This year’s 54th Karlovy Vary IFF East of the West competition is showing eight world, three international, and one European premiere, with eight of the competing films being debuts. The opening film is Aga’s House, the feature-length debut by Kosovo director Lendita Zeqiraj, who authentically re-creates the vibrant world of the energetic female protagonists.
The competition, this year characterized by a diverse range of genres and distinctive formal approaches, also includes Ukrainian director Antonio Lukich’s tragicomic, visually inventive road movie My Thoughts Are Silent; the Slovak hybrid film Silent Days, in which Pavol Pekarčík sensitively weaves together four little stories reflecting the inner life of deaf Romani children; Serbian director Stefan Malešević’s conceptual triptych Mamonga; and Serhat Karaaslan’s Turkish psychological study Passed by Censor. The Czech Republic is represented by Michal Hogenauer’s drama A Certain Kind of Silence.
Karlovy Vary IFF 2019 EAST OF THE WEST COMPETITION
Akher Ziyarah / Last Visit / Poslední návštěva
Director: Abdulmohsen Aldhabaan
Saudi Arabia, 2019, 76 min, World premiere
On the way to a wedding Nasser finds out that his father is dying. He changes plans and heads straight off with his adolescent son Waleed to his dad’s small town. However, the strictly upheld customs they encounter in this rural environment start to affect Waleed and Nasser’s relationship. Using the story of a family encounter as its backdrop, the film adopts a realistic approach to discussing Islamic traditions while it examines the true nature of paternal love.
Arest / Arrest / Vazba
Director: Andrei Cohn
Romania, 2019, 126 min, International premiere
August 1983, somewhere in Romania. The bright summer’s day that Dinu is spending with his family on the beach is darkened by the arrival of the police and his unexplained arrest. He finds himself sharing a cell with small-time crook Vali, who soon proves to be quite a www.kviff.com sinister fellow inmate. A formally inventive drama about the chilling absurdity of totalitarian regimes.
Byk / The Bull / Býk
Director: Boris Akopov
Russia, 2019, 99 min, International premiere
Gang leader Anton Bykov, known as the Bull, ends up at the police station after a scuffle with a rival criminal group. He only manages to avoid prison thanks to the intervention of a feared mafia boss, who nevertheless asks him to pull off a risky job in return. A taut feature debut from one-time ballet dancer Boris Akopov, surprising for its maturity and compulsive dynamism.
Görülmüştür / Passed by Censor / Cenzor
Director: Serhat Karaaslan
Turkey, 2018, 95 min, International premiere
Zakir works in a prison as a censor. Each day he reads dozens of letters, carefully blacking out everything not meant for the eyes of those serving time. A photograph inserted into one of the letters disrupts his regular routine, and his interest in the unknown woman in the picture grows into an obsession. A psychological study of an individual who gradually loses his personal and professional integrity while becoming trapped in his own fantasy world.
Hluché dni / Silent Days / Hluché dny
Director: Pavol Pekarčík
Slovak Republic, Czech Republic, 2019, 81 min, World premiere
The heroes of the four stories told in Silent Days all have their dreams and desires. But they also have something else in common: they live on the fringes of society in a private world closed off from the outside – even more so since they cannot hear… In a film partaking of both fiction and documentary, hearing-impaired Romany children move about in their own environment as director Pavol Pekarčík deftly textures little stories reflecting their inner lives.
Mamonga / Mamonga / Mamonga
Director: Stefan Malešević
Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, 2019, 92 min, World premiere
Jovana works behind the counter at a bakery in the small town where she lives with her father. Her somewhat shy peer Marko is supposed to follow in his own father’s footsteps and become a truck driver. But the events of one night change both their lives… Serbian director Stefan Malešević debuts with a formalistically distinctive triptych whose loose narrative structure challenges the viewer to actively participate in putting together the pieces of the mosaic.
Moi dumki tikhi / My Thoughts Are Silent / Mé tiché myšlenky
Director: Antonio Lukich
Ukraine, 2019, 104 min, World premiere
Twenty-five-year-old Vadym works as a sound recordist. When a generous job offer comes along which could help him fulfil his dream to move to Canada, he doesn’t think twice and sets out to record the sounds of animals in the Carpathians… In his visually inspired road movie, subtly enhanced by its synthesized score, debuting director Antonio Lukich demonstrates a highly unusual talent for constructing tragicomic situations.
Nova Lituania / Nova Lituania / Nova Lituania
Director: Karolis Kaupinis
Lithuania, 2019, 96 min, World premiere
1938. A new war looms on the horizon. Geographer Gruodis comes up with a creative solution to the situation: He proposes creating a “backup Lithuania” overseas, a place where the country’s inhabitants could move in case of danger… Working with carefully composed black-and-white shots, debuting director Karolis Kaupinis has recast this original idea into the gripping drama of a man trying to save his homeland and while facing the collapse of his marriage.
Shpia e Agës / Aga’s House / Agův dům
Director: Lendita Zeqiraj
Kosovo, Croatia, France, Albania, 2019, 107 min, World premiere
A diverse group of women live in a remote mountain location. The only male element in the house is nine-year-old Aga, the son of one of the women. Opening the East of the West competition, Lendita Zeqiraj’s debut authentically re-creates the vibrant world of her energetic female protagonists, in which the flow of stories, the sound of singing, and coarse humor cannot mask the dark undertone of their country’s wartime past and its enduring ethnic tensions.
Skandinaavia vaikus / Scandinavian Silence / Skandinávské ticho
Director: Martti Helde
Estonia, France, Belgium, 2019, 75 min, European premiere
A brother and sister set out across a silent winter landscape, but after years apart they have difficulty communicating. This minimalist study of a difficult sibling relationship presents three versions of the same story, asking whether time can heal the wounds of the past.
Tiché doteky / A Certain Kind of Silence / Tiché doteky
Director: Michal Hogenauer
Czech Republic, Netherlands, Latvia, 2019, 96 min, World premiere
Mia goes to live with a family as their au pair. As soon as she arrives, however, she discovers that they have strict household rules: breaking any of them will lead to her immediate dismissal. The young woman has to decide whether to preserve her integrity or conform to a lifestyle that is utterly alien to her.
Zizotek / Zizotek / Zizotek
Director: Vardis Marinakis
Greece, 2019, 92 min, World premiere
After nine-year-old Jason is abandoned by his mother at a folk festival, he takes refuge in a cabin in the middle of the forest belonging to a mute loner named Minas. Although at first the man, who has a questionable profession, won’t take him in, a series of circumstances eventually leads them to form a family – something both of them have lacked for a long time. A touching tale of harmony and the yearning for intimacy that will captivate audiences with its dreamlike atmosphere.
Greece, 2019, 92 min, World premiere After nine-year-old Jason is abandoned by his mother at a folk festival, he takes refuge in a cabin in the middle of the forest belonging to a mute loner named Minas. Although at first the man, who has a questionable profession, won’t take him in, a series of circumstances eventually leads them to form a family – something both of them have lacked for a long time. A touching tale of harmony and the yearning for intimacy that will captivate audiences with its dreamlike atmosphere.