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Thursday, November 22, 2012

Notes from Cine Europa 2012

The film festival on its 15th year was once again held at the Shang Cineplex. Pretty much the same ticketing system as before: release at 30 minutes prior to the film screening with a gap of more than an hour. I am not sure if it was the availability of the films over the net that kept its audience from flocking to the mall but it looked like a film marathon is now doable. This time around, I made an effort to catch the opening film from Norway called “Upperdog” which stars a Filipino-Norwegian actor named Hermann Sabado. I usually skip this part of the festival as I don’t know anybody from any of the participating embassies. On September 4, the day before the opening, I attempted to write an email to the organizer (Norwegian embassy) using the email address I got from a website that features the festival. I wasn’t sure if it will be read but I just asked them how I can watch the opening film. Surprisingly, I got a reply early in the morning. Attached is a PDF of the invite for the event in the same afternoon.

There were already a lot of dignitaries at the mall’s Grand Atrium when I arrived. There’s food, wine, some live music from the Manila String Quartet and some familiar faces. There was a raffle draw for a KLM trip anywhere in Europe (which I joined in but not lucky enough). Then the representatives from the embassies were called, made a toast and formally opened the event.

Below is the interesting mix of films that I caught for free during the 12-day festival:

Upperdog (Sara Johnsen, Norway) A modern-day drama as told from four intertwining characters in Oslo. Two of the four are Korean siblings who were adopted by two different couples and accidentally reunited after so many years. Though the musical score is sometimes distracting, the character study part is very affecting. There’s a statement somewhere about Norway being a very welcoming country to other races. The siblings, for instance, attend to other personal issues and do not concern much on being accepted to the society. The storytelling may not be that fresh but it got me involved in the first quarter as I can’t easily figure out what the film is all about. Hermann Sabado did really good as well as the rest of the cast.

The Goat (Georgi Djulgerov, Bulgaria) I totally enjoyed this Bulgarian film's absurdity of having the main POV from a goat. It is low budgeted and oftentimes stagey due to this limitation, but the film exudes an exotic wit and sensibility that highlights the whole viewing experience. What I liked best is that it doesn’t deal with social issues and it doesn’t attempt to preach on something.

Koko Flanel (Stijn Coninx, Belgium) This 1990 film from Belgium has all the elements of a Dolphy film, probably only a notch higher in terms of production value. It’s about a loser who suddenly became rich and famous when he was accidentally included in a photo shoot of expensive signature apparel. The struggle then is on how he can swim with the sharks and win the love of his life who happens to be the coordinator of the same agency who tapped him. There’s really nothing much in here but I sure appreciate the lavish costumes and the ambitious effort to mount the scenes involving the fashion industry.

The Rest is Silence (Nae Caranfil, Romania) This film about filmmaking has the feel of a telemovie at first but when it gets fired up, the content is really worth exploring. Sensibility looks too contemporary though. It’s about Grig who is the son of a famous actor who dreams of coming up with a moving picture during the early 1900’s to recreate a war. There are some road blocks along the way and this part of the film is probably the most interesting. It shows the challenges a filmmaker has to face during that time, pretty much the same issues that a contemporary filmmaker is facing.

Lidice (Petr Nikolaev, Czech Republic) Sometimes it gets emotionally tiring to watch a film about the Nazi and the genocide but I always admire its sense of history. I liked the parallel between the father who committed a crime and the killings he somehow avoided while he was in prison. According to the festival program, the burning of the village of Lidice “was Nazi Germany’s only officially admitted genocidal act during the war that shook the world”. This film tries to immortalize this historical account through the eyes of a father who first lost his family when he became a prisoner. The epilogue that enumerates people named Lidice has some shades of “Schindler’s List”.

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