THE FATHER’S SHADOW (A SOMBRA DO PAI) by Gabriela Amaral Almeida
THE FATHER’S SHADOW (A SOMBRA DO PAI) by Gabriela Amaral Almeida

The Brazilian mystery-thriller THE FATHER’S SHADOW (A SOMBRA DO PAI) by Gabriela Amaral Almeida will open the 32nd edition of exground filmfest in Wiesbaden, Germany. The festival will be hosting the German premiere of the film, which also serves as the kick-off for this year’s Country Focus on Brazil.

Following her mother’s death, nine-year-old Dalva lives with her aunt and father. While the latter begins to see ghosts and sink ever deeper into depression, Dalva attempts to reanimate her mother. With convincing performances from the ensemble cast, in particular Nina Medeiros as Dalva, Gabriela Amaral Almeida pulls off a well-balanced mixture of drama, horror and fantasy elements.

THE FATHER’S SHADOW (A SOMBRA DO PAI) Trailer

From November 15 to 24, the popular indie film fest – exground filmfest will be presenting a total of roughly 200 independently produced short and feature-length films at Wiesbaden’s Caligari FilmBühne, Murnau-Filmtheater and inside the crypt of the city’s Marktkirche church.

The Invisible Life of Eurídice Gusmão, directed by Karim Aïnouz
The Invisible Life of Eurídice Gusmão, directed by Karim Aïnouz

In addition to the opening film, the Country Focus on Brazil features approximately 20 other current and historical short and feature-length films from Brazil, an exhibition showcasing Brazilian video art, an exhibition with work from photographer and Brazil expert Anja Kessler as well as two panel discussions on the situation for filmmakers and current human rights issues in Brazil. The film program includes award winning  BACURAU by Kleber Mendonça Filho and Juliano Dornelles, starring Udo Kier as a sadistic bounty hunter, or Karim Aïnouz’s most recent work THE INVISIBLE LIFE OF EURIDICE GUSMÃO (A VIDA INVISÍVEL DE EURÍDICE GUSMÃO). The latter, a drama set in 1950s Rio de Janeiro depicting two dissimilar sisters, is Brazil’s official submission for the Academy Award in the Best Foreign Language Film category.

Additional films also have a shot at the Oscar for best international film, including in the festival’s section for young film fans, the exground youth days, features Mounia Meddour’s PAPICHA, Algeria’s official Academy Awards submission. Set in Algiers in 1997, the film portrays the risky exploits of brave young Nedjima and Wassila, who regularly remove their hijabs and don racy outfits at night before hitting the club.

The International section features a screening of Swedish Oscar candidate AND THEN WE DANCED from Georgian-Swedish director Levan Akin. Young dancer Merab’s life revolves exclusively around his career in Georgia’s national ballet company, until one day carefree Irakli joins the company, quickly becoming Merab’s biggest rival and object of desire at the same time. The film received no less than three prizes at Odessa International Film Festival, including best film and best actress for Levan Gelbakhiani.

Gabriela Calvache’s drama THE LONGEST NIGHT (LA MALA NOCHE) will be entering the Oscar fray for Ecuador. The situation seems hopeless for young mother Dana, whose prescription drug habit has forced her to become a prostitute. There seems to be no escape from dependency on her violent pimp – at least until Dana resolves to take her fate into her own hands. Gabriela Calvache’s debut takes an uncompromising look at the consequences of sexual violence and the exploitation of women and children in Latin America.

It Must Be Heaven directed by Elia Suleiman
It Must Be Heaven directed by Elia Suleiman

In the Palestinian Oscar submission IT MUST BE HEAVEN by Elia Suleiman, the director himself appears before the camera as his alter ego, as so often the case in his films. Here, Suleiman ends up far from his homeland of Palestine when the search for a new place to lay his head takes him to New York and Paris, among other locales. With copious humour, the “Buster Keaton of the Near East” manages to tackle the serious topic of the Palestinian conflict.

Amazing Grace
Amazing Grace

Aside from potential Oscar nominees, films on this year’s program include two strong documentaries: AMAZING GRACE depicts the live recording of Aretha Franklin’s eponymous 1972 album, which would go on to become the most successful gospel record of all time, and the deeply touching documentary FOR SAMA by Waad al-Kateab and Edward Watts takes the audience to the bombed-out streets of Aleppo. With her camera, over the course of five long years young filmmaker Waad al-Kateab captured life in the Syrian city, where she choose to remain and give birth to her daughter Sama in spite of all warnings to the contrary. Among other honors, the film received the award for best documentary in Cannes.

In the Made in Germany series, the competition for Germany’s only award presented by an inmate jury, DAS BRETT, features Jan Bonny’s rural thriller WE WOULD BE DIFFERENT: Rupert Seidlein (Matthias Brandt) returns to his hometown, where as a 15-year-old he was witness to the police fatally wounding his parents and best friend, a crime that went unpunished. Rupert seems to have made his peace with the past, until the murder of one of the police officers involved in the incident raises fresh doubts. Seidlein’s wife (Silke Bodenbender) suspects that her husband is far from having overcome his trauma.

In his newest work ABOUT ENDLESSNESS, Swedish director Roy Andersson also treats the pain, vulnerability and beauty that characterize life on Earth. In diverse episodes, Andersson assembles gripping and mundane everyday dramas both small and large into a tragicomic kaleidoscope of human existence. Andersson received the award for best director in Venice for this effort.

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