Days of European Film returns with best of European cinema: from The Fencer and Atlantic to Spain’s answer to True Detective

08-04-2016

The highly-respected festival Days of European Film kicked off on Thursday, promising some of the best in recent European cinema. Among the cream of the crop this year are films like The Fencer, Mustang or Marshland (the last widely seen as Spain’s answer to the HBO series True Detective).

Zdeněk Blaha, photo: Martina SchneibergováZdeněk Blaha, photo: Martina Schneibergová I spoke to the festival’s dramaturg Zdeněk Blaha.

“The main aim, even today in our 23rd year, is to introduce the most interesting European films to Czech audiences and other viewers here. The idea is to bring in a broad or widest possible variety of different productions and genres to make for a very compelling programme.”

And these include not just the very newest productions…

“The main section of the festival is made up films which were made over the recent but also films over the last two years. But the festival has many different sections and some of those also feature older films. That is true of a section called Media, this year with the title ‘The Power of Imagination’. We are featuring films there which are classics, which deserve to be seen again on the big screen – films which explore what the medium can do and work with the imagination. Films being screened in that section included Lars von Triers’ Melancholia or Enter the Void by Gaspar Noe.”

“The idea is to bring in a broad or widest possible variety of different productions and genres.”

The festival on Thursday opened with a screening of The Fencer…

“That is a Finnish-Estonian co-production and the story is set in the Stalinist 1950s when Estonia was part of the Soviet Union. The story is based on real-life events and follows a man who flees Leningrad to hide in a small city in Estonia where he teaches local kids how to fence. This film is really exceptional and was on a shortlist of nine films of which five went on to receive Academy Award nominations. So it just missed out. Because of the shared or similar history with the former Czechoslovakia, I think this film will resonate strongly with Czech audiences.”

Are there any films in the programme this year which were nominated for the Oscars?

“That was the case with the French film Mustang. This is part of the LUX section because it received the LUX prize from the European Parliament.”

'Mustang', photo: archive of Days of European Film festival'Mustang', photo: archive of Days of European Film festival One of the sections which is featured regularly is dedicated to European documentary filmmaking and this year, if I understood correctly, the prevalent theme there is migration. Is that the case?

“Allow me to correct you a little, the theme of migration is that of a section called To the Point, but yes, documentaries do feature there as well as fiction films. We tried to choose films dealing with the topic of migration from many different angles. Not just as the result of war, although that is certainly a major part, but also oppression and the story of people simply hoping for better lives.”

What are some of the ways that filmmakers approached the issue?

“We tried to choose films dealing with the topic of migration from many different angles.”

“It varies from story to story of course. As an example there’s the film Atlantic, which is a fiction film which tells the story of a young Moroccan windsurfer who works as a guide for windsurfers from Europe or the West who visit Morocco. And of course he sees the contrast with his life and the lives of others. He dreams of a better life, a life just over the horizon. The film is very poetic and visual in how it tells the story.

“By contrast the movie Haunted does tell the story of war, of what it is like for Syrians to live in broken or destroyed cities, when bombs are falling in your area.”

'Marshland', photo: archive of Days of European Film festival'Marshland', photo: archive of Days of European Film festival Another section is Eurocrime, pointing to the fact that crime films have seen resurgence at least in part due to the success of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo or Jo Nesbo’s books…

“This is a newer section but we had a lot of success with it, it proved very popular and it is, in part, a reaction to the success of European crime novels, films and TV productions. I would definitely recommend viewers to see the Spanish film Marshland which is kind of Spain’s answer to the series True Detective. That is purely coincidental because it was in production at the same time as True Detective.”

Does it have similarities in terms of the setting? Because in True Detective you have the characters but you also have the setting of Louisiana which is a very definitive part of the story.

“I would definitely recommend viewers to see the Spanish film Marshland which is kind of Spain’s answer to the series True Detective.”

“Exactly. Here you have a Spanish countryside which is marshland which is similar to the Louisiana swamps. You also have two detectives who are investigating the case of two missing girls. They both have their backstories and different approaches to investigating the crime. As the case progresses they go very deep into existential inner darkness, let’s say. So it is a very powerful film and in some ways very similar to True Detective.”

To learn more, please visit www.eurofilmfest.cz

08-04-2016