23 Nov 2023 On the Screen (Media Development 2023/4)
Karlovy Vary (Czech Republic) 2023
At the 57th Karlovy Vary International Film Festival (June 30 – July 8, 2023), the Ecumenical Jury, appointed by INTERFILM and SIGNIS, awarded its Prize to Blaga’s Lessons directed by Stephan Komandarev (Bulgaria, Germany, 2023).
Motivation: As if that weren’t enough, a 70-year-old widow literally throws her money over the balcony into the hands of scammers who pressured her over the phone. The woman now also lacks the urgently needed money to finance the tomb for her recently deceased husband and herself. She, who has fought hard all her life, does not lose sight of this goal and in the process becomes a perpetrator herself: in a criminal way, she inflicts what she has experienced on others. Until the very last minute of the film, we viewers believe that the protagonist is experiencing a cathartic moment and regrets her actions.
Yet Blaga remains true to her strong beliefs and seems to have no choice but to act immorally. The fate of that woman reflects the plight of older people in post-communist or market-economy-capitalist Bulgaria, who often no longer know who they can rely on between their struggle for survival, corruption, and exploitation. This is exacerbated by a religiously motivated fear for her husband’s salvation. This film convinced the jury because it tells of the relationship between individual responsibility and social norms with a poignancy that makes it difficult for us to feel sympathy for the protagonist, played outstandingly by Eli Skorcheva, and yet makes us want to ask if we would act like her.
In addition, the jury awarded a Commendation to Mokalake Tsmindani (Citizen Saint) directed by Tinatin Kajrishvili (Georgia, France, Bulgaria, 2023).
Motivation: A village in a barren Georgian mining region worships a heavily weathered saint. Suddenly it seems to have come alive. Miracles happen, the lame walk, lost miners appear to their relatives and every Bible-savvy viewer believes they have seen or heard all of this before. But this film is not simply a retelling of the New Testament. Rather, it raises an essential and quite self-critical question of Christian religion: Why do we worship the dead, immobile, interchangeable instead of the living? Do we want to live or survive? For this and for its exceptional visual, aesthetic and musical design, the Ecumenical Jury awarded a Special Mention to “Citizen Saint”.
Members of the 2023 Jury: Hana Ducho (Czech Republic); Anna Grebe (Germany); Hermann Kocher (President of the Jury, Switzerland).
Locarno (Switzerland) 2023
At the Locarno International Film Festival (August 2–12, 2023) the Ecumenical Jury of SIGNIS and INTERFILM awarded its Prize to the film Patagonia directed by Simone Bozzelli, (Italy, 2023).
Motivation: Where is the line between dependence and freedom? Between love and submission? Between empathy and responsibility? When innocent Yuri leaves his sheltered life to follow the alluring energy of Agostino onto the open road, both must confront the open wounds and scarred histories that have made them who they are and attempt a dangerous journey toward a new horizon. Patagonia hovers precariously between violence and tenderness, obsessiveness and self‐discovery, inviting viewers into a space of ambiguity, a place where transgression just might lead to transformation.
In addition, the jury awarded a Commendation to the film Nu aștepta prea mult de la sfârșitul lumii (Do Not Expect Too Much of the End of the World) directed by Radu Jude (Romania, Luxembourg, France 2023).
The film centres on Angela, a casting assistant who drives around Bucharest day and night for a production company looking for authentic actors for an image film. In the process, she records aggressively obscene TikTok videos to channel her frustration. The result is a film production in which exploited people are instrumentalized for the whitewashing of a Western European insurance company.
Director Radu Jude brilliantly combines different time periods and media formats. The sequences of the central plot line, shot in black and white, are interrupted by a historical Romanian color film, which also centers on a female taxi driver with her existential questions. The film impresses with its concise critique of capitalism and its self‐reflexive mode. The Eastern European protagonists retain their cultural sovereignty despite the repressive working conditions.
Since 1973, the Ecumenical Jury has awarded its Prize to film directors whose artistic talents have been most successful in raising viewers’ awareness of religious, human, and social values. The Jury looks at the vision of creative film directors who demonstrate an affinity with justice, peace and respect, as well as spiritual dimensions. The Prize consists of a sum of CHF 10,000 for the film director, donated by the Reformed Churches and the Catholic Church in Switzerland.
Members of the 2023 Ecumenical Jury: Petra Bahr, Germany (President); Micah Bucey, USA; Marie‐Therese Mäder, Switzerland; Joachim Valentin, Germany.
Miskolc (Hungary) 2023
At the 19th Cinefest – International Film Festival Miskolc held September 1-9, 2023, the Ecumenical Jury, appointed by INTERFILM and SIGNIS, awarded its Prize to Libertate ’89 (Freedom) directed by Tudor Giurgiu (Romania, Hungary, 2023).
Motivation: Through the eye of a handheld camera viewers are confronted with a chaotic choreography of people running for their lives and finding their way in a moral vacuum after the toppling of a dictatorship. The film asks the question: what values will we fall back on when we are put to the test in a political and existential crisis? Are we willing to bring a sacrifice for the common good or are we only serving our personal interests?
Despite the collapse of the state, we see individuals making efforts to follow ethical values wanting to reconstruct a society based on justice, peace and reconciliation. We are witnessing the historical situation in Romania 1989 and at the same time this film offers us a story people all over the world can relate to. By telling stories like this, Tudor Giurgiu invites cinema audiences to remember that you don’t have to be a hero to make a difference.
Members of the 2023 Jury: Rolf Deen, Netherlands; Beata Golenska, Italy (President of the Jury); László Réti, Hungary; Esther Vígh, Hungary.
Venice (Italy) 2023
The 12th INTERFILM Award for Promoting Interreligious Dialogue went to Io capitano directed by Matteo Garrone (Italy, Belgium, 2023).
Motivation: The award goes to a film of high aesthetic and artistic quality. An odyssey of two young boys from Senegal to Europe. They fight for freedom, equality and justice in face of dehumanization. Through their pure naivety they expose the evil and manage to overcome. Seydou takes responsibility claiming God is with us and grows from boy to man. He becomes the master of his own life and the captain of his soul.
Members of the 2023 Jury: Carolina Bertello, Italy; Annette Gjerde-Hansen, Norway; Inge Kirsner, Germany (President of the Jury); Robert Lafaye de Micheaux, France.