COTTBUS: Souvenir hungers had barely scampered away with bits of the Berlin Wall when the dream of a film festival reuniting Soviet comrade countries took root in an unlikely setting: the provincial East German town of Cottbus. Now, celebrating its 20th anniversary 2-7 November 2011, the festival's line-up of films is a tribute to the vision of Cottbus's artistic team.
A substantial portion of the festival's schedule consists of coproductions from the region, including the opening night film, the Serbian/German coproduction The Woman with a Broken Nose (www.bascelik.net) directed by Srdan Koljevic.
Cottbus festival (www.filmfestivalcottbus.de) director Roland Rust gave the moniker "Global East" to this year's film selection, reflecting an attitude rather than a geographic designation. "Everybody has heard of this ‘Westernization' (and not always nicely) of the world, and we want to show that there is a countermovement, even an ‘Easternization'," Rust told FNE. "We were surprised that there's such a richness. We're showing films from countries that we never showed before: Brazil, Israel, even Bollywood. We bring a mirror to show what is Eastern Europe 20 years later. We ask: is there an attitude, an approach, that reflects this region. I'm convinced there is."
Poland, with is recent film renaissance and as Cottbus' near neighbor, rightly receives special attention with a Polish Horizons section, building on the 2009 cooperation with Wroclaw's Era New Horizons festival. In addition, this year Cottbus introduces a German-Polish Youth Competition for teen filmmakers from the area. A further sign of the new vitality of the Polish film industry is the plethora of Polish films screening at Cottbus, ranging from shorts to documentaries to animations to national hits, as well as competition films.
Twenty years ago Cottbus took on the mission of keeping the ties across Eastern Europe alive. After seven editions the festival expanded to include Connecting Cottbus, the leading pitching forum for CEE films. The fruits of that collaboration are evident in the diverse array of coproductions at the 2010 Cottbus festival. On the 20th anniversary, and with the tangible success of the pitching forum clearly on display, Cottbus is marking a turning point as a platform for East European film.