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Stephan Komandarev first time in Drvengrad

Stephan Komandarev, film director from Bulgaria, arrived in Drvengrad this evening. He was welcomed in traditional manner by professor Emir Kusturica. Stephan Komandarev’s film Directions that premiered within Cannes program Un Certain regard will be screened tomorrow at 17 hours in the Damned Yard Theatre in Drvengrad.

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Third Night of the Competition Programme

On the third day of 11th Küstendorf, there were five films screened as part of the Competition Programme: Dregs by Kordian Kadziela, The President’s Visit by Cyril Aris, Call Him President by Emma Paoli, Lumpen by Nikola Vučinić, and Merry-go-round by Ruslan Bratov.

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Workshop with Michaël R. Roskam

Michaël R. Roskam, guest of the 11th Küstendorf, held a workshop today after the screening of his third feature film Racer and the Jailbird.

Oscar and César nominee with his first feature Bullhead, Roskam made his second feature The Drop in Hollywood, starring Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace and James Gandolfini. Racer and the Jailbird is his comeback to Europe and a renewed cooperation with actor Matthias Schoenaerts. The director shared his experience with working in Hollywood and described the difference between American and European filmmaking saying that in Europe, film belongs to the one who gets the money, and in America it belongs to those who provide the money. In his opinion, both options have their upsides, adding that he plans to continue working in both systems – since he is returning to Hollywood with his next project.

Genre determined, or rather prone to flirting with genre, Roskam described his work as amour noir, which he defines as twisting the conventions of traditional noir film. Instead of a crime story with love elements as its satellites, amour noir would be a love story with elements of crime as satellites, says the director. He cites role models such as Jean-Pierre Melville and Michael Mann as the greatest influence on his films and adds that Mann’s film Heat was a direct inspiration for Racer and the Jailbird.

Answering questions posed by students, the Belgian director shared his view of the importance of crime stories for culture. Citing the Dutch anthropologist and historian Johan Huizinga and his concept of homo ludens, Roskam compared film with play which invokes, imitates and recreates basic conflicts within human nature, clearly aware that it is about pretending. The difference between reality and play is that play has an end and has no consequences. Since violence is inseparable from human beings and even civilization could not eradicate it, Roskam believes it is crucial to talk about it and to recreate it as part of play. In his opinion, film noir and similar types of stories offer just the play and benefit society likewise.

 

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Second Night of the Competition Programme

On the second day of 11th Küstendorf, the audience saw six films within the Competition Programme: Bonboné by Rakan Mayasi, Fifteen by Sameh Alaa, Chanel by Humberto Vallejo, Domesticated Wolf by Elad Primo, Mary by Grigory kolomytsev, and Shmama by Miki Polonski.

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Workshop with Vlastimir Sudar

On the third day of the Festival, students and guests saw the legendary Yugoslav film The Birch Tree by the Croatian director Ante Babaja, followed by a workshop with film historian and theorist and a member of this year’s Jury, Vlastimir Sudar.

Expert for the period of Yugoslav film when Babaja’s The Birch Tree was made, Sudar gave a historical context and described the cultural climate of the moment. Sudar associated this film with Aleksandar Petrović’s I Even Met Happy Gypsies, also out in 1967, and emphasized how creatively prolific and exciting this moment was in Yugoslav film culture. Both films competed at Pula Film Festival where Petrović won the Golden Arena and Babaja won the Bronze Arena. Unfortunately, as Sudar stated, Babaja’s film was in the shadows of I Even Met Happy Gypsies which, as a Palme d’Or winner, was very popular with the cinema audience – 200.000 people saw it in Zagreb with a population of 400.000 at the time.

Sudar described the historic and political influences leading to great films such as The Birch Tree and I Even Met Happy Gypsies. Linking the Soviet obsession with film and the subsequent growth of film in SFR Yugoslavia, Sudar cited Lenin’s famous statement about the value of the art of film as an imperative behind this obsession and added that Lenin’s tendency towards regionalism in the SSSR led to the development and popularization of ethnographic film. This ethnographic approach and regionalism gave rise to films such as Parajanov’s Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors, which served as direct inspiration to Babaja and Petrović for their films.

Vlastimir also offered a class analysis of Babaja’s film. Namely, apart from a personal fascination with specific communities, like the Croatian Zagorje where the film is set, small communities such as the one in The Birch Tree have clear cut and insurmountable class divides. The protagonist of the film, woodsman Marko, played by Velimir Bata Živojinović, Sudar describes as a figure of social mobility who breaks the sat class relations. However, the film does not take sides with the protagonist, represented as a consumer, a man forever unhappy with what he has, always wanting new things, which Sudar sees as the driving force of his inability to settle down and his insatiable obsession with women. Expressing disapproval of class divides and consumerism, Sudar sheds light on social dynamics behind the love story which is the centre of the film, also pointing out their political roots.

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Workshop with Qiang Wang and Producer Li

The second day of the Festival brought an European premiere of an amazing film by the Chinese director Qiang Wang, Sunshine That Can Move Mountains followed by a workshop with film director and producer.

It is very unusual to see a Chinese director of Manchu origin make a film about Tibetan Buddhists, founding his poetics completely on an understanding and respect for a way of life essentially foreign to him. Wang’s fascination with Tibet started with a series of documentary films which lead to the script for Sunshine that Can Move Mountains and finally its production. A strong feel for the spiritual practice of Buddhism is behind both the poetics of the film and his production as a whole. Namely, Wang’s script was developed into a film owing exclusively to the persistence and passion of the producer Li who found the script and personally made sure that the director’s vision came to life. It is not as often that a producer believes so firmly in a production that she insists the director go through with his intention to leave the film ending open and strange for the audience, because the openness of the ending is, as both of them stated, a Buddhist principle. This is particularly noteworthy having in mind the political sensitivity of the topic.

Non-religious himself (I wasn’t a Buddhist before the shooting of the film, I haven’t become one during the shooting, and i don’t think i will become one in the future) and with a feeling that he lacks this side of his personality, Wang pointed out during the workshop that he did not want to glamorize Tibet and that he wanted to present the spiritual life of the people in its everyday form, because it is impossible to separate the two. They look messy and shabby on the outside, but their spiritual life is incredibly clean and orderly, said the director. Attempting to present this apparent dualism, Wang insisted on the external rawness of the life of his characters, so he could stay true to the extremely internal values they genuinely respect.

Citing Andrei Tarkovsky as influence, Wang made an incredibly subtle film which remains dynamic and persuasive at all times. The closing scene, when the Buddhist monk and his sister-in-law drag his brother across snowy mountain slopes, five thousand miles away from the holy city Lhasa, going down on their knees to pray every step of the way, is the crown of the first feature by the Chinese director, with an interesting future ahead of him ‒ whether he becomes a Buddhist or not.

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First Night of the Competition Programme

 

Tonight was the first part of the Competition Programme of the 11th International Film and Music Festival Küstendorf.

Festival Jury members include: Petar Peca Popović, rock critic, journalist and publicist, Serge Regourd, Professor at the University of Toulouse, and Vlastimir Sudar, an expert in history and theory of film.

The Vilko Filač Award will be presented by cinematographer István Borbás.

On this first night of the Competition programme the audience saw five movies: A Gentle Night directed by Qiu Yang, Fortunately by Piotr Januszkiewicz, Loop by Matija Glušević, The Troubled Troubadour by Forest Ian Etsler and Sébastien Simon, and Into the Blue by Antoneta Alamat Kusijanović.

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Michaël R. Roskam at the Festival

Tonight, Mokra Gora welcomed to the Festival the Belgian director Michaël R. Roskam with bread, salt and rakia.

After two successful feature films, Bullhead, Oscar and Cesar nominee for best foreign film, and The Drop, starring Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace and late James Gandolfini in the leading roles, Roskam visits Küstendorf with his latest film Racer and the Jailbird, to be screened in the Damned Yard Theatre within the Contemporary Trends programme.

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Workshop with Paolo Sorrentino

Italian director Paolo Sorrentino, special guest of the 11th Küstendorf and the winner of this year’s Award for Future Films or Tree of LIfe, held a workshop for the students and Festival guests.

The talk began with a discussion about the relationship between modern television and film, i.e. the clash between streaming and cinema, and the consequences this could have on film. Cinema audience watching long, artistic films is completely gone, Sorrentino concluded and added that this is the reason why great directors both in the past and now transition to the world of television. However, the Italian director did not lament over large cinema audiences, and added that he never enjoyed mass cinema screenings, but preferred going to the cinema when there are very few people, because people can disturb you. Sorrentino favored an intimate concept of film, which he compared with the experience of reading a novel and concluded that this intimacy helps one see the advantage and the future of television.

The second part of the workshop, dedicated to questions from students and the press, was about Sorrentino’s poetics and the specifics of his world. You need to have a poetics, a universe, which is neither easy to have, nor easy to use every time you need it, said Paolo adding that humor is the ultimate focus and measure of his poetics as a whole. I always chose to do things that I think are funny ‒ this sentence sums up Sorrentino’s process. Sorrentino simply does not like films that take themselves too seriously.

Humor as an imperative is also crucial when choosing actors. He chooses them not for being good actors, but because he can share something with them, or simply because they are funny. At this point in the conversation, Sorrentino invoked Federico Fellini, with whom he shares full dedication to human face and to valuing human character as the supreme means of film expression and a herald of film emotion. Humor is such a great factor in Sorrentino’s process, that he even cited it as a motivation for avoiding rehearsals, because simply, rehearsals are not funny.

With a humorous and modest approach to any kind of hyperbole of both his own work and work on film in general, Sorrentino recommended students the boredom of editing as a source of creative approach to films they are making, and added that they should definitely find a boring editor.

The workshop was concluded with a talk about Sorrentino’s next film. The only information about the film, for now, is that it is about Silvio Berlusconi. Although he could not give details about the next film, Paolo stated that a love for characters is essential for making any film, including a film about Berlusconi. He said that he neither likes his politics nor his political ideas, but that he tries to like the man in him.

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Villaluna Arrives for Kustendorf

Both rain and Paolo Villlaluna arrived in Mećavnik on the second day of the 11th Küstendorf. Villaluna, Filipino director and winner of the Golden Goblet at the 20th Shanghai International Film Festival, was welcomed by Festival executive director Nana Kusturica, with traditional Serbian offerings of bread, salt and honey brandy. Villaluna will hold a workshop after the screening of his film Pedicab on Friday, in The Damned Yard Theatre.