Thirteen films from Slovakia, France, Czech Republic, Poland, the Netherlands, Cyprus, Portugal and Spain will premiere during the European Union Film Festival at Cinema Nouveau screened by Fish Eagle Brandy at Rosebank, Bedford and Cedar Nouveau in Johannesburg from 15 to 21 May.
The schedule includes the Academy Award nominated and multi-award winning Katyn (Poland) and winner of the prestigious Prix Jean Vigo for Best Feature Film in 20017, La France (France).
Katyn, named after the wooded Soviet region where 15 000 Polish officers were executed by Stalin’s Red Army, brings clarity to an event long steeped in mystery. During the Soviet regime official accounts blamed the massacre on Nazi Germany, but by the time Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsen admitted Soviet culpability, the truth became an open secret. Veteran director Andrzej Wajda received the Eagle award for Best Director at the Polish Film Awards and saw his gripping micro-cosmic account of World War Two-era Europe to an Acadamy Award nomination for Best Foreign Language Film of the Year in 2008.
La France is set in the fall of 1917 in the midst of World War One and centres on a woman who sets off to join her spouse on the front line. During her journey, she discovers clues on how to assemble the fragmented truths of the uncertain period into a clearer picture. This harshly timid tale directed by Serge Bozon captures the spirit of courage and perseverance in a place where the demoralizing consequences of war have taken root. The exploration of war and its effect on the human psyche is one of the major themes running in this year’s festival with other titles such as Citizen Havel (Czech Republic) and Mother of Mine (Finland).
A desire to understand love and its painful but devastatingly hilarious twists and turns is another area the festival explores. This theme is most prevalent in titles like the highly acclaimed Dutch film, Love is All, and the relatively unnoticed but equally sumptuous Honey and Wine (Cyprus), directed by Marinos Kartikkis.
The human emotions attached to place, separation, friendship and freedom in a diverse but politically and economically united region are also investigated through films such as Kidz in da Hood (Sweden), Return of the Storks (Slovakia), Get a Life (Portugal) and Somers Town (United Kingdom).
German film Die Mitte is a playful yet insightful documentary by Stanislaw Mucha who sets out to find the middle of Europe, while the period drama The Passion of Joshua the Jew (Italy) historically envisions 16th century Spain where Muslims and Jews are being forced out under the reign of Queen Isabel of Castile. 14 Kilometers, directed by Gerrdo Olivares, contextualises the festival by examining the relationship between Europe and Africa while broadening Third World/First World discourse.
Entrance to the European Union Film Festival is free and tickets can be picked up at the venue an hour before each show time (Mondays-Sundays only at 17h30 and 20h00).