Women directors dominate at the upcoming virtual European Film Festival

Women directors dominate at the upcoming virtual European Film Festival

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This year’s European Film Festival will also be held virtually from October 14 to 24.

Of the 18 films selected from all over Europe, most are directed by women. This year’s theme is “Healing Journeys”, and the films explore hope and humanity in a thought-provoking light.

Peter Rorvik, who is the co-director and curator of the European Film Festival, explained why they had decided to keep it online despite the country being placed on level 1.

“Live events within the arts and culture sector have been very hard hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, and resulted in the closure of activities and venues across the country.

“However, moving the European Film Festival online in 2020 proved to be a highly successful response to the situation, allowing people to watch the films from the comfort and safety of their homes.

“Importantly, people in all parts of the country were able to access the films, which would not have been the case if it were a physical event held only in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Pretoria, as in previous years,” Rorvik said.

He continued: “ Yes, the 2021 edition of the festival is again online – and all films and special events are free.

“The process of organising an event like this involves months of preparation and negotiation with rights holders, necessitating early decisions about whether to go physical or virtual.

Gérard Depardieu as Georges in a scene from Robust. Picture: Supplied

“With South Africa still facing a lot of uncertainty around Covid, and following the success of last year’s online festival, the decision was made to be predominantly a virtual event.

“A limited number of physical screenings are offered in communities where access to cinema is constrained. Screenings are followed by a post-screening discussion about issues raised in the films.

“Community partners include Isivivana Centre in Khayelitsha, Windybrow in Hillbrow, Luthuli Museum in Groutville and Sibikwa Cultural Centre in Benoni.

“The festival also continues to service a number of secondary schools with screenings and post-screening discussions.

“All physical events adhere to strict Covid protocols.”

As for the new participants this year, Rorvik revealed: “The festival is a select showcase of very new films from Europe, providing insight into what’s fresh and new in the film industries of the participating countries.

“Last year there were 12 films, this year there are 18. In addition to films from Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, The Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Sweden and the UK, we are pleased with the return of Portugal and four new countries in the Czech Republic, Denmark, Switzerland and Ukraine.

“The presence of Eastern European countries offers an intriguing dimension and balance to the programme.

“In addition, the festival includes ’Quo Vadis Aida?’, a special co-production between no less than nine European countries that went on to earn an Oscar nomination earlier this year.”

Maria Fedorchenko as Masha Chernykh in a scene from “Stop-Zemlia”. Picture: Supplied

When asked if the decision to showcase films directed by women was a conscious one or a happy coincidence, Rorvik said: “Within the line-up of 18 films, 13 have women directors.

“This is a deliberate response to the gender inequality that persists in our societies, including in the film industry.

“As part of the festival’s event programme, the live zoom discussion at 6pm on October 15 is breaking glass ceilings for women in film – the challenges, the accomplishments, the journey.

“Exploring how far have we come and how far there still is to go in acknowledging, honouring and empowering women in the industry will be veteran Polish filmmaker Agnieszka Holland, who has made over 40 films in her illustrious career, including some Oscar-nominated and numerous award-winners among them.

“She will be joined by experienced Dutch film-maker Antoinette Beumer. Providing a South African perspective on this crucial topic is Zanele Mthembu of Sisters Working In Film and Television (SWIFT), with moderation by South African producer ofHappiness is a Four-Letter Word’, Bongiwe Selane.”

It was difficult for Rorvik to point out the stand-out offerings.

He shared: “It’s a difficult question because people have personal tastes and preferences.

“All of these films have won awards – major awards – except those that are too new to have done so yet.Another Round’, the current Oscar-winner for Best International Feature Film, will be a popular choice, but viewers are encouraged to make use of this opportunity to explore films that may not reach our shores in the commercial cinemas – films such as ’Stop-Zemlia’ about teenage youth in Ukraine; ’Run Uje Run’ (Sweden), a witty, music-infused drama about the way life takes turns you could never have imagined; ’Risks and Side Events’ (Austria) – a lively comedy about marriage, hypochondria, friends, architects, secrets and taking risks.”

A scene from The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis. Picture: Supplied

Rorvik added: “Film buffs can enjoy the exquisite black-and-white cinematography and framings of the auteur cinema work ’The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis’, while educators should see ’Mr Bachmann and His Class’, an extraordinary three-and-a-half-hour documentary about an ever-patient teacher who uses unconventional methods to inspire his young citizens-in-the-making with curiosity and appreciation of their worlds.

“Then you have Gerard Depardieu and Deborah Lukumuena starring in ’Robust’, a film straight from Critics Week at the Cannes Film Festival, and which will only be released in France next year. The list goes on.”

Visit European Film Festival for more information.

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