While much of the noisier and glitzier aspects of SBIFF scream for attention on the fizzy surface, film buffs of a more serious sort have been known to burrow into the lesser-trafficked but often fascinating Eastern crannies of the festival’s program. Each year’s festival seems to host especially juicy and sometimes dark-tinged fare from Eastern Europe.
This byway of the program, cheekily dubbed the “Eastern Bloc” a few years ago, looks as promising as ever in 2010. Germany has supplied some of the better festival films in the last few years, many of them dealing with the angst of WWII, divided Germany, or 1970s social unrest stripes. This year’s offering includes Saviors in the Night, director Ludi Boeken’s tale of German farmers during WWII seeking to hide Jews from the Nazi terror.
From the lesser-traveled cinematic turf of Bulgaria comes Svetat e golyam i spasenie debne otvsyakade (aka The World Is Big and Salvation Lurks Around the Corner), well received on the international festival circuit. Polish director Pawel Borowski’s Zero promises intrigue, sex, and violence, contained within a 24-hour time period. Slovenian Girl, from director Damjan Kozole, tells the tale of a prostitute whose end game for self-betterment takes certain unexpected twists.
Many films have multicultural and multi-fiscal backgrounds. Take, for instance, Katalin Varga, a film based in and connected to Romania, but made by British director Peter Strickland. The film, reportedly a slow-moving, artful thriller, nabbed the Berlin Film Festival’s prestigious Silver Bear award last year. El Paso is a Czech film directed by Zdenek Tyc, and, despite the Texan tint of the title, it concerns a Gypsy mother’s struggle amid societal tensions after her husband’s death.
And from the once socio-politically fiery terrain of Serbia/Albania—with a story dealing with couples from each country—comes Honeymoons. The film is the latest from Serbian director Goran Paskaljevic, known for his Serbian trilogy—The Powder Keg, Midwinter Night’s Dream, and The Optimists.