Since 1991, Cottbus (on the upper reaches of the Spree, about 120 km southeast of Berlin) has been the yearly scene of a small-but-intense film festival showcasing new films from ‘Eastern Europe’, from Central Asia and the Balkans, while offering attendees the chance to rub elbows with up-and-coming directors in cosy screening rooms and local bars.
This year embraces 140 films from 33 countries. The main competition includes Bosnia’s haunting Children of Sarajevo, from award-winning director Aida Begic, which explores the legacies of war affecting two orphaned siblings in Sarajevo, and Croatian director Arsen Anton Ostojić’s Halima’s Path, about the devastation of war from the perspective of a grieving mother.
Don’t miss award-winning You are God from Poland’s Leszek Dawid, an account of Polish hip hop band Paktofonika’s brief, surreal moment in the spotlight, terminated by a group member’s suicide. Deadpan satirical romcom Kokoko from Russian director Avdotya Smirnova explores the attraction/repulsion of polar opposites as two women embark on an unlikely cohabitation in St. Petersburg.
As for Paul Negoescu’s debut, A Month in Thailand, it is a new wave-esque effort at portraying Romania’s twenty-something europudding middle class – as expressed through the emotional procrastination of an indecisive young Bucharestian guy over a long night of New Year’s Eve clubbing.
A number of films unite Eastern Europe and Latin America in the category Global East: The Argentinean Lesson from Poland’s Wojciech Staron shows a friendship between a young émigré Polish boy and a local girl that flourishes in a stunningly rendered rural setting before falling prey to underlying economic and family pressures, and Gerardo Herrero’s Frozen Silence is an unusual exploration of loyalty and betrayal in the Spanish pro-Franco division fighting alongside the Wehrmacht in WWII Soviet Union.
Other films to watch out for include Me Too, Russian box office smasher Aleksei Balabanov’s latest surprise, a mystical road movie involving a gangster and a hard-drinking musician (later joined by a philosophy graduate prostitute set to spend most of her screen time running stark naked into snow), whilst I’ll be Around from Pavel Ruminov is a ruthlessly unsentimental look at a young, terminally ill mother’s search for foster parents for her son.
The festival opens with the Hungarian Final Cuts – Ladies and Gentlemen, an 84-minute mind trip through 500 cuts of movie classics.
All films with English subtitles. A selection of Cottbus films will be shown at Berlin’s Kino Krokodil in late November/early December (www.kino-krokodil.de).
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22. FILMFESTIVAL COTTBUS, Nov 6-11 | www.filmfestivalcottbus.de