36th Edition of the Molodist,
International Film Festival, Kiev, Ukraine
by João de Almeida Filipe, Portugal
In Our Way to Kiev
|"Tzameti 13", DQ winner in Kyiv 2007|
Hours before travelling to Ukraine, browsing the Internet,I found out that the sky in Kiev is outlined by huge golden domes from magnificent churches and that the weather is as unpredictable as Ukrainian women…There they are the domes, golden and majestic. My knowledge of women remained only skin-deep – they’re beautiful. The weather really looks as if it’s unpredictable for it ranges from -7 degrees Celsius to 12 degrees Celsius in a week interval. When I arrived, I was told that it always snows on the last day of the festival.
Kiev – Molodist’s Venue
Nowadays, it is more and more difficult to experience a feeling of being abroad when travelling through Europe. But it can still be experienced in Kiev because it has not yet been affected by the Schengen Agreement; the Euro has not yet been introduced there as the single currency, and only translators, interpreters and the youngest generation are able to speak English. Kiev is also that kind of place where we have to struggle to get it our own way, in order not to get lost in the subway, to be allowed into a film exhibition to which we have been invited, to be allowed to have another free glass of juice for breakfast… We constantly have to cope with “niet” (no) or “ne znaio” (I don’t know) which is more or less the same. It’s one of those places where we’ll possibly and probably end up in the middle of a highway pushing our car, which was supposed to drive us to the airport; or where we’ll have to spend either 20 or 150 hryvnia (€3 or €25) – at the driver’s will - to get a taxi to drive us around. It isn’t easy either for those who speak Slavonic languages because even though everything is written in Ukrainian, it is either the Russian or the Ukrainian language that people use to speak. Living in Kiev is hard. Lots of foreigners complain about the indifference or roughness of Ukrainians. They are accused of being sullen, unhappy and unpleasant. I’m not of that opinion; I must have been lucky with the people I came across. What I think is that this city is a real chaos. It’s an unbelievable, inhuman chaos, which makes things seem really slow and difficult, compromising a good relationship between foreigners and local people. Therefore, what makes people want to come and visit Kiev? At the end of October, with the wintering season approaching, nothing but the MOLODIST. This is a noteworthy event in the city’s cultural life that is aimed at celebrating Cinematography during a week by presenting films and directors from all over the world. As the festival is held in the capital, it acquires a nationwide importance, where even the President of the Republic, Victor Yushenko, makes the formal opening speech at the Molodist as its Honorary President. After Andriy Khalpakhchi’s speech, the President of the Festival, the 5000 people in the audience were offered an entertainment show at the Ukraine Palace. Paris, Je t’aime, a film comprising as many stories as the Paris’ “arrondissements”, 18 short films by the same number of directors (Coen, Assayas, Wes Craven, Vincenzo Natali, Gus Van Sant and Walter Salles, among others), each lasting up to 5 minutes, closes the opening ceremony of the 36th
edition of the Molodist. There were some good moments and a lot of bad ones. The screening of this film helped
us figure out that in Ukraine it is perfectly normal to speak on the mobile phone as well as leave the room a dozen
times during a film session – even if it is an international festival.
Molodist – International “Youth”Film Festival
“Molodist” means “youth”. This festival is rooted in the diffusion and promotion of students’ films, hence its strong connection to youth’s creative work. Although it has still the same aims, it has developed and nowadays it even focuses on the first feature films of new directors. Those who have already ended their cinema studies will start by directing short films before turning their attention to feature films. Besides the young directors, what has become of the festival’s young audience? The young generation that could have watched the competing sessions at the Butterfly Ultramarine venue, spent their time at the cafés playing table football and especially bowling. This was attributed to
the overwhelming price of tickets, which could reach 50 hryvnia (about €8). The previous editions were free of charge for students and therefore every session was incredibly full and people often had to sit on the floor. It could also have to do with the scattered venues of this edition. For the first time there were four different venues in town, whereas the previous years all competing or out of competition films were exhibited at the same venue – the Dom Kino (the cinema house). Something also awkward was the quite old age of the members of the jury at a “youth” film festival. I can only guess that the secret is to have a young mind…
Films on competition at the Molodist’s 36th edition
Among the 66 international films on competition (Chile, Slovakia, Canada, Israel, Brazil, Switzerland, Romania,
India, Italy, South Korea, Portugal, Poland, France, Australia, Russia, Great Britain, Austria, Spain, Turkey, USA, Norway, Hungary, Iran, Germany…), there were 25 student-directed films, 27 short films and 14 first feature films.
All in all, the most surprising thing was the students’ film section, wherefrom three works must be pointed out – all of them directed by 1978-born directors. Rabbits And Bears (2005, 21’, colour), by the South Korean Hyo Joeng Kim, which had already been distinguishedwith the First Award at the Busan Asia InternationalFilm Festival (South orea) and with the Best Director Award at the 29th edition of Rencontres Internacionales Jenri Langlois (France). It tells the story of an accidental meeting, on a burning Summer day, between a guy that hands over flyers in the city centre dressed up as a bear, and a girl that advertises English books dressed up as a rabbit. In the first 20 minutes of the film we are driven from a hilarious to a disturbing and dramatic perspective. Haircut (2006, 6’30, colour), by the Ukrainian Bohdama Smynova (born in Kiev but living in New York at present), is also a dramatic film. The action has to be stressed in this short film, the tension deriving from what remains to be said. The director skilfully exploits the implied stressful relationship between two women and a man and the consequent power and dominion excelled from it. Finally, the animated short film by Berliner Jan Koester also deserved our attention. Our Man in Nirvana (2005, 10’27, colour) has already aroused Sony Bmg’s interest. It is technically brilliant and has an attractive use of colour that makes it enjoyable even for those who don’t usually watch animated films. Unfortunately, While He Was
Flying (2006, 35’, colour), by the Russian Olexander Kessel, had a disadvantage since it was screened without English subtitles for an international jury… As far as short films are concerned, some deserve a special appraisal. First of all, Terra Incognita (2005, 15’ colour), directed by Peter Volkarz, a 49-year old Swiss who entitles himself as a designer and a freelance director. We have to stress his creativity and professionalism. Peter Volkarz used humour to deal with Leschenko’s expedition - a physicist from Hermannstadt who questioned the Law of Gravity in the 1920s - to the Nanopol island, the mythical point of zero gravity. Magma (2006, 7’, colour) is also an impressive film. The Spanish director Vicente Navarro sets up an amazing (dis)union between a man and a woman among a
crowd, which simultaneously brings them together and apart. He turns to granulated photography and warm
colours as well as strong frames which convey a deep interest to a 7-minute long non-dialogic film. Its impressiveness is as strong as it is ephemeral. The film was acclaimed immediately after it was exhibited but was not mentioned afterwards. There were two very comical German short films, parodying “social paranoia”. Komfortzone (2006, 8’25, colour), by Hanco Olderdissen, starts with the classical gag of a man struggling hard to overcome his inhibition in a public urinal. It’s unpretentious and amusing enough. Don’t Panic (2005, 15’) parodies the panic-stricken young graduates who can’t find a job. After being faced with some alarming statistics, we follow the life of a young unemployed architect who spends her time self-diagnosing lots of illnesses and looking for medical help. Ironically, this situation will get her a job which will heal all her pains. Marilena From P7 (2006, 16’, colour),
by Romanian director Cristian Nemesco who lost his life in a car accident this year, tells the unusual story of
a young teenage boy who falls in love with a prostitute from the neighbourhood. He does everything he can to
win her heart but he ends up learning that it is impossible to have her. The Sailboats of the Luxembourg
(2005, 23’) also deserved our attention. It was the bold attempt by the French director Nicholas Engel into the
realms of musical films which deserved the audience’s applause. What has become of Rapace (2006, 25’, colour), by
João Nicolau, the only Portuguese short film nominated for this festival? The day it was programmed to be exhibited,
a member from the organisation announced that it had been excluded from the competition and therefore it
wouldn’t be exhibited. It sounded like it had been disqualified. Unfortunately, it was even worse - I was informed later on that the copy that was supposed to come from Belgrade had not yet arrived in Kiev, and the Portuguese
Short Film Agency (responsible for its distribution) hadn’t answered any of the insistent efforts from the festival organisation to solve the problem. Therefore, it fell to Esmir Filho to represent the Portuguese language at the Molodist. He is a young Brazilian director from San Paulo taking part in this festival for the second time. Last year his film on competition (Ímpar Par, 17’, colour) won an award; this year his short film won the public award. The last days of the festival are dedicated to the first feature films. As it is the most expected programme, it is also the less remarkable and the most disappointing. Only Russia and Germany have two feature films on competition each; the rest of them come from countries all over the world. And the strongest films on competition have precisely come from Germany, though two completely different films. Das Leben Der Anderen (2006, 137’, colour), by Florian Henckel, was supposedly the only feature film to bring the audience to tears. It is set in the 1980s in East Berlin, and handles the story of an impossible love affair between a popular actress and a famous poet, rendered impossible by the inhuman and oppressive regime of the former German Democratic Republic. This is not a masterpiece but it stands out for the skilful ability to deal with a reality that despite its interest, is seldom portrayed in contemporary films. There is a con though: the several endings which make the film unnecessarily long just to reach a rather moralistic and superfluous conclusion. On a quite cold and psychological level, Ping Pong (2006, 89’, colour) reveals a surprising professionalism and a deep control over directing and acting qualities. It’s a more inward plot though not
more profound, concentrating on the fascination a recently orphan develops for his aunt who adopts an ambivalent
attitude towards his love. The coldness of the plot and the portrayal of the characters’ extreme behaviours bring to our mind Michael Haneke and some of his works, like Funny Games (Austria, 1997, 108’). Although these two German feature films are worth mentioning here, it was a Russian film that mainly fascinated the audience and some members of the jury – Euphoria (2006, 74’, colour), by Ivan Vyrypaevx. Displaying amazing natural Russian sceneries, this film stands out for its photography and, especially, for the setting. However, even the director seems to have become bewildered by the magic beauty of the Russian steppes and what we get is an amazing anthology of postcard pictures which enable us to feel a kind of visual euphoria. It seems to have also affected the international
and the press juries (FIPRESCI) for it won the Best Feature Film and the Best Film awards.
The juries, the awards and the Don Quijote award
There are four international juries at the Molodist festival: the International Jury, made up of five film personalities;
the Ecumenical Jury, consisting of three members of three different religions; the FIPRESCI Jury, with three journalists appointed by the International Federation of Film Critics; and the IFFS Jury, consisting of three
members of three different film societies chosen by the IFFS. During the press conference to announce the awarded
films, the Molodist’s President attributed the importance of the IFFS Jury to the insights into the future of cinematography. Oddly enough, only two of its members have seen all the films since the third member of the jury
has never landed in Kiev. Therefore, the Ukrainian representative, Oleksiy Pershko, and I had necessarily to choose
unanimously among the nominees. Hence we decided to award the Don Quijote to Tzameti – 13 (2005, 86’, black and white), by Gela Babluani, born in Georgia but studying in Paris since he was 17. Although it didn’t match any of the first options of both of us, it was the only possible agreement, which might translate the easy receptiveness it will get from the public. This is the typical film noir, shot in black and white, telling the story of a man who gets involved in a decisive game. His premise is identical to the one assumed by Antonioni in The Passenger (1925, 121’, colour), which makes it possibleto sum up the plot: a man adopts the identity of a deceased and ends up dead too. The film is thrilling enough, although it may become somewhat repetitive and predictable. I won’t tell any further because the director is said to have been invited to shoot a new version of it in Hollywood, to be commercially released in a near
future. The short film Terra Incognita and the student film Rabbits And Bears were also awarded two special
mentions. At the same press conference we also learned aboutthe juries decisions: the FIPRESCI Jury awarded Euphoria;the Ecumenical Jury awarded Poet of the Wastes(2005, 81’, colour), by the Iranian Mohammad Ahmadi,
and attributed a Special Mention both to Puzzle (2005, 4’20, 16mm, colour), by the Turk Ersen Ersoy, and to the
Swiss short film La Cle des Champs (2005, 14’, colour), by Floriane Closuit. The International Jury’s decision
became only known at the final ceremony of the 36th edition of the Molodist.
The end and the future of the Molodist
All ends where it had begun: at the Ukraine Palace,at 5.30pm, sunset. Almost five thousand people shoved their way to get a place at the final ceremony of the Molodist film festival, where the International Jury’s decision will be publicly known, where Gérard Depardieu, Yuschenko’s close friend, will hand over the awards, and where Andriy Khalpakhchi, who in a press conference entitled “The Future of the Molodist” had threatened to leave the organisation of the festival and turn himself to film programming, will inform the world about the festival’s expansion in 2007. But let’s go back to the awards. Esmir Filho is the first director to go to the stage to receive
the Public Award for his short film Qualquer Coisa Assim. Since his student film Ímpar Par had been granted an award the previous year, this is the second time Esmir thanks Kiev for an award. Next, John Irving (director of The Dogs of War, 1981, and President of the International Jury) announces that the winner of the $10.000 prize is 12:08 East of Bucharest, by the Romanian Corneliu Porumboiu; Euphoria, by the Russian Ivan Vyrypaev, won $2.500 for best feature film; best short film and best student film, both worth $2.500, were attributed to Marilena de la P7, by Christian Nemescu, Romania, and THE SUBSTITUTE, by Talya Lavie, Isarel, respectively. The International Jury has also decided to grant a Special Mention to the short film that had already been awarded by the IFFS Jury, Terra Incognita, and to the French short film Le Fil Des Coups, by Benoit Tetelin. Depardieu hands over the awards and
dances with Andriy Khalpakhci who bids farewell surrounded by all the festival team and by the awarded directors. The festival has come to its end.
See you soon Kiev!
The festival has ended but the party has just begun with vodka toasts, psychedelic photographs and promises
of coming back soon. At the Sky Bar in the hotel boat, the first ones to get tired sink into the sofas and that’s when it’s time to go. On my way to the airport, the temperature had fallen to 2 degrees Celsius and the first freezing night was breaking in.
João de Almeida Filipe, Portuguese, Member of the IFFS Jury and CTLX Film Society