Quality over quantity at Bratislava film festival

A FUNDAMENTAL change in the 15th International Film Festival Bratislava, an annual event featuring award-winning international movies and notable Slovak and Czech cinematic newcomers in the Slovak capital, is its move from big multiplex-cinema theatres to smaller venues.

A FUNDAMENTAL change in the 15th International Film Festival Bratislava, an annual event featuring award-winning international movies and notable Slovak and Czech cinematic newcomers in the Slovak capital, is its move from big multiplex-cinema theatres to smaller venues.

This year’s festival is also shorter, lasting from November 6 to 12, but “this will not influence the quality of the films presented”, head of the festival Vladimír Krajniak told a press conference.
Citing the wishes of audiences to move from big, impersonal halls to smaller venues, Krajniak said this was the overriding factor for the changes, rather than the reduced festival budget, which he, however, admitted was nevertheless an issue.

Some of the more intimate venues include the Mladosť and Nostalgia of the Lumiére film club, as well as the recently opened Kino Film Europe. There will also be an “experiment”, as Krajniak called it, involving a free screening (five films per day, not translated or dubbed) of films that failed to make it to the main competitions in Club Bateliér, where the accompanying programme of the partner project, Danube Art Cargo, will also take place.

Krajniak complained that in spite of official claims, the financial situation has been worsening each year, not just with funding and revenue (the festival lost its general partner), but also in terms of expenses, where screening fees rose from symbolically low to exorbitant.

That said, Krajniak listed some of the quality movies expected at this year’s festival, including a selection of Israeli films, Anna Odell’s Reunion, Yuri Bykov’s The Major and Rok Biček’s The Class Enemy. The Bosnian film A Stanger, by Bobo Jelčič, examines the country 20 years after the civil war. Two Mothers, from Germany, focuses on the issue of conceiving a child in a lesbian relationship.

Short films in the festival competition tackle current issues and social problems. The competition of documentaries presents contestants of all genres and styles that garnered success at other festivals, like the controversial The Act of Killing or The Missing Pictures. Another Night On Earth, from Spain, was clearly inspired by Jim Jarmush’s film Night On Earth, focusing on night-time dialogues in taxis, but in revolution-torn Cairo.

Categories outside the main competition will include Panorama, Cutting Edge, or the new “optimistic, crisis-inspired” section, as dramatic advisor Radovan Holub put it. Films of Human Strength will also feature a host of interesting titles, like Alexander Payne’s Nebraska, Jia Zhang-Ke’s A Touch of Sin, Stephen Frears’ Philomena, Ashgar Farhadi’s The Past and Tosh Gitonga’s Nairobi Half Life.
The festival opens on November 6 in the Nostalgia film club with Nicole Holofcener’s Enough Said. The complete programme can be found (also in English) at iffbratislava.com.

Director Bille August makes a personal visit to the festival to receive the award for contributions to world cinematography. August’s recent film Night Train to Lisbon is screened on November 8.

“But we never promoted the idea that big stars must necessarily be present at festivals,” Krajniak told the Sme daily, adding that the films are the main focus.

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