37th Flanders International Film Festival

OK, a bit too late this year because I already saw one film, but as usual here’s my program for the film festival this year. Just the titles and abstracts for now. Some reviews might follow later.

Thursday 14 October

Bornova Bornova

“Bornova Bornova” is set at a time when dreams have dwindled and sanity is hard to hold on to. Even the prospect of a regular routine life now holds great promise. Salih and Hakan, who spend their entire time outside the local grocery store hoping to get lucky one day, are like brothers. Hakan is just back from military service and the football career he longed for was over before it even began because of injury, leaving him with neither skills nor a job. His hope is to become a taxi driver. Salih, the local psychopath, is the only person who listens to Hakan, the only person to give him advice. Although he comes from a good family, Salih is mixed up in all manner of unlawful activity in the neighbourhood. Everyone’s scared of him, even Ozlem, the high school girl Hakan is crazy about although he has never dared to speak to her. Salih’s childhood friend Murat is a postgraduate philosophy student, who earns a living writing erotic fantasies. One day, he tells Hakan about an incident between Salih and Ozlem that inspired one of his erotic fantasies. But as it turns out, nothing is like what Murat has told him…

Friday 15 october

Bi, dung so!

Six-year-old Bi lives with his parents, his aunt and a maid in an old house in Hanoi. His parents’ relationship is getting worse. Bi always plays by himself under the observation of the maid. His favourite playgrounds are an ice factory and the wild grass along the river. One day, his grandfather, a retired diplomat, comes home, seriously ill. He has been absent for years. At first, Bi is scared by this strange man, but later his curiosity brings him closer to him. Bi’s father tries to avoid any contact with his family and often gets drunk. Every night he leaves the house to make love with his masseuse. His wife senses his desire but tolerates the situation. Bi’s aunt, a single high school teacher, meets a 16-year-old student on the bus. Her strong desire for him upsets her. “Bi, Don’t Be Afraid!” is a thoughtful cinematic exploration of inchoate longing and of the messy consequences of physical decline and encroaching death.

Saturday 16 october

Shahada

In “Shahada”, Afghan-German filmmaker Burhan Qurbani elegantly weaves together the stories of three young Muslims living in Berlin. During the course of their stories, their faith and their value systems begin to falter. Forced by circumstances, they have to find a new path in life and ask themselves who they are, who they love and what they believe in. Maryam is a young Turkish woman raised in Germany, who has adopted a Western lifestyle and isn’t much interested in the principles of Islam, which deeply worries her father. Nigerian worker Samir does not know how to deal with his love for his German friend and co-worker Daniel. Turkish police officer Ismael meets Leyla again, the woman who sustained a life-threatening injury from his weapon three years before. The encounter throws him completely off-balance. The three characters and their stories meet, develop, and depart at the local mosque, run by Maryam’s father, Vedat, a progressive and open-minded Imam. The film’s title refers to the first pillar of Islam: Shahada – the Muslim profession of faith.

Competition for Belgian Shorts by Students

  • Abandon de poste (Mohamed Bouhari)
    A black security guard and a life-size African black statue posted in the entry of an art gallery, just in front of his workplace, start a silent duel.
  • Astaghfiro (Adil El Arbi & Bilall Fallah)
    Saïd, an Iraqi immigrant who has fled the war, is on his way to work when he sees a family taking pictures on a little square. He recognises the man. Saïd decides to follow the family to their hotel.
  • Ce Qui Tient (Celia Dessardo)
    Everything has been said. They all know. Something should stop. Something somehow. Nevertheless it goes on. They are all there. They talk about that and they talk about other things. They are together.
  • Concrete Mushrooms (Martijn Payens)
    750.000 bunkers were built-in Albania between 1975 and 1989. They had to protect the country against an invasion which never came. Communism fell but the bunkers remained. What should be done with these concrete mushrooms?
  • Hitomi (Manu De Smet)
    Tom, a young man, has a strong connection with the Japanese culture. Samurai, Jiu Jitsu, calligraphy; not a day goes by without it. When a young Asian lady enters his life, he sees his knowledge of the culture as the perfect way to attract her.
  • Marie (Jozefien Scheepers)
    A young woman tries to find a new meaning in life after she broke up with her friend. When he suddenly turns up to get his things, she realises that everything is really over between them.
  • Altijd Samen (Jonas De Vos)
    Anna and Thomas, a young couple, arrive in a bungalow in the middle of the woods. They will try to deal with something that happened in the past. But their attempts to get closer fail and the distance between them is getting bigger. The tension mounts…
  • Pour Toi Je Ferai Bataille (Rachel Lang)
    Ana, a girl at the end of the adolescence, does not know anymore who she is and what she wants, but she chooses to fight, to arm herself; finally she finds in the group, in the discipline, and sometimes even in the alienation, a stand to be.
  • De Volgende (Barbara Raedschelders)
    A little boy is waiting his turn at the school medical…
  • Yagmur Duasi (Eser Unal)
    During a fire in the school, Azra decides to ask Allah to let it rain. It is, however, fireman Adal and his helper who extinguish the fire. Suddenly, it actually does start to rain and the dam overflows. Azra’s faith is being tested to the very limit.

Oldboys

Vagn is a middle-aged man whose life has slowly ground to a halt. He lives alone, goes to work and plays football with men of his age or even older. On the annual team trip to Sweden, the other members of the team forget him at a petrol station, with absolutely no money. There he meets petty thief John who, although just out of prison, tries to rob the petrol station. Their encounter is the beginning of a series of misunderstandings arising from the fact that Vagn has no idea who he is dealing with; John, for his part, is irked by the presence of a pushy old guy determined to catch up with his teammates’ bus with the lad’s help. Things get off to a pretty bad start but, in due course, a bond begins to develop between these two unlikely characters, and the surly Vagn gradually comes out of himself, back among the living. “Oldboys” is a Danish road movie taking in a whole series of comic, serious and, above all, well-written scenarios.

Sunday 17 October

Son of Babylon

In 2003, three weeks after the fall of Saddam Hussein, Ahmed, a 12-year-old Kurdish boy, embarks with his grandmother on a cross-country journey in search of his father, a soldier who vanished during the Gulf War. Against the backdrop of the U.S. occupation, they make their way through a country in ruins, from prison to mosque to mass grave. Despite daunting obstacles — Ahmed is responsible for all communication as his grandmother speaks no Arabic — they persevere, and along the way they meet many others on similar journeys. The two protagonists antagonize each other, but they also share isolated moments of humour. Extroverted Ahmed is loquacious and frequently obnoxious while his grandmother is mostly silent. Though Ahmed may be too young to understand fully the importance of this journey, his life will be changed forever. Featuring a magnificent performance from young Yasser Talib as Ahmed, “Son of Babylon” is a story of hope and forgiveness; one that palpably, and with great humanity, illustrates reality for many Iraqi and Kurdish people in the aftermath of Hussein’s reign.

Les Vacances de Monsieur Hulot

Monsieur Hulot makes his feature film debut in this satire of the idle bourgeoisie and their determination to enjoy themselves no matter what. M. Hulot arrives at a sleepy seaside holiday resort, unintentionally creating havoc as he stumbles from one catastrophe to another, while everyone around him puts up a brave face. Gentle, innocent and charming, this slapstick comedy remains hugely influential and set the high standards that Tati sought to exceed in his later films.

Monday 18 October

L’Illusionniste

The Illusionist is one of a dying breed of stage entertainers. With emerging rock stars stealing his thunder, he is forced to accept increasingly obscure assignments in fringe theatres, at garden parties and in bars and cafés. However, whilst performing in a village pub off the west coast of Scotland, he encounters Alice, an innocent young girl, who will change his life forever. Watching his performance to the excited villagers, Alice becomes awestruck and believes his tricks are real magic. Following him to Edinburgh, she keeps his home while he goes to work in a small local theatre. Enchanted by her enthusiasm for his act, he rewards her with increasingly lavish gifts he has ‘conjured’ into existence. Desperate not to disappoint her, he cannot bring himself to reveal that magic does not exist and that buying these gifts is driving him to ruin. But Alice comes of age…

Tuesday 19 October

Competition for European Shorts

  • Babel (Hendrick Dusollier)
    In “Babel” director Hendrick Dusollier presents a very personal and exceptional image of modern China. From the celestial mountains to the peak of Shanghai’s towers, two young peasants have to leave their village to get to the metropolis.
  • Berik (Daniel Joseph Borgman)
    Berik was born blind and deformed. His disability was caused by radioactive pollution. He spends his days at home – in Eastern Kazakhstan – waiting for his brother to come home from work. One day, Adil, the smallest and least popular of the kids in the apartment block, comes knocking on his door.
  • Nach den Jahren (Josephine Links)
    Once they spent every summer here. But now the daughters have grown up, the parents got divorced and the wooden cabin at the lake has to be cleared out. Those four, who once were a family, come together again for a whole weekend – and the feelings of the past are closer than they thought.
  • Return to Roscoff (Ken Wardrop)
    A mother is taking her son to Ireland to meet his father. When they are crossing the Channel she loses sight of him just for a moment. An intriguing story about family ties and communication by Ken Wardrop, the famous short film maker and our former jury member.
  • Slechts op bezoek (Lydia Rigaux)
    A fictionalized documentary about Cesar, a twelve-year-old boy, who’s wondering around in a social apartment building, talking to inhabitants.
  • Stardust (Nicolas Provost)
    In “Stardust”, the second part of his Plot Point trilogy, Provost investigates the boundaries of fiction and reality by filming everyday life with a hidden camera and turning this reality into a fiction film by using cinematic and narrative codes from the Hollywood film language.
  • Tre Ore (Annarita Zambrano)
    Rome, nowadays. The father is convicted for murder, his daughter speaks her mind. The river Tiber splits the city, yet it is bonding their lives together… for a few hours in an afternoon.

Thursday 20 October

Shi

Mija, an elderly woman, lives with her 16-year-old grandson Wook in a small suburban city located along the Han River. She is a dandy old lady, who likes to dress up in flower-decorated hats and fashionable outfits, but she is also an unpredictable character with an inquisitive mind. She stands out within the small suburban community for her eccentric style. One day, Mija learns she may be contracting Alzheimer’s disease. Searching for a meaning in her life, she decides to take a poetry class, spurred on by a childhood memory of being told she had potential as a poet. Her quest for poetic inspiration begins with observing the everyday life she never intentionally took notice of before to find beauty within it. And with this, Mija is delightfully surprised with newfound trepidation as if she were a little girl discovering things for the first time in her life. But when she is suddenly faced with a reality harsh beyond her imagination, she realises life is not as beautiful as she had thought it is…

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