- The selection addresses topics such as mourning, sexual fluidity, marginal lifestyles, cult of the body, abuse and rural flight.
Cinema Jove consolidates this year as a talent scout for young filmmakers. By coincidence, this year, six of the ten selected films of the Official Feature Film Section that compete in the Festival are debut films. The films that hail from Georgia, Norway, Netherlands, Israel, China and South Korea are the feature film debut of their directors. The programming is completed by second films by directors from Argentina, Brazil, USA and Germany.
The fact that they are new directors, however, does not diminish the quality of their films. In fact, the films that compete for the Luna de València award have received recognition in events such as South By Southwest in Austin, the Berlinale and the Toronto, Tokyo and Busan Festivals.
The València International Film Festival normally shines the spotlight on films that address the changing stages of children and adolescents. Coherent with the name of the festival and its trajectory, the ten films selected in this 34th edition explore a large diversity of uneasy situations that youth must face in their personal and social lives, and the possible solutions to these tribulations.
Goodbye to the parents
Four films coincide in portraying adolescent mourning after the loss of a parent. In Los miembros de la familia, by Argentinian Mateo Bendesky, two siblings, obsessed respectively with the bodily and the mystical become trapped in an almost deserted coastal town to try to fulfil their mother’s passing wishes.
Off-season summer holiday locations are a common backdrop that young Argentinian and Uruguayan filmmakers are keen on. Bendesky justifies this coincidence by the “strong melancholic component [they offer], something abundant in these coastal sceneries.”
The Argentinian director was able to develop the script of Los miembros de la familia thanks to a MacDowell grant he was awarded in 2016 at the Toronto Festival. It is not the first time the director focuses on sibling relationships. His two previous short films, El ser magnético and the initiation tale Nosotros solos, also starred siblings.
In the US film Thunder Road, by Jim Cummings, a police officer tackles a personal crisis after a divorce and the death of his mother. The film has been highlighted by the English edition of the monthly Esquire magazine as “this year’s funniest, saddest and cheapest indie film.” 33-year-old director also starred in the film, wrote the script and composed the main song in the soundtrack.
The bittersweet comedy starts from a homonymous 12-minute-long short film that was filmed in a single take. In the credits, the director thanks royals William and Henry, whose grief-stricken images at Lady Di’s funeral served as inspiration.
Norwegian Harajuku, by Eirik Svensson, opens with the suicide of the main character’s mother. She is a fifteen-year-old anime and manga fan, with dyed blue hair, that only dreams about leaving dark and cold Oslo behind to live in the city of her dreams, Tokyo. The young otaku evades her pain by evoking anime fantastic stories, dreamlike sequences that the film portrays through animation. The film is set on Christmas eve and reflects upon the figure of the absent father.
The main characters of Israelite The Dive, by Yona Rozenkier, also point out the missing father figure, but in this case because of his passing. The director stars, together with his siblings, in this family drama, where dark humor is used to highlight the absurdity of the backing war scenario. The bombs serve as a soundtrack for the reunion of three brothers at the kibbutz where they grew up, to fulfil their father’s last wishes. This semi-biographical film is set in 2006, during the Second Lebanon War, and displays how a person, and by extension, the person’s close group, are marked by growing up in a country in constant conflict.
A graduate from the Steve Tisch School at the University of Tel Aviv, Rozenkier has directed short films Bugs on a Helmet (2011) and Raz and Radja (2012), part of an Israeli-Palestinian Project.
Lula in Brazil, the mafia in Italy
There are two other films that use historical events as their background. In the German The Last to See Them, by Sara Summa, the audience attends the last day of a family in the south of Italy. The fate of the characters is based on a real story that took place in 2012. The night before a wedding, the Durati family were killed for unknown reasons, where a connection to the mafia was presumed.
“The film connects with Truman Capote’s classic In Cold Blood because it humanizes the anonymous victims cited in the news, but, in this case, the murderers are not included in the story,” anticipates of the Cinema Jove’s director, Carlos Madrid.
The Brazilian Domingo, by Clara Linhart and Fellipe Barbosa, temporarily places the audience on the 1st of January of 2003, in the midst of the celebration of the investiture of President Lula. The changes promised by the new Head of the State generate both enthusiasm and worry among the members of two families in Rio Grande do Sul, gathered together in an old house. Adolescents and adults live through emotional turmoil where love and sexual disarray take place during the preparations of a quinceañera celebration.
“This film recalls both La ciénaga, by Lucrecia Martel, due to the stifling heat and asphyxiating atmosphere of confinement, and The rules of the game, by Jean Renoir, because of the interrelation of social classes under the same roof,” considers Carlos Madrid.
Family relationships also become tense in Dutch Light as Feathers, by Rosanne Pel, and set in a small polish town. Her debut looks into the origins of sexual violence through the story of a 15-year-old boy who has a codependent relationship with his manipulative and dominant mother, where an Oedipus complex is insinuated. The young boy transfers his emotional confusion to the bond he has with his 13-year-old neighbor whom he abuses physically and emotionally. The director was inspired by the work of philosopher Hannah Arendt to explore the pairing of guilt and punishment. Pel opts to focus on the point of view of the abuser, creating a deep reflection in the audience.
And from the excess to the absence of attention, the main character of House of Hummingbird, by Korean Bora Kim, is a solitary 14-year-old, deprived of her family’s attention. Searching for the affection she yearns for, she tries to engage in relationships with the boys and girls of her neighborhood. This coming of age storyline takes place in 1994 Seoul, and is based on the adolescence of the director and scriptwriter. Kim is an interdisciplinary artist and sociologist and bases her creative process on cultural research related to showbusiness and the representation of Asian femininity.
Her feature film debut received the Best Film Award at the Generation 14plus at Berlinale, the Best Asian Film at NETPAC and the Audience Award at Busan Festival.
Children and adults
The anthropologic drama A First Farewell, by Chinese director Lina Wang, also includes biographical traits. As the main characters of the film, the producer was also born in Xinjiang, in north west China where, surrounded by cotton fields and desert, the Uigurian village is located. This initiation drama reflects the challenges that a Muslim minority face in an environment where economic survival is complex if Mandarin is not spoken.
With its sublime photography, the feature film was awarded the Crystal Bear at the KPlus Generation of the Berlinale and the Future of Asia at the Tokyo Festival.
Lastly, and as the single exception of an Official Section not starring children and adolescents, the Georgian Parade, by Nino Zhvania, focuses on the reunion of three old friends in Tbilisi. The film is structured as a road movie, where the main characters travel by car, bus, running or strolling. The three characters are all over 50 and their lives have been marked by the soviet past of a now independent country.
The film is inspired by Husbands (John Cassavetes, 1970), as well as by the director’s memories of the conversations between her father and his friends, part of the lost generation of Georgia.