Still the new kid in town, the Eastern Europe bloc makes its second appearance at SBIFF. Often overlooked because of their mysterious fa§ade, these Eastern European films emerge with a desire to be recognized. As film fest director Roger Durling put it: “A film-goer seeks discovery and the Eastern European films fulfill that need for it. It’s a new voice and cinema.” This year, the festival is screening 11 feature films for the Eastern Europe sidebar, many of which were already award winners elsewhere. Tulpan from Germany, for instance, won the 2008 Cannes Film Festival “Un Certain Regard” Prize.
These countries share the historical break from the suppressive Soviet Union regime and, consequently, these 11 films share the underlying theme of existentialism-the rationale that, like Sisyphus, we are trapped by our fate and want to break free. The films’ storytelling techniques are innovative and fresh as these Eastern filmmakers search for new and expressive ways to convey their culture formerly trained to stay in the shadows. Said Durling, “The movies that have caught my eyes the most in the last two to three years have been from Eastern Europe.”
Chosen for Bulgaria’s Best Foreign Film Oscar nomination, Zift, directed by Javor Gardev, reflects Eastern Europe’s cultural habits. Moth, who Durling claims “embodies the Eastern European,” is imprisoned during WWII for a murder he did not commit only to be released in Soviet-ruled Bulgaria-a world of ruthless betrayal for the sake of greed. As for the existentialism in the sidebar, Racketeer, from Kazakhstan, profiles Sayan and his break from conformity as he rejects education for a life of crime. The film retains the idea that life is just life-meant to be lived. Durling is also a fan of Bohdan Sl¡ma’s The Country Teacher. Screened at the Toronto International Film Festival, the Czech film shows a different side of trust compared to Zift. Still pertaining to the problem of betrayal and trust, the film modernizes its subject with the issues of finding one’s sexuality and identity.
Other entries include the Russian film Ocean set in Cuba, a hot movie that takes on the sick twists of love as a fisherman deals with his love triangle. Max F¤rberbck’s A Woman in Berlin shows a woman surviving the Soviet invasion of Berlin after WWII by seeking refuge in forbidden love. Slovenia’s Landscape No.2 centers on the inheritance of a previous generation’s crimes as Sergej steals not only a priceless painting but a WWII document of importance. Tears for Sale is a visual trip in a fairytale world where two girls are charged with returning fertility to their town. The second Russian film, The Ghost, is a cat-and-mouse plot where Anton tries to cure his writer’s block by sheltering an assassin. Loss puts forth the theory that we are all separated by only six degrees, while Tulpan tells the story of a simple love scenario. Finally, the semifinalist for this year’s Best Foreign Film Oscar nomination, Turkey’s Three Monkeys, reveals a dysfunctional family’s secrets and hidden evils.