The 2021 South East European Film Festival (SEEfest) (April 28-May 5), announced the lineup of official selections for the 16th annual virtual edition of the Los Angeles-based film festival.
SEEfest will honor internationally celebrated author Dubravka Ugrešić (“The Age of Skin,” “Baba Yaga Laid an Egg”) with this year’s Legacy Award and Marija Škaričić (Mare) and Jasna Djuričić (Quo Vadis, Aida?) with the film festival’s inaugural Mira Furlan Memorial Acting Award.
This year’s virtual presentation is rich with premieres, including 2 world premieres (Elka Nikolova’s A Question of Survival and Kata Oláh’s My Digital Nomad), and 2 international premieres, Jadran Boban’s That Other Village, and Sidar İnan Erçelik’s Wind Horse. Among the 7 North American premieres at SEEfest are Marko Djordjević’s My Morning Laughter, Gjergj Xhuvani’s final feature, My Lake, Ivan Živković’s Galeb (Tito’s Boat), Nebojša Slijepčević‘s 70, Ivana Marinić Kragić’s Nun of Your Business, Bruno Pavić’s Landscape Zero, and Pavel Cuzuioc’s Please Hold the Line. The 2 films making U.S. premieres are Marija Perović’s Breasts, and Catherine Harte’s Faith & Branko.
SEEfest Executive Director Vera Mijojlić, said, “This is another exciting year programming-wise with several films from South East Europe set to make their debut here in the States with our virtual film festival presentation. We are especially excited to host a conversation with our wonderful Legacy Award honoree Dubravka Ugrešić on April 17 and the opportunity to celebrate the great work by Marija Škaričić and Jasna Djuričić, who star in four of our highly anticipated selections, Mare, Breasts, Quo Vadis, Aida?, and My Morning Laughter with the inaugural Mira Furlan Memorial Acting Award, paying homage to our talented and beloved actor, who died earlier this year.”
Making their world premieres at SEEfest will be two documentaries, including Elka Nikolova’s US and Bulgarian co-production, A Question of Survival, which traces the legacy of the Holocaust in the Balkans, as seen through the eyes -and conflicting memories- of three Bulgarian Jewish survivors in New York, and Kata Oláh’s My Digital Nomad, an intimate, first-person documentary from Hungary about the nomadic lifestyle turns into an intimate conversation between mother and daughter throughout countries and years;.
SEEfest’s 2 International premieres include; Jadran Boban’s Croatian film That Other Village about a remote village that changed twice its name, population and its own history as it continues to be torn by never ending historical traumas triggering new conflicts; and Sidar İnan Erçelik’s Wind Horse, a poetic Turkish film which tells the story of two shepherds from Anatolia, one of whom becomes a celebrated jockey; the film juxtaposes human desire for success with the toll on the spirit of freedom in both humans and horses.
North American premieres include; Ivana Marinić Kragić’s Nun of Your Business, a Croatian film about two young nuns, driven by their blossoming love, who choose to leave the convent and start a new life together; Marko Djordjević’s My Morning Laughter, a Serbian dramedy about a 30-year-old trying to lose his virginity; and the late Gjergj Xhuvani’s final feature, My Lake, an Albanian drama about a man who has become a small-time marijuana smuggler to support his family.
Following in the tradition of SEEfest films which bring to life world history in a dynamic way is Ivan Živković’s Galeb (Tito’s Boat), a Croatian film which tells the story of the ship that Yugoslav president Tito sailed numerous times, visiting close to 20 countries as he negotiated an alliance of non-aligned countries, the world’s largest after the United Nations. Other North American premieres include Nebojša Slijepčević‘s 70, a documentary about the LADO Ensemble, the only professional folk music and dance ensemble in Croatia;
Bruno Pavić’s Croatian film, Landscape Zero will also make itsNorth American Premiere, as will Pavel Cuzuioc’s Austrian film Please Hold the Line. The former follows the lives of people who are either fighting for their survival among dangerous facilities surrounding their homes or coexisting with them in harmony, while the latter focuses on cable technicians in Eastern Europe as they navigate a modern-day Tower of Babel. One of the 2 films making its U.S. premiere is Catherine Harte’s Faith & Branko, an intimate story chronicles the relationship between musicians Faith and Branko over seven years.
Mira Furlan Memorial Acting Award honoree Marija Škaričić stars in two other highly anticipated films among SEEfest’s official selections. Andrea Štaka’s Mare, a multiple award-winner including the Solothurn Prize, is a Swiss and Croatian co-production about a woman dedicated to her family life, yet always feeling out of place until a chance romantic encounter with a new neighbor just may put everything to the test. Marija Perović’s Breasts, which makes its U.S. premiere, is a light-hearted drama from Montenegro about four friends from high school brought together again at their 20-year reunion, who all are forced to go beyond the usual pleasantries when it is revealed that one of them has become gravely ill.
Fellow Mira Furlan Memorial Acting Award honoree Jasna Djuričić stars in Jasmila Žbanić’s Quo Vadis, Aida?. a 2021 Academy Award nominee for International Feature Film from Bosnia Herzegovina, the film follows a translator for the UN in a small town taken over by the Serbian army forcing her to use her connections as an insider to look out for the safety of her family and people. Eugen Jebeleanu’s directorial debut Poppy Field follows the struggle of a young Romanian gendarme who tries to balance two opposing parts of his identity: that of a man working in a macho hierarchical environment and that of a closeted gay man. Andrei Zinca’s So, What’s Freedom? is a Romania and U.S. co-production inspired by real events exploring how the lives of a group of people turn when they discover their freedom has become a forced exile.
The South East European Film Festival (SEEfest) is co-presented by ELMA, foundation for European Languages and Movies in America.
2021 South East European Film Festival – Los Angeles’ Official Selections
Breasts (U.S. Premiere)
Director: Marija Perović
Country: Montenegro; Running time: 92 min
Twenty year high-school reunion brings together four friends. One of them is gravely ill. The rest want to help her. But to do that, they first have to find out who they really are.
Cream (West Coast Premiere)
Director: Nóra Lakos
Country: Hungary; Running time: 89 min
The love of Dora’s life broke up with her, even worse: he married another woman. She starts a pastry shop where she makes unfulfilled love sweet by selling pastries named after famous unfulfilled love couples from film history. When her pastry shop appears to be lost too she makes up her mind to get her love and her pastry shop back, even if she has to lie to do it. On her way, she meets other families as well as her ex-boyfriend and his new wife. These meetings make her realize the love she hangs on to has no basis in reality. Dora stops living in a state of romantic self-pity, ends the lying and opens up to the possibility of a new, real relationship.
EST (West Coast Premiere)
Director: Antonio Pisu
Country: Italy/Romania; Running time: 103 min
A few weeks before the Fall of the Berlin Wall, Pago, Rice and Bibi, twenty-four (twenty-five) years old, leave the calm city of Cesena looking for adventure: a ten-days-long holiday in Eastern Europe, in those places where the Soviet regime is still alive. As they get to Budapest, they meet Emil, a Romanian fleeing from the dictatorship in his country. The man is worried for his family that still lives in Romania, so he asks the three Italians for help. It is an easy task: take a suitcase to his wife and daughter. Out of pity and looking for a thrill, the three friends head to Bucharest, in the heart of Ceausescu’s dictatorship. Without knowing what is waiting for them, in a journey beyond their imagination, Pago, Rice and Bibi will find themselves in a country under the dictatorial regime, involved in surreal situations and surrounded by unlikely characters that will seriously put their lives at risk.
Fear (LA Premiere)
Director: Ivaylo Hristov
Country: Bulgaria; Running time: 100 min
Svetla, a strong-willed widow, lives alone in a small Bulgarian village close to the Turkish border. She has recently lost her job as a teacher due to the lack of families with young children. One day, while hunting in a forest, she encounters an African refugee, Bamba, who is trying to reach Germany, and will bring about a dramatic turn in her life. Reluctantly, she offers him hospitality, but day after day, a bond develops as Bamba learns the language and takes part in her daily life. Svetla will make life-changing choices that go against her traditional community creating a revolt among the villagers. Absurd, comic and tragic situations ensue as she breaks barriers of loneliness, close mindedness and fear of the outsider.
In The Shadows (LA Premiere)
Director: Erdem Tepegöz
Country: Turkey; Running time: 96 min
In a dystopia of undefined place and time, dominated by primitive technology, a group of people is being controlled by an omnipresent surveillance system. When one of them contracts a mysterious disease, out of fear to lose his job he tries to contact the Officials. Doubts arise about the structure he is working in. By questioning the system, he gets to know the depths of this structure which is darker than he thought.
Mare (West Coast Premiere)
Director: Andrea Štaka
Country: Croatia/Switzerland; Running time: 84 min
Mare has never flown, although she lives right next to the airport with her husband and their three teenage kids. She loves her family, cares for them, but sometimes almost feels like a stranger in her own home. Who are these people she lives with? Mare finds herself gazing at the planes overhead, longing for change and the unknown. When one day a young man moves into the house next door, she puts her life to the test.
My Morning Laughter (North American Premiere)
Director: Marko Djordjević
Country: Serbia; Running time: 94 min
MY MORNING LAUGHTER tells the hilariously tragic story of a man who has lived for too long under his parents’ wings. 28-year-old Dejan and his mother visit a fortune teller who bluntly asks Dejan what his sex life is like. The clairvoyant sees right through Dejan’s refusal to answer: “You’re a wimp.” Dejan’s mother sits down for her reading, and she is advised to devote herself to another man in her life. She is the cause of her adult son’s problems. But there is hope for Dejan. A female colleague isn’t easily put off.
My Lake (North American Premiere)
Director: Gjergj Xhuvani
Country: Albania; Running time: 100 min
Young Kristo lives in a village at the edge of gorgeous Lake Prespa, a body of water divided on the borders of three Balkan countries Albania, North Macedonia and Greece. In order to support his family, Kristo has become a small-time marijuana smuggler, using his boat and knowledge of the lake waters to transport drug packages from the Albanian to the Macedonian side.
Poppy Field (West Coast Premiere)
Director: Eugen Jebeleanu
Country: Romania; Running time: 81 min
Poppy Field follows the struggle of a young Romanian gendarme, Cristi, who tries to find the balance between two apparently opposing parts of his identity: that of a man working in a macho hierarchical environment and that of a closeted gay person who tries to keep his personal life a secret.
Quo Vadis, Aida? (screening out of competition)
Director: Jasmila Žbanić
Country: Bosnia Herzegovina; Running time: 102 min
Bosnia, July 1995.Aida is a translator for the UN in the small town of Srebrenica. When the Serbian army takes over the town, her family is among the thousands of citizens looking for shelter in the UN camp. As an insider to the negotiations Aida has access to crucial information that she needs to interpret. What is on the horizon for her family and people – rescue or death? Which move should she take?
So, What’s Freedom?
Director: Andrei Zinca
Country: Romania/US; Running time: 93 min
The lives of a group of people turn when they discover true freedom into a forced exile. This story of love, survival and thirst for freedom is inspired by real events, which took place in 1951, in a country (Romania) which had been recently subjugated by a totalitarian regime, and is told from a present day perspective.
Galeb (Tito’s Boat)(North American Premiere)
Director: Ivan Živković
Country: Croatia; Running time: 56 min
This is the story of the ship that Yugoslav president Tito sailed on 14 times, visiting 18 countries on three continents. On these trips he successfully negotiated an alliance of non-aligned countries, the world’s largest after the United Nations. Yugoslavia was the leader of the Non-Aligned Movement, and Tito its charismatic leader.
70 (North American Premiere)
Director: Nebojša Slijepčević
Country: Croatia; Running time: 48 min
Through three personal stories, we learn about LADO Ensemble, the only professional folk music and dance ensemble in Croatia, which has been giving extraordinary performances for 70 years. We learn about its artists, their everyday life and challenges.
A Question Of Survival (World Premiere)
Director: Elka Nikolova
Countries: USA/Bulgaria; Running time: 56 min
A Question of Survival is a documentary film about the legacy of the Holocaust in the Balkans, as seen through the eyes -and conflicting memories- of three Bulgarian Jewish survivors in New York. Chaim Zemach, a cellist; Robert Bakish, an engineer; and Misha Avramoff, a social worker on the Lower East side of Manhattan in New York, were living with their families in Bulgaria during the country’s alliance with the Nazis. When in March 1943 the Bulgarian government first postponed and ultimately cancelled the imminent deportation of the entire Bulgarian Jewish community of 48 000, Misha, Chaim and Robert were ages 5, 14 and 17. After the war their families left Bulgaria. The three young Bulgarians only grasped how close they came to death after they arrived in New York and learned the fate of millions of European Jews.
Faith & Branko (U.S. Premiere)
Director: Catherine Harte
Country: Serbia/UK; Running time: 82 min
This intimate story chronicles the relationship between musicians Faith and Branko over seven years. In 2011, Faith travels from England to Serbia to learn gypsy accordion. She meets Roma violinist Branko and despite language barriers, they fall in love through music. Captivated by their musical chemistry, they marry and take their duo abroad. As much as Faith is free-spirited and privileged, Branko is untraveled and attached to his family, but they each believe that the other will better their lives. The relationship is tested by the realization of their differences and that music may be all they have in common.
Glory to The Queen (West Coast Premiere)
Directors: Tatia Skhirtladze, Anna Khazaradze
Country: Georgia/Austria; Running time: 82 min
During the Cold War, the four legendary female chess players from Georgia revolutionized women’s chess across the globe, and became Soviet icons of female emancipation. Glory to the Queen reveals their interwoven biographies and is both – a rare look into the present lives of chess stars Nona Gaprindashvili, Nana Alexandria, Maia Chiburdanidze and Nana Ioseliani, as well as a chronicle of their lasting legacy.
Landscape Zero (North American Premiere)
Director: Bruno Pavić
Country: Croatia; Running time: 71 min
A small coastal area has been destroyed by the presence of industrial facilities. The film follows the lives of people who are either fighting for their survival among the dangerous facilities or coexisting with them in harmony. Everyday scenes intertwine with different art performances, depicting the adjustment of people and animals to the degraded environment.
Line Of Life (LA Premiere)
Director: Darko Bajić
Country: Serbia; Running time: 95 min
A film about the painter and professor Miloš Bajić. But it`s also a film about life in the 20th century, which brought to the Balkan region a period of great destruction and great reconstruction. The cruelty of war in which human life was worth as much as a man was able to work in a monstrous concentration camp. About 11 million people who did not get the chance to live, create and build families after that war. And about how the main character of this film defeats his own death with his imagination and art.
My Digital Nomad (World Premiere)
Director: Kata Oláh
Country: Hungary; Running time: 78 min
A documentary about the nomadic lifestyle turns into an intimate conversation between mother and daughter throughout countries and years. Images from the family archive complete this mother-daughter relation portrait, a personal film that also raises universal themes about motherly responsibility, searching for freedom and everything in between.
Nun of Your Business (North American Premiere)
Director: Ivana Marinić Kragić
Country: Croatia; Running time: 71 min
Two young nuns meet during a Catholic gathering in Croatia and fall in love. They live in two separate convents, but the spaces they once considered havens of solace and spiritual fulfillment turn out to be more “earthly” than expected. Disillusioned by the Church and the sexual and psychological abuse within, yet driven by blossoming love, they make the most difficult decision of their life – to leave the convent, start a new life together on the island and seek acceptance from the traditional local community.
Please Hold the Line (North American Premiere)
Director: Pavel Cuzuioc
Country: Austria; Running time: 86 min
Cable technicians in Eastern Europe navigate a modern-day Tower of Babel. With unflappable humor and a dose of philosophy, the technicians hold the line in a dissonant world.
That Other Village (International Premiere)
Director: Jadran Boban
Country: Croatia; Running time: 73 min
Hidden on the outskirts of Europe, nested between two mountains in Eastern Croatia, lies a village that changed twice its name, population and its own history. This village, that has two cemeteries, is immersed in numerous unspoken and conflicting memories passed on from generation to generation. Recollection of past inter-ethnic conflicts is being transformed as to forever keep a seed of future suffering, trauma and war. The village that used to be the home of two nations becomes a paradigm of a vicious cycle of mutual feelings of injustice and generalization of guilt, forever trapped in never ending historical traumas of the 20th century.
Director: Tassos Morfis
Country: Greece; Running time: 53 min
The documentary captures the struggle of 320 unpaid seamen of the Lesvos Shipping Company – one of Greece’s most historic maritime companies- in 2015. With many trapped in the company’s vessels in Drapetsona, a part of the Piraeus port, and away from the spotlight, the camera captures their efforts to receive their back wages for 7 months, following them from the docks to the Prime Ministers office during the most critical times in Greece’s modern history.
Wind Horse (International Premiere)
Director: Sidar İnan Erçelik
Country: Turkey; Running time: 80 min
Wind Horse is a poetic Turkish film which borrows its title from Asian shamanism where the term is used as a metaphor to describe the human soul. Through a story of two shepherds from Anatolia, one of whom becomes a celebrated jockey, the film juxtaposes human desire for success with the toll on the spirit of freedom in both humans and horses.
Director: Áron Horváth Botka
Country: Slovenia; Running Time: 15 min
Director: Olga Koleva
Country: Bulgaria; Running Time: 20 min
Director: Ozan Turgut
Country: Turkey; Running Time: 4 min
Director: Jovana Avramovic
Country: Serbia; Running Time: 20 min
Director: István Hevesi
Country: Hungary; Running Time: 13 min
Director: Galina D. Georgieva
Country: Bulgaria; Running Time: 20 min
I’m Calling Your Father
Director: Leon Ristov
Country: N. Macedonia; Running Time: 12 min
Director: Ana Pasti
Country: Romania; Running time: 20 min
Director: Aleksandra Nestorov
Country: Serbia; Running Time: 16 min
Directors: Farnoosh Samadi, Ali Asgari
Country: Turkey; Running Time: 17 min
Director: Aleksandar Vujović
Country: Montenegro; Running Time: 17 min
Small Talk with The Bad Man
Directors: Meni Tsilialidou, Nikos Kolioukos
Country: Greece; Running Time: 15 min
Director: Andrej I. Volkashin
Country: N. Macedonia; Running Time: 20 min
Director: Georgi M. Unkovski
Country: N. Macedonia; Running Time: 19 min
The Thousand and One Night
Director: Mahsum Taskin
Country: Turkey; Running Time: 17 min
Directors: Sylvia Nicolaides, Nicolas Iordanou
Country: Cyprus; Running Time: 19 min
Director: Christos Sagias
Country: Greece; Running Time: 30 min
Director: David Lusicic
Country: Croatia; Running Time: 14 min
Director: Vuk Dapčević
Country: Serbia; Running Time: 10 min
Our Lady’s Peace
Director: Vladimir Perović
Country: Montenegro; Running Time: 18.5 min
Salads That Heal
Director: Didem Tali
Country: Turkey; Running Time: 4 min
Teo My Neighbor
Director: Christos Karteris
Country: Greece; Running Time: 14 min
This Is Right; Zack Life and After
Director: Gevi Dimitrakopoulou
Country: Greece; Running Time: 13 min
We Are All Going to Die
Director: ;Sashko Potter Micevski
Country: N. Macedonia; Running Time: 25 min
All Those Sensations in My Belly
Director: Marko Djeska
Country: Croatia; Running Time: 13.5 min
Director: Natko Stipaničev
Country: Croatia; Running Time: 14.5 min
Director: Kata Gugic
Country: Croatia; Running Time: 4.5 min
Director: Marija Vulic
Country: Serbia; Running Time: 7 min
Director: Zsofia Katona
Countries: USA/Hungary; Running Time: 3.5 min
Sasa and Petre
Director: Luca Istodor
Country: Romania; Running time: 11 min