Not so long ago, OIFF had been certainly shadowed by Molodist Kyiv International Film Festival. Now, it’s unknown with whose light touch (if OIFF PR managers’ – glory to them) the festival was titled neither more or less “Ukrainian Cannes”.
Sure thing, geographical parallels played their role – “cinema forum by the sea” but this metaphor should have more conformity. Cannes is about stars, first of all. Celebrities. Well, this year the organizers worked hard – as much as possible with regard to Ukrainian opportunities.
We have three names and one trio. Catherine Deneuve, Mike Leigh, Rose McGowan and The Tiger Lillies.
Nothing to add except for already multiple times said about the first one. Having started in the naive and tearful Les Parapluies de Cherbourg, she starred in films for various directors such as François Truffaut, Roman Polanski, Luis Buñuel, Marco Ferreri, François Ozon, Lars von Trier. In Odesa, wonderful Catrine will be awarded the Golden Duke Award for her contribution to the cinema industry and shown mini-retrospective of her films, and also she will hold master-class.
If you want to find out what famous British “cinema kitchen shell” is – an island answer to Italian neorealism and French “new wave” – then there is no better candidacy than the director Mike Leigh (born in 1943). His films are always performed in muffled tones, without attractions, but with genius actors and incredible dramatic tension valued throughout the world: Palme d’Or and Best Director Prize in Cannes, Golden Lion in Venice, Silver Bear in Berlin, 7 Oscar nominations, 5 BAFTA primes. The Golden Duke Award for contribution to the film industry hardly adds something valid to this list, this is rather an opportunity for Ukrainian cinema community – the visit of the master of such level who will bring his last film Peterloo and meet with his fans.
46-year-old Rose McGowan gained recognition in the mid-2000s for her roles in TV series Charmed and Elvis. In 2007 this list was extended by her work with Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez in the Grindhouse project. McGowan has become one of the Silent Breakers who accused famous American producer Harvey Weinstein in repeated sexual harassments. Her allegation virtually ruined Harvey Weinstein’s reputation, broke the silence plot of harassment in Hollywood and caused the upraise of international movement #MeToo.
Without any exaggeration, The Tiger Lillies are a living legend of British music. This three cynical, funny and extremely talented buffoons produce an explosive mixture of opera, cabaret, rock and gipsy party. Their performances are very theatricalized but listening to their songs are no less interesting – 35 albums and the Grammy nomination are the evidence of this. They sing about drugs, sex, prostitution, violence and existential despair. They do this dashingly and piercingly. The Tiger Lillies have already visited Ukraine but the performance in Odesa Green Theatre is special: trio will work as tapers during the screening of German Expressionism masterpiece – silent thriller Dr Caligari’s Cabinet by Robert Wiene (1920). After that, they will give a concert.
What about films, they will be more than a hundred for a week and a half. The festival will traditionally open at the Potemkin Stairs with the screening of Hollywood blockbuster Cossacks (1928, directors – George William Hill and Clarence Brown) accompanied by a symphony orchestra and choir. The music was written by Robert Israel, a composer who specializes in the musical accompaniment of silent films. While preparing for the Odesa premiere, he studied our folk songs, as well as opuses of Mykola Lysenko and Semen Hulak-Artemovsky.
It’s important that OIFF since the year before last turned into a kind of final instance for the domestic cinema: here you can evaluate the best of the captured in Ukraine for the whole season. Now, looking at the national directors I must say that quality breakthrough which we’d waited for so long finally happened.
Our films take part in all the main programs.
In the International Competition – Homeward, a feature-length debut of Crimean-Tatar author Nariman Aliev, previously selected in the section Un Certain Regard at the last festival in Cannes. This dramatic combination of a road-movie, Bildungsroman and psychological drama about a father who tries to bury his son killed at the front line in his homeland in the occupied Crimea, can’t leave indifferent.
The film Heat Singers is introduced in the European Documentary Competition (8 films from Sweden, Denmark, Belgium, Germany, Czech Republic, Norway, Spain, Turkey and the United Kingdom). The father of Nadia Parfan, the director, works in the Ivano-Frankivskteplokomunenerho public utility company and creates labour union choir there. His daughter made highly interesting and poetic research on choir singing and energy communications. Being at the stage of the project it was marked at several festivals.
National Competition consists of 4 feature-length debuts. Three of them have serious festival history. Thus, My Thoughts Are Silent by Antonio Lukich and documentary film Projectionist by Yuriy Shylov represent Ukraine in a prestigious competition in Karlovy Vary, which will have ended on the eve of OIFF. In Lukich’s film, the thing is about a 25-year-old composer who after experiencing the series of personal and professional failures, goes to Zakarpattia to record the voices of local animals. The success of the expedition will make employment in Canada possible, but the situation is complicated by the overactive protagonist’s mother. The protagonist of Projectionist is Valentin, a projectionist who worked for 44 years in the movie theatre and now, after the fire and early retirement he tries to find himself in the post-revolutionary Ukraine. Another documentary film is My Father Is My Mother’s Brother by Vadym Ilkov has been recognized as most innovative at the festival Visions du Réel (Switzerland) – depicts an absolutely untypical family structure where a singer, artists and an open gay becomes a father to his five-year-old niece abandoned by her mentally-ill mother.
The most expensive premier of this program – U311 Cherkasy by Tymur Yashchenko (Ukraine-Poland) will please the patriotic audience. As it is known, minesweeper Cherkasy was the last Ukrainian vessel seized by the occupiers in March 2014 during the annexation of Crimea. The main characters of the film are fellow villagers who work as sailors and become the participants of those tragic events.
Talking again about the International Competition, it’s worth noting that Aliev will have serious competitors. Below are only those films that already have honours at major festivals.
The drama And Then We Danced by Levan Akin about the life of Merab, a young dancer of National Georgian Ensemble who falls in love with his ambitious competitor passed the selection fountain at the Directors’ Fortnight in Cannes.
The Orphanage was also honoured with participation at the Directors’ Fortnight – a rare for festivals Afghan film (the director – Shahrbanoo Sadat) – also tells about love – for the cinema. The protagonist is 15-year-old Qodrat who sells cinema tickets on the black market until the police bring him to the Soviet orphanage at the end of the 1980s.
The dystopia Monos (co-production of Colombia, Argentina, the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark and Sweden) tells about the gang of armed teens who in the mountains watch over a hostage and a milk cow. The work of director Alejandro Landes has a Sundance Film Festival prize and it took part in Berlinale Panorama.
In the plot of the drama Queen of Hearts (Sweden-Denmark) director May el-Toukhy laid a provocative motive of incest; such a turning point was gladly met by the audience of Sundance Film Festival that awarded the film the prize of their sympathies.
No less provocative is the tragicomedy Tel-Aviv On Fire by Israel director Sameh Zoabi: young Palestinian Salam works as a scriptwriter of a popular soap opera and suddenly he meets commander of Israel (!) checkpoint who becomes his co-author. The Best Actor Work of the last year in Venice.
American-British film The Souvenir (the director – Joanna Hogg) is about a young film student Julia who is in a relationship with a charm but unreliable Anthony and, in parallel, she enters a confrontation with her mother. This film garnered Grand Jury Prize in the section Dramatic Film at the Sundance Film Festival.
The panel of judges of this, without exaggeration powerful competition will be headed by Peter Brosens – a Belgium director with a 25-year experience, Ukrainian actress Ivanna Sakhno, recognized due to the performance in Hollywood blockbusters such as Pacific Rim: Uprising and The Spy Who Dumped Me, Karel Och, the director of the Karlovy Vary Film Festival, and also Nana Ekvtimishvili, a Georgian director and writer.
Summarizing, I feel sorry for OIFF viewers, for there will be no less different kinds of temptations outside the competition. The retrospective is presented by Hollywood by the Black Sea – the hits shot at the Odesa Film Studio over the century from Be Silent, Sorrow… Be Silent by Petro Chardynin (1918) to The Tuner by Kira Muratova (2004). The Festival of Festivals – Parasite (Bong Joon-ho, South Korea) – Palm d’Or at the last Cannes; Pain and Glory (Pedro Almodovar, Spain) for the performance in which Antonio Banderas won a prize at the Cannes; Synonyms (Nadav Lapid, Israel) – Golden Bear and FIPRESCI prize at the 69th Berlin International Film Festival; Between Two Waters (Isaki Lacuesta, Spain) – the owner of Golden Shell at the San Sebastián International Film Festival; Manta Ray (Phuttiphong Aroonpheng, Thailand) – best in the section Orizzonti in Venice in 2018; Ray & Liz (Richard Billingham, United Kingdom) – the Douglas Hickox Award for the Best Debut, Special Jury Prize at the Locarno Festival; The Realm (Rodrigo Sorogoyen, Spain) – the owner of the Goya Award in seven nominations.
And that’s not nearly all.
Obviously, for the 10th anniversary, OIFF decided to surprise itself.
We, as far as we can, promise to inform about the most interesting events of the festival from the very first day.
Dmytro Desyateryk, The Day, specially for opinionua.com