Czech and Slovak films form part of the Eastern European retrospective at San Sebastián
by Martin Kudláč
- The programme, spanning the last 14 years, will feature 50 films from the region
The San Sebastián Film Festival will celebrate the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall by hosting a retrospective on Eastern European cinema. “Eastern Promises” will present a mosaic of films from countries that lived under the influence of the Soviet Union. The retrospective offers selected films since the year 2000 from Albania, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Moldavia, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Serbia, with a total of 50 titles in the line-up. The so-called “Autobiography of Eastern Europe” will help audiences “to better understand that Europe hidden from our eyes for decades and to discover how it deals with that new reality today”.
The retrospective puts an emphasis on “new directors, and new films with a strong visual style and interesting topics”, including major social changes and events over the last 25 years. “This peculiar atmosphere provides the basis for powerful stories and scenarios. So we thought that it would be a good idea to show some of these films to the festival’s audience: most of them have never been released in Spain, so it was a good chance to make them known to the public,” the organisers explained. “For a western audience, Eastern Europe can be an 'exotic' place, strange and unknown, even frightful sometimes. So the main idea of the retrospective was to account for the cultural richness of all these countries, from the Baltic to the Balkans, the Black Sea and Central Europe, to make clear that each of them has a specific cultural and historical background. Cinema is a good way to do this.”
The process by which the Czech Republic shifted from a Soviet influence to a market economy will be illustrated by Vít Klusák and Filip Remunda's acclaimed Czech Dream, a documentary about a bogus supermarket and consumerism; amongst the other titles are an omnibus on human relationships in the unconventional love story Wrong Side Up by Petr Zelenka, Bohdan Sláma's excellently acted Something Like Happiness [+see also:
interview: Bohdan Slama
interview: Pavel Strnad
film profile] and the road movie Some Secrets by Alice Nellis. “Nellis and Sláma are old acquaintances of the San Sebastián Festival – the former won the New Directors Award and the latter the Golden Shell. Their films are clever character studies that deal with problems and situations that are recognisable for everyone in every country. It is the same with Zelenka's film, which is also interesting for its humorous approach – we also wanted to have this peculiar Central European sense of humour in the retrospective. Finally, Czech Dream is for us a fascinating exercise in the genre of the fake documentary, which explains in an ironic and humorous way the transformation from communism to consumerism. It is a didactic film that forces us to reflect on this phenomenon (which is so normal in Western Europe) from a very different perspective,” the programmers remarked.
Slovakia will be represented by a trio of talented filmmakers: namely, Peter Kerekes, Zuzana Liová and Mira Fornay. “In the first place, we found their films very interesting, both in terms of their topics and their visual treatments. But the three also represent different approaches and personalities that we wanted to include in the retrospective. Kerekes deals with the documentary format in a very creative and unusual way, exploring the past with a subtle sense of humour, which provides a rare kind of emotion. Liová’s and Fornay’s films are precise portraits of the conflict between the new and the older generations,” the programmers continued. They chose Kerekes' gastro-historic documentary Cooking History, the intimate family drama The House [+see also:
interview: Zuzana Liová
film profile] by Liová, and Fornay's award-winning drama My Dog Killer [+see also:
The 62nd San Sebastián Film Festival takes place from 19-27 September.