You'll probably think twice before making assumptions about a stray cat's identity the next time you see one. Vesela Kazakova and Mina Mileva's vibrant depiction of a no-nonsense Bulgarian immigrant in Cat In The Wall shows that there is always more to the pursuit of food and shelter, for both humans and felines, wretched and poor, each with their dreams and their fears.
Irina (Irina Atanasova) is a regular taxpayer who owns an apartment in East Peckham, in London, which she shares with her preschool son Jojo (Orlin Asenov) and brother Vladimir (Angel Genov). The siblings are university-educated headstrong individuals who support each other through thick and thin. They struggle with making ends meet by working low wage jobs. Irina and Vladimir's daily quarreling is placated by the arrival of an adorable ginger-haired stray cat into their jumpy home atmosphere. Vladimir and Jojo claim the cat immediately and confirm their authority by naming him Zlatko ("a golden one"). As soon as the new owners learn that Zlatko is in fact someone else's treasure, Irina's go-getter attitude starts crumbling.
The movie's brick setting influences the characters politically and literally. Fights over the ownership of the cat happen on the floors of the building that is constantly under maintenance. The camera closely follows Irina's gradual adjustment to the building in scenes where she visits its corners in order to set up a friendly neighbor meeting. Her red coat makes her stand out from the crowd, reminding the neighbors of her intrusive presence as a down-to-earth woman who does not fear change but embraces it. The directors' bright treatment of Irina's attempts at being a likeable neighbor is powered by scenes in which Vladimir and Rianna (Chinwe Nwokolo) repeatedly look through their apartment windows. The camera is positioned within Vladimir's apartment and allows the audience to be present in his moments of introspection. Meanwhile, the directors enhance Rianna's rival status by remaining outside her apartment. Playing with different perspectives creates a complex ladder of power relations, perpetually lacking an element of real dominance.
In linking Irina and the cat, who share equal screen time and are often portrayed in matching close-ups, Kazakova and Mileva's bring their fates together as two creatures disappearing into their living space, with Irina forced to drag the cat out of a wall. The broken connection and ineffective communication between Irina’s family and the neighbors, on the other hand, is neatly summed up by Vladimir being forced to install antennas for work. A lively but dark sketch about social alienation, exemplified by a trick-or-treat expedition that sees the family dress up as, respectively, a witch, a prisoner and a ghostbuster. These are the identities left for the characters to slip into as non-British political subjects, in what amounts to a vivid, matter-of-fact excerpt from the life of immigrants. It is a quirky but irresistibly entertaining exploration of truth as a multifaceted concept, with serious political consequences.
FIPRESCI Young Critics Warsaw Project
Lemana Filandra is a writer and editor at "Klifhenger" (www.klifhenger.com), a site dedicated to movie analyses in Bosnian and English. She has been working as a freelance writer, a researcher, and a translator for the last three years. Currently, She is working on a PhD thesis in philosophy, focused on intersectional feminism and political implications of the concept of body. In the past she had different professional engagements at Sarajevo Film Festival, one of the most prominent European festivals. She also worked as a producer of a music video, a script supervisor and an assistant to a movie director.
Levan Tskhovrebadze is a student of film studies in Ilia State University, Georgia. He has written and made other kind of journalistic content for Georgian outlets like Indigo, Cinemania.ge or Demo.ge. Recently he started working for Ilia State University online publication Cinexpress.iliauni.edu.ge where he writes reviews, articles and also translates some of the important articles or interviews about cinema into Georgian. He has covered few festivals as a film critic. He was doing video blogs for Berlin International Film Festival 2019th edition and has made some content at CinéDOC-Tbilisi and Batumi International Art-House Film Festival. Cinexpress is also the Ilia State University’s Film Club where he made public reports before screenings.
Oleksandra Povoroznyk is a film critic and journalist based in Kyiv, Ukraine. She is currently working for Vertigo.com.ua, one of the largest Ukrainian websites devoted to the film industry and entertainment in general. She is also the host of two podcasts about movies and TV.
Denisa Jašová is a PhD student of Audiovisual Studies at Academy of Performing Arts in Bratislava. As a Film Studies and Archival Science graduate, she specializes on archival research in film and TV history, especially on Czechoslovak amateur film and TV non-fiction programmes from 70s and 80s. She also works as a researcher for TV documentaries, as a librarian in the Central European House of Photography and as a talk show host in student radio talk show called Cinefil. She frequently writes for magazine Film.sk, IFF Cinematik Piešťany and her first paper about the history of Slovak amateur film will be released in October 2019 in Kino-Ikon magazine. She simply loves film archives.
Bogdan Balla is a Romanian experimental film director and freelance film critic based in Bucharest. He studies film directing at the National University of Theatre and Film and writes for FILM MENU. Besides directing and producing his own films, he also works as an independent freelance film critic. He reads bell hooks and is passionate about queer cinema. He has a preference for working with archival footage for his films.
Svetlana Semenchuk is an author of such publications on cinema as “Seanse”, “The Art of Cinema”, “Cinema TV” and other. The author-composer of the books “S. M. Eisenstein: pro et contra: Sergey Eisenstein in national reflection: anthology” and “E. F. Bauer: pro et contra. Eugene Frantsevich Bauer in assessments of contemporaries, colleagues, researchers, film critics. Anthology”. Teacher of the St. Petersburg New Cinema School, and at the St. Petersburg State University of Cinema and Television.
TUTORS of FIPRESCI Young Critics Warsaw Project
Amber Wilkinson is a journalist with more than 20 years experience. She is the co-founder and editorial director of UK-based website Eye For Film. Her byline has appeared in The Times, Daily Telegraph, Sydney Morning Herald and Filmmaker Magazine among others. She also contributes as a freelance film critic on BBC Radio Scotland. She has run several FIPRESCI young critics' workshops and mentored student critics at the Edinburgh International Film Festival in 2018 and 2019.
Tommaso Tocci is based in Italy, where he works as a film critic and translator covering film festivals across Europe for international publications. He has also worked for Berlinale Talents and for the Edinburgh International Film Festival, and he currently serves as Co-Programmer for the Saas-Fee Film Festival in Switzerland.