29th Mons International Love Film Festival (Festival International du Film d’Amour de Mons), Belgium, 15 – 22 February 2013: First European Film Competition
The works in First European Film Competition, directed by filmmakers in their first feature-length film, have for the most part the thematic imprint of the passage from adolescence to adulthood, the assumption of responsibilities and decision-making, to deal with this new phase of life. This process is perfectly rooted in different social and historical contexts in which some beginners’ films develop, as well as the culture and way of life in their countries of origin, offering alive, fresh, clean and a youthful look to the present and the future.
Tutti Giù (Switzerland, 2012) by Niccolò Castelli, Faith Love and Whiskey (Bulgaria, 2012) by Kristina Nikolova, Made in Ash (Czech Republic/Slovakia, 2012) by Iveta Grofova, Crawl (France, 2012) by Hervé Lasgouttes, SixpackMovie (Pussikaljaelokuva, Finland, 2011) by Ville Jankeri are films that explore these territories with different results. Another topic, involved both geographically and historically, included films of social and political concern: Keep Smiling (Gaigimet, Georgia / France / Luxembourg, 2012) by Rusudan Chkonia and Chrysalis (Spain, 2011) by Paula Ortiz, which also provides a component of thoughtfulness. The films that complete the selection: Une chanson pour ma Mère (France-Belgium, 2013) and Brasserie Romantiek (Belgium, 2012) by Joël Vanhoebrouck, have the aim of reaching a wide audience and are looking for empathy from the viewer by means of the light-hearted comedy or romantic drama.
Tutti Giù, set in Lugano, depicts the story of two boys and a girl, caught in an impasse in their lives. The lonely Edo (Nicola Perot), a misunderstood graffiti artist, Chiara (Lara Gut), a ski champion, who lives under the pressure of success, has a crisis of vocation which is actually a crisis of identity, and the handsome Jullo (Yanik Cohades), carefree and creative in his skate world, always living from day to day, are three characters based on real ones. Castelli manages to convey a sincere immediacy by means of a fluid narrative, without technical frenzy, showing that love thaws the hearts by opening vital horizons up to the limit of the literal. Tutti Giù, a film that starts from despair then flies towards a mature understanding of the life experience, is photographed with a style well-suited to the story and performed, especially by debutant Nicola Perot, with outstanding talent.
The Bulgarian film Faith, Love and Whiskey by Kristina Nikolova describes the crisis that causes a love triangle whose top is the young and beautiful Neli (Ana Stojanovska), trapped between two men: Scott (John Keabler), a wealthy American, and the alcoholic Val (Valeri Yordanov) a childhood sweetheart whom she meets when she flees to return to Bulgaria. The film is made with scant formal care, its script lacks consistency and the characters are basic and schematic. Nikolova just follows their footsteps in a rough way and doesn’t provide any clues about their emotions and interests. As regards the acting, neither of the actors is a positive support for the film, unfortunately. Likewise, the editing is abrupt, incomprehensible in some parts of a story based on real events, so it is more regrettable that the director had failed to transfer to the screen the confusion and despair of the struggle between love, passion and loyalty.
Coming from the same country, Sofia’s Last Ambulance (Poslednata lineika na Sofia) by Ilian Metev, also presented in the Semaine de la Critique in Cannes, offers a particular point of view of the strong motivation of nurses of ambulances in this town. Saving the viewer the morbid vision of the sick, wounded or dead, it focuses on Mila Mikhailova, Krassimir Yordanov and Plamen Slavkov playing themselves, to reveal the difficulty of exercising their work and showing the great dedication to service despite the difficulties. The interest of the film is affected by the excessive repetition of situations and failed evolution of their main characters resolved with a sudden ending.
Slovak director Iveta Grofova intends Made in Ash to depict the struggle of young women in an impoverished environment of misery and exploitation. In a distant tone, even approaching documentary style, the film manages to transmit the disheartening itinerary of girls who migrate to the Czech Republic fleeing Slovakia’s economic hardships and their hopeless future. Dorotka (Dorotka Billa), saying goodbye to her adolescence, is forced to leave school to work in another country. The merciless depiction of life in the factories, the humiliating conditions in which they live and work, isolated from family, friends and boyfriends, make these young people easy victims of sexual exploitation and petty crime. The main characters, who act with an impressive naturalism, are involved in a game to retain their human dignity. Grofova’s film is innovative in photography which incorporates animation, in which the Director already had experience.
Finnish film SixpackMovie, by director Ville Jankeri, who also wrote the script, offers a comedy that begins with a calm beer in a bar and finishes at dawn, after a series of incidents involving the infamy, naiveté and absurdity of his protagonists, Marsalkka (Jussi Nikkilä), Lihi (Ylermi Rajamaa) and Eninen (Eero Milonoff).
Hervé Lasgouttes’ debut, Crawl, moves with a well measured pace, which progresses with smoothness without ever diminishing the interest, as well as having excellent performances. On the coast of Cornwall, Martin (Swann Arlaud) lives on odd jobs and sporadic thefts. He gets to know a solitary young woman, Gwen (Anne Marivin), who trains on the open sea with the professional aim to travel to Mexico and to devote herself there to swimming. But her goals are thwarted by her love for Martin and the birth of a son.
Rusudan Chkonia directs Keep Smiling, a tragicomedy that tries to find originality in the description of the lack of resources of Georgia’s poor and refugee families, through a beauty contest for mothers that could save them from the misery. Unfortunately, the different stories are treated unimaginatively.
The Mons Festival had two movies that stood out for attracting a wide audience. First, A Song for My Mother (Une chanson pour ma mère) directed by Joel Franka, interpreted by Sylvie Testud, Patrick Timsit, Fabrizio Rongione, Sam Louwyck and the Dutch singer Dave, as himself. Joel Franka’s well-meaning comedy had flat humour and big doses of easy sentimentality. Secondly, Brasserie Romantiek, by the Belgian Joël Vanhoebrouck, whose excellent script consists of seven love stories (marriage, divorce, blind date, old flame etc) but at the same time lacked inspiration and originality. Tuur Florizoone’s music and Ruben Impens’s photography wrapped the movie with glamour, while among the talented ensemble cast was Sara de Roo and Barbara Sarafian.
Finally, and a considerable qualitative distance from the rest of films selected in the section First European film, stands Chrysalis (De tu ventana a la mía) written and directed by Paula Ortiz, a most deserved winner of the Fedeora Award, by its successful artistic ambition, creativity and capacity for introspection in the personality of all the characters. This film displays unsuccessful love through the main characters, played by Maribel Verdú, Leticia Dolera and Luisa Gavasa with notable veracity.
Eva Peydró, Spain