Nisimazine Tallinn 2014 #2

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review 21st November 2014


the magazine by NISI MASA - European Network of Young Cinema

Angels of Revolution Refugiado Supernova X+Y Quod Erat Demonstrandum from Supernova by Tamar van den Dop

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Just to echo Fernando’s editorial in the first newsletter, there is definitely a serious case of FOMO induced anxiety going on come November when I find myself in Tallinn. And what makes it worse here is that not only there is a lot to catch up with, but there are also a lot of discoveries still to be made. Besides the fact that these films are here, it’s interesting that they exist to begin with. There are many more films out there than there used to be. That means festivals and distributors alike have more to chose from, and both specializes and commercial audiences are also fishing in a bigger pool. A few years ago when Romanian director Cristian Mungiu won the Golden Palm for “4 months, 3 weeks and 2 days” everybody cheered for the (re)birth of a national cinema, a ‘wave’, a trend. The year before it had been another country, and the year after is was already another one. This was already a change of pace, as before national schools tended to stick around for a few years. Today we are at the point where talking about new ‘waves’ has become almost a faux pas. Directors from anywhere and everywhere feel empowered to tell their stories and festivals around the world are on the look out for the next fresh talent to back up with their prestige. This being said, I think it’s time for us all to stop complaining that we have too much choice. Cinema should not be seen like a supermarket that is overwhelming because it carries 250 different brands of cereal. While those most likely taste not much differently from each other, films are by far more particular and individualized. It’s actually an industry in which you need to take a lot of risks. Sounds silly, but it’s really a lot of throwing things at the wall and waiting to see what sticks. We all have to put in the work of swifting through what we deem ‘hit and miss’-es, ‘meh’-s and ‘not quite my cup of tea’-s to get to the ones that enchant us. Because otherwise we’ll be left like Buridan’s proverbial doneky - dead of hunger in between two juicy piles of straws.

Edition of Friday, November 21 2014/#2 A magazine published by NISI MASA in the framework of a film journalism workshop for young Europeans EDITORIAL STAFF Editor in Chief Fernando Vasquez Editor Mirona Nicola Assistant Editor Ewa Wildner International Coordinator Luisa Riviere Design Francesca Merlo Photography Liisi Mölder Guest Tutor Ula Lipinska Contributors to this issue Mirona Nicola, Patrycja Calinska, Chiara Puntil, Zuzanna Kwiatkowska, Marta Tudisco, Raluca Petre Local coordinator Merli Antsmaa Image editor Edina Csüllög Special thanks to Tiina Lokk, Javier Garcia Puerto, Laurence Boyce, Heidi Koppel, Maris Hellrand, Helmut Janes and Emilie Toomela NISI MASA European Network of Young Cinema 99 Rue du Faubourg Saint-Denis 75010 Paris, France +33 (0)1 48 01 65 31 With the support of the Youth in Action of the European Union. This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This publication reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

Mirona Nicola (Romania)

© Liisi Mölder (Estonia)

Picture of the day

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Angels of Revolution Alexey Fedorchenko, RUSSIA - International Official Competition Art and politics – could there be something more risky (and tempting) to combine? Alexsey Fedorchenko, Russian maverick director, takes the challenge of connecting both topics – and wins it altogether. His vivid imagination and a considerable dose of absurdity habilitate the historically-political theme into outstandingly illustrated visual performance. Once more – after Silent Souls and Celestial Wives of the Meadow Mari, Fedorchenko brings back to life the opulent cultures of Russian borderlands. It’s 1931, the time of forming the state of the new values, when Khanty and Nenets, indigenous Siberian tribes, refuse to accept collective Soviet culture and claim obedience to the old gods. Government representatives ask Polina Schneider, the heroine of Bolshevik revolt, to intermediate in this subtle affair. With a group of Russian avant-garde artists, she sets off into the wild taigas spread around the banks of river Ob. Deeply believing in the significance of the mission, they try to convince the stubborn autochthons to accept common values with all their propaganda powers. Their attempts are both comic and brilliantly original, dragging the audience into the complexity of primeval customs and beliefs. The strongest part of the picture is the story’s visual arrangement: a bloody tear on Lenin’s plaster cheek, dogs with pretzel wings, flying together with a zeppelin in honour of USSR, or profoundly beautiful scene of screening a film on the fire’s smoke – these are, between many others, a few examples. Bright colours, frames unnaturally filled with light, objects looking more like stage props than real-life facilities – all these aspects make the mise-en-scéne theatrically unrealistic. In this colourful, penetrating lens The Soviet Union is more absurd then dignified.

But behind all these unique pictures lays a sad story about a culture being sentenced to extinction without a trial. The director decides to speak up in a few closing shots, looking into the Kazym’s reservation today. Moreover, the stripping away of the fancy clothes and exaggerated images in behalf of an austere documentary brings doubly-effective ending. The film becomes an important voice in the discussion about the cultural and political regime. It also seems as a courageous attempt of describing choices, which Russia has to take again nowadays. Due to his extraordinary staging, Angels of Revolution may cause some understanding problems. The exposition is enormously extended into almost half of the film, which will probably confuse most of the viewers, breaking down a classical film structure. The story multiplies plot events, making the audience trapped in the string of events they probably will not manage to follow. The viewer may feel trapped, but this trick completely changes the reception of the historical turmoil, making the experience painfully perceptible. Probably the most significant observation flows from behind the screen: the knowledge of the Soviet’s decrees sanctioning in 1932 socialist realism as the official art movement of the USSR (and the only proper one), should make you think about this avant-garde bunch of artists, deeply dedicated to their mission, who will become the aim of the next annihilation process. The show must go on. Patrycja Calinska (Poland)


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fortably close to their faces, capturing their anxiety and constricting them within the frame, increasing the sense of impending danger that pervades the film.

Refugiado Diego Lerman, argentina - 18 Selected Titles A defeated superhero: this is our first impression of Matias, a seven year-old who has been left behind at a birthday party. Once he gets home, the reason his mum didn’t pick him up becomes clear: she is lying on the floor, unconscious, amidst pieces of broken glass. With surprising maturity, he helps her get on her feet and follows her into an ambulance, still wearing his red cape. And yet, there is little he can do to save the day. Diego Lerman’s Refugiado is a tale of domestic abuse that offers no background information. Instead, it plunges straight into the narration, following Laura and Matias as they flee from her violent husband, Fabian. Moving from a women’s shelter, to a guesthouse, to a seedy motel, the two move across a gritty Buenos Aires, trying to cover their tracks as Fabian attempts to find them. While we never see his face, he is threateningly present throughout the film, with his insistent phone calls and the terror in Laura’s eyes as she watches her back.

Refugiado’s plot is supported by its cinematography: the hand-held camera follows mother and child at close range, as if it was stalking them. Often at a low height (roughly that of Matias’), it focuses tightly on their backs or stays uncom-

The oppressive framing and lighting – the camera angles are often tight, and Matias and Laura are frequently shot in very narrow, poorly lit spaces – effectively convey the sense of entrapment they feel. Most scenes take place at night, and the artificial lighting casts a sombre, unnatural tinge on their faces, a reminder of the dark place the characters find themselves in. A genuinely suspenseful scene takes place when Laura goes back to the family house to pack their bags. She thinks Fabian will be at work, but a neighbour tells her he’s on his way up. As the camera jumps from Matias, throwing a tantrum in the bathroom, to Laura, begging and screaming for him to get out, we find ourselves holding our breath, conscious of every second ticking past and completely unable to predict what will happen. Offering us no chances to let our guard down, the pace of the film is very claustrophobic, once again a case of mirroring between the mise-en-scène and the characters’ situation. Sebástian Molinaro and Julíeta Diaz are convincing as Matias and Laura; in particular, Molinaro’s interpretation of Matias is a quiet, subdued portrayal of a child that has seen too much for his age and often needs to act as an adult, caring for his traumatized mother. His trauma and solitude will follow him until the end of the film. The closing shot is at the same time hopeful and sad, and we cannot help but worry about the impact domestic violence has left on him. As night falls on Matias, we get the feeling this particular nightmare might be over – but is it over for good? We can’t be sure. Chiara Puntil (Italy)

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suffers from Parkinson’s disease, would rather die. The question is, why they do absolutely nothing to change their destiny? Perhaps they do not have the nerve, perhaps the repetitive kind of life caused such a damage in their selfhood that they became more like objects. This is how we may describe the universe around the main character – Mais. The 15-year-old girl is forced to live in boredom with her unable-to-do-anything father and her full of curiosity mother. She is running away into her mind, dreams a lot about what might happen and unsuccessfully tries to push her parents a little.

Supernova Tamar van den Dop, Netherlands - Just Film ‘When viewed in an inertial reference frame, an object either remains at rest or continues to move at a constant velocity, unless acted upon by an external force’. Newton’s first law of motion explains that nothing can happen with a body unless a force from the outside makes it move. Although it concerns objects, it can be easily transferred to the field of human beings. Life in stagnation will not end by itself. That is why, in the middle of nowhere, there is a girl who is waiting for an exterior energy which might bring her real life. Based on Do Van Ranst’s novel, Supernova shows a house which has been placed too close to a 90-degree turn on the road. It happened once that a car crashed right into it. Despite the fact that it sounds quite frightful, the family inside is waiting for another accident. They actually live not only on a turn of the road but also on some kind of a turn in their lives. The father, who is a couch potato type, is hoping for another chance to show his manhood; the mother, who hates this house, would like to move out; the grandmother, who

Although the plot doesn’t sound like an interesting story, in fact it is. The study of boredom with very static shots provide a background for Meis, who is the narrator of the movie. Instead of speaking much, she is thinking a lot. With her soft voice we are being led through her thoughts that resemble stream of consciousness containing erotic desires, a little philosophy and theories of physics. In an unpretentious way she shows the viewer the mystery of the teenage mind sentenced to living almost alone. This subjective point of view is reinforced by the camera which replaces the girl’s eye and shows us exactly what she sees, enabling viewers to get deeper into the main character’s wits. Unfortunately some of the profound thoughts are not congruent with the young age of the girl causing distraction and ironically ennui. The static action is emphasized by Gregor Meerman’s camera. He creates a natural exemplification of the character’s moods with great gentleness. By using total shots and warm colors he puts the viewers in the middle of a hot, lazy summer and, at the same time, he forces them to feel more connected with the girl through close-ups. Due to that, Tamar van den Dop’s newest work has as much seductive force as its beautiful, young main character. Zuzanna Kwiatkowska (Poland)

With a soft and delicate approach to the whole topic, Matthews’ drama with slight hints on comedian features analyses ‘diversity’ but does not tackle the issue in its most generic way, that is, what effect this phenomenon has on society, in England or elsewhere, how it is perceived in a broader way. It is the story of an ordinary autistic boy and his individual path, not a story about autism tout court. Substantial is the way the director plays with the meaning of the addition X + Y, the sum of two variables in mathematics, but the formula also stands for the meeting of male and female chromosomes, a symbol for the rediscovery of interpersonal relationships: husband-wife, mother-son, boyfriend-girlfriend, and so on.

X+Y Morgan Matthews, UK - Just Film If everything that surrounds us can be explained by mathematical formulas, what happens when we realize that there is actually one thing that can upset every exact science, bringing order instead of chaos? In X+Y by Morgan Matthews presented at the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival the audience glean the view and feelings of an autistic boy, Nathan. Nathan is diagnosed with autism at an early age, even though the spectrum does not appear in its most radical form, since it is balanced with a counterpart of synaesthesia, namely, the ability of experiencing simultaneously multiple sensory and cognitive stimuli. The introverted boy finds himself obsessed, rather than fascinated, by mathematical patterns, and there he takes refuge from his issues in relating to his parents (or the world outside) and uses them as an outlet for his innate intellect, ultimately by joining the International Mathematic Olympiad, where he will learn also the basics of love, in its wider sense.

In the end, can we get a hint on what it is like to be autistic? If you’re not, you will never be able to understand it thoroughly, and basically that is what Morgan Matthews’ incredible frames tell us: from an external and detached point of view, that of the camera, that spies on the boy’s life with discretion and humility, it slowly turns into a more subjective and intimate one, when the director passes the torch to Nathan’s deep blue eyes to show us the beauty of his world. A world full of shades and bright colours that contains answers unintelligible to those who are not able to perceive it with the eyes of a ‘superhero’ who can easily read the world in mathematical formulas. This is not just a movie about diversity; in fact Matthews does not make specific stylistic choices to bring out the ‘diversity’ of the protagonist, but rather we are faced with a fundamental question about diversity: approach. In analysing the different interactions between the characters, played by the actors with huge credibility to their own little, big dramas, a clear message stands out: diversity is perceived as such when treating that person differently. And another, perhaps more important: a diagnosis of autism is not the end of the world, but the beginning of a new one. Marta Tudisco (Italy)


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Interview with

Andrei Gruzsniczki director of ‘Quod erat demonstrandum’, Off the Wall Romanian filmmaker Andrei Gruzniczki’s second feature was one of the most striking revelations of last year’s festival circuit. So much so that it is still roaming through international film festivals, arriving now in Tallinn Black Nights to once again expose the disturbing truth about the Securitate’s strong hold on the Romanian population during the communist era. We caught up with the director a few months ago to discover what lead him to make such a powerful film.


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How did you carry out your research? In terms of subject as well as production design? In terms of production design it was quite easy, I just hired the best production designer in Romania and it was his job, I just left him to it. And being a black and white movie, it was quite a challenge because we actually shot in black and white, but the designer had luckily already worked on such movies in the communist era. The lady who did the costumes also had experience in this. They knew how it would appear in shadows of greys. I also had the best DOP who had also worked in black and white. But on the other hand, writing the script, which took almost two years from the starting point, required a lot more research. We had to have a lot of consultants, a lot of direction from the former secret police officers. We had the chance to find someone who was more open, who helped us a lot in terms of the atmosphere in the secret police offices. Why is the main character a mathematician? I had to read a lot of books and at one point, I changed the profession of the main character. I had studied engineering so the main character was an engineer initially. I found a book about the secret police surveying a well-known Romanian mathematician- Octavian Onicescu. He was very old at the time, but he had some links with the Nazis during WW2, so he was under surveillance. The point was that the book contained a lot of files on him. Maybe 80% of the files were about his private life. Things that you can now find out on Facebook, like what he ate. But I realised that they didn’t have a clue about the importance of this guy in his field. So they were searching someone, not knowing if he was important or not. So they had to reply on some other mathematicians to see whether he is important or not. At one point, I thought this is the most absurd situation, because I just put the main character in this situation by someone not knowing what they are doing. Why did you place an emphasis on Latin? Well, it was part of the mathematician’s profession, it has lots of Latin expressions; quod erat demonstrandum is quite a popular expression in mathematics. But then, at that time in the 1980s, we were bombarded with the Latin background of the Romanian people. Therefore, I thought to include this element in my absurd scheme of things. Why do you think it’s important to show the grey area within characters? There are no good and bad

characters in my opinion. First of all, because I don’t like to do things in black and white, in this kind of ethical black and white. This is not what life is. It was important at the beginning to have a character from this security police believing in what he was doing, believing that he was protecting this society of evil. If I look back in that era, in the 70s and 80s, people were still believing in communism. The title can be interpreted on several levels. How do you like to understand it? On a subtle level, you will be surprised to see the title at the end of the film, like it is in mathematics, at the end of the problem. This is what to be shown. What was demonstrated was what we already know, that people can be easily turned in their minds, towards evil or towards good, at the same time. What do you think are the long term psychological impacts in today’s Romania of informing and of the kind of society that communism encouraged? I’m sure that that era left a clear print on us, on our psychological way of being, of acting. I think this is because we were missing something, and now we’re trying to recoup this. This was the impact in the first 10 years after the revolution. We lacked something in all areas, financially, culturally, in terms of travel, and we tried to cover this through consumption in order to get to the same level as others, which is crazy, because we aren’t there yet and it will still take a while for us to get there. Romanian audiences have been critical of films set in the Communist era, stylistically as well as in terms of content. Do you think that because you have a different style, this will attract people more? I think there are two different things. Yes, stylistically, if you are showing the misery and everything, the people get sick of it. So, in a way, when we started this movie, we were thinking that we are not going to show this misery, we were going to upgrade a bit the society and the kinds of people. This film was shown in TIFF fesitval in Cluj and I think it got quite a positive feedback from the audience, because they saw a film about communism, which was not really about communism. Because it was about the psychology of a normal human being. It is not another one of those neorealist Romanian films. Raluca Petre (Romania) 6

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