the making of BRIDGES OF SARAJEVO / LES PONTS DE SARAJEVO (2014), an omnibus centered around the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand that led to the outbreak of the World War I.

Godard had already tangoed with the cultural identity of Sarajevo when approaching the Bosnian War in his I SALUTE THEE, SARAJEVO! / JE VOUS SALUE, SARAJEVO! (1993),a two-and-a-half minute photomontage of a single color image – shot in 1992, in the Eastern Bosnian town of Bijeljina, by the American photographer Ron Haviv – which depicts three soldiers of the Arkan paramilitary Serbian troups with their guns pointed towards three dead corpses laying on the ground.

THE BRIDGE OF SIGHS, Godard’s section of the BRIDGES OF SARAJEVO omnibus, is more than an autonomous work and comes as an attempt to shed new light on the problems proposed by I SALUTE THEE, SARAJEVO! in 1993. “There is a rule and an exception,” Godard states once more. “Culture is the rule and art is the exception.”

In his piece BRIDGES OF SARAJEVO he incorporates parts of I SALUTE THEE, SARAJEVO! into a typical Godard-collage, combining archive material, photographs, paintings, his already classic abundance of jeux de mots, and countless cultural quotes and references; a polyphonic construction that makes more than a few faux pas, yet manages to remain one of the boldest in the omnibus with its discourse on a simulacrum of reality residing in war photographs that he calls playfully faux-to-graphs.

The constructed artificial views of terror spread throughout popular culture (like the Pulitzer winning photograph of a boy on the verge of being eaten by a vulture), terror that art must exonerate, is exactly what Godard addresses critically in his film.

And however purist it may seem, even though it is not even by far Godard’s toughest work, THE BRIDGE OF SIGHS remains one of the most accomplished pieces in the omnibus.

STP 2014 / Gabriela Filippi - Reflections

Sergei Loznitsa’s REFLECTIONS is one of the thirteen short films gathered in the omnibus BRIDGES OF SARAJEVO / LES PONTS DE SARAJEVO (2014). The project was coordinated by the film critic Jean-Michel Frodon and was meant to be released this year to commemorate one hundred years since the outbreak of World War I, which took as a pretext the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria in Sarajevo. Still, BRIDGES OF SARAJEVO does not restrict itself to this historical moment but reflects on different aspects of last century’s events related to the capital of Bosnia which shaped Europe’s pathway.

In his segment, the Ukrainian director renounces the pretension of originality and brings to attention a very common sense – that suffering in troubled times and immense human sacrifice are too quickly forgotten in more prosperous times. But he does so in an efficient way that gives to this exception a renewed power.

The film is a collage of sounds, photographs, and filmed material that bring in the same dimension a distinct moment from Sarajevo’s turbulent past and its quiet present. The black and white images shot by cinematographer Oleg Mutu (known for his collaboration with Romanian New Wave directors) of the city’s streets on a sunny day are superimposed also with black and white portraits of men that fought in the Bosnian War photographed by Milomir Kovačević in 1992. From the foreground each of the now probably dead fighters gazes for a few seconds straight at the audience, and the black and white image sharpening his features makes his presence more acute. Simultaneously, the peaceful life of the present time unfolds behind him.

With REFLECTIONS Sergei Loznitsa shows once again his interest in history and politics, as well as the preference for some stylistic choices, which he developed in his previous documentaries: the non-narrative structure in THE SETTLEMENT / POSELENIE (2002) or LANDSCAPE / PEYZAZH (2003), the using of archive material in BLOCKADE / BLOKADA (2006), REVUE / PREDSTAVLENIE (2008). Besides, this film and his most recent feature documentary, MAIDAN (2014), shown also at the 20th Sarajevo Film Festival, rely on sound to bring new meaning to the scenes.

In this segment from BRIDGES OF SARAJEVO Loznitsa operates a rather symbolic selection of the aspects he shows from the present, giving us motives of everyday life (children playing, trams passing, tourists discovering the city), but repeatedly making references to motives of religious diversity – also the main cause for the conflict in the area.

Some might regard this schematically. Still, the artistry with which the different material is assembled is probably hard to deny. In this crafted network every element becomes evocative, and thus sounds and images from our quotidian become very expressive. Banal sounds – like those of the people’s steps while walking on the streets or like that of a flowing river – are vividly recalling the blessing of the normal life.