2017 was an important year for FEST in regards to the film programing, and everything else for that matter. The strange political climate created by several events across the planet in the year before (Trump; Brexit; the conflicts in Syria and the Ukraine; only to name a few) promised to manipulate and dominate everyone’s agenda, and we were certainly not about to let the world make another crazy turn without us having a say and present a firm stand.
As such, finding a theme and a programming line to colorize and orientate our work was perhaps easier in 2017 than in any other year: the obvious regression the planet was witnessing was about to get FEST’s contribution via the wonderful work of some of the most impressive new artists on the scene. It was with this perspective that we launched our “endless” quest for some of the most provocative content out there, creating, as we do every year, a platform for young artists to express their views on the contemporary world, and allow their voices to ring high and loud.
This premise became immediately obvious in different ways, with films covering all sorts of themes, all in close connections with the “scandals” of the moment.
The role of austerity in our part of the world could not possible go unnoted. Fortunately, there was no lack of productions covering the theme, each with their own little twists. The Golden Linx competition was clearly influenced by this logic, with two films standing out as “stabs in the back”, in the most positive sense of the expression, of its respective governments. The first was David Macian’s “The Invisible Hand”, a creative and smart allegory about labor relations in contemporary Spain, where a series of different workers are exposed in a sort of exhibition/reality TV format, where a loud and boisterous crowd taunts them constantly, and a certain unknown boss keeps playing strange games which promote inner conflicts among the workers. “Park” by Sofia Exarchau was no less impressive on this front, presenting modern Greece as ruin of what it once was. The film portrays the lives of a group of youths who spend their time roaming around in the ruins of the Olympic village, playing vicious games and feeding a sense of endless doom, until some of them attempt to cross to the other side: the Greece that is kept spotless for the tourists. The theme of austerity was also covered in the black comedy that closed the event, Spanish director Marc Cruhet’s “The One Eyed King”, a film that dares to use the social convulsions in Spain, caused by years of austerity, to create a plot which mixes many laughs with a clear critique of Mariano Rajoy’s rule.
LGBT rights were far from absent in most of the program, starting off with Dome Karukoski’s opening film “Tom of Finland”, a biopic portraying the life of Touko Valio Laaksonen, an icon of gay culture who himself had to face many obstacles and dangers due to his art and sexuality. Equally relevant was “As You Are”, by the newest sensation in American independent cinema, Miles Joris Peyrafitte, whose debut feature is a film drench in nostalgia from the grunge age, transporting us into the lives of two unassuming young men who develop a close relation, which is inevitably shaken by a love triangle and a bloody crime.
Still in the feature film competition, two films attempted to take a renewed look at contemporary urban alienation, each in their own specific way. Laura Naysmith’s “8:30” did so in the most experimental fashion, creating an alternative universe where an apparently normal commuter finds himself on a loop into a parallel reality on his train ride to work. While the ravaging “Needle Boy” by Danish director Alexander Bak Sagmo portrays a fateful day in the life of a young man who considers himself a monster set to embark on a school massacre.
Putin’s Russia was also under our scope, in the most inventive method possible. The feature documentary “The Road Movie”, by Dimittri Kalashnikov, collected images from dashboard cameras across Russia to transform what appears to be a common compilation of youtube style road accidents and strange events, into an in-depth analysis of the Russian spirit under the rule of an autocrat. The film would go on to win the Best Feature Documentary award. On drastically different terms, in our Silver Lynx competition, a short documentary film called “Days of Youth”, by Yulia Lokshina, took us into a holiday camp in Russia where children are instructed in militaristic and nationalist ideals, forming the backbone of a pro-putin logic.
As if anticipating the #metoo movement that was about to take center stage in the global arena, the Golden Linx competition winner, “Filthy” by Czech filmmaker Tereza Nvotová, offered an original look at the theme of rape, with a plot about the tumultuous process of recovery of a young rape victim, that was to captivate the juries imagination like no other film. Adding to this debate we screened “Farewell to Flesh” by one of Brazil’s most promising filmmakers, Julia Anquier, a film that looks at rape and revenge with extreme confidence and determination, always moving towards one of the year’s most surprising and unforgettable endings.
Throughout the program we insisted on presenting films such as “State of emergency” by Tarek Roehlinger, a tense thriller focused on the paranoia about terrorism; “A New Home” by Ziga Virc, which offers a look into how the refugee crisis is producing a sort of collective insanity in parts of Europe; “The Fear Installation” by Ricardo Leite offered us a look into state repression; and “Homeland” by Sam Peeters, winner of the Silver Lynx award for best short documentary, forced us to take a peek into Belgium suburbia and its fascination for the far-right.
The theme for FEST2018 threatens to take us along similar rides, this time around focused on the concept of borders, physical and imaginary, both in a sense of separation lines and platforms for transgression. As such, FEST audiences should expect a film program that is bound to challenge many of their pre-conceived ideas. Consider yourselves warned!