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48th International Film Festival Rotterdam: Best Feature Films of all Festivalís Sections




"Sheena667", Grigory Dobrygin

International Film Festival Rotterdam


Section Hivos Tiger Award

Sheena667 (Russia, 2019, w. p., 1°), 96’, by Grigory Dobrygin.
Dark tragicomedy about a Russian married couple in their 30s who live in a provincial small town. Vadim owns a garage, Olya works in the post office: their income is quite scarce, but they love each other. One day Vadim accidentally comes into contact with a Web Cam girl from Georgia, in USA. He  becomes obsessed by the provocative sex games that “Sheena” act on line and, night by night, he falls madly in love with the young woman whom he has not actually meet yet. Vadim’s doomed romance is depicted with a dose of irony and a touch of absurdism. Even though the comedy hides a tragic story below the surface of a man who is completely unprepared for the impersonal, money guzzling effect of globalization and the associated internet economy. Good.
Sales: Mind the Gap (Russia)

Take Me Somewhere Nice (Netherlands / Bosnia and Herzegovina, 2019, w. p., 1°), 91’, by Ena Sendijarevi?.
Minimalistic coming of age film about a Bosnian - Dutch girl summer trip to  Sarajevo. Alma is in between of everything: raised in the Netherlands by Bosnian parents, no longer a girl, but not really a woman yet. She decides to visit her father admitted to a Bosnian hospital. From Sarajevo she starts a journey with an unknown destination and gets involved in some picaresque adventures with a couple of young guys. Despite  many clichés, the bone - dry storytelling of this  unusual road movie  is fresh and occasionally effective. It vaguely recalls, in some way,  the iconic Jim Jarmusch’s Stranger Than Paradise. Interesting shots with particular angles. Quite good.       
Special Jury Award 
Sales: Heretic Out reach (Greece)        

Section Bright Future

Alva (Portugal / France / Argentina, 2019, w. p., 1°), 98’, by Ico Costa.
Tragic existential drama with strong documentarian patterns. Henrique is a terse Portuguese smallholder who lives out in the hills, breeding rabbits. He is a hermit who lives a Spartan life away from civilization. A few local townspeople visit him regularly, to bring him supplies. He is obsessed with his 10 years old daughter who  has been consigned to his wife, after their separation, and supported by a psychologist. One day he follows a woman to her house, where we hear a terrible accident unfold outside of our field of vision. Elliptic narrative, almost entirely dialogue - free in the second half of the film. Filmed in 16mm. Costa  portrays the potential criminal with the same detachment, surrounding him with the same mysterious atmosphere, avoiding judging him morally. After the incident, the film becomes an immersive chronicle of the fugitive's daily life as he adapts to his new habitat. Henrique's loneliness comes out by documenting the simple gestures that occupy his long, slow days on the run: picking fruit from the trees, looking for shelter when the nights get cold and swimming in the river Alva, which gives the film its name. Character study is not completely succeeded: Henrique’s ascetic attitude  is quite  strange and depicted as a proof of coldness and moral apathy, but his behavior seems quite artificial. Good.
Sales: Terratreme Filmes (Portugal)      

Core of the World (Serdtse mira) (Russia / Lithuania, 2018, 2° W. P. at  KINOTAVR F. F. 2018, in Russia, then TORONTO F. F. 2018), 124’, by Nataliya Meshchaninova.
Very interesting existential drama set in the remote Russian countryside. Having cut all ties with his family, Egor lives on a remote farm where he works as a veterinarian at  the training centre for hunting dogs. He lives in a small warehouse next to his boss Nikolai’s house. Apart from treating the dogs, Egor also cleans out their huts, protects the centre from environmental activists and supervises all of the chores. The facility hosts various animals, mainly foxes and badgers that are used as prey. Egor tries to avoid getting involved with his boss’s family and his daughter, single mother Dasha. Staying as close as necessary, but also keeping his distance, he is still striving to gain their respect. He feels better and safer among animals and keeps aloof from people. Egor is the “result” of a cruel, post-human society. Raised and then abandoned by his alcoholic mother, he’s unwilling to become part of another problematic family. Nikolai, a falsified father figure, also drinks, and Dasha, who’s attracted to him, scares the vulnerable Egor. By not sharing his belongings or feelings with his “masters”, Egor seeks out interaction, but never a real emotional connection.  Echoes of his troubled past, along with the arrival of animal activists, gradually erode the refuge he has created for himself. When Egor finally has contact with the outside world after having spent years in his own small circle, his perspective on life changes. The film provides a warmhearted view of how Egor oscillates between compassion and rage, and between two worlds, that of humans and animals. Meshchaninova avoids psychoanalysing her hero via excessive dramatization. She witnesses his actions, to reveal his inner battles. She creates an extraordinary, natural portrait of an unconventional character who doesn’t fit in with modern social norms. She sketches a picture of a quiet yet impulsive, vulnerable man who longs for affection and acceptance. Excellent.
Sales: Indie Sales (France)  

Ende der Saison (End of the Season)  (German / Azerbaijan / Georgia, 2019, w. p., 1° ), 92’, by Elmar Imanov (Azerbaijan).
Family drama  that becomes a mysterious existential thriller. A standard middle class family in Baku is on the brink of running its course. 19 years old son Machmud feverishly seeks a home of his own; mother Fidan, an hospital pediatrician, wants her life back after years of service to the family; father Samir, an unemployed actor, just wants to be left alone. Three free spirits orbiting each other, ignoring the annoyances as much as possible. However, a dramatic incident during a trip to the beach painfully highlights the hairline fractures in their existence. Imanov uses this family as an astute metaphor for what happens when freedom becomes the only goal, but then serves as cover for alienation and mutual incomprehension. The film masterfully navigates between the three characters and portrays them as complete strangers. Very good.
FIPRESCI Jury Award Sales: Pluto Film Distribution(Germany)       

Enquanto estamos aqui (While We Are Here) (Brazil, 2019, w. p.), 75’, by Clarissa Campolina, 3°, and Luiz Pretti, 6°. 
Very sensitive but absolutely not rhetorical. An hybrid form of documentary, fiction, travelogue and letters makes this “film diary” reminiscent of News from Home (1977) by Chantal Akerman. An encounter in New York: Lamis, a Lebanese woman, has just moved to the city and describes her impressions while the Brazilian man Wilson has already lived there for 10 years. We never see them on the screen, but their relationship is described in poetic Arabic and Portuguese voice-overs. The approach to macro and geopolitical issues, such as globalisation and migration is not ideological. The main thread remains intimate and human: desire, love, fear and memories. Very good
Sals: Anavilhana Filmes (Brazil)  

Lost Holiday (USA, 2019, i. p., 1°, W. P. at  SLAMDANCE F. F. 2019), 75’, by Michael Kerry Matthews and Thomas Matthews.
A  striking dark comedy with excellent narrative, humour and cast. Margaret is about 30 and comes back for Christmas holydays in Washington D.C. She meets again some friends and  dives in an incomparable adventure marathon with drinking, drugs, kidnapping, extortion, misunderstandings and clumsy violence as basic ingredients. A urban road movie about rebels who refuse to grow up, but go nowhere. The title refers to the novel  “The Lost Weekend” , Charles Jackson's alcoholic classic, but the plot is more reminiscent of the satirical detectives of Kinky Friedman.Very, very good
Sales: Visit Films (USA)

La miséricorde de la jungle (The Mercy of the Jungle)  (Belgium / France, 2018, 2°, W. P. at TORONTO F. F. 2018), 91’, by Joël Karekezi (Rwanda).
Interesting epic and psychological drama. The Congolese Civil War is the second largest military conflict in the last hundred years, trailing only World War II. Millions have died or become refugees. Rwandan sergeant Xavier and the Congolese recruit Faustin are sent to hunt down Hutu rebels in the vast jungles of eastern Congo. Xavier is a stoic veteran of the ethnic wars that have plagued his country for years. Faustin is an eager young recruit who joined the army to avenge the death of his father and brothers. Under the relentless command of  Major Kayitare, they march eighty kilometers a day in pursuit of the murderers of nearly one million Tutsis during the Rwandan genocide four years ago. One night, Xavier and Faustin are accidentally left behind when the battalion races out to chase fleeing rebels. They try to catch up, but must take refuge in the forest when local Congolese militiamen catch sight of them. Lost, with no hope of catching their men, they decide to press west through the jungle toward Kasai Province where Xavier believes the Major is headed next. Rebel factions, criminals and enemy villagers form an obstacle and they are forced to trek through the thick jungle. During a journey filled with hunger, wild animals and malaria, the bond between these two soldiers grows. Xavier is particularly haunted by the atrocities he has both witnessed and committed while Faustin is motivated by the murder of his family and a young wife he wishes to see again. Eventually choosing to impersonate Congolese soldiers themselves, the two manage to fall in with a group of villagers who show them kindness and aid. The horrors of war intervene in the form of hallucinations and memories. The jungle, which is portrayed in turn as claustrophobic and grand, is a parallel world that brings humanity back to the exhausted men. Good.
Sales: UDI - Urban Distribution International (France)        

Nocturne (Netherlands / Belgium, 2019, w. p., 2°), 80’, by Viktor van der Valk
Psychological drama  set  a film noir. Alex, an ambitious debut filmmaker, is trying to get to grips with his work. Time is pressing and his effort becomes feverish. Producers are becoming impatient. The crew bombard him with questions. One night everything must be decided. Torn back and forth between his project, his departed lover and his sick mother, Alex’s life increasingly resembles a ghostly, wildly poetic film noir. The pistol, the tormented look and the dramatic music. The forceful close-up! Will Alex have to choose between love or ambition, reality or art?  Audience witness to an attempt to film a mind in action, seen from its interior or  is watching the process of creation of the film? Creative and fascinating,  despite some  confused patterns. Great musical score  by Eren Önsoy.  Good
Sales: Some Shorts (Netherlands)       

Parade (Aglumi) (Georgia, 2018, e. p., 1°, W. P. at TORONTO F. F. 2018), 87’,  by Nino Zhvania.
Minimalistic and tragicomic road movi Three middle aged friends, a criminal, a painter, and an actor with badly arranged lives reunited to hit the road in a search for new assemblies, joys, and sorrows. Three childhood friends, now all over 50, who differ in character, vision, and attitude. One is lonely and has a criminal past; the second is a painter, who has abandoned his art in favour of his obligations to his family; and the third is an eccentric and unsuccessful actor. With badly arranged lives reunited to hit the road in a search for new assemblies, joys, and sorrows. They come together for a holiday, escaping their realities and find joy in just being together again. It’s a story of people born in the Soviet era. After the disintegration of the Soviet Union, their lives become two - dimensional: one is formal Soviet welfare, and the second, chaotic, but free, contemporary reality. Unfortunately, within this second dimension, losses and frustration occurred, some people died, and others were unable to find their proper place. Good.
Sales: New Georgian Film (Georgia)

Winter’s Night (Gyeo - wul - ba - me) (South Korea, 2018, 3°,  W. P. at JEONJU F. F. 2018 ), 91’, by Jang Woojin.
Meditative and melancholy melodrama set during  24 hours. In the taxi back, after visiting the famous Buddhist temple of Cheongpyeongsa in the South Korean town Chuncheon, which they had also visited 30 - year - ago at the start of their relationship, a middle - aged woman tells her husband she’s lost her mobile phone. He reluctantly asks the taxi driver to turn back. What follows is a long, ice-cold, alcohol-fuelled night in which the couple, both separately and together, have a series of sobering, confrontational and disillusioning encounters set against waterfalls and neon-lit snow landscapes. The woman shares her sorrow with a young couple, a soldier and a woman visiting him, whose budding love looks very much like theirs thirty years ago. Good mise en scène, direction of the cast and actors’ performances. Good.
Sales: M - Line Distribution (South Korea)    

Braquer Poitiers (Carwash) (France, 2018, 3°, W. P. at FID MARSEILLE F. F.), 59’, by Claude Schmitz.
Very original drama - thriller. Somewhere in center France, Belgian petty criminals Thomas and Francis take Wilfrid, owner of a car wash, hostage in his own home. Stockholm Syndrome seems to have affected Wilfred when it becomes clear he is aware that Thomas and Francis want to disappear with his money. He's not so bothered about being a hostage, as this gives him time to look after his garden, plus he likes the company. The summer stretches out and French girlfriends join the petty thieves. Gradually the situation starts getting out of hand. The film captures the colour and languid feel of a hot summer; the soundtrack heightens the effect. The mise en scène is clever. The way the characters are presented seems a little pathetic, but this is deliberate: a method that both alienates and gives the film a sense of humour. Claude Schmitz convince Wilfred, a non actor, to become one of the protagonists.  Very, very good.
Sales: Les films de l’autre cougar (France)  

Section Voices

The Best of Dorien B. (Belgium, , 2019, w. p., 1°), 106’, by Anke Blondé.
Very brilliant dramatic comedy.  37-year-old Dorien has a flourishing veterinary practice, two sweet kids and a successful husband. Everything seems fine: on the outside. But there is something wrong. She sees her settled life start to crumble all at once. She is faced with several problems: her parents are splitting up, her husband of many years is possibly having an affair with the same woman he had an affair with the previous year and there is a lump on her left breast that might just be malignant. Dorien has regrets. There was a time when she had wanted to travel and be adventurous, hoping to work with “Vets Without Borders” and vaccinate animals in Africa. But instead, she had settled to take over her father’s veterinary practice upon his retirement. The reappearance of an old friend also perhaps stirs up similar disappointments about the personal choices she had made and look deep within for all the things that made her who she truly was, things that had been buried for years under the weight of responsibilities. Discovering the best of herself again then is her first step towards freedom and happiness. A  nice story and a clever plot concerning believable characters, not too much out of the ordinary. An unsentimental treatment and lots of wry humour balance out the chaos in a film where a woman must find herself again and all that is ‘best’ in her to escape the trap that life has pushed her into. Anke Blondé and lead actress Kim Snauwaert portray a recognizable, sympathetic heroine. In fact, in the film’s world of secrets, lies and doubts, only the audience gets the entire picture. It witnesses her moments of vulnerability, those of warranted and misplaced anger, and sees her in her desperate efforts to cope. Her detachment is her only form of rebellion, her quiet protest against all that is going wrong with her life. Excellent.
Sales: Be For Films (Belgium)     

Joel (Argentina, 2018, e. p., 10°, W. P. in Argentina on 7 June 2018), 100’, by Carlos Sorín.
Sincere, simple and measured adoption drama. The action takes place in a small town in Patagonian Tierra del Fuego, in a small community where  immaculate snow and friendly manners cover up mistrust and hypocrisy. Joel is  9 - year - old and he is an outsider. He is born in Buenos Aires province in a low class family and was living in a marginalizes social context. Cecilia, a piano teacher, and Diego, a forest engineer, form a well - matched middle class couple and had expected many years. They adopt Joel, dedicating to him with a lot of commitment. Building a new family life apparently involves a lot of trial and error. But, step - by - step, trust  is growing up between Joel and his new parents. A bigger problem is that Joel does talk at the primary public school, where he boasts about leading a gangster lifestyle and taking cocaine. The other parents protest about the bad influence he is having on their children. Carlos Sorín offers a remarkable work, avoiding didacticism and fake naturalism: multilayered script with believable characters and dialogues, realistic mise en scène with documentarian patterns and the precious photography by Iván Gierasinchuk and nice acting.  Very good.
Sales: Latido Films (Spain)     

Queen of Hearts (Dronningen) (Denmark, 2019, e. p., 2°,W. P. at  SUNDANCE F. F. 2019), 127’, by May el - Toukhy.
An intense family drama and a consistent psychological portrait of a controversial woman. The film slips into a thriller in its final act, with tragic consequences.  Forty - something Anne is a successful lawyer who looks after abuse cases of children and young people. Living an idyllic, affluent life with her husband Peter and two nice  preadolescents daughters in their tasteful contemporary home, Anne seems to have it all. Yet something is missing. This reaches its apotheosis when Peter’s troubled son Gustav, turns up to live with them. Fleeting glances escalate. Bored by the everyday dullness and blinded by a forbidden desire, Anne oversteps an unimaginable legal and moral boundary, seduces her stepson and consequently transforms him into the kind of young victim she’d normally defend. Yet something is missing. A phenomenal, complex role - sometimes inscrutable, loving, yet not always sympathetic, for Danish actress Trine Dyrholm. The film is all about abuse of power and unremorsefully going down the deep end to preserve it when threatened with its loss. Narrative is very effective, avoiding naturalistic clichés. Very good.
Sales: TrustNordisk (Denmark)

I Do Not Care If We Go Down in History as Barbarians (Îmi este indiferent daca în istorie vom intra ca barbari) (Romania, 2018, 7°, W. P. at  KARLOVY VARY 2018), 140’, by Radu Jude.
A deftly structured political drama that portray the cultural and ideological contradictions in contemporary Romania. Some people view the Romanian army’s mass murder of Jews in Odessa in 1941 as the start of the Holocaust. Idealistic theatre director Mariana is working on an outdoor play based on the events referred to above. A nerve-wracking process in which she has to deal with extras refusing to work with Roma actors and local public officials seeking to sanitize the production. The present proves closer to the past than Mariana would like. Intense political-philosophical discussions combine with historical footage, literary quotes and Mariana's own problems to provide a layered perspective. The film develops into a sometimes wry, light and intimate meditation that is realistic and cleverly provocative in tone. Very good.
Sales: Beta Cinema (Germany)

Bhonslee (India, 2018, 3°, W. P. at  PUSAN F. F. 2018), 133’, by Devashish Makhija
Intense existential and political drama - thriller.  It dwells into harsh reality, from MNS attacks on migrants (Mah?r???ra Navanirm??a S?n? is a nationalist far-right Indian political party based in the state of Maharashtra and operates on the motto of "Sons of the Soil") to lynchings in the name of religion, it sparks off thought - chain. In a city in the densely populated state of Maharashtra in Western India, people are getting ready for the annual big feast honouring Ganesha, the elephant-headed god of wisdom, prosperity and happiness. At the same time, however, this also leads to ever more violent tensions between the dominant ethnic group, the Marathi, and Bihari immigrants. Bhonsle, a recently retired policeman, looks on with resignation. As in his previous, second feature film Ajji (2017), a gritty and disturbing revenge saga revolving around rape, young Bengali filmmaker Devashish Makhija once again raises incisive, urgent questions about contemporary India. He avoids didacticism and gives an Impressive characters study Who decides who belongs, and who doesn’t? Ganesha may be celebrated as the patron of new beginnings, but for Bhonsle it seems as if the end is nigh. He has a reputation in his block as a strict, angry man, feared but also respected. This comes under pressure when he becomes involved with his new young Bihari neighbor Sita, which brings the conflict to his door.  The film avoids ambiguity and dwells in subtexts, where shots linger for brief moment to feel the emotion rather than the actor delivering it. With plenty of subtext motifs planted from animals (crow: bad omen; dog: mere spectator), the power lies in the arrogance of politics and faith. Excellent.
Sales: Indie Muviz (India)

Belmonte (Uruguay / Mexico / Spain, 2018, 4°,  W.P. at TORONTO F. F. 2018 , 75’, by Federico Veiroy (Uruguay).
Nice comedy - drama. A clever balance of skeptical humour and introspective character study. Based in Montevideo, Javier Belmonte paints large canvases with male nudes in impossible positions. They are really all self-portraits. The artist is 43 and imprisoned in a midlife crisis. He leads the unstructured life of a bohemian, flitting from one woman to another. He always wears a sturdy leather jacket but sits crying in the opera at night. Even though Belmonte shows himself distant to some of his family members, he is an emotional man who needs affection all the time. He is especially dedicated to his daughter, 10 - year - old Celeste. When Celeste isn't around Belmonte is kind of lost. The fact that his ex - wife got pregnant by another man and Celeste seems to be drifting away from him makes him insecure. There's a new and important exhibition upcoming at the National Museum of Montevideo, but Belmonte is thinking more about the changes inside his family. He negotiates with his ex - wife about the amount of days he should live with Celeste, he wants more, he needs more days, but itis not easy. Family life is what he actually wants. But he's too maladjusted and stubborn to convince himself he is suitable for that. He looks both exhausted and agitated. Federico Veiroy gives an atmospheric portrait of a man emotionally caught in the middle, is convincingly carried by protagonist Gonzalo Delgado, who is also a painter in real life. Almost very good.
Sales: Meikincine Entertainment (Argentina)  

Cities of Last Things (Xing fu cheng shi)  (Taiwan / China / USA / France, 2018, e. p., 5°,  W.P. at TORONTO F. F. 2018), 107’, by Ho Wing Ding (born in Malaysia, he lives in Taipei). 
Quite original existential drama. It is an episodic film about the decay of a modern anti - hero, told in reverse chronological order. A  painful journey through three traumatic events that have affected Lao Zhang throughout his life. All three episodes take place during the early hours at the same police station, in an unknown city. To the accompaniment of a cheerful Chinese tune, a man falls from an apartment block in the opening scene. His face smashes upon the camera, turning the image blood red. Above his head, a drone appears. "Life consists of falling down and standing up", a mechanical voice says. "It is wrong to commit suicide. There’s no problem so great it can’t be solved. We always must stay positive." What follows is equally dizzying; in three non-chronological parts spanning decades. The film begins in the future, somewhere in Taiwan or perhaps on the Chinese mainland,  in a futuristic dystopia in 35mm with hyper-technological urban decor which, is enveloped in an eternal night, illuminated by inexhaustible flashing neon lights. Lao Zhang, a retired police officer, goes crazy when he recognizes his childhood sweetheart in a brothel. The first part to this fiction film tells the story of a spiral of violence and self-destruction brought about by the reappearance of the ghost of the police officer's former life. However, the enigma concerning this French woman’s identity will only be unveiled in the second chapter. From the futuristic hell of the first act, where suicide is considered the worst crime and an obsession with security allows the Chinese government to collect all images seen by citizens, we travel back in time to the present. The second chapter follows a 20 - year- old Lao Zhang. He has just got a permanent post as a policeman, after overcoming a tragic accident that establishes a link between his mother and the police station, but Wi Ding Ho will not reveal what happened until the third episode. And so, during a routine patrol, Lao Zhang stops a French kleptomaniac, whom he will later fall in love with. The film shows what and which women led the tragic protagonist to his desperate deed. The colours of this dystopian world, where government control is massive, splash from the screen; the editing is brutal, the tone deceptively light. Ho Wing Ding builds an ingenious puzzle about what happens off -camera, inviting us to play a temporal game in order to understand its purpose. Moreover, in each chapter, the director dazzlingly combines genres, where Wong Kar - wai’s love stories cohabit with science fiction and film noir. Good.                        Sales: Wild Bunch (France)          

Out of Tune (De frivillige) (Denmark, 2019, w. p., 3°), 93’, by Frederikke Aspöck.
Nice black comedy. Suspected of large - scale investment fraud, multimillionaire Markus Føns is remanded in custody. Self - assured as he is, he assumes that his connections with the underworld will come in handy in the remand centre, but quite the contrary turns out to be true. After being beaten up by a prison gang, he allows himself to be persuaded to go into voluntary solitary confinement in a special department that offers protection to the most despised prisoners: the father killers, abusers of women and rapists of children. The arrogance of the white - collar criminal contrasts starkly in this prison comedy with the social stigma confronting the other prisoners. Solidarity in the prison wing is typified by the choir they sing in every week. It’s not long before the newcomer joins the rehearsals, but taking part isn’t enough for the Machiavellian Markus. As an experienced manipulator, he starts, step - by - step, undermining the position of choir leader Niels. Good.
Sales: S F Studios International Sales  (Sweden)   

Pet Names (USA, 2018, e. p., 3°,  W. P. at  SOUTH BY SOUTHWEST F. F. 2018  ), 75’, by Carol Brandt.
Minimalistic existential drama, very nice and sensitive. Twenty - something Leigh’s  young-adult life has come to a grinding halt now she has to support her very sick mother during her trying chemotherapy. Leigh has stopped studying, sleeps, concerned, beside her mother and has seen her own social life almost disappear. It’s time for a break, Leigh’s mother thinks. She forces her daughter to go camping in the woods; away from it all, without any cares. Because Leigh hardly has any social contacts, she decides to take along Cam, her ex-boyfriend. The combination feels familiar, but drink-fueled campfires, a magic mushroom trip and a stray pug re-open old wounds. This contemporary drama about sorrow, broken hearts and growing up in a far - from - ideal world was written by the protagonist actress Meredith Johnston, drawing on her own experience. While the themes are pretty heavy, there’s lightness, and even humour, in the finely - honed dialogues. Carol Brandt shows mature mise en scène and avoids melodramatic clichés. Context, values and style recalls Old Joy and Wendy and Lucy by Kelly Reichardt. Musical score by Meredith Johnston and Rene Cruz is great. Very good.
Sales: Pet Names, LLC (USA)

Widow of Silence (India, 2018, e. p., 3°, W. P. at  PUSAN F. F. 2018), 85’, by Praveen Morchhale.  
Tragic existential and political drama - thriller. Thirty - something Aasia works as a nurse in a hospital in Kashmir to maintain herself, her 11-year-old daughter and her sick mother-in-law. She is a Muslim “half widow”: her husband, like many men in this Indian region, was arrested and never returned. Alongside her work and caring for her family, Aasia spends a lot of time trying to obtain a death certificate for her husband. It is a bleak game that she has been playing for seven years with a calculating civil servant. Day by day Aasia finds herself, her 11 - year - old daughter and ill mother - in - law in a deeper crisis. She will have to find the strength to come out from an unthinkable and absurd situation. This calm film, drenched in warm colours, makes it clear just how painful the political and social situation is in a conflict ridden Kashmir. Attacks, sexual violence, humiliation and corruption are everyday phenomena. The protagonist is played by Indian professional actress and theatre activist Shilpi Marwaha, but apart from that, Praveen Morchhale makes use of non - professional local actors. Excellent, almost a masterpiece.
Sales: Oration Films (India)           

Beats (U K, 2019, w. p.,  4°), 96’, by Brian Welsh
Quite brilliant coming - of - age comedy - drama. In the mid - 1990s, the United Kingdom was overrun by raves: illegal parties with heavy beats and an endless supply of drugs. The “Criminal Justice Bill” introduced by the government in 1994 criminalized “gathering around repetitive beats”. This led to massive protests and even more raves. Against that background,  the film showcases the unlikely friendship between teens Spanner and Johnno in a Scottish town. The first is living with his criminal brother, the other is facing a move to a new town with his family and his potential new stepfather, who happens to be a cop. They plan to attend an illegal rave held in Scotland during the summer of 1994. But their diva behavior causes friction with Johnno's family who consider his relationship with Spanner a bad influence as they try to keep them apart. On their last night out, the two friends steal cash from Spanner's brother and journey into an underworld of anarchy, freedom and collision with the forces of law and order. This universal story of friendship, rebellion and the irresistible power of gathered youth, is set to a soundtrack as eclectic and electrifying as the scene it gave birth to. Period production design is well done. Narrative is fresh and  pace is hectic. Despite some clichés, the film is effective. Quite good.
Sales: Wild Bunch (France)                 

Rojo (Argentina / Brazil / France / Netherlands / Germany, 2018, 4°, W. P. at TORONTO F.F. 2018), 109’, by Benjamín Naishtat.
Stylish  crime drama with dark political subtext. Set in an Argentinian provincial town, an unknown man and a crime unsettle the quiet life of a successful lawyer. It’s not that the lawyer committed the crime; rather, his looking the other way and doing nothing led to people dying. As long as the plot follows countless people disappeared in the desert, never to be seen again. This darkly funny film immerses itself in Argentina’s collective subconscious in 1975, at the time immediately preceding Jorge Videla’s right-wing military coup, resulting in an  original portrait of madness and moral decline in the society, without didacticism. Filmed in the style of 1970s crime dramas,  the film can be seen as an absurd thriller and as a bitter analysis of the national indifference that led to Argentina suffering four consecutive military coups in 1976.  Good.
Sales: Luxbox (France)         

Harpoon (Canada, 2019, w. p., 5°), 82’, by Rob Grant.
Intense and bloodthirsty thriller with dark humour and many twists. Somewhere on ocean shore. When his girlfriend Sasha and best friend Jonah give hothead Richard a harpoon for his birthday, he wants to try this new toy out right away. So the three of them set out for a day trip on a yacht, but suspicion and jealousy soon start to get the upper hand. Before long, the tension has become unbearable. To make matters worse, the boat’s engine fails under suspicious circumstances. Rivalries, dark secrets, and sexual tension emerge when  they find themselves stranded in the middle of the ocean. And then it turns out they left their supplies on shore: a nerve - wracking struggle for survival ensues that spares no one’s secrets or blood. This brilliant post-modern adaptation of a story by Edgar Allan Poe in which three shipwrecked sailors draw lots to see who has to sacrifice himself as a cannibalistic snack, is a thriller   that  becomes a splatte,r but also shows a lot of sarcastic sides. It’s painfully obvious that this triangular relationship is not going to end well.  Narrative and acting are effective. Very good.
Sales: Yellow Veil Pictures (USA)      


Historia de mi nombre (Story of My Name) (Chile / Brazil, 2019, w. p., 1°), 78’, by Karin Cuyul.
Karin Cuyul was named after Karin Eitel, a young woman who in 1987 was arrested, and questioned and tortured live on television by Pinochet’s secret police, on the eve of a referendum that brought an end to a quarter-century of terror. Almost 10 years after this shocking broadcast, the director, as a young girl, met the parents of her namesake, and they took a photo of her. Karin Cuyul travels through Chile, searching for the origin of this photo, reconstructing her own past and that of her parents, about whom she uncovers hidden aspects. She films most of this odyssey from the safety of her car, supplementing this footage with memories and video (also super8mm family films). The resulting film reveals both personal and a collective aspects of a painful period of recent Chilean history. Almost very good.
Sales: Cinestación (Chile)   

That Cloud Never Left (India, 2019, w. p.,  1° ), 65’, by Yashaswini Raghunandan
In an Indian village, about 200 km from Calcutta, various inhabitants are working diligently to produce by hand colourful and inventive toys: rattles, flutes and merry-go-rounds. Hundreds are made everyday, and the primary material used is old 35mm film reels full of Bollywood titles.The almost monotonous work by hand and foot and cutting is interrupted by real life, fragments of fairy tales and projections from films that knew better times. To put it better: a different life. The villagers give the films a new existence as sound-making toys and the director Yashaswini Raghunandan uses the colourful adapted reels as dreamlike sequences. This hybrid, poetic film not only plays with fact and fiction, but also gives a very interesting portrait of a local community according to a social and cultural point of view.  Amost very good.
Sales: Yashaswini Raghunan (Currently, she is a resident at the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam).

Carelia: Internacional con monument (Karelia: International with Monument) (Spain, 2019, w. p., 5° documentary), 90’, by Andrés Duque  Born in Venezuela, he moved to Spain).
In a settlement near the Russian - Finnish border, a traditional family keeps shamanistic rituals alive. The children play in the same forest where photos nailed to trees remind us of Stalin's bloody repression. This wild and hallucinatory film explores the mysterious forests of  Karelia, a remote territory on the Finnish - Russian border, an idyllic setting where folklore, magic, and traumatic histories intersect. Spirituality and politics meet in this intuitive montage of poetic impressions, historical material, nature shots, family scenes and probing testimony. Alternating between the enchantment of a child’s gaze and critical essay, this is the first of a two-part series dedicated to Karelia. The traumatic history of this region, which once belonged to Sweden, still resounds. The father points to the massacre by Ivan the Terrible in 1570. But there's also the long arm of Putin. The daughter of a historian, an activist who investigated mass graves for 20 years, describes how her father was arrested on the basis of a shady accusation. Good.
Sales: Andrés Duque (Spain)

Una banda de chicas (A Girl’s Band) (Argentina, 2018, 1°,  W. P. at  MAR DEL PLATA F.F. 2018), 83’, by Marilina Giménez.
For six years, Marilina Giménez rocked the bass guitar in Yilet, a three-woman band in Argentina. But like female musicians everywhere, she was constantly confronted with a male-dominated, often sexist industry. In this interesting documentary, she probes Argentina's music scene with her camera and many pertinent questions. Giménez moves through Buenos Aires by night, filming female artists (many of whom operate underground) attracting sell-out crowds with punk rock, reggaeton, pop or electronic music. She films them behind the scenes and in full glory on stage and listens to their experiences. As diverse as these women are, their stories of the sexism, inequality and aggression they face are equally painful, whether they have dreadlocks, twerk in a G-string or pose in hipster attire. Giménez tries to copy with essential key questions. Why are there so few female superstars who write their own music? Why is it almost obligatory to look a certain way? Has the position of female musicians improved in recent decades?
Sales: Kino Rebelde (Argentina)  

Closer to God (Switzerland, 2018, 1°), 84’,by Annette Berger and Grete Jentzen
The filmmakers of this fascinating documentary follow two Pakistani men. One is a dervish or mystic, undertaking a life - long pilgrimage with heavy metal rings on his legs. He walks through the desert until his feet are raw, praying at every shrine he comes across along the way. The other is the custodian of a centuries-old musical tradition, for whom the idea of God lies in self - knowledge, insight and harmony with the environment: a harmony that he strives to achieve through life-long study and passing on his knowledge to new generations. In Pakistan, it is impossible for them to act together as the risk of attacks means any large meetings are prohibited. The film follows the men as they visit impressive holy sites, as well as in their everyday conversations, and provides a beautiful, sideways look at Pakistani society.  Good.
Sales: Dokwerkstatt GmbH (Switzerland)  

Tutto l’oro che c’è (Gold is All There is) ( Italy / Switzerland / France, 2019, w. p., 3° documentary), 100’, by Andrea Caccia. A nature documentary dedicated to river Ticino that is really about people In any event, this is a film to surrender to peacefully. On a beautiful day in a park in the Italian region of Lombardy, north of Milan, life takes its course. The birds, ants, deer and other wildlife take little notice of the human visitors. We follow five men in particular, ranging from young to old: a boy who seems to get lost, a nudist, a forester, a hunter and a prospector. Their paths do not cross; director Andrea Caccia, who studied painting alongside filmmaking, does not tell a conventional story, but rather observes with a pleasing, calm precision. The extent to which these visitors leave traces in the area becomes increasingly clear, although this is certainly not a critique of man as a disruptor of nature. It is rather the record of a delicate balance.
Sales: Dugong Films  (Italy)

Pirotecnia (Mute Fire)  (Colombia, 2019, w. p., 1°), 85’, by Federico Atehortúa Arteaga.
On 6 March 1906, four men were executed for the attempted murder of Colombian president Rafael Reyes. The event was photographed, and the photos were later used for a fictionalised film on the failed coup. From then on, cinema in this South American country has been inextricably linked to its violent history. Moving images have been used for historiography, propaganda, disinformation and to instil unity in a nation that refuses to come together. Falsos positivos, murdered youths disguised as guerrillas by the army to simulate military success, are a common element. Federico Atehortúa Arteaga starts his film essay as an investigation into Colombia’s visual history. His attention shifts to his own past, in which TV coverage of the civil war and home movies in which he dressed as a guerrilla play a role.
Sales: Invasion Cine (Colombia)





23 / 01 - 03 / 02 / 2019, Rotterdam

Film Festival Rotterdam














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