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Kyiv 2005 diary by Dr. Domenico Farina, Italy (English)

October the 22nd

The arrival. The day passes between planes and transferring. I get a positive impression of the city, even from the architecture and the little artistic things that I see. Not the same for the organisatio as it seems there is chaos. If I compare this Festival organisation with the Zlin’s Film Festival's organising (where I also was a jury member) it seems to me that we are left to ourselves. Stunning girls, if you think of aesthetics, is hard to find not a nice one. Ok this is not a cinema subject but, you know, Italians… The first person, at the airport, that I meet is an English female director, Sonja Phillips, of Greek-Norwergian descent but with a British passport, accompanied by her kind and inseparable mother.


We have just a few seconds in the hotel to take a shower and then we are transported to the
Ukrainian Palace for the opening ceremony and movie Oliver Twist. I didn’t like it very much, (I got also the idea that it was out of focus during the screening), but basically I can’t see the director’s touch, and wonder if it the length of the film that makes it seem so 'heavy'. And this is not good. There was great acting by Ben Kingsley. Anyway I shut up my mouth and took the chance to have a photograph taken with Roman Polanski.  We then meet Alabama, Anastasia, Katerina and Olena (part of the guest service). We go to a buffet, that is always a great thing… at the end I also meet the others members of the jury. The city today is cold. Also it seems the people, but if you warm to them, they like to talk with happiness and warmth. But it appears hard to move them on this path. Overall, I find also a lot in common with them. The evening is calm, we hope for more activity (especially for more screenings) tomorrow and I’m wait to see what the Festival has in store for us, in terms of the films and the organisation.

 

October the 23rd

Wake up at 9 o’ clock. Even today we are left to our own devices. If we again think of Zlin, where we were followed step by step, even during the day, we find evidence  of greater disorganisation. A discrete anarchy reigns. 14 short films were seen. Medium level. A little better are Paired Off, The Turkey Shoot & More Harm Than Good. I had visited the city, but as a blind man, thinking that the guides are guiding the jury members (at least not us!). I still not know who should guide us. If we have a guide, I think they are in hiding. Maybe there is a natural shyness, but we feel really alone. Kamila (the very thoughtful guide in Zlin’s festival) where are you?  First impression is of great cold-heart feelings. Only a couple of guides (that I see, at last), maybe three seem less closed. “Niet” seem one of the most used words. The press room (at the second floor in Dome Kino) is forbidden to us mostly even if we are jury members and guests. A “secret service style” bodyguard denies us access for no apparent reasons. But a jury member (that is, in that case, also a journalist), should be considered valid as a journalist. No events this evening too, and this is a little bit of delusion setting in compared to other experiences. As usual, tomorrow could be better, even if doubts and uncertainty are beginning to invade the mind. Let’s cross our fingers.

 

October the 24th

A day that gives us good movies. All the morning movies are good. Maybe it is a hard choice to put, side by side, four shorts of 30 minutes length. I suggest a repeat. In the afternoon the things are going by alternate waves. We, members of the FICC Jury, decide to create a new prize, the SIU (to be read in strange “Italenaglish” like “See You” as a wish, for who gets it, to come back in Kiev and do better that this year), from the capital letters of our Countries, Sweden, Italy and Ukraine. To made and create this diploma, is the starting of the miracle. After two cold days, I discover the warmth and kindness of all the third floor people. They follow me completely. Starting with the delightful Yuri Rymar, who offers me his computer to use, from the various Elena, Kateryna, Natalia, Alabama, Irina; Nadia & Yulia, also with the “computer master” (I never discovered his name!!), a 1,90 meters giant, everyone in that room helps me. The beautiful thing that it is not just politeness but seems sincere. Sincere as the same manners that could be used by me, probably, to help a foreign guest at reverted parts. The “perestroika” has begun! J After the movies, nevertheless, “tragic” and solitarily dinner, sushi based (by the way also very good). I started my lessons of Cyrillic and Ukrainian, offering in exchange Italian lessons with the very kind and pretty Irina (Irinochka).

 

October the 25th

Oh well, only those who fall can rise again. Maybe for the movies this is the best day. All more than sufficient movies, the same both morning and afternoon. Great exaltation from this point of view. After the screening, our Ukrainian member of the Jury has a discussion with the head of the Press Office (2nd Floor room), Anastasia, daughter of the General Director of the Festival about why we are not allowed to use the room even though we are jury members. Just for information purposes, we were only there for a few seconds,  to print a copy of the diploma, made yesterday). Trying to calm the situation I had defended what Stanislav, a real gentleman did  by repeating with calmness and good manners that if we needed to use the stuff in the press room (II floor), we will use it, as the other accredited people has done. And so, I guess I will not see Kiev for the next ten years or moreJ)))….

 

The news is spreading fast. This “diplomatic incident” goes around the inner environment of the Festival, as everyone I know asks me what has happened. By the way I discover we have a guide. In fact, during the discussion, I moan to Anastasia about the fact that we were left alone and, like magic, a guide appears by our side. She is the gentle and nice Elena Turbal, who offers us a little walk around in Kiev.. Oh, to be honest things begin to improve because in the evening we have a dinner with Mr. Jay (the Italian correspondent for the “bible” Variety), Torbjiorn (our Swedish colleague in the Jury), the “twins” Sonia Phillips (the British directress) and her mother, Olivier (Swiss producer), Bernard (French director) and Ghiana, a director from Odessa. During the evening I get a call on my mobile. I did not discover who it was from even though  I notice the missed call at the end of the dinner. Maybe it was from the III floor to inform me and the others, of a party to be held by the German Cultural Institute (the Goethe Institut), but, maybe, who knows…it was be some mysterious admirer (but I strongly doubt of this!!!). My Cyrillic lessons are going over with relative easiness; in fact I am able to read it quickly and easily. Yes, it is another task to understand WHAT I read, but why be afraid?:) This evening I go to bed, a satisfied man.

 

October the 26th

First day for feature length movies. They are of reasonable level, but the last one is hard to digest, also “thanks” to the projectionist that falls asleep (that’s what I think, but is not his fault if this happened). During ten minutes of a Vietnamese film, when there were no subtitles except the Russian ones. The movie, that is already dull, gets a great penalization, this is for true. We are destroyed, and we try to escape, but Nadia Zavarova (program coordinator) gives us a “great” news. We can see a French-Russian short (The Two Of Us) that yesterday had a problem with subtitles. With a little bit of trepidation (because the movie appeared to us very slow) we take our seats but the movie is helped very much by the translation, and we perceive its duration more short of what really is. More, going out to the “zlatavaska” (a “blonde fair” in Ukrainian) Elena, takes us for a quick mini trip of the city (by car) with some stops in the most well known places. Myself and Olivier (the Swiss producer), after, also have the time to take tea with Elena and Natasha, a friend of hers. After tea, we (myself and the Helvetian) go out for dinner. In a pub we find good beer and a birthday party, but we decide only to see the party. Who knows what will happen tomorrow, but the feeling is that the things are starting to move in a more exciting direction.

 

October the 27th

In the morning we see two movies, a Hungarian one and a Bosnian one. Of the Bosnian I had read something, but I must confess that it has impressed me very much. Seems a complete and intelligent work, has the power to cover all the emotions, and tries (is able, to be honest) to tell a story from a human point of view. Oh, to be clear, the Hungarian one is good too, but I think the Bosnian has a better gear. The Hungarian one is Fateless, that deals with the Shoah tragedy and the Bosnian one is called Go West. It has been a long time since a film moves my feelings in that way. I hope also that my jury colleagues have the same idea and they also want to give a prize to it. By the way, I make it one of the best movies, then, at the end of the festival, we will see. Afternoon: we see Toss Up, a Turkish movie that is quite interesting. The audience likes it very much. Leaving the cinema I meet a girl that, mistakes me for the director of this film and thanks me for the emotions that I gave her. I am a little bit taken aback because I didn’t see myself as a Turkish looking man and, moreover, I didn’t think I had a director’s face, maybe it is the glasses…I thank her, but I must confess to being “simply” a jury member… In the evening it is party time, but with my cinema and with my “professional” role it is probably better to say no more of thisJ

 

October the 28th

Friday, this means that the festival is nearing its end, and I don’t like it. For me there is a sad atmosphere as I think that the ice is broken and familiarity is growing. Then, of course, I dislike leaving my jury colleagues, after several days spent side by side. But I don’t exclude a return ..ok, now back to the movies! We start with a French film with a really good actress. We don’t have to notice these things (we don’t give prizes for actors), but when you see a movie you notice also these things, even when you like them. The movie is Quand la mer monte, Belgian-French co production, at the end a good movie for the “art et essai” screens. Something more interesting, for me, is in the Russian one Half light, once again a story that that shows how wars are absurd, and how people can be in brotherhood even if they are “enemies” and of, at the end, how the “realpolitik” is  inhuman. In the afternoon we see “Mon Ange”, with Vanessa Paradis, aka Madame Depp. She acts well, and also is a good  choice to show some wrinkle, if you think that she plays a not really young hooker. The movie is so so, and is not helped by the special participation of Eduardo Noriega, once again playing an unpleasant guy. Nevertheless he has a good boy’s face ….

the end of the movie we find that there is a party which is a little bit more relaxed of the yesterday’s one. The place is interesting,  a small library with a tea room. Before, in the early days of the festival I went to visit some interesting places in the city, thanks to a really beautiful and kind female spectator, who is also a chorister. The walk is very tough, if you remember that Kiev is built on seven hills (hum…there is another city on seven hills, I don’t remember which oneJ, but it should be not difficult…), when I thought (and I was wrong) that it was a city built on a plain. At the party, I meet some French and Italian-French producers and we shared our views, starting from cinema and ending in soccer….tomorrow is the last day of screenings.

 

October the 29th

I tried to avoid this but Saturday has arrivedJ. We start with Karkash, a story of jealousy set in India. The movie wants also to be a denouncement of the conditions of the real India and, I suppose, about the female condition. But, this is what the film says, the “weaker sex” is not a full condition of submission, not even in front of brutal husband….so we reach Close, German movie that finds our jury join together in a negative opinion, we are sorry to say that, but there are several estimators of the movie in the audience. Well, the difference is the salt of life, so is logical to respect and accept different opinions. Honestly I was unable to find anything of interest in this movie. In the afternoon we close with a kind of “mimic” film, titled Iceberg, from Belgium, about a story that is similar to but also  with a lot of differences to, Silvio Soldini’s Bread & Tulips with Bruno Ganz and Licia Maglietta, with a different approach but also with great irony. The starting point is the same, mother/wife who is abandoned or forgotten in a pub and takes this chance to reflect on her life.  Very good playing from the lead character, Fiona Gordon. In the evening we have to say make our decisions. We, as well as the others juries - press and the ecumenical-  will announce the winners this evening, and also the prizing ceremony will happen here, in the “Dome Kino”, while he main jury, the one that forks out money, will announce its decisions in the “Ukrainian Palace”, in front of the national TV network’s cameras. Anyway I discover that we are in agreement on two of the three prizes that we should give. So, the SIU prize is gave to the Ukrainian movie More Harm Than Good. Is a way to give courage to local productions, even if the prize is only the “famous” diploma with a little motivation. For the special mention of the jury we have to work a little bit but, with no problems, we find an agreement for Moustache, an Australian short. We have also to say that several other shorts, especially the ones of the 25th were very good. Every festival has some choice to be done, so it has to be. Molodist has four Juries; we can hope that their choices will be different from our choices, in that way more movies can be rewarded. At the end we are happy to give the “Don Quixote”, that is our first prize, to Go West, from Bosnia & Herzegovina. I think that is right because faces a war that is near, in time as in space, to European people, as was the useless war in that country. More is also a movie that tells of a love story, inside the war and also uses a light touch. A well made movie, good to both head and heart. After the work we prepare ourselves to go on the stage. Is not the first time, but there is always a great emotion. With Stanislav e Torbjonsen, we are able to entertain, I think and hope in a pleasant way, the audience. “Neutral” fonts are telling us that our performance was the funniest, with the thanks to the festival director, to guest service girls, between them Olena (Elena), our “resurrected” guide, at the end always with us (thanks!) and the lady in the festival, without forget the Administrator, Yuri Rymar, (thanks again for the computer). The other jury’s prizes were for Paired Off a Brazilian short that we watched with attention and Fateless, (this is for Ecumenical Jury), whereas the press has gave his preference to From The Land Of Silence Iranian movie that was quite far from our idea of a winning movie. But the world is beautiful because it’s various. The outer part of the evening lives on adrenaline’s trail, but it will be one of the most beautiful of the festival, for sure unforgettable and private…

 

October the 30th

Today is free day. We decide thanks to the very kind cooperation of Stanislav, to visit the city. So, with lady Mariangiola, an Italian journalist of Radio Rai and with the imperturbable Torbjonsen, we start to “conquer” Kiev. Some places I already know, but others we discover are new, very fascinating. We climb up to the roof of the city (this time, luckily, by  taxi, but after that the police give a fine to our driver, guilty of a sensational U-turn on a city boulevard) and we visit an orthodox monastery. Inside we see a church (full of people standing) as we discover that in these kind of churches there are no benches. It gives a strange mystical feeling, even for people that are not very much into church things. Then we pass to visit some kind of catacombs where are buried, in transparent coffins, the orthodox monks, but they are covered with shrouds and different kind of covers. From here we go again up to see a view of the city and of the river Dnepr, with in front of us the socialistic part of the city (that is not unforgettable) and on our right side the Statue of Liberty, that is not really beloved by the Kivians, also because was wanted by Breznev, and that is not really in tone with the landscape. We have an obligatory passage in “Andrewska”; a street of the city that I saw in the evening, with the daylight is full of stalls, full of strange, touristy but also funny things. Near to classical “matrioska”, in fact, we find also the legendary CCCP soccer shirts, done in 80’s style, that means in not transpiring acrylic, the Dynamo soccer shirts, the unfailing Italian soccer teams (but to buy an Italian soccer shirt in Ukraine seems too muchJ) then there are also some strange check boards, very pretty, about the Cold War times, with American presidents on one side and the PCUS nomenclature on the other side, all made as caricatures. So, made the shopping, with the usual dealing, we go to eat in a typical restaurant that is just in front of the “Ukrainian Palace” where this evening the show will take place. We taste the “borsh”, a kind of soup that, for the Ukrainians is like pasta for Italian. We find this way to cook very well, I have also noticed that I never missed Italian cooking, and this could be a real signal…. Just the time to change dress and we are ready for the ceremony, live on TV, both national and local networks. The main jury, with its president, the director Irvin Kershner (George Lucas’ maestro in the cinema school and director, amongst the other works, of “The Empire Strikes Back”, an original DVD copy of which is in my hands with its autograph over) has given the 10,000 dollars prize to “Accused”, Danish film about a father accused of sexual annoyance against his 14 years old daughter. An other prize goes to “Iceberg” (2,500 $), a French Movie nice but not really more. Then takes a prize also “Go West” (and we agree), “Polumgla” (Half Light), that we also liked and “Fateless”. I really not agree to give the prize for the best short to “Martillo”, a co production of USA and Columbia. At the end the student prizes are for the Polish movie “Melodramma” and the Russian/French “The Two of us”. But there are a lot of prizes! Even Italy takes one. Is a short, nice, with Lando Buzzanca “Cari amici vicini e lontani”, and it is about the cynic TV world, a work that has a good idea and a very good start, but it has not the same tension until the end, and this is a shame. In the evening final party and all seems to end here. But, but…..for a “tragic” error is not so. My departure is scheduled at or so it seems. So I go to bed very early, at and I have to wake up at for the check-in in the airport. The wake is a real drama. We reach the airport but I don’t see my flight. My guide is back at the hotel and the costumers are asking me which flight is mine. I say that is the one for Rome. They say to me that is scheduled at 17,15. I am sure they are wrong, and I correct them, saying that maybe the flight is at 7 in the morning, if we think also of the change from solar to legal time. Of course I am wrong and I fear to pass 12 hours in the airport with nothing to do. Just for luck I meet another festival guide, Lisa and I explain her my situation. She brings me back to the hotel and we try to understand what’s happened. We discover that all is ok, just a “little” mistake, made by all, even me. In fact the time over the flight ticket is 16,20, but the number 1 is wrote just over the demarcation line of the cell! So is, practically, invisible. But, in that way, I gain a morning that I use to visit more the city, this beautiful city, also thanks to the good weather we had during these days, a city and a festival that were able to cut a place, step by step, in the memories of this Italian jury.

Dr. Domenico Farina
Kimera Cineclub
Italy