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As I Open My Eyes (A peine j’ouvre les yeux)

The Bratislava International Film Festival (BIFF) will soon take a look back at this year’s festival season and bring to the Slovak audience films that have climbed high at the most prestigious summits of the cinema world. A vast majority of them will mark a Slovak premiere and in many cases the festival is the sole chance to see them since most of these remarkable motion pictures will not make it to commercial distribution. Like every year, the festival will focus on the starry sky of contemporary European cinema represented by its fixed as well as shooting stars. The 18th edition of the Bratislava IFF will take place from November 11 through 17 in Bratislava municipal cinema theatres and movie clubs.

The Bratislava film festival continues in the tradition of presenting finalists of the LUX Film Prize that has been awarded by the European Parliament since 2007. Celebrating its tenth anniversary, the LUX Film Prize has an ambition to support diversity of European culture, make noteworthy cinematic achievements widely available to European audiences and promote individual member states’ cinemas inside as well as outside the Union’s borders. Between October and December, the triplet of finalists will tour more than 50 major European cities including Bratislava. As tradition has it, the winning motion picture will also be available in versions for the sight and hearing impaired.

One of the three filmmakers whose works made the final selection is Leyla Bouzid, a young directress of Tunisian origin who graduated from the prestigious La Fémis in Paris and has continued to operate in the French-speaking environment. Her acclaimed debut, As I Open My Eyes (A peine j’ouvre les yeux, 2015), tackles issues related to cultural changes of her birthplace and her generation’s views of life. Her film is a civil tale of a young female rebel who refuses to be crammed into roles prescribed by society. The story revolves around Farah, an unfettered frontwoman who tours night clubs with her music band. Her life choices inevitably meet with her parents’ lack of understanding as her art clashes with strictures imposed by the rigid political regime. As I Open My Eyes paints a stunningly vivid picture of Tunisian society on the brink of a radical change.

Toni Erdmann
Toni Erdmann

Strikingly different is the heroine of one of the most popular motion pictures of this year’s festival season, Toni Erdmann (2016) by German directress Maren Ade who serves her social criticism on the platter of comedy genre with an ample garnish of absurd undertones. In hopes of pursuing career in a supranational corporation, ambitious Ines gives up on her private life while slowly drifting away from home and her loved ones. Throwing a lifesaver is her freewheeling father whose unpredictable alter ego lent the film its name. Having been selected to represent Germany in vying for Best Foreign Language Film at upcoming Oscars, Toni Erdmann pithily caricatures the corporate world, its twisted rules and professional mumbo jumbo. The motion picture will certainly be delightful to watch for all those who have gone or are going through a similar work experience.

The last of the LUX Film Prize nominees is a Swiss-French animated film, My Life as a Courgette (Ma vie de Courgette, 2016), by director Claude Barras. The visually effective stop-motion animation is used here to serve the story of an orphaned boy who is trying to find its place in the sun. With the help of Raymond, a kind-hearted police officer, the child hero with an unusual nickname (Small Pumpkin) learns to trust people around him and eventually wins love of a new family.

In a separate section entitled Europa, the Bratislava film festival intends to present a selection of the best titles that have premiered over the past year and simultaneously expose the thematic and stylistic diversity of what is commonly labelled as European cinema. The festival-goers can look forward to seeing motion pictures decorated at prestigious film festivals around the globe, especially those that took place in the second half of the year. This selection will include fiction and documentary films that scored success at IFF in Karlovy Vary, Locarno, Venice or Toronto.

It’s Not the Time of My Life
It’s Not the Time of My Life

It’s Not the Time of My Life (Ernellaék Farkaséknal, 2016) has all the makings to become one of the section’s blockbusters. It was made by Szabolcs Hajdu, one of the shooting stars of the young Hungarian cinema who has become familiar among Slovak cinephiles thanks to his previous films such as White Palms, Bibliothèque Pascal or Mirage. In his latest motion picture, Hajdu who also plays one of the main characters supported, among others, by his wife and two children brilliantly spins an intimate psychological drama focusing on blood, marital and parental relations against the backdrop of a single apartment the camera or the cast never leave for a second. In terms of directorial skill, the film follows in the best footsteps of American independent cinema while psychological miniatures draw it to the orbit of Ingmar Bergman. It snatched the Crystal Globe along with the best male performance award at the Karlovy Vary IFF. Coming to present the film at the Bratislava film festival is a numerous delegation that will include the director and his film and life partner, Orsolya TörökIllyés.

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