8 1/2 FILMS

The great actor Alexei Batalov once expressed a seemingly simple idea but it gets stuck in your mind precisely because of its razor-sharp precision. We can say countless words and use tons of paper in search of the right definition of what the author strives to do when he creates a work of art. Or you can simply ask him: “What will you surprise us with today?” Simple and clear. Today it is even harder to achieve when the presence of virtual world in our mind is becoming greater and greater, when it traces our wishes and whims and immediately provides us with double and triple doses of them. Cinema, TV and the Internet compete with each other in the art of spying. Sometimes it even seems that in this age of total unsystematic reproduction of everything it is impossible to create a truly original work. And all, even the most prominent authors, are bound to repeat themselves. But it is them who all of a sudden overturn all “isms” and trends and find surprising amazing novelty in what seemed outdated and worn-out or conversely too trite and overused. For almost 20 years our program has been dominated by films notable for precisely this quality. Real art is real because it opposes accepted ways, newest technologies, because it demands co-authorship and not mere consumption from the audience. Its form may be conservative (like in the case of Paolo Taviani’s “Rainbow”) but it will suddenly strike us with half-forgotten breath of the tragedy of the Second World War, or it may invite us to join the authors and reinterpret their own stylistic code and with no fear of lowering the dramatic tension, to put to music the painful realities of the tragic history of the Philippines, the way Lav Diaz did in “Season of the Devil”. Two very different but unquestionably breakthrough Polish movies demonstrate the tendency to revitalize the best traditions of national cinema. “Birds Are Singing in Kigali” is a poignantly tragic but visually impeccable movie about the bloody realities of modern-day Africa, while the debut ”Nina” is the main event not merely of the Rotterdam Film Festival, but of the cinematic season in general. Special place in the program is given to two remarkable films from Germany which received none of the awards at the recent Berlinale. They are “In the Aisles” by the good-natured writer and slightly sentimental romanticist Thomas Stuber and “My Brother’s Name is  Robert and He Is an Idiot” by the sarcastic visionary philosopher Philip Gröning. I hope that the 16-minute film by the young Byelorussian author Vlada Senkova named after “Radiohead” hit “From a Great Height” won’t get lost amidst those resonant movies to which I’d like to add the latest ambitions work - theomachist or deeply religious - by the Hungarian Kornél Mundruczó “Jupiter’s Moon”. I thank all those filmmakers the experienced and the young alike – for their ability to “surprise”. I hope I’ll be able to express my gratitude in person.
Pyotr Shepotinnik