When one ponders on the geographical regions that have produced the most influential and meaningful cinema, one naturally thinks first of Hollywood’s golden age and later the emergence of The Movie Brats. Then the global spotlight falls on the French New Wave, German Expressionism, the Italian Neorealists and the great Russian masterpieces of Eisenstein and Tarkovsky to name but a few of the deserving nations and film makers.
It’s no coincidence that troubled economic and political times seems to be one of the chief catalysts for the emergence of such movements and individual talent. And closer to home none more so than the post-war and ever changing landscape of Eastern Europe and the Balkans, whose more prominent figures over the years include Andrzej Wajda, Roman Polanski, Krzysztof Kieslowski, Emir Kustirica, Theo Angelopoulos and Bela Tarr.
I watched hundreds of films from around the world last year and the one that is still seared into my consciousness is Ulrich Seidl's powerful and disturbing Import/Export. Although he's technically Austrian, Seidl's film was a Ukrainian, Slovakian, Romanian and Czech co-production shot in the distictly austere yet beautiful style of so many films from those regions. So it seems that although that part of the world has no shortage of cinematic talent, it is still hugely under-represented here.
Thankfully and partly addressing this problem The Filmhouse once again hosts this year's New Europe Film Festival from April 1st, showcasing the best and brightest of contemporary cinema from that region with a diverse range of work from Poland, The Czech Republic, Romania, Hungary, Slovenia and Bulgaria.
Launching the event is an epic documentary on the life and times of Romania’s notorious former leader Ceausescu. The following ten day event sees a variety of documentaries and feature dramas whose themes and topics include crime thrillers, drug addiction, religion, racism, a footballing legend and as one might expect the universal and inevitable perils of the human heart.
Scanning the programme just a few that tickle my fancy are The Christening, a Polish crime drama directed by Marcin Wrona and described as an ‘uncompromising thriller’. There‘s also Protector, a Czech love story by Marek Najbrt set against the Nazi occupation of Prague and the documentary Cooking History by Slovakian director Péter Kerekes which sounds like an intriguing prospect as it views the region’s recent conflicts through the eyes of military chefs.
Below is a full list of the film's titles and screening dates, but to get a fuller appraisal of the film’s on offer as well as the festival’s performance times and ticket prices contact The Filmhouse or check the relevant websites (listed atop).
1st April The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceausescu
2nd April The Karamazovs
3rd April Erratum
4th April Katka
5th April Christening
6th April Dark House
7th April Made in Poland
8th April Protektor
9th April 9:06
9th April Eastern Plays
10th April Puskás’ Hungary
11th April Twosome