Disappearing Act IV – 2012 – full film line-up

The System (Das System – alles verstehen heisst alles verzeihen) directed by Marc Bauder – NY Premiere

Germany, 2011, 90 min, in German
Presented by the Goethe-Institut New York
Cast: Jacob Matschenz, Bernhard Schuetz, Jenny Schily
Official Selection – Max Ophuels Filmfestival Saarbruecken

Starring the captivating Jacob Matschenz, who appeared in the lead role of Beats Being Dead, Christian Petzold’s contribution in the Dreileben film trilogy, The System is a self-assured fiction feature debut about a young man who is seduced by power and money when he crosses paths with former agents of the East German secret police. The once popular seaside town of Rostock, now a bit empty and much less alluring, is where this 20-year-old lives with his widowed mother. He doesn’t know anything about his father or the circumstances of his death. Being a bit of a rebel and a petty thief, he’s easily convinced by a man in a flashy car and suit to become his apprentice.  He hopes to solve the mystery of his father’s death that his mother does not want to divulge. But as the full German title of the film suggests, understanding comes at a price.

Wasted Youth directed and written by Argyris Papadimitropoulos, Jan Vogel – NY Premiere
Greece, 2010, 98 min, in Greek
Presented by the Romanian Cultural Institute in New York
Cast: Harris Markou, Ieronimos Kaletsanos
Official Selection – Rotterdam Film Festival, Opening night film in 2011

The film takes place on a sweltering summer day in Athens on the backdrop of the financial crisis, and follows two characters from their morning routine to the events of the evening, which bring them together. The teenage skater Harry is on a mission to enjoy his summer break to the fullest, waking up after a possibly wild night in a comfortable villa of a family friend to later find himself in a cramped apartment with his disapproving father. The way we meet the middle-aged Vasilis suggests he leads a tiring life of a man troubled by a recent business flop and unhappy with the direction his life has taken. The tension builds up throughout the film to a sudden end when the two characters finally meet. The young directors took inspiration from a true story that sparked the December 2008 riots in Greece.

Police, Adjective (Politist, adjectiv) directed and written by Corneliu Porumboiu
Romania, 2009, 113 min, in Romanian
An IFC Films release, Presented by the Romanian Cultural Institute in New York
Cast: Dragos Bucur, Vlad Ivanov, Irina Saulescu
Official Selection – Cannes Film Festival, Un Certain Regard – Prix du Jury

Another quiet hard hitter of Romanian cinema, this time coming from the director of 12:08 Bucharest East. Porumboiu delves into the system of contemporary Romanian policing.  Described by A.O. Scott in his glowing New York Times review, this “is a story of law enforcement with a special interest in grammar.” But humor aside, the theme at the heart of the film is what we consider to be the role of the police in our society.  The central character – a young detective on a look out to catch an even younger hashish ‘dealer’ – doubts whether the task he’s been given is a police matter at all. His doubts increase with every day and every hour he spends on his pursuit, and when his conscience finally wins over his sense of professional duty, he decides to bring his conundrum up with the Chief of Police.

Watch the whole movie on MUBI (check availability in your area on this link; U.S. currently unavailable, but may become available in the future)

White White World (Beli, beli svet) directed by Oleg Novkovic
Serbia-Germany-Sweden, 2010, 121 min,in Serbian
Presented by the Romanian Cultural Institute in New York

Cast: Jasna Djuricic, Uliks Fehmiu, Hana Selimovic
Official Selection – Locarno Film Festival

Returning to the austere surroundings of the vast strip mine in the Serbian town of Bor, after he documented the local life and a group of miners who staged Bertolt Brecht’s Beggar’s Opera under the direction of Milena Markovic, Novkovic filmed an opera of his own in the same setting – or rather a Greek-like melodrama with songs. Penned by Markovic, the tragic story centers on a love triangle. A young woman awaits the return of her mother from prison. She was sent there for killing her husband and as a result her daughter was parentless throughout her lonely childhood, living with a weak grandfather who prefers the company of a bottle of alcohol.  She grew up longing for her mother but at the same time hating her for leaving her alone.  The drama begins when they meet again, but realize that they are in love with the same man, the local bar owner who goes by the nickname of King.

Our Beloved Month of August (Aquele Querido Mes de Agosto) directed and written by Miguel Gomes
A FiGa Films release, Presented by the Embassy of Portugal
Portugal-France, 2008, 147 min, in Portuguese
Cast: Sonia Bandeira, Fabio Oliveira
Official Selection – Cannes Film Festival Directors Fortnight

Deep in the Portuguese mountains, activities swell during the month of August. People come home, set off fireworks, fight fires, perform karaoke, jump off a bridge, hunt wild boar, drink beer, and make babies. Had director Miguel Gomes taken a straight forward approach to the subject, resisting the lure of the festivities, the synopsis for his film could be reduced to an account of the romantic relations of a father, his daughter, a cousin, and musicians in a dance hall band during the beloved month of August. Instead, Gomes has crafted a wonderfully chaotic hybrid of documentary and fiction which delicately captures the vibrant spirit of a local Portuguese community.

Watch the whole movie on MUBI (check availability in your area on this link; U.S. currently unavailable, but may become available in the future)

Negative History of Hungarian Cinema (Negativ Magyar filmtortenet) directed and written by Gyula Nemes – NY Premiere
Presented by the Hungarian Cultural Center
Hungary, 2010, 47 min, Documentary, in Hungarian

The history of cinema has its negative antipode, the plethora of films that were never finished or realized. Gyula Nemes set out to uncover these projects through interviews with the greats of Hungarian cinema such as Miklos Jancso, Sandor Pal, Judith Elek and more. The director also encourages his subjects to film little reconstructions of the lost projects in front of his camera, which results in visually rich and formally fresh work of non-fiction cinema.

Negative History of Hungarian Cinema

The Mouth of the Wolf (La bocca del lupo) directed by Pietro Marcello
Italy-France, 2009, 76 min, in Italian
Presented by the Italian Cultural Institute
Official Selection – Torino Film Festival, Best Film and FIPRESCI Award
Official Selection – Berlin Film Festival, Best Documentary Teddy Award, Caligari Award

A love letter to Genoa and a film about the love of Enzo and Mary would be the short description of this indescribable film, originally commissioned by the Jesuits of Genoa as part of their work for the marginalized in this beautiful old city. Marcello tells the story of Enzo, a giant with a soft heart, a man who spent 20 years in prison for killing two policemen, and the love of his life Mary, a junkie who he met in prison and who promised to wait for him and stay off drugs. Blended with this story are gorgeously photographed cityscapes of Genoa, current and archival, mostly from the time of Enzo’s youth in the 1970s.

The Misfortunates (De helaasheid der dingen) directed by Felix van Groeningen
Belgium, 2009, 108 min, in Dutch
Neoclassics Films release, Presented by Flanders House
Cast: Koen De Graeve, Kenneth Vanbaeden, Valentijn Dhaenens
Official Selection – Cannes Film Festival, Directors Fortnight

Considering depictions of dysfunctional families, the one at the center of this bitter comedy maybe be on top of the list: four lazy, binge drinking 30-something irresponsible brothers still living in their mother’s house. She’s the only corrective to their bad behavior and the only one looking after the 13-year old son of one of her offspring. The boy could truly testify to “the shitiness of things” which is the literal translation of the original title. But even in such a family, there are moments of tenderness and positive emotion, which eventually allow the young hero to become a successful writer. Based on one of the most popular contemporary novels in Dutch, the director employed a striking formal and visual style making this film as successful as its literary source.

Watch the whole movie on MUBI (check availability in your area on this link; U.S. currently unavailable, but may become available in the future)

Michael directed and written by Markus Schleinzer
Austria, 2011, 96 min, in German
Distributed by Strand Releasing, Presented by the Austrian Cultural Forum New York
Cast: Michael Fuith, David Rauchenberger
Official Selection – Cannes Film Festival

Meeting with rave reviews worldwide and upon its recent release in New York, Schleinzer’s directing debut has been dubbed a ‘triumph of uneasy cinema.’  This film is the quintessential example of films distributed in the U.S. that fall out of sight all too quickly. The topic is child abuse and the fact that it is based on several real life stories well publicized by Austrian media in the recent past, makes the experience even more chilling. Yet the drama is achieved through a serene, documentary style, by following the daily routines of the abuser and his very young captive, an innocent boy who cannot understand why would his parents not want him back and leave him alone in the basement of his abductor’s house.

Watch the whole movie on MUBI (check availability in your area on this link; U.S. currently unavailable, but may become available in the future)

Memory Lane directed and written by Mikhael Hers
France, 2010, 98 min, in French
Presented by the Cultural Services of the French Embassy
Cast: with Thibault Vincon, Dounia Sichov, Lolita Chammah
Official Selection – Locarno Film Festival

It’s the middle of summer in a Parisian suburb. A group of former high school friends, now in their mid twenties, rehearses music of their indie band on the quieted grounds of a school. Soon they find themselves assembled again with the rest of their childhood friends and revisiting their former haunts. Old alliances are rekindled and new ones slowly grow. The innocence of childhood and teenage years is gone, replaced by sincerity of adulthood. Suddenly everything in their lives carries much more weight – though the weight is not always a heavy load.

Medal of Honor (Medalia de onoare) directed by Calin Peter Netzer
Romania-Germany, 2009, 104 min, in Romanian
Presented by the Romanian Cultural Institute in New York
Cast: Victor Rebengiuc, Camelia Zorlescu, Ion Lucian
Official Selection – Palm Springs Film Festival

This is a tale about a retired man, who at 75 feels unappreciated by his wife and especially his adult son. When our hero receives a surprise letter informing him that he had been awarded a medal for his brave service in the army, things start looking up in his life. Maybe he would finally be able to lure his son back from Canada, where he took a job against the wishes of his father, and even started a family. Maybe he will be able to convince him to bring home his Canadian born grandson, with whom he can’t communicate, as neither knows each other’s language. But maybe, the medal brings more trouble than good. After all, it’s contemporary Romania, things change fast and one can’t ever be sure what the next day will bring.

The Little Room (La petite chambre) directed and written by Stephanie Chuat and Veronique Reymond – NY Premiere
Switzerland-Luxembourg, 2010, 87 min, in French
A special preview of a Cinema Libre Studios release. Presented by the Consulate General of Switzerland

Cast: Florence Loiret Caille, Michel Bouquet, Eric Caravaca
Official Selection – Locarno Film Festival

A young visiting nurse just returns to work after a tragedy befalls her family. Work brings her solace though her new patient is not being very cooperative. He’s an elderly man (in a quietly moving performance by the fabulous Michel Bouquet) who lives in denial of the fact that he’s losing his capability to live on his own.  Resisting his son’s wishes to move to a retirement home, the old man escapes with the help of his nurse who offers him her own house as a shelter.  The friendship of the man with the woman has redemptive powers and triggers the relief that they were both searching, though it comes for each of them in a very different form.

Just Between Us (Neka ostane medju nama) directed and written by Rajko Grlic. Presented by the Consulate General of the Republic of Croatia in collaboration with the Croatian Audiovisual Centre
Croatia-Serbia-Slovenia, 2010, 87 min, in Croatian
Cast: Miki Manojlovic, Bojan Navojec, Daria Lorenci, Ksenija Marinkovic
Official Selection – Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, Best Director Award

Billed as a wicked indiscreet story from contemporary Zagreb, Just Between Us is a bitter comedy about two brothers and their wives, lovers, and their sexual escapades. The older son of a famous painter was always the handsome one, more popular with the ladies, more successful in business and an all around lucky guy. But he’s also the big trouble. Leading a complicated life with two concurrent families, it’s clear that his luck will run out soon. His younger brother lives in perhaps an even bigger mess, but in the end we find there is not much of a difference between them and that one should just try to find happiness in any form it comes.

Involuntary (De ofrivilliga) directed by Ruben Ostlund
Sweden, 2008, 98 min, in Swedish
Presented by the Consulate General of Sweden.
Cast: Villmar Bjorkman, Linnea Cart-Larny, Leif Edlund, and Sara Eriksson
Official Selection – Cannes Film Festival, Un Certain Regard

Much like with his latest film Play, an official selection of the New York Film Festival, Ostlund provides food for thought and robust discussion about contemporary society already in his invigorating second feature. Skillfully combining five stories of people who in one way or another adjust their behavior and succumb to the pressures of a group, the film is constructed from a series of one-shot scenes. The technique underlines the awkwardness of the situations and although the stories are independent in their narrative, they overlap in theme and reinforce each other’s message.

Watch the whole movie on Netflix

The Fatherless (Die Vaterlosen) directed and written by Marie Kreutzer – NY Premiere
Austria, 2011, 104 min, in German
Presented by the Austrian Cultural Forum New York
Cast: Andreas Kiendl, Andrea Wenzl, Emily Cox, Philipp Hochmair
Official Selection – Berlin Film Festival
Official Selection – Cannes Film Festival

Adult children rush to the deathbed of their mostly estranged father who lived in a grand old house in the rural area of Austria. It was a place where they lived as children, the offspring of a group of free thinkers living in a commune of hippies that existed for almost a decade. The oasis however ended one day and the group split up – in some cases easily, in others very painfully. Now adults themselves, the children are reconciling with the heartbreaking events that happened couple of decades ago and uncover old mysteries, which will finally help them to move on.

Eighty Letters (Osmdesat dopisu) directed and written by Vaclav Kadrnka – NY Premiere
Czech Republic, 2011, 75 min, in Czech
Presented by the Czech Center New York.
Cast: Zuzana Lapcikova, Martin Pavlus
Official Selection – Berlin Film Festival
Official Selection – Thessaloniki Film Festival, Silver Alexander and FIPRESCI Awards

In the late 1980s in communist Czechoslovakia, a teenage boy wakes up in an empty apartment frantically looking for his mother. His distress and overall dread of his status quo is increased with every silent minute of the film. He finds his mother on a bus going to the big city and joins her on a quest. They need to secure the paperwork necessary to be able to join the woman’s husband in England, where he recently defected. The debuting director, who based the story on the experience of his own childhood and the 80 letters his mother wrote to his father before the family got back together, uses every tool available to him to transfer the claustrophobic atmosphere of his youth to the audience, keeping the color palette to shades of grey and brown and the dialogue at a bare minimum.

Eastern Plays (Iztochni piesi) directed and written by Kamen Kalev
Bulgaria-Sweden, 2009, 83 min, in Bulgarian
Presented by the Romanian Cultural Institute in New York.
Cast: Christo Christov, Ovanes Torosian, Saadet Isil Aksoy
Official Selection – Cannes Film Festival, Directors Fortnight

The paths of two brothers cross during a fateful meeting one night on the streets of Sofia – the older Itso (played as a version of himself by the late Christo Christov) is an abstaining drug addict who’s trying to hang on for dear life, but has a hard time finding a reason to persevere. His teenage brother still lives with their domineering and insensitive father. He’s running with a gang of racist thugs and one fateful night marks his initiation. Though in themselves brutal, the night’s events help the brothers to realize where they stand in life.

Disco and Atomic War (Disko ja tuumasoda) directed by Jaak Kilmi and Kiur Aarma
Estonia-Finland, 2009, 80 min, Documentary, in Estonian, Finnish, Russian, English
An Icarus Films release. Presented by the Consulate General of Estonia.
Official Selection – Telluride Film Festival

One of the most popular documentaries in the library of the Icarus Films distribution company, Disco and Atomic War is an engrossing and entertaining account of the futile attempts of the Soviet media and its propaganda machine to counteract the influence of free media seeping through the air and borders of the Soviet Republic of Estonia from the coasts of Finland. Becoming virtual battlefield, Estonian airwaves were jammed from both sides, yet the pull of the Western TV broadcast for the entertainment-starved public proved to be too strong. J.R. and Dallas make a special appearance.

Watch the whole movie online

Dad (Oca) directed by Vlado Skafar – NY Premiere
Slovenia, 2010, 71 min, in Slovenian
Presented by the Consulate General of Slovenia
Cast: Miki Ros, Sandi Salamon
Official Selection – Venice Film Festival

With cinematography reminiscent of a pastoral painting, Dad tells a story of a father and a son who meet again and spend an afternoon together after a long time living apart. The son, barely a teen, surprises his father with intellectual and emotional maturity. Feeling guilty for abandoning his son at an early age, the father attempts to reconnect and assume again a role of a parent, and to blur the divisions that were created by his long absence.

Cinema Komunisto directed by Mila Turaljic
Serbia, 2010, 100 min, Documentary, in Serbian
Presented by the Romanian Cultural Institute in New York
Official Selection – San Francisco Film Festival

An absorbing account of the creation of the miracle of the Yugoslav film industry follows the history on the background of Yugoslav President Tito’s own cinephilia and fascination with every aspect of film production. Featuring Tito’s personal projectionist along with interviews of filmmakers, studio directors and film stars, director Mila Turaljic paints a vivid picture of the rise and fall of once mighty film studios. Rich in archival footage, the documentary also includes records of Hollywood film stars showing themselves off at the Pula film festival and being showered with attention by the local media and the Yugoslav president himself.

The Christening (Chrzest) directed by Marcin Wrona – NY Premiere
Poland, 2010, 86 min, in Polish
A special preview of a Palisades Tartan release
Presented by the Polish Cultural Institute New York

Cast: Wojciech Zielinski, Tomasz Schuchardt, Natalia Rybicka
Official Selection – Toronto Film Festival
Official Selection – San Sebastian Film Festival

In this slow-burning thriller, the 30-something protagonist is about to celebrate the christening of his first child. He’s living the life of a successful businessman, until an old friend arrives to become the child’s godfather and he gradually discovers, that his old underworld connections are coming back to haunt him, threatening an idyllic snapshot of family bliss. Wrona devoted his forceful film to a portrayal of masculinity, fatherhood, and a friendship that confronts the ultimate test.

Brownian Movement directed by Nanouk Leopold – NY Premiere
The Netherlands-Belgium-Germany, 2010, 102 min, in English and French
Presented in collaboration with the EYE Film Institute Netherlands
Cast: Sandra Hueller, Dragan Bakema
Official Selection – Berlin Film Festival

A young professional couple lives with their small son in Brussels. The woman, a medical doctor involved in clinical research, rents an apartment and turns her patients into research objects of a more private dimension.  She brings her subjects – men of all shapes, ages and sizes who absolutely don’t compare with her handsome husband – to her secret hideaway to have sex. The doctor’s private research comes to light, and she is about to lose it all, but the couple manages to save their marriage and stay together. Or at least that’s what it seems like before the husband succumbs to lingering doubts.

The Border (Hranice) directed by Jaroslav Vojtek – NY Premiere
Slovakia, 2009, 72 min, in Slovak and Hungarian, Documentary
Presented by the Consulate General of the Slovak Republic in collaboration with +421 Foundation and the Slovak Film Institute
Official Selection – Rotterdam Film Festival

In the Eastern most part of Slovakia lays the village of Slemence.  In 1946 it was brutally divided into two parts by a new border between Czechoslovakia and the Ukraine, which at the time was a state of the Soviet Union. Velke Slemence remained on the Slovak side, and Male Slemence ended up on the Eastern side of the border, which fitted with barbed wire ran through gardens, cemeteries, fields, and divided families and the village community. At one point the fence was even equipped with electric power, keeping citizens of two supposedly brotherly countries apart. After a time of relative calm and a relaxed regime, the border again becomes a heavily guarded area, as the independent Slovakia becomes a bordering country of the EU territory.

Watch the whole movie online

Amador directed and written by Fernando Leon de Aranoa – NY Premiere
Spain, 2010, 112 min, in Spanish
A special preview of a Film Movement release
Presented by Instituto Cervantes, The Cultural Center of Spain in New York, together with Spain Culture New York and the Consulate General of Spain, co-presented by Pragda

Cast: Magaly Solier, Celso Bugallo, Pietro Sibille
Official Selection – Berlin Film Festival
Official Selection – Guadalajara Film Festival, Best Picture and Best Actress Award for Iberoamerican film

A Latin American immigrant living in Spain, Marcela is ready to leave her live-in boyfriend. But she learns news that forces her to stay. To help out her boyfriend’s fledgling business, she gets a new job looking after the ailing Amador. They find an immediate connection and it seems like things are finally looking up in Marcela’s life. However things change quickly and in order to keep her job and her money, Marcela must tell a devastating lie. As noted by Jonathan Holland of Variety, the film “successfully blends black comedy, lyricism and social critique.”

Watch the whole movie on Film Movement

“Amador” Trailer

amador

The Big Trip (Le grand’tour) directed by Jerome Le Maire – NY Premiere
Belgium, 2011, 98min, in French
Presented by the Belgian Tourist Office – French Speaking Belgium – Brussels Wallonia in collaboration with Wallonie Bruxelles Images
Cast: Vincent Solheid, Patrick Humblet, Pierre Fontaine, Denis Burton
Official Selection – Cannes Film Festival

Filmed as a faux documentary about a troupe of carnival musicians, The Big Trip follows members of a brass band propense to heavy drinking and partying who set out on foot to the nearest big town festival.  On a whim, they decide to extend their trip, first on a detour to a carnival in Germany, and later to a more existential destination of permanent camaraderie and camping out in the woods while boozing and getting high.  Their new goal requires them to leave behind their daily lives, their wives and boring jobs. A wacky answer to the Hangover with its male bonding excursion, the film is a moving introspection into an exclusively male world.

the big trip

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