Friday, February 23, 2024

Balkan Film Festival 2023: Macedonian Milcho Manchevski and Kosovar Fisnik Maxville open

Balkan Film Festival 2023: Macedonian Milcho Manchevski and Kosovar Fisnik Maxville open

The 6th edition of the Balkan Film Festival 2023. The event, on the initiative of the Italian-Balkan Association Occhio Blu, aims to promote the Via del Cinema: cinematic dialogue between Italy and the Balkans also aimed at encouraging collaboration between young generations of filmmakers from the two areas and strengthening services for the realization of common projects, through a process of European integration that constitutes driving factors for cultural development, in the recovery and strengthening of peace between peoples. Thanks to the presence in Rome of all the Balkan cinemas (coming from Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia, Romania, Bulgaria, Montenegro, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Albania, Greece, Turkey) the Festival is enriched as never before with protagonists, themes and debates.


Numerous cultural events: from the opening on Tuesday 7 November with Milcho Manchevski and its Cream, at the Casa del Cinema at 4.00 pm followed by Q&A with the director moderated by Francesco Ranieri Martinotti. Also on Tuesday at 8.30pm the Kosovar Noble Maxwell presents his debut film The Land Within, winner of best director at the Raindance Film Festival in London. At the end of the screening, the Q&A with the director moderated by Adriano Ercolani. Among the events of the festival, a panel on contents and strategies of Balkan cinema with the presence of Dina Jordanova and Elma Tataragić; a Focus on Albanian cinema; the “Cinema and War” event around the screening of Danis Tanović’s Oscar-winning film No Man’s Land; an incursion into the literature close to the Balkans, by the great American poet of Serbian origin, Charles Simić, who recently passed away. Other prestigious presences included the Croatian director Juraj Lerotic, the Greek Asimina Proedrou, the Bosnian Aida Begić, the Kosovar Fisnik Maxville, the Albanians Gentian Koći and Edmond Budina, the Montenegrin Aleksandar Vujović. Among the events also the “Film Business School” Masterclass curated by Mimmo Calopresti.

After the great participation seen in the last edition, the international workshop returns again this year in which Balkan film centres, Italian Film Commissions, Creative Europe, Media, protagonists of Italian and Balkan film industry, culture and distribution will participate, debating on problems and conditions of co-productions. The workshop will host students and professors from some of the most significant Italian film schools such as the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia, the Gian Maria Volontè School of Cinematographic Art and the RUFA Rome University of Fine Arts.

The shorts

A significant novelty this year is the section of 10 short films from as many Balkan countries with the aim of involving the young Roman audience by telling Balkan stories close to their lives. The section, curated by Ado Hasanović, sheds light on the work of emerging directors from the Balkan area, and together with the involvement of the main Roman film schools, once again confirms the attention of the Balkan Film Festival towards the works of young aspiring filmmakers. All these works have been produced in the last two years and have achieved great success in international festivals, testifying to the effervescent richness of the new Balkan cinema and its vocation to free itself from memory and build the bridges of a new society.

Scheduled at the Casa del Cinema in Villa Borghese and at the Nuovo Cinema Aquila in Pigneto. Numerous cultural events: screenings, debates, workshops, masterclasses and Q&As with directors and performers. 26 films will be presented, of which 11 feature films and 10 shorts will be in competition. The Best Film will be awarded; Best Director; Actor; Actress; Short Film and Short Film Direction.

The 11 feature films in competition

Cream, directed by Milcho Manchevski (North Macedonia, United Kingdom, Denmark, Netherlands, Croatia). is an irreverent, unconventional and touching love story. A film that moves on the delicate ridge of social satire by exploring the eternal search for love between surrogate parenthood, infidelity and the role of women in society. A young couple lives in luxury when a distant relative moves in with them. The lives of the two intersect with that of their middle-aged neighbors who feel unfulfilled and who live in the dilapidated house downstairs. Cream it does not limit itself to exploring the eternal search for love, between infidelity and sexual freedom, but also addresses important social issues such as surrogate parenting and the role of women in society.

The Land Within, directed by Fisnik Maxville (Kosovo, Switzerland). After fleeing Kosovo during the war and spending the next ten years in Geneva, Remo receives a phone call from his cousin Una asking him to return to his home village, now in ruins. Most of the villagers were killed during the war, so the team of international scientists is digging up mass graves, trying to identify the victims. But as the bodies are exhumed, family secrets also emerge.

Wild Animals, directed by Christian Mungiu (Romania, France, Belgium, Sweden). Matthias, a gruff worker in a German slaughterhouse, argues with his employer and runs away to Recia, his village of origin in Transylvania. Here he discovers that his wife Ana is raising their son Rudi in an overly protective manner, while his lover Csilla has made a career in a local bakery. When the latter, in order to obtain EU benefits, begins to hire laborers from Sri Lanka, long-dormant intolerances emerge in the village.

Behind the Haystacks, directed by Asimina Proedrou (Greece, Germany, Macedonia). A middle-aged fisherman is afraid of going to prison for a small fraud he once committed, and begins working for the local mafia, smuggling migrants across the border lake.

My Vesna, directed by Sara Kern (Slovenia, Australia). While her older sister expresses her feelings in poetry, 10-year-old Moja tries in her own way to hold things together and repair the hole that her mother’s death has left, tearing her family apart.

The Naked Truth about Zhiguli Band, directed by Victor Bojinov (Bulgaria). At the end of the 1980s, the Zhiguli Band was at the height of its fame, however the end of the communist regime in Bulgaria changed the nation’s musical taste, ruining the band’s success. Nowadays, the members of the group now live apart, arguing at a distance and hating each other to death.

A Ballad, directed by Aida Begić (Bosnia-Herzegovnia, France). Unemployed, divorced, although her marriage was never officially ratified, and forced to abandon her beloved daughter Mila, Meri is back in her family home. From there begins the legal battle for the custody of her daughter Mila, forced to live in her father’s squalid residence, but repeated meetings in the office of the slimy lawyer Samir gradually transform the film into an attack on the Bosnian patriarchy tout court .

Have You Seen This Woman?, directed by Dušan Zorić & Matija Gluščević (Serbia, Croatia). In the heat of a summer day, Draginja finds a corpse that looks like her. In the heat of a summer day, Draginja hires a fake husband to show off to her friends. In the cold of a winter night, Draginja wanders the streets, hoping to recover his memory of her. Through three different life chances, a middle-aged woman tries to get out of her skin.

Snow and the Bear, directed by Selcen Ergun (Türkiye, Germany, Serbia). Asli (Merve Dizdar), a young city nurse, is designated for her obligatory service in a small isolated village deep in Turkey, sleeping in an endless winter. A thick layer of snow covers the souls and the earth. But under the snow unspeakable secrets are hidden, which sow doubts and suspicions among the villagers. While the name of the person or people responsible could bring down many of the citizens considered honest, the bears impose themselves as perfect culprits, atonement for everyone and everyone.

A Cup of Coffee and New Shoes On, directed by Gentian Koći (Albania, Portugal, Greece, Kosovo). Agim and Gëzim are two identical and inseparable brothers, deaf since birth. One day, while he is driving back from work, Agim’s vision blurs and he almost causes a fatal accident. At the ophthalmologist, the diagnosis is not good: he is about to lose his sight and, as if that were not enough, the same will soon happen to Gëzim. The idea that, after a life in silence, they will also have to accept the darkness deepens the fracture between them and the world, as well as that between the brothers themselves. A decision needs to be made, over a cup of coffee and with new shoes.

Safe Place, directed by Juraj Lerotić (Croatia, Slovenia). In collaboration with Alpe Adria Cinema – Trieste Film Festival. A traumatic event, a suicide attempt, creates a fracture in the daily existence of a family. Lives change, everyone engages in an invisible war against others. The story is autobiographical and the author and director plays himself in the film.

The 10 short films in competition

Granny’s Sexual Lifedirected by UrškaDjukić & ÉmiliePigeard (Slovenia, France); I Didn’t Make It To Love Herdirected by Anna Fernandez (Bosnia Herzegovina, United Kingdom, Spain); Air Hostess-737regia di Thanasis Neofotistou (Greece); Everegia di Morten Tšinakov & LucijaMrzljak (Croatia, Estonia); Steady Flowregia di Anja Jovanovic (Montenegro); North Poleregia di Marija Apcevska (Macedonia del Nord); Money and Happinessdirected by Nikola Majdak Jr. & Ana Nedeljkovic (Serbia); Things Unheard Ofregia di Ramazan Kılıç (Turchia); Amokdirected by Balazs Turai (Romania, Hungary) e Displaceddirected by Samir Karahoda (Kosovo).

Out of Competition

Rainbow, directed by Aleksandar Vujović (Montenegro, Italy). Inspired by the autobiographical book I paint therefore I exist! by the Italian artist Gaetano Grillo, the short film tells an event from the memory of a boy from his early childhood. As a 5-year-old child he goes on a journey with his father and experiences a magical moment. It is thanks to this vision that he realizes his life’s vocation, his calling as an artist.

No Man’s Land, directed by Danis Tanović (Bosnia, Herzegovina, Slovenia, France, United Kingdom, Belgium, Italy). In collaboration with Fabrica. The story of two soldiers, one Bosnian and the other Serbian, Èiki and Nino, trapped between enemy lines, in no man’s land, during the Bosnian war in 1993. While Èiki and Nino try to find a way out, a brave UN sergeant, despite having received orders not to intervene, tries to rescue them. A journalist also arrives on site and the news can turn into an international incident. Awarded for best screenplay at the 54th Cannes Film Festival, winner of both the Oscar and the Golden Globe for best foreign film, we recover this classic of Balkan cinema to celebrate the career of one of the most important Bosnian directors, and to reflect on the international success of European co-productions. The film is presented in collaboration with Fabrica.

In Search of Justice, directed by Ado Hasanovic (Bosnia Herzegovina, Holland, Italy, Germany). Some law students from the universities of Leiden and Sarajevo question the role of justice before and after interviewing three survivors of the Srebrenica genocide. Was justice done at the time? Has the international community done enough in the process of raising awareness of this tragedy?

Speak in a Low Voice, directed by Esmeralda Calabria, (Italy). Albania, the most impenetrable of the former communist countries in Europe. Isolationist, Stalinist and anti-revisionist. The weight of a memory that, more than 30 years after the fall of the regime, coexists with all the characters encountered in the film. Musicians, actors, directors, privileged and declassed, tell the contradictions of a system that has the face of the dictator Enver Hoxha, who like a Great Father gave and took away.

The jury of this edition is made up of Elma Tataragic, Roland Sejko, Amedeo Pagani, Wilma Labate and Gregor Božič. The festival is open for free to the public.