Mihai Chirilov, the Festival's artistic director, has put together a gourmet cinematic menu for AperiTIFF, combining everything from super-stylised documentaries and hybrid productions to anti-system films, horror cine-concerts and exhibitions.
This is not to say, by some false logic, that films about war have no place at TIFF. In art you don't operate with such easy automatisms. The perpetuated conflict in the region for years is reflected in the Ukrainian film Miraj (Reflection) by Valentyn Vasyanovych (previously at TIFF with Atlantis), a shocking testimony to the dehumanizing practices of wartime, its devastating effects, alienation and the difficulty of readjusting to normality.
There are two other Ukrainian films in the programme, Rhino and Pamfir, which are not explicitly about war, but about violence and wrong life decisions. We also have two dynamite Russian films in the line-up, Căpitanul Volkonogov a scăpat (Captain Volkonogov Escaped) and Execuția (The Execution), because it seems to us that film festivals should not themselves become battlefields, turning Russian productions into collateral casualties of war, especially as we are talking about anti-system films here. We think it's important for both voices to exist, we believe in the freedom of expression, that's the essence of the pacifist message in the poster.
The new-age documentary flirts more and more with fiction, knowingly breaks the rules and even indulges in the luxury of blasphemy and conspiracy. At the risk of upsetting purists, almost anything goes in What's Up, Doc?, including those films that blur the line between fiction and documentary to the point where the labels become inoperable and you no longer know exactly what you're looking at, what's real and what's not, and why. After all, that's pretty much the way it is in the world we live in today, since yesterday's conspiracy theories turn out to be tomorrow's reality, and truths titled in block letters are almost immediately debunked as fake news.
There are 10 films in this competition and each, in its own unique way, is not to be missed. But to better understand the stakes and concept of this programme, I particularly recommend Atlantida (Atlantis) (dir. Yuri Ancarani, the last ten minutes border on genius), Câmpiile (The Plains) (dir. David Easteal), Pentru mine tu ești Ceaușescu (For Me You Are Ceaușescu) (dir. Sebastian Mihăilescu) and Ce-i prea mult strică (What's Too Much Sucks) (dir. Morgane Dziurla-Petit).
National spotlights are usually the result of a happy coincidence of circumstances. On the one hand, the extremely high level of recent productions of the countries chosen, and on the other, the possibility of institutional partnerships designed to make the most of these programmes, with large delegations of artists and related events designed as veritable portals into the culture of the countries concerned. In addition, the Kieslowski retrospective and our long-standing complicity with the Wroclaw and Warsaw festivals led us to choose Poland as the guest country for this edition, with more than 20 titles in view, including series (Klangor) and short films, cine-concerts (not to be missed the silent film Bestia (The Beast) with Pola Negri and the soundtrack by Grammy award-winning musician Włodek Pawlik), cult films (Croaziera (The Cruise) for example, the unofficial relative of the film of the same name directed by Mircea Daneliuc), but also extremely recent films, of which I recommend Nu lăsa urme (Don't Leave Traces) (dir. Jan P. Matuszynski, a detonating denunciation of police brutality and authoritarian regimes, inspired by a heart-breaking real-life case), and one of the personal surprises of the edition, the documentary Filmul din balcon (Film from the Balcony) (dir. Paweł Łoziński).
The other guest country, Israel, comes with a balanced mix of fiction and documentary, as well as a series in the What's Next section (Fete triste de oraș / Sad City Girls) and a presence in the popular Film Food programme, which involves a screening of a food-themed film (Pâinea noastră / Our Bread) followed by a special dinner cooked by a pedigree chef. Not to be missed are the uber-talented Nadav Lapid's new film, Genunchiul lui Ahed (Ahed's Knee), and the documentaries Orchestra cu instrumente stricate (Broken Instrument Orchestra) (a unique musical experiment directed by Yuval Hameiri) and the controversial Șase milioane (Six Million) (dir. David Fisher), a ticking time bomb thanks to a razor-sharp investigation of a taboo subject.
In the ZFR section, we have a record number of debuts (no less than 8 of the 13 local films on the programme), with Alex Belc's Metronom (Metronome) as the headliner (congratulations on his Cannes award for directing!) and the female trio of Alina Grigore - Monica Stan - Ligia Ciornei (Crai nou (Blue Moon), Imaculat (Immaculate) and Anul pierdut 1986 (Clouds of Chernobyl). Special mentions for the two Romanian titles also in the international competition, Marocco by Emanuel Pârvu (on an impeccable script evoking the moral meanderings of the Iranian feature A Separation) and Balaur (A Higher Law) by Octav Chelaru (a playful and unexpected mix of Notes on a Scandal and Fatal Attraction). Last but not least, Florin Piersic jr.'s sex and cynicism bomb, Nimic despre dragoste ([Nothing] about Love), which pours sulphuric acid over the deceptive appearances of married life.
TITLES YOU SHOULDN'T MISS:
Make that 21, I say, in random order: Irreversible – Straight Cut, re-edited in 2019 by Gaspar Noé; last Saturday's surprise film (hint: it was at Cannes and belongs to a former Transylvania Trophy winner); Atlantida (Atlantis) (I know, I'm repeating myself); Căpitanul Volkonogov a scăpat (Captain Volkonogov Escaped) (I'm repeating myself again); Orbul care n-a vrut să vadă Titanic (The Blind Man Who Did Not Want to See Titanic) (melodrama, thriller, dark humour and a wheelchair-bound protagonist); Orice, oriunde, oricând (Everything Everywhere All at Once) (indie extravaganza of the year and the most wow plot); Fuga din Mogadishu (Escape from Mogadishu) (superlative Korean action); the adaptation of Balzac's Lost Illusions; the tour de force with no editing cuts in Sub presiune (Under Pressure); the boundless passion of the couple in Iubire vulcanică (Volcanic Love); the Berlin Golden Bear winner Alcarràs; the cinematic concert Moonwalk One (not about Michael, but about the moon landing); the Leonard Cohen documentary Hallelujah (not a mega fan, but it grew on me without notice); the dialogue irreverence of the low-budget Spanish comedy Clubul șomerilor (The Unemployed Club) (hands up those who still remember Aislados! ), fresh from Cannes Cut! and Godland; the narrative electroshocks of Marea libertate (Great Freedom); the blunt confessions of Chilean Matias Bize's Private Messages; the discourse of the Ceausescu's hologram in Nicolae ( dir. Mihai Grecu); the mix of vintage footage and puppet animation from the 70s; and Kieslowski's short Talking Heads, screened in loop at the Art Museum.