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Bratislava International Film Festival (BIFF)
Bratislava International Film Festival (BIFF)

This year’s edition of the Bratislava International Film Festival (BIFF) focuses on the theme of the city, which is reflected by the festival’s selection of films featuring titles such as Aquarius (2016), All These Sleepless Nights (Wszystkie nieprzespane noce, 2016) or a series of urban music documentaries from Little Planets (Les Petites Planètes), a collection by avant-garde filmmaker Vincent Moon. The central theme will also be accentuated through a multitude of side events.

The festival will roll out the red carpet on Friday, November 11, during a gala ceremony at Kino Nostalgia that will also be open to the general public. The event will be attended by Rade Šerbedžija, a famous Yugoslav actor of Croatian origin who has made it as far as collaborating with the legendary Stanley Kubrick. As part of the grand opening, Mr. Šerbedžija will first be decorated with BIFF’s Award for Artistic Excellence in World Cinema and then he will present his directorial debut, The Liberation of Skopje (Osloboduvanje na Skopje, 2016), which he co-directed with his son, Danilo.

In an opulent cinema feast that will start Friday afternoon and last for seven days, the Bratislava film festival will dish out a great number of remarkable films such as Werner Herzog’s Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World (2016). In one of his latest pictures, the iconic director and documentarist chronicles the virtual world from its origins to the visions of near and distant future, exploring the digital landscape with the same curiosity and imagination he has previously trained on remotest earthly destinations ranging from the Amazon to the Australian outback. Herzog leads the viewer through a series of provocative conversations with leading scientists, revealing the ways in which the online world has transformed virtually everything in the real world as well as the very heart of how we conduct our personal relationships.

The Competition of Documentary Films will include a recently awarded film, The Dazzling Light of Sunset (2016), which took the main prize of the section dedicated to central and eastern European films from a documentary festival in Jihlava. In her picturesque debut, directress Salomé Jashi focused on the fun house of colorful characters from a small-town Georgian television, documenting everyday life of the local community. In cooperation with the Red Nose (Clowndoctors) civic association, BIFF once again proudly presents a charity projection that will take place on November 16 at Kino Mladosť. A stopmotion animation family feature by Swiss-French director Claude Barras that has been nominated for the LUX Film Prize, My Life as a Courgette (Ma vie de Courgette, 2016), tells a story of an orphaned boy who seeks love, a new family and his place in the sun. By buying tickets to this special screening, festival-goers will help raise extra funds for red-nosed clowndoctors and encourage them on their mission to cheer up hospitalized children and senior citizens.

For the second consecutive year, the Bratislava film festival will to take part in a unique pan-European cinema event in which another LUX Film Prize finalist, As I Open My Eyes (A peine j’ouvre les yeux, 2015), will be screened simultaneously in a number of cinema theaters all around Europe. Following the projection that is scheduled for November 15, directress Leyla Bouzid will answer questions by European film buffs in a video conference streamed live from the Bozar theatre in Brussels.

The final feature to bid farewell to the full week of film feasting will be Lion (2016), a fiction debut by director Garth Davis that premiered at this year’s Toronto IFF. It tells a compelling true tale of Saroo, a five-year-old boy who gets lost on a train that is headed away from his home and family and must overcome a series of survival tests before he is adopted by a kind Australian couple. Surrounded at last by love and security, growing-up Saroo is unable to suppress his yearning for home, which is why he resorts to Google Earth to “roam” through the streets of his native town. Starring Nicole Kidman, Dev Patel or Rooney Mara, one of the greatest needle-in-a-haystack quests of modern times has been mentioned among the candidates for Academy Award nominations. Originally a fine artist and designer, Garth Davis earned his spurs in commercials and international reputation for his TV series, Top of the Lake (2013), which was nominated for Emmy and BAFTA awards.

This year’s central theme – the city – will also be reflected upon through a series of side events to accompany the festival program. During a special workshop, inventor Jonáš Gruska will introduce Elektrosluch™, a device designed to listen to electromagnetic fields that has become popular among musicians, world-famous sound designers but also ghost seekers. Workshop participants will be able to assemble their own device and subsequently test it around the city. Another event to lure festival-goers into the streets of Bratislava will be commented sightseeing tours through select film locations. Competent tour guides with the M_P_ Bratislava project that focuses on national history and geography will take you to places where Fountain for Zuzana, Sun in the Net, Peacemaker or Wilsonov were made. Last but not least, the festival will also feature City Visible – City Invisible, an open discussion in which Jana Ambrózová, moderator of a popular radio show Živé mesto_FM (Living City_FM) along with her guests will explore Bratislava’s multifaceted nature.

Part of the program section entitled Flashback: U.S. Presidential Elections will also be Elections & Media, an open discussion that will look back at the latest stunner just days after the grand finale. Moderator Branislav Ondrášik and his guests will review the final months of election campaigning and grasp them through the prism of media coverage and the way the media create and construe the public image of political candidates. This highly topical section will be complemented with a triplet of documentary films that map out the phenomenon of U.S, presidential elections from the early 1960s until the present day.

The program section Focus: Croatia will also include an open discussion on Generation of 68 (Generacija ’68, 2016), a film by Nenad Puhovski on a revolutionary generation of Yugoslav youth, or a discussion panel entitled Countenance of Contemporary Croatian Cinema during which Hrvoje Hribar, Director of the Croatian Audio-Visual Centre (HAVC) will answer the question why Croatian cinema has begun to thrive in recent years.

Like every year, BIFF will hold a series of discussions and master classes featuring filmmakers who will visit the festival to present their films in person. Among the most expected highlights of the festival is Master Class by Alex Ross Perry, an American independent filmmaker who has produced several remarkable and award-winning films. During his master class, Mr. Perry will discuss artistic freedom and his fascination with conventional film stock that are typical traits of his films.

As usually, the festival will be accompanied by an ample portion of evening and late-night side events hosted by the Fuga music club. Quite unusually, though, a bunch of Slovak filmmakers, the festival’s foreign guests and members of international jury panels will seize control of the club’s DJ mixing console on Monday, November 14, to reveal their taste in music for festival-goers. Every day, the after-party at the club will be pepped up by music bands such as Lazer Viking, Sabrehart, Genuine Jacks or Max Bazowski with their alternative friends from Brno. During chilly November days, festival-goers may seek comfort at Urban Space, the festival’s official lounge that will also host several side events.

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