View Full Version : TOFIFEST International Film Festival 2010 in Torun, Poland
07-05-2010, 08:30 AM
In this thread I'm going to submit my reports from the 8. TOFIFEST International Film Festival taking place in Torun, Poland (which happens to be my home town).
Here is how the Kafka Jaworska, Festival Director, describes TOFIFEST:
Insolent festival. Insolent cinema. This is what we are looking for, after all everyone has a rebel inside…
Tofifest has got its own, exceptional programme feature . For us, the cinema that we present is the art creatively commenting on reality and being an integral part of it.
This rebellliousness is what has been making Tofifest outstanding from other film festivals in Poland. From the beginning we have sticked to the rule of showing “rebellious cinema”, which looks for the truth about contemporary man, provokes discussions on difficult social or political problems and all the human issues that cannot be ignored. Such films are mostly presented in ON AIR International Competition, where a picture takes sides in a discussion.
Exceptional artists, going against the grain of certain tendencies or clichés. But also phenomena from the history of cinema, acclaimed cult, loved by many people too ashamed to admit it… These are next territories of Tofifest’s exploration. Discovered, explored, revealed.
However, as a cultural event, the festival is not only its programme, but it is the viewer that counts the most. Films are made for people after all.
This year our motto says, “Because everyone has a rebel inside”.
Why? Because it is something that everyone used to have, has right now or will have.
TOFIFEST official website is: http://www.tofifest.pl/en/
FILMASTER is one of the official partners of the festival and I came to Torun to provide media coverage for both Filmaster.com and Filmleaf.
07-05-2010, 08:33 AM
Tofifest: Day I-II
This is a short report from my home town: Torun, Poland, the host of Tofifest International Film Festival (http://www.tofifest.pl/en/) which started on June 26th and will last till July 2nd.
Written by: Borys Musielak
I was present on the opening gala as a representative of Filmaster, the official media patron of the festival. The opening was anything but conventional. In accordance with the festival leading slogan "Because everyone has a rebel inside", the energy company rebelled and cut off the festival venue, leaving everyone in darkness for some 15 minutes. This was only a minor inconvenience though and the gala continued with Julia Jentsch (http://filmaster.com/person/julia-jentsch/) (known for Sophie Scholl – The Final Days (http://filmaster.com/film/sophie-scholl-die-letzten-tage/)) receiving an award for the most promising European young actress. The award was delivered by the mayor of Torun, accompanied by the city's parkour group with flowers. The audience had also a unique opportunity to watch the craziest city video commercial featuring aliens. The climax of the gala had a punk feeling. No one read their speeches from a piece of paper, there were jokes and many slips of the tongue, but who cares, as long as it's fun?
The opening gala: Julia Jentsch (http://filmaster.com/person/julia-jentsch/) receives her Golden Angel
Patrice Chéreau's Persécution (http://filmaster.com/film/persecution/) was selected as the opening movie. I could not really call myself a fan of Patrice before. "Intimacy" shocked me and left me thinking while "His brother" bored me to death. His new film is different than those two, although it's closer to the former with its raw portrayal of a failed relationship. However here the director focuses less on the physical aspect of love and more on the actual relationship, the unwillingness to sacrifice and the selfishness. Fascinating music that reflects the characters' feelings in every details adds up to it, making Persécution a truly touching film which turned out to be a great choice to open the festival.
On Sunday, which was the actual first day of the festival for regular citizens, I decided to go and see one of the films by both of the directors having retrospectives in Torun: Costa-Gavras (http://filmaster.com/person/costa-gavras/) and Ken Russell (http://filmaster.com/person/ken-russell/).
The Sleeping Car Murder (http://filmaster.com/film/compartiment-tueurs/), debut of the Greek director (all his films were in French though) from 1965 surprised me with its freshness. It's a... comedy noir. The absurd sense of humor that comes where you least expect it and dozens of film clichés make it simply impossible to take it all seriously. But there is method in this madness. Costa Gavras's first film is a pleasure to watch for the lovers of film noir, political dramas, comedies and old fashioned whodunits. It does it all and it does it with grace.
I also managed to watch Gavras's most renowned film on Monday. Z (http://filmaster.com/film/z/) is a communist manifesto with a pinch of salt. If I were to rate only the beginning and ending it would get a 10/10 from me. The actual film is, however, a bit too long and non-engaging (for today's standards) so I could not fully appreciate this spaghetti-political-thriller. Not as funny as "Compartiment tueurs" and the political part lost its context after 40 years. Still, a genuine masterpiece of cinematography with music that must have inspired Tarantino and the likes.
Ken Russell is a completely different story. He's probably the British director closest in style to Derek Jarman, whose Edward II (http://filmaster.com/film/edward-ii/) reminded me of the scenography, costumes and general filming method of Salome's last dance (http://filmaster.com/film/salomes-last-dance/). Russell, as it happens is the ideal candidate to adapt Oscar Wilde. His adaptation crosses the border of mixing the performance with real life, a similar trick to the one applied by Croenenberg in his imaginative adaptation of William S. Burroughs' "Naked lunch". "Salome's last dance" mirrors the decadent atmosphere of late 19th century. It's strange and wickedly funny (although not as shocking as a century ago, obviously) but quite theatrical and conventional at the same time. It's also perfectly acted by Imogen Millais-Scott playing Salome.
A short from "Salome's last dance"
Russell's retrospective is combined with a general camp cinema roundup, featuring such cinema classics as "Rocky Horror Picture Show" or famous Polish camp films like The Wolf (http://filmaster.com/film/wilczyca/).
ON AIR contest and short films
But the festival is not only retrospectives. It also features some very fine pieces of art cinema in its two major contests: ON AIR (http://www.tofifest.pl/en/program/p/3) (feature movies) and SHORTCUT (http://www.tofifest.pl/en/program/p/4) (shorts).
The first shorts I watched did not strike me with their originality though. Polish Hanoi-Warszawa (http://filmaster.com/film/hanoi-warszawa/) told a story about a Vietnamese illegal immigrant who travels to Warsaw, Poland to meet her boyfriend. Conventionally filmed it's everything you would expect from this kind of social cinema: it's unpleasant and makes you feel guilty. The biggest achievement of the film is the mere fact it was made, as it's probably the first major attempt to discuss the issue of immigration into Poland.
Swedish Födelsedag (Birthday) (http://filmaster.com/film/fodelsedag/) is also a film made to generate discussion. It tells a story of a lesbian couple trying to get a baby. The relationship breaks when one of the lovers decides to have "technical sex" with her male friend, which gets her pregnant. Birthday is one of the few short films that would benefit from being transformed into full features (usually it's the other way round). The issues and relationships are too complex to put in a short or the director simply failed to do it properly. The best thing that resulted from "Birthday" was probably the shot below, chosen by Tofifest team as the poster for the whole Shortcut contest.
Shot from "Birthday"
Tofifest prepared a video-summary of day I of the festival. You can watch it on the clip on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/v/u5s02g5E7bM&fs=1
07-05-2010, 08:39 AM
Shirin Neshat showed "Women Without Men"
This is a copy of the article I published on Filmaster: Tofifest Review: Shirin Neshat showed "Women Without Men" (http://michuk.filmaster.com/review/tofifest-shirin-neshat-showed-women-without-men/). It's licenced on Creative Commons 3.0 Attribution License so you can copy it anywhere as long as you link back to Filmaster.com.
Written by: Borys Musielak
Contemporary Iranian artist Shirin Neshat was a special guest on Tofifest International Film festival where she presented "Women Without Men" in ON AIR contest. Shirin, who currently lives in New York, was awarded a Silver Lion in Venice last year for her debut feature. After the screening, a meeting on stage with the director and her husband and screenwriter Shoja Azari was arranged and I managed to videotape some of their answers.
"Women Without Men" tells a story of four women of Iran at a turning point of their lives. The wife of a high ranking army officer leaves him to buy a garden out of town and live there in silence. The sister of a traditional Muslim, more into politics than relationships, cannot agree to be married to a random man presented to her (she's thirty and still without a husband!) and eventually joins a communist group. Her female friend on the other hand is in love with her brother, but after being raped by two men in the middle of the day, she escapes, ashamed and finds shelter in the first woman's garden. There, she meets a prostitute who has fled brother after seeing a client turning into a zombie (possibly in her dream).
The movie was filmed in Casablanca, Morocco, as the directing pair has been banned in their home country for many years. All the events in the movie have a political background. The action is set in the year 1953 in Iran, in the middle of the United States and United Kingdom inspired revolution that overthrew the democratically elected government and replaced it with a dictatorship. The subject has, surprisingly, not been common in Iranian cinema, partially because of the censorship and partially because the wounds are still fresh and the events still remain a taboo in the country.
Why is the movie so political? - someone asked. Shirin explained that the reason is simple: Any artist with an Iranian soul cannot escape the politics as it defines the way people live and behave.
But politics is still only a background in "Women Without Men". An essential one, but still a background. Neshat is not interested in politics alone, but rather in the way it affects ordinary people, especially women as they are the main characters in her film and other art. She's interested in women's choices and their drama in a world that restricts them and forces them to live in a way they neither understand nor approve of.
Shirin's film is very poetic. It can be placed in a basket called "magical realism," as many scenes can and should be interpreted as metaphors and we really never know which parts of the movie are actually happening and which ones are a visualisation of the rich imagination of the characters.
It makes sense to compare "Women Without Men" with another politically engaged Iranian drama from last year, "No One Knows About Persian Cats" which I reviewed in April (http://michuk.filmaster.com/review/iran-the-voice-of-the-new-generation/). Neshat's film is by far more professional and aesthetically pleasing. Cinematography, editing and the music selected perfectly match making the film very coherent. It becomes obvious after you learn that she spend 6 years making this film with her husband, as opposed to the 17 days that took Bahman Ghobadi to make his. But both movies share the same climax of nostalgia after the old democratic Iran and both show a strong belief that the change in Iran will be bottom-up and that change is inevitable as the young people's attitudes have altered already.
"Women Without Men" is artistic cinema at its finest. It asks crucial questions. It's also lyrical but doesn't cross the line into sentimentality.
I'm looking forward to the next feature film of Shirin Neshat, especially now that she has revealed it's going to be an adaptation of an Albanian novel and will most likely take place somewhere in Eastern Europe, which in terms of history and the attitudes of people "shares the most" with the people of Iran.
PS. In one of the unrecorded answers Shirin talked about the reception of her movie in her home country. It's obviously officially banned as the government labeled it "inappropriate", but the film is widely known in Iran thanks to... piracy. Shirin officially thanked "the young computer-literate people of Iran" for spreading the film on illegal copies all over the country, sharing a funny story of her sister who managed to watch the film one day before its official premiere in the United States, after purchasing five copies on a local bazaar.
And here are the three videos I made while Shirin was talking on the stage:
- Shirin explains why she betrayed photography with film: http://www.youtube.com/v/LAy9wm0--hc&fs=1
- Shirin about film locations: http://www.youtube.com/v/z6Gm5JrzD-E&fs=1
- Shirin about poetry and politics in her art: http://www.youtube.com/v/RWYwAs7ChWw&fs=1
07-05-2010, 08:42 AM
This is a copy of the article I published on Filmaster: Tofifest Review: Altiplano - Trap of the history (http://michuk.filmaster.com/review/altiplano-trap-of-the-history/). It's licenced on Creative Commons 3.0 Attribution License so you can copy it anywhere as long as you link back to Filmaster.com.
Written by: Borys Musielak
Saturnina, the heroin of "Altiplano",easily states at some point that "only what is recorded counts". That's why she decides to videotape the biggest demonstration of her life hoping to make a difference. The Belgian pair of directors used the same sentence as the (unwritten) motto of their film.
Magaly Solier accuses
"Altiplano", shown in the ON AIR contest of Torun's Tofifest Film Festival (http://filmaster.com/tofifest/), aims to bring attention to a social issue. It's political and it wants to generate discussion about the problems of people living in the high plateaus of Peru who have been used and abused for years by the outsiders from "civilized countries". They once came on horses to mine silver and gold, now they come again, fully armed, for mercury. And all they ever caused was death and famine, now adding pollution and water contamination to the equation.
But it's also a lyrical movie that uses pictures beautifully accompanied by classical and opera music to touch the viewers and make them feel uncomfortable. Both what I wrote above and the synopsis itself suggest an accusing tone towards "gringos". But the film, thanks to its genuine objectivity (it shows events without commenting them and focuses on doctors and natives more than the evil corporations), cannot be easily labeled, making the story allegorical and universal.
In "Altiplano" two attitudes are confronted: European rationality presented by Grace (Jasmin Tabatabai) is contrasted with life constrained by religious and traditional rituals and beliefs, represented by Saturninę. It's a film about a historical trap. How can you learn the trust and respect of someone whose ancestors were treated for centuries like animals by own your fellows (by the way, this very sentence tells a lot about the history of the "white man," who is not ashamed of treating animals as things)? This is the question asked by one of the doctors that came to Peru with good intentions, to cure eye problems of the natives. It's not enough to act in accordance with your conscience. You also need to be familiar with the local history and behave in a way omprehensible to the people who own the land you're invading.
The acting is worth mentioning. After "The Milk of Sorrow," where Magaly Solier played a silent native girl struggling with the constraints in her own mind, now as Saturnina she's furious and full of hatred, which shows the diverse abilities of this young Peruvian actress.
I recommend "Altiplano" to everyone to who values demanding, artistic and philosophical cinema as well as to the doctors without borders who naively believe that the mere fact of appearing in a Third World village and attempting to cure people will earn them respect among the natives.
07-05-2010, 08:44 AM
"10 to 11" Review
This is a copy of the article I published on Filmaster: Tofifest Review: 10 to 11 (http://michuk.filmaster.com/review/empathy-for-the-obsession/). It's licenced on Creative Commons 3.0 Attribution License so you can copy it anywhere as long as you link back to Filmaster.com.
Written by: Borys Musielak
"10 to 11" is a slow, pleasurable film about an old collector who has spent his life storing and registering everything that surrounded him.
A shot from "10 to 11"
Mithat Bey is about eighty. He lives in an obscure flat in a suburb of Istanbul. His pragmatic neighbour makes plans to demolish the whole house and replace it with a new one, safer and modern. Bey doesn't believe it to be necessary. And he's got papers to prove it from an engineer of the city council. Nothing can change his mind, as the matter is personal. The demolition would mean he'd have to move his collection. And the collection is as huge as his life is long.
His defiance and the way he patiently follows his own way of living, ignoring others' opinions, is what defines him as a person. He's always well prepared in matters that he cares about. And he's extremely successful in living the life he chose for himself. But his character is also his curse. His wife left him after, having been given a choice between herself and the collection, he picked the latter.
What's interesting, Mithat does not really collect anything concrete like stamps of coins. In his collection one could find old newspapers (not skipping a single issue), series of encyclopedias, letters he wrote and received, tapes with recordings of his countless conversations or even backup copies of the gifts he bought for the people he cared for. What he creates is not quite a collection, at least inh a traditional sense. It's rather a complete registry of his life.
"10 to 11" is a portrayal of an original man who dared to live as he pleased. Mithat's life is contrasted with the life of his caretaker, a man of no interests and no ambition, always busy with things that have no importance. Ali leads quite a regular life, the life of many others. But when he sits next to Mithat and they both drink Russian vodka, we unexpectedly begin to pity him for his boring, pathetic existence.
Esmer's film is challenging. Not much happens and there is no traditional plot. It has a documentary feeling and the fact it's inspired by a true story of the director's uncle, makes that feeling even stronger. It may also seem too long (it lasts almost two hours) and unspectacular to some. To me, however, it was a very touching manifesto of individuality and a desperate need of an aim. The fact that the main character is practically a mirror image of my grandfather, who with a similar passion, although on a different field, patiently realizes his life goals, completely misunderstood by those who surround him, adds a personal note for me to this complex character study. And it also may be that I simply feel comradeship with Mithat because I must have inherited some of his character's features, through my grandpa (currently 84, now finishing building his second house, with his own hands). Or at least I certainly hope so.
"10 do 11" won the ON AIR contest of 8. International Film Festival TOFIFEST, which took place in June 2010 in Torun, Poland. It also received multiple prizes on IFF Istanbul 2009, Adana Golden Boll Film Festival 2009 and Rotterdam Film Festival 2009.
"10 to 11" - film poster
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