For the 24th consecutive year, the Balkan Survey section of the Thessaloniki International Film Festival, programmed by Dimitris Kerkinos, showcases a selection of the most important Balkan films of the year, aiming to create a communication platform between films and filmmakers of the area and international audiences. Ranging from science fiction to black comedy, this year’s Balkan Survey core program consists of 15 films, both shorts and features that reveal the compelling thematic and stylistic variety of the regional film production.
Directors in attendance include Kazim Öz, Hanna A.W. Slack, Igor Bezinović, Gjorce Stavreski and Andrei Creţulescu (more to be announced soon).
A special tribute titled “From Words to Images: Balkan Literature and Cinema” will complement the main program of this year’s Balkan Survey section, presenting 11 films based on some of the most important literature works from the Balkans. Seven of these films will be screened for the first time in Greece.
The Balkan Survey main program showcases the latest and most notable works by renowned filmmakers and promising newcomers.
Set in a post-apocalyptic future when Earth seeks salvation from starvation, Grain is Semih Kaplanoğlu’s English-language debut, a philosophic black-and-white science fiction film about the tumultuous odyssey of a genetics professor played by Jean-Marc Barr.
Călin Peter Netzer returns with a heartbreaking character study; Ana, mon amour masterfully chronicles through flashbacks the troubled love story of Toma and Ana, delving into the characters’ psyche and fragile relationship dynamics.
Serbian actress Mirjana Karanović stars as a desperate suicidal widow caught in the tangled bureaucracy of a transitional society, in Requiem for Mrs J. by Bojan Vuletić, Serbia’s entry for Best Foreign Language Academy Award.
Bulgarian documentary filmmaker Ilian Metev delivers his first feature film ¾ (Golden Leopard – Filmmakers of the Present, Locarno IFF 2017), a minimal art-house drama about an alienated family of three who spend their last summer together.
A young man steals marijuana from some mobsters and makes a space cake for his ailing cancer patient father, but soon finds himself between a rock and a hard place in Gjorce Stavreski’s bittersweet, heartfelt black comedy Secret Ingredient (FYROM-Greece / Agora Crossroads-55th TIFF); a world premiere in the 58th TIFF.
An allegoric coming-of-age story with magic realism hues unfolds in Igor Bezinović’s A Brief Excursion. A group of friends walk through the Croatian countryside in search for something that may not even exist; one by one, they mysteriously abandon the quest.
A different paradox sets the tone in Andrei Creţulescu’s Charleston, a film that explores loss and male solidarity, as the husband and the lover of a woman who just passed away meet each other with unpredictable consequences (Crossroads-56th TIFF, Works in Progress-57th TIFF). Ivana Mladenović’s bold debut film Soldiers. Story from Ferentari is set in the same name Romanian ghetto, where two men, an anthropologist and a Roma ex-convict, break all taboos and fall in love.
Two of the section’s films trace the correlation between the past and present politics in the Balkans. Hanna A.W. Slack’s The Miner demonstrates that war atrocities stand beyond time and nationality by telling the story of a courageous Bosnian immigrant worker in a Slovenian mine, who struggles to care for the memory of the victims who were executed after WWII. The film (Crossroads-52th TIFF, Works in Progress-57th TIFF) is Slovenia’s entry for Best Foreign Language Academy Award. The search for roots and personal identity drives Zer by Kazim Öz, a road movie whose protagonist -a young musician of Kurdish origin- travels through Turkey with the purpose to find a special song sung by his grandmother.
In addition, the Balkan Survey section of the 58th TIFF presents 5 short films that highlight many aspects of the human geography in the Balkans. The films skillfully observe an unusual money transaction (The Invisible Hand of Adam Smith by Slobodan Maksimović), a child revolution against archaic traditions (Cumulonimbus by Ioana Mischie), family relations in distress (A Handful of Stones by Stefan Ivancić), complex social structures (Red Light by Toma Waszarow), as well as domestic and teenage violence (Into the Blue by Antoneta Alamat Kusijanović).
TRIBUTE “FROM WORDS TO IMAGES: BALKAN LITERATURE AND CINEMA”
This year’s Balkan Survey tribute offers a rare opportunity to watch on the big screen some of the most fascinating literature-based Balkan films that span half a century.
Dance in the Rain by Boštjan Hladnik (1961, Yugoslavia/Slovenia – novel by Dominik Smole). A young painter and his eldest actress lover exchange insults, linger between dreams and reality and sink deeper in emotional decay, in this gripping nouvelle vague-influenced drama about the despair and delusion of love.
Dry Summer by Metin Erksan (1964, Turkey – story by Necati Cumalı). Set in rural Turkey, this landmark film (Golden Berlin Bear, Berlin FF 1964) is a timeless comment on human immorality, greed and lust, featuring the music of acclaimed Greek composer Manos Hadjidakis.
The Peach Thief by Vulo Radev (1964, Bulgaria – novel by Emilian Stanev). The first international success of Bulgarian cinema looks at the doomed love story between a prisoner of WWI and the colonel’s young wife, whose passion and hallucinations escalate in times of war.
Three by Aleksandar Petroviċ (1965, Yugoslavia/Serbia – stories by Antonije Isaković). This utterly compelling anti-war film uncovers the true face of war -the absurdity and the horror- through the eyes of a young partisan, via three stories that take place at the beginning, the middle and the end of WWII.
The Birch Tree by Ante Babaja (1967 –Yugoslavia/Croatia – story by Slavko Kolar). A beautiful girl dies in a small village. Only then does her uncaring husband realize the loss. This classic Croatian film is a poetic and melancholic meditation on love and its absence, as well as regret and destiny.
Stone Wedding by Mircea Veroiu and Dan Piţa (1972, Romania – stories by Ion Agârbiceanu). Two visually stunning stories of different style, almost wordless, employ folk tales, rural life and the theme of wedding to explore human tragedy, desire and fate.
The Goat Horn by Methodi Andonov (1972, Bulgaria – story by Nikolai Haitov). A shepherd raises his daughter like a boy with the purpose to kill the men who raped and murdered her mother in this captivating story of revenge, hate and forgiveness.
The Moromete Family by Stere Gulea (1987, Romania – novel by Marin Preda). Before the outbreak of WWII and the establishment of communism, the Moromete family experiences first hand the death of Romania’s traditional peasant class. The father of the family struggles to keep it together in times of irrevocable changes.
Return of the Dead Army by Dhimitër Anagnosti (1989, Albania – novel by Ismail Kadare). War atrocities also take centre stage in this masterful anti-war film. The protagonist is an Italian General who returns to Albania at the end of the WWII accompanied by a priest, to search for the Colonel’s bones.
The Professional by Dušan Kovačević (2003, Serbia & Montenegro – play by Dušan Kovacević). Following the collapse of the Yugoslavian government, a man is visited by the former secret agent who used to shadow him. The film reveals the shifting perspectives of the recent Balkan history with virtuosity and black humour.
Innocence of Memories by Grant Gee (2015, UK-Ireland-Italy – inspired by Orhan Pamuk’s novel The Museum of Innocence). This alluring documentary, a guide to the world of the Museum of Innocence founded in Istanbul by Nobel Prize-winner Orhan Pamuk, reflects on time, memory and emotions, same as Pamuk’s touching novel about a forbidden love story in Istanbul of the ‘70s.