FNE at Art Film Fest: Art Film Highlights Local Films in Slovak Season

By FNE Staff

    BRATISLAVA: The 19th Art Film Fest (17-25 June 2011, www.artfilmfest.sk) will present a bumper crop of locally produced films, including several premieres and the work of talented young directors, screening in the festival's twin towns Trenčianske Teplice and Trenčín. The festival's Slovak Season section will feature three feature films and four documentaries, while this year's "Slovak Season Special: Best of Slovak Student Films" will include a total of thirty-three shorts from three Slovak art schools.

    Among the feature films is one of Slovakia's most anticipated pictures, four years in the making: Apricot Island (Marhuľový ostrov). This feature debut of director Peter Bebjak, whose filmography includes serials such as Mesto tieňov (City of Shadows), Condemned (Odsúdené) and Dr. Ludsky, looks at the co-existence of southern Slovakia's varied ethnic groups. Szidi Tobias stars as an ethereal woman in a desolate hamlet who arouses the passions of two brothers. No one guesses what is going on between them; their hidden and suddenly awakened love, driving them hopelessly towards a tragic end, is solely witnessed by the breathtaking wilderness surrounding the Danubian backwaters.

    Apricot Island was the Slovak Film and Television Academy's nominee for the 2011 European Film Award.

    Art Film Fest's Slovak Season will also include features such as Time of Grimaces (Čas grimás), a biopic of iconoclastic sculptor Franz Xaver Messerschmidt, and Massacre of Devinska (Devínsky masaker), a docudrama investigating Ľubomír Harman's killing spree in Bratislava's Devínska Nová Ves district.

    The festival also includes documentaries from well-known filmmakers, such as We'll Talk About It in Heaven (Povieme si to v nebi) from the TV series Unwanted Children Twelve Years Later (Nechcené deti po dvanástich rokoch), the story of a family who adopted a visually, mentally and physically impaired autistic girl. Director Jaro Vojtek takes an honest look at the family's years-long struggle to adapt to their new life with Nikolka, but he also captures the dramatic improvement in the girl's state of mind afforded by her new life.

    In the same series' I Wanted to Be a Mother (Chcela som byť matka), director Marek Šulík focuses on a woman who took brothers Jozef and Karol into her care sixteen years ago. The boys came from a broken home, suffering from health problems, lack of hygiene and destructive tendencies at the time Jarmila adopted them. The new mother's efforts have nonetheless paid off, with Jozef accepted into university, but Karol still battling with his childhood traumas. Jarmila admits to a constant, terrible fear of losing the boys, making the story's tragic end that much more disturbing.

    The section will also premiere two parts of the television series Slovak Cinema (Slovenké kino), where young documentarists explore the past and present of the country's film industry.

    The first, Ghost in the Machine (Duch v stroji) is a glimpse into the inner workings of renowned Slovak cinematographers. Using interviews with prominent filmmakers, visual reconstructions and film clips, director Robert Kirchhoff attempts to determine what makes the Slovak school of cinematography unique.

    The series' second part, Jánošík - The Stolen Superhero (Jánošík - vykrádaný superhrdina), is a portrait of Slovakia's most mythical national hero, an inseparable part of the country's cinematic landscape. The filmmakers examine Jánošík's film incarnations as well as modern-day folklore surrounding the hero and his international dimension.

    This year's Art Film Fest marks the debut of a new programme section: Slovak Season Special: Best of Slovak Student Films. "Last year's festival featured a similar section, celebrating the twentieth anniversary of the Film and Television Faculty at Bratislava's VŠMU, and the idea generated an enormously positive response," says Art Film Fest's director Peter Nágel.

    This year, in addition to VŠMU, the opportunity to present their students' latest pictures was extended to Banská Bystrica's Academy of Arts and Trnava's University of St. Cyril and Methodius. A total of thirty-three short films will offer viewers a comprehensive overview of Slovakia's young, talented filmmakers.