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Goodbye, film festival 2012… See you next year!

It is with mixed feeling that I face the last festival day every year. A little sad that it is coming to an end, on the one hand, and very happy and grateful to have seen so many meaningful and moving stories some of which literally change my views, perception and have the potential of making people “better” or at least more thoughtful in different ways.

It is difficult indeed to imagine that I won´t be going to the festival tomorrow evening to experience another evening of cinema at its best. The 28 films I saw were definitely not enough and no matter what the number they will never be enough. But before I start looking forward to the next edition of the festival, it´s time to mention the film stories that impressed me most this year. My list of winning films so to say, and they are:

Final Whistle by Niki Karimi

The story started with the simple need for re-shooting a film scene and ended in a hopeless lost battle. A desperate battle for life, meaning and more humanism. The hopelessness, injustice and despair are striking indeed on the incredibly noisy and hostile streets of Teheran. But what I found impressive about this film is its focus on a very human side – our ability to show compassion and to help others. It feels almost unreal and impossible that someone feels the necessaty to help in an environment geared around material success and individual well-being based on it. Sahar´s determination to help and her willingness to do whatever it takes to follow it are overwhelming and thought-provoking.

“It´s not about money, it´s about helping people. Can we do something?”

With questions like this one she might seem like a Don Quixote in today´s Iran, but she is so much more than that.
I wonder what will happen if we all ask her question a little more often. Maybe our world will become a slightly better place?

Not an easy film, but one worth seeing.

The Grace by by Bonifacio Angius

A story depicting life as it is. Life as a constant journey. Sometimes meaningless, sometimes funny or sad, sometimes accompanied by people, and sometimes not. The destination is as mysterious as it can be, but the way seems to be more important. And everything happening while walking in the supposedly right direction. People appearing and disappearing on the way almost like a mirage. “Where do I go? Where am I going?” and “How many steps until we get there?”. How much I wish I would be able to answer Antoneddu´s questions. And I wish I could answer them at any given moment for myself as well. But often enough the only possible answer is “C´est la vie!”.

A beautiful and almost surreal film about our journeys.

Silent City by Threes Anna

One of the pleasant surprises for me at this festival. Fish filleting is not the most exciting subject ever…, but fortunately the film was not about it. Rosa, a Dutch girl in Tokyo, wants to learn the art of fish filleting and preparation by master chef Kon. The only thing that she shares with us during the film is the passion for her profession and her determination to become proficient in it and to literally understand fish. And this together with a different view on the Japanese capital and culture is more than enough to make the 90 minutes worth seeing.

A beautiful title of a film about passion, determination, and culture(s) in all its visible and invisible layers.

Good Luck. Take care of each other by Jens Sjögren

Courage and pure human connections. The courage to be and show your true self and to let others be theirs. And the ability to connect on a human level and in a sincere and open way. These two should be inherent in human nature, but seem to have become rare to see and difficult to do. The story of Alvar shows just how difficult to almost impossible it can be to do that. His friendship with Miriam helps them both overcome fears, masked truths, false memories.

A touching and very human encounter exceptionally showing that it´s up to us to be ourselves and to follow our dreams.

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Film Fest Day 4: Your Story, My Story

The first Sunday of this year´s film festival took me to a journey of stories. Stories that could not be more different in their settings, but yet very similar in nature.

It started in Indonesia (“Khalifah”), continued in Italy (“The Grace”), passed through the USA (“Into the Wild”), went on to India (“Ballad of Rustom”) and ended in Argentina (“From Tuesday to Tuesday”).

Khalifah´s perspective on wearing the veil triggered a number of other questions around perception, prejudice, trust, religion, tradition…

Juan´s (“From Tuesday to Tuesday”) poker face is striking. His lack of reaction and empathy disturbing. But he seems to have developed a plan – a plan that will help him move his story in the direction of his dream. Being good seems to be a blurred concept in this almost inhuman environment, so what is right or wrong? And does the end justify the not morally right means?

The 10-year-old Antoneddu (“The Grace”) was on a journey himself. A journey with so many different fellow travellers along the way and so many at first odd things happening. But isn´t that the journey we call life? And haven´t we asked exactly the same questions as Antoneddu: “Where am I going?” and “How many steps until we get there?” C’est la vie!

Each and every one of us writes their own story every day. In their way, for their reasons, in their reality or imagination. So did the protagonists in my film journey last Sunday. And I was fortunate enough to “meet” them and experience their aspirations, dreams, hopes and actions which made me pensive, happy, sad and at moments all of them. The incredibly real magic of cinema at its best. Another two days left to experience it – off we go!

Film Fest Day 3: About Searching and (not) Finding

Blind Chance
by Krzysztof Kieslowski

“We walk through this world in search of new life.”

A missed train. A lost coin rolling towards a new owner. A “harmless” change of flight reservation. END.
Mundane everyday life inbetween. All in a fascinatingly sharp storytelling catching incredible nuances of human behavior.

An ironic depiction of the socio-political climate in Poland of the late 1970s, but to me most of all giving a “voice” to the timeless questions of meaning and choice versus chance. Questions that we have all asked, are asking or will ask while walking through life.

Chaika
by Miguel Ángel Jiménez Colmenar

“Some people never leave the place they were born at. Others never find their place and spend their life looking for it.”

The story of a prostitute trying to start a new life might sound familiar from films or books. But this is not what this film is about. Or at least not in its core. To me it conveyed an almost pervasive feeling of restlessness, of a constant search for something new, for something else, for the life one has dreamt of. The brutality in the former Soviet Union village scenery is striking and might be even disturbing at times, but despite that the film is poetic and touching in the attempt to depict something as intangible as yearning. Controversial? Yes! Judgemental? No! Worth seeing.

Film Fest Day 2: Of Misery, Help and Despair

Soote Payan (Final Whistle)

You let a horrifying human story of misery and despair come your way.
Can you simply go back to your well-arranged life and forget about it? Yes, you can… But you can as well (try to) help.
Without knowing what this overwhelming attempt can lead to.
What happens when help becomes a necessity? And the extent of misery and despair extends the power of human imagination.

“Let it go. You´ve got involved too much.”

The line between life and film is blurring on the loud, crowded and belligerent streets of Teheran. Where shooting a documentary could become the only way to make a difference.

A must-see film. Or reality?

Now, Forager. A Film about Love and Funghi

In search of mushrooms. And a dignified way of living. Desperately.
Fiercely holding on to one´s beliefs and passion despite the fact that today´s “modern” world condemns them. A compromise not an option? Help (not) wanted?

“I can´t work any harded. I can´t live like that anymore.”

Drifting apart…
Ever heard of honey mushrooms? No? Then see the film – to hear about them and more importantly about love.

Film Fest Day 1: The Choices we Make

No man´s land. Prevalent nature. No amenities. Infrastructure non-existent. A proud man whose choice has always been to stay. Intruders. A friend. A TV or a mere plastic box for hens to play around with?

Tiempos Menos Modernos – Not so Modern Times by Simón Franco

Almost a theater-like butcher shop scenery. Religion. Family. Manipulation. Resoluteness or lack of. Love. Shattering of dreams.
“You can come back, this is your home.” The choice to go. Towards a new way of being. With “newborn” hope in your hands.

Halal Butcher Shop by Babek Aliassa

Hello Film Festival!

It is not later than October every year that my intention to start a blog re-emerges.
The reasons to write a blog are many, the triggering event has been one – the international film festival in Heidelberg/Mannheim, Germany in late October/early November.
This year my blogging space finally begins to take shape. It is the festival´s opening night today, so: “Hello, film festival. Welcome to my blog!

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