This year’s International Competition of Feature Films once again features an international lineup, including two brand-new films from the recent Cannes Film Festival, where they were screened in the Directors’ Fortnight section. Several films in Art Film Fest 2019’s main competition will be accompanied by cast or crew members – directors and performers who are coming to Košice to introduce their films in person. What’s more, three among the competing titles are inspired by actual events.
The winners of the Blue Angel awards will be decided by a five-member jury, consisting of Slovak actress Éva Bandor, Czech film director, screenwriter and author Ivan Fíla, Greek journalist and film critic Panagiotis Kotzathanasis, film critic and festival programme director Dina Pokrajac and Iranian director, screenwriter and producer Mohammad-Ali Talebi.
The first of the films fresh from Cannes is the Austrian existential thriller Lillian from director Andreas Horvath. Without her papers, a young Russian immigrant in New York can’t even find a job as a pornographic actress. Deciding to return to Russia on foot, she sets off on a long westerly journey across America. While it may sound absurd, the plot is inspired by the true story of Lillian Alling, who disappeared in 1927 en route from America to Russia. This film is a contemporary interpretation of Alling’s forgotten fate. Horvath, a noted Austrian documentarian, has set his fiction debut against a fascinating Midwestern backdrop.
The next film screened at Cannes is Oleg from director Juris Kursietis. Young Oleg, a Latvian butcher, moves to Brussels, hoping to leave his difficult life behind. When a co-worker’s false accusation costs him his job, a charismatic Polish criminal plays the role of guardian angel, taking Oleg under his wing and promising him a better future. Oleg gradually realizes that he has unwittingly wandered into a trap from which there is no escape… The film is an unflinching depiction of modern slavery, exposing the hidden world that lies beneath workforce transfers between EU countries. Actor Valentin Novopolskij will personally introduce the film at Art Film Fest.
AFF’s main competition will also include the following films:
A TALE OF THREE SISTERS
Turkey, Germany, Netherlands, Greece
Director: Emin Alper
Three sisters – Reyhan (20), Nurhan (16) and Havva (13) – live with their father in a remote village in mountainous Anatolia. Each of them has at some point worked in town as a housemaid. When Reyhan returned from her sojourn pregnant, her father swiftly married her off to the shepherd Veysel. Though none of the sisters manage to fulfil their dreams of a better future, they stand firmly by each other. As they wait for the snow-covered roads to be cleared, father and daughters pass the time by telling stories. Reminiscent of a fairy tale, the picture was inspired by the filmmaker’s own memories of his childhood in Anatolia. His minimalist style and precisely rendered visual compositions capture a society where neither men nor women have the opportunity to escape their predetermined fates. Encoded in the story, however, is a message of hope.
Special guest: actress Cemre Ebüzziya
Russia, Latvia, Czech Republic
USSR, the mid-1980s. Boris, a precursor of today’s stand-up comics, goes from stage to stage earning enthusiastic applause with his harmlessly humorous sketches. Inadvertently, he finds himself in the position of a celebrity, his sarcastic jokes not only tolerated, but paradoxically supported by the regime. Inside him, however, the battle between his inner conformist and inner rebel threatens to boil over. And when Boris is invited to entertain the wife of a high-ranking general, it finally does. He loses his painstakingly cultivated self-control and, as if to prove that bigwigs have no sense of humour, begins to direct his jokes at his hosts. Grounded in a remarkable starring performance and witty dialogue, this chamber drama paints a timeless picture of the relationship between politics and hilarity. And as today’s top politicians continue to demonstrate, the higher the post, the less able one is to laugh at oneself.
Special guest: director Michael Idov
THE DAY AFTER I’M GONE
Yoram is a veterinarian who works at a Tel Aviv safari park, looking after the wild animals. The single father lives a mundane life with his adolescent daughter Ronit –until one night, when emergency medical personnel arrive, having been alerted via internet that Ronit intends to take her own life. Yoram can’t fathom why his daughter has gone to such extremes. Fortunately, they rescue her in time. Shaken, Yoram resolves to take Ronit on a trip to visit their distant relatives. This is a chamber drama about injured animals, wounded people and a broken country. Silence is imbued with symbolic meaning, framing the slowly moving images. But not everything can be abided in silence. As various ghosts emerge from the past, more and more details are revealed – about the father and daughter’s life together, as well as their relatives.
Special guest: director Nimrod Eldar
ESCAPE FROM RAQQA
With her five-year-old son in tow and her husband none the wiser, Faustine leaves Paris for Syria to join the self-styled Islamic State. Soon after she arrives in Raqqa, however, it hits her: she’s gone straight to hell. Her desperate husband turns to France’s intelligence service for assistance, but they won’t touch the case. With the help of a few friends, he plans a perilous mission to save his wife and child. Based on a true story, this realistic, empathetic portrait traces several dramatic plotlines, all of which intersect in the mayhem of the Syrian Civil War. The picture achieves a documentary-like realism thanks to its authentic backdrop (filmed in Jordan), understanding of the environment, convincing performances and inclusion of non-professional actors.
Special guest: director Emmanuel Hamon
SONS OF DENMARK
Director: Ulaa Salim
After Copenhagen is struck by a widespread bombing attack, Danish society becomes sharply polarized. Extreme nationalist Martin Nordahl, the front-runner in the upcoming parliamentary elections, takes full advantage of the resultant ethnic tensions. In this social climate, 19-year-old Zakaria is drawn into a radical organization and befriends Ali. But neither one can accept the direction their society is taking, with people turning against each other for no other reason than their immigrant origins. Zakaria and Ali decide to act, unaware that they are merely puppets in the hands of those who crave power at any cost. Full of drama, the film asks a fundamental question: how can you remain calm when your society is overcome by fear and hatred? A political thriller inspired by the political and societal developments in Denmark and abroad.
LET ME FALL
Iceland, Finland, Germany
The story of two friends, Stella and Magnea – first as teenagers, then as 30-somethings. Stella has an attitude and a penchant for drugs. The naïve Magnea looks up to her, happy just to be around her. Despite being divorced, her parents help and support her. Before long, Magnea becomes dependent, not only on her friend, but on a new, unwholesome way of life. Let Me Fall was inspired by the real accounts of young Icelandic drug addicts and their families. In a nearly documentary fashion, the film looks at what it means to be an addict, willing to make empty promises, lie, cheat, steal and betray their loved ones just to get their next fix. Eventually they hit rock bottom, a mere shell of their former selves. This powerful emotional drama explores the values of friendship, love and family, leaving it up to the viewer to decide if there is any hope of escape from the hell it depicts.
Special guest: director Baldvin Z
Director: Oliver Chan
In Hong Kong, Filipina Evelyn works as a carer for divorced, wheelchair-bound Cheong-wing. With nothing in common, there is no love lost between them at first, but they eventually grow close, facing life’s challenges together. Produced by the studio of well-known Hong Kong filmmaker Fruit Chan, the film’s sober subject matter is leavened by its distinctive humour and the two main characters’ fragile emotionality. The personal, intimate story is thrown into stark relief by its backdrop – the socially and culturally diverse metropolis that is Hong Kong.
Director: Jonah Hill
Los Angeles, the mid-1990s. A community of skateboarders gradually accepts 13-year-old Stevie, who lives with his aggressive older brother and his mother, who doesn’t have time for him. As he gets acquainted with the colourful crew, he secretly admires them, trying to imitate their wild behaviour and antisocial reactions. Each member of Sunburn has their own dreams and hidden desires, but under the stress of their day-to-day reality on the threshold of adulthood, these dreams have developed painful, tender cracks. Following its world premiere at Toronto, this ambitious directorial debut of a famous actor has been hailed by US critics as one of this year’s most distinctive American debuts. The film has been particularly praised for its authentic portrayal of skate subculture, the convincing performances of its cast, largely consisting of non-professional and novice actors, and its expressive use of a mesmerizing hip-hop soundtrack.
Colombia, Argentina, Netherlands, Germany, Sweden, Uruguay
Director: Alejandro Landes
Patagrande, Rambo, Leidi, Sueca, Pitufo, Lobo, Perro and Bum Bum – these are the war nicknames of the eight teenage members of a paramilitary squad operating high in the mountains. A message arrives containing orders from the Organization: they are to look after a cow named Shakira and a captive American woman called Doctora. But this idyllic assignment won’t last long… This original work of cinema oscillates between an unsettling war film and a gripping thriller. In terms of form, the film avoids linear narrative and verbally articulated motives, instead placing an emphasis on the young protagonists’ inner emotions. Piercingly sharp camerawork, an enthralling score and precise editing round out the polyphonic resonance of this unconventional Colombian picture.
Guatemala, France, Luxembourg
Director: Jayro Bustamante
Everybody knows. Nothing will ever be the same again. The family is horrified. Pablo, their beloved brother, son and husband, has fallen in love with another man. For the deeply religious evangelical family, this is an unforgiveable breach of their most sacred values. Despite their objections, Pablo moved in with his lover, with whom he lives a completely different life as a free man. But his family, unable and unwilling to accept his decision, convince him that he can be “cured”. They request the help of their ultra-religious community, taking it upon themselves to return their son, brother and husband to his previous way of life – no matter what the cost. This intimate drama of a man and his family is realized with sensitivity, courage and restraint. A sobering account of an individual’s attempt to escape the confines of social convention, find his own identity and discover a sense of belonging.
Organizer: ART FILM FEST s.r.o.
Co-organizers: The City of Košice, K13 – Košice Cultural Centres, LGM Production
The festival is held under the auspices of the Prime Minister of the Slovak Republic.
The festival is financially supported by: The Audiovisual Fund
The festival is made possible by the financial support of the Prime Minister of the Slovak Republic.
This event is made possible by the financial support of the Košice Self-governing Region.
General sponsor: SEPS, a.s.
Main partners: TIPOS – the national lottery operator; Východoslovenská energetika – a member of Innogy; NOVIS Insurance Company; the SPP Foundation; Transpetrol; Slovnaft
Official cars: MOTOR – CAR Košice, Official hotel: Hotel Yasmin, Logistics partner: DHL Express Slovakia
Sponsors: SK PAY payment services, Slovenská pošta, the U. S. Steel Košice Foundation, Keramon, Magna PT, Kino Úsmev, Tabačka Kulturfabrik, Železničná spoločnosť Slovensko, Aupark Košice, Pan-European University, Film Europe Media Company, Taper, CPK Slovakia, Omnia 2000, Omnia KLF, Omnia Holding SE, AXIS MEDIA, FORZA CZ, Bio Energy Consulting
Official suppliers: Barzzuz, FRESH Plus Healthier Groceries, Tuli, Pilsner Urquell, Romerquelle, Hair Factory, Lyvina, Chateau GRAND BARI, Carpano, Tatrasvit Svit-Socks, NOV, ZEBRA, verejnybicykel.sk, Kvety Victor, DEMI šport plus
Main media partners: TV JOJ, Kinosála, JOJ Cinema, Hashtag
Media partners: Československo Channel, Be2Can Channel, RTVS Košice, Rádio Expres, Rádio Košice, SME, Korzár, Slovenka, Forbes, Kam do mesta, webnoviny.sk, Bigmedia, Home media, Codes Creative, Košice City Guide, film.sk, CSFD.cz, Noizz, Diva.sk, ONline Bardejov
Partners: Autocont, Pension Horse Inn, Teledom, KPK Print, Košice Región Turizmus, Sli.do, the Slovak Film Institute, SPI International, FilmBox, Festival AZYL, Esterle&Esterle, Kinoservis, NeoDCP, TelekomCLOUD, DELTA ONLINE, GOSH COPENHAGEN, Canon, Mi Hyring