14/05/2009 13:27


Twelve films from the international competition programme Exit Point deal with some of the essential issues of human existence by combining a great spectrum of experiences from different parts of the world.

Every film, in its own way, warn us that the foundations of human existence are shattered by wars, by greedy conformist ambitions of corporations and politicians, by corrupt value system. They point out that the worthiness of everyday family life and the dignity of individuals is threatened and that human race is starting to forget the meaning of humanism or love for a fellow human being.

In most cases, various film stories are told through children's point of view, through members of dysfunctional families, but also through adults who are still somebody's children. All cruelty of actual everyday life is being shown through their problems and relations in their lives here on Earth, and that is what the directors are telling with various poetic-aesthetic sensibilities and different genre orientations. But they are doing one more thing - they are giving us films filled with warmth, love, humaneness and hope, not escaping from cheerfulness or humour.

The Afghan-French film Kabuli Kid by Barmak Akram touches the viewers' hearts right after the introductory scenes. Through a story about a baby boy dressed in a burqua, whose mother leaves him in a taxi with a confused cab driver who himself has five children (all daughters), Akram gives the viewers an insight into every possible detail about everyday life of inhabitants in a destroyed city. At the same time, Akram enters the intimate life of a family behind closed door and a society which needs to be restored surrounded by battles of war. The realistic and pulsating story of present Kabul in which you're expected to lead somewhat normal life is transformed into a lovely and humane film.

As opposed to that, another film was shot in Afghanistan, a psychologically complex and violent, a film with poetic touch and disturbing content, Two-Legged Horse (Asbe du-pa) by Iranian director Samira Makhmalbaf. This is the fourth film directed by Samira, it is more developed and stronger but also has darker theme than all the other films, because Two-Legged Horse is a cruel and realistic story about a metamorphosis from man to animal, told from the point of view of crippled Afghan boys through simple everyday children's game of predominance and power. The film causes pain and nausea, it confronts the fact that tragedy, hurt souls and violence are actual patterns of human behaviour. In Samira's film, Darwin's theory is replaced by the "Theory of the two-legged horse", which was put in the script by her father, Mohsen Makhmalbaf, the famous director. This theory proves the possibility of a regressive evolution, from man to animal.

The heroine of a small French masterpiece called Stella by Sylvie Verheyde, is also a child. The film tells a story about growing up in Paris in the 1970s as a teenager in dysfunctional family, with complex vulnerable emotions, and those characters are sensitively played by non-professional actors.

Dysfunctional family and complexity of parent-children relation are the basic elements of the South-Korean film Members of the Funeral by Baek Seung-Bin, which contains "twisted" comedy, black humour and style. In the film, reality intertwines with creation of a short story, discovering relationships between the heroes. This also happens in the film Katia’s Sister by a Dutch master Mijke de Jong. It is a compassionate story about an immigrant family with female members only.

The war film Captive (Plennyj) by Russian director Aleksej Uchitel is full with intimacy, emotions and unexpected sensibility. The story happens in 24 hours and it is about two Russian soldiers who capture a young Chechen fighter on the cliffs of Chechen mountains, in order to lead them through enemy territory to the rest of the Russian troops. Despite the language barrier and the fact they are from opposing sides, the soldiers and the Chechen boy develop an unusually emotional relationship. Uchitel's film delicately explores male intimacy in wartime,as well as moments in battle which are rarely subject of war films, such as absurdity, terror and delicate troubles of soldiers. Regardless of heavy and almost documentary-like war scenes, most of them were recorded in real time, thanks to the landscape, which is also an important, and frequently dominant film hero, the only innocent in the bloody war. Uchitel's film even achieves the effect of deep and calming pastoralism.

The film Jalainur by a Chinese director Ye Zhao leads by its lyricism, it depicts feeling of deep sadness because of loss of values, which are disappearing as the times are changing. Subtly, through a story about an old train technician and his young assistant, who follows him around like some obsessive son of his, Zhao tells a story about a former mighty coal mine called Jalainur which is to be shut down. He also tells about the position of working class people who will lose their jobs, about thousands of wagons which soon won't be carrying people nor minerals. The most effective storyteller in this cinematic, poetic and realistic film is the camera which catches every single emotion of the heroes, catches the Chinese wilderness, the cold sky and the harsh landscapes which withstand modernisation and progress.

The Chilean film Tony Manero by Pablo Larraín is a great example of showing an original portrait of life in an oppressive dictatorship which turned the whole country into a concentration camp, full of individuals who lose their own identity. This is a shocking and appalling, but at the same time funny film, with a hero who survives by dancing and imitating John Travolta from films such as Saturday Night Fever and Staying Alive.

There are many musical tones, there is lots of singing and dancing in the miraculous American hybrid feature-documentary film Courting Condi by Sebastian Doggart. The film has an ambiguous title, it can mean attracting someone or sending someone to court to be on trial. The film raises the following questions: Can a dreamer win the heart of Condoleezza Rice, former US Secretary of State and the most powerful woman in the world? Can anyone approach the heart of the "American princess", to remove the coldness she is surrounded by and realise who that woman is and what is she like? The answers are hiding under the veil of this musical tragicomedy with documentary features, a real soap opera with elements of romance and biography, funny and bitter at the same time. Doggart called his musician actor friend Devin Ratray, to go with him on this thorough exploration across America in order to find out something about the private and political life of the Secretary of State. While Devin, with romantic enthusiasm, composes and plays his love songs dedicated to Condi, many shocking and unknown facts are revealed about her. For example, she knew exactly what kind of tortures were used in Iraqi prison Abu Ghraib, she altered the lives of American people, she influenced the world's destiny.

Black humour embellishes The Investigator (A Nyomozó) by Attila Grigor, made as a detective film. The story begins with an acceptance of an assassination for money, for payment of an operation for a family member. Grigor leads his hero, a bit bizarrely but often amusingly, in an unexpected direction while exploring complex moral issues.

The Danish film Terribly Happy (Frygteling Lykkeling) by Henrik Ruben Genz is a grotesque drama with elements of western and horror, which catches the eye with its original style and superior performance by actors.

All the films that are chosen for the competition programme Exit Point, belong to a brotherhood of authorial and independent films with top artistic qualities. By selecting them to be shown for the first time in Serbia, at Cinema City festival, we offer a strong temptation which you will hardly resist.

Dubravka Lakic

CCIFF film selector