Text prepared by Nikita Smirnov for Delovoi Peterburg business media https://www.dp.ru/a/2019/09/13/Afisha
A woman is moping floors in a toilet. The silence is gradually broken by sobs and then wails. Sung-A Yoon, the director, presents a civil version of Full Metal Jacket. The woman on-screen is one of the many Filipino women who train as domestic workers to be sent overseas to work as nannies, maids or cooks. These courses already prepare them for the things they are going to go through: stressful situations, domestic violence and discrimination. Thus, we find the protagonists in a time “when they work on their future traumas, not past ones,” as Sung-A Yoon put it. Indeed, many of the things that we see on-screen are a rehearsal of a traumatic experience, a replica of the wounds that these women will inevitably get in their search for a better life.
Sung-A Yoon: “Each year, more than 200,000 women leave the Philippines to find domestic work abroad. The Filipina workers are often stereotyped as obedient and naturally suited to take care of elders and children. I wanted to break this stereotype to show that they are also individuals, not weak-willed victims, and that they aren’t just a statistic. I also wanted to explore the group dynamic, the sisterhood that builds among the group and the support they have for each other.”
In Santiago, Chile, there is a Park of Kings, and in it, a small skatepark. This is a meeting point of local skaters, many of them are from troubled families, without any prospects but with bad habits, history of drug use and problems at home. Chola and Football, two genii locorum and bosom friends, meet them there every day. The film studies the relations unfolding against the backdrop of teenagers’ conversations that seem mundane compared with the unhurried life of the two dogs.
Chilean film directors Bettina Perut and Iván Osnovikoff (who is an amateur skater himself) began filming the teenagers on skateboards but made a film about our furry friends. They found their protagonists when the concept of a film about a skatepark was in crisis. As it turned out, the film was underfoot all along. This new perspective, which pays a lot of attention to the protagonists, has predetermined the future of Los Reyes: a story told through wet noses and cracks in old paws.
Bettina Perut: “It taught us that humans are not the centre of the world. We think we are, but we’re not. That’s not something theoretical, it’s a fundamental truth. When we found the dogs in the park, that gave us that new point of view I was looking for. There was a whole world of aesthetic potential that was very cinematic. What I liked most is that they don’t talk.”
Hatidze breeds bees in a deserted Macedonian village. This is a symbiosis: the woman always takes only a part of the honey, sings to her bees and does not use any protective clothing or gadgets. Together with her mother, who is busy preparing to die, they live without electricity amid mountains. Hatidze sells the honey in a city and uses her profits to buy small nice things: hair dye for herself, a fan for her bedridden mother. One day, an itinerant family installs itself next door: Hussein, the family’s patriarch, brings with him seven children, hens, cattle and a trailer for a home. Hatidze’s and her bees’ peaceful kingdom is turned into chaos, and then she learns that her neighbour also plans to take up beekeeping, although his approach to it is way less subtle…
Although originally planned as a short film about the region and environmental issues, Honeyland grew into a feature film thanks to the sudden appearance of Hussein’s family, the village’s “seasonal” dwellers. The film was made by Ljubomir Stefanov and Tamara Kotevska – two directors who had worked together before. The filmmakers managed to divide the two families among themselves, allowing Honeyland to switch seamlessly between the narrative about the one or the other, yet they do not criticise, instead inviting us to reflect upon the means and challenges of modern man’s coexistence with nature.
Tamara Kotevska: A Korean journalist living in London saw the film there and immediately booked a flight to Macedonia to talk with Hatidze. We brought him to her. He asked: “How did they find you?” And she said, “They didn’t find me. I found them.” You can imagine her way of thinking. She’s a complete extrovert. She wanted her story to be told. It’s a lot easier when you work with this kind of person who wants to tell her story. Otherwise I don’t think we could approach her so closely.”
A PUNK DAYDREAM
Indonesia is a country with a Muslim majority. It takes little effort to be proclaimed a misfit here, but the consequences can be huge. A Punk Daydream tells a story of a local community of young punks with mohawks and tattoos, playing flutes and ukuleles. They have something to lose: we follow the complicated relations of Eka, a young and charismatic punk, with his authoritarian military-type father speaking the language of conservative Indonesian party. Jimmy Hendrickx, the film’s director, compares this confrontation of fathers and sons, order and aspirations with the way of life of the Dayak, indigenous peoples of Indonesia, who are much more free than their contemporary civilized compatriots. Not limiting himself to the local colour readily available to him, Hendrickx goes further and includes pointedly surrealistic scenes that refer to another famous doc about Indonesia: The Act of Killing (2012).
Jimmy Hendrickx: “For me, it’s important to meditate on our feelings of connection and disconnection with our surroundings. That’s what I wanted to put in the film. It might be universal if we do not have a connection with the earth; if we feel displaced. We don’t use the maximum of our powers. The tribe in the film show it very well – the magical energy we can have with the place where we stand. We can translate it into a belief, a religion, or animism, but the main thing is that we have to respect the place where we are and that makes us so different from animals.”
THE WIND. A DOCUMENTARY THRILLER
Halny is the name of a mountain wind that blows in the Polish Tatras every few months. Not only does it blow away barn roofs, uproot trees and cause traffic accidents. During these brief periods, the number of suicides rises and people have seizures. Michał Bielawski’s film follows the lives of several people living in the region, each of whom has their own way of coping with the elements and nature.
Michał Bielawski: “When I presented the first teaser of the film at the industry workshop in Lisbon, one of the commissioners told me that it looked like ‘weather porn.‘ It was a tempting direction to take – to present calamity after calamity, until the on-screen world falls apart. But I wanted to do more than that. Luckily, at the beginning of the shoot, I managed to record enough dramatic scenes, and therefore I could focus on other elements. I wanted the audience to meet and bond with my characters. My aim was to present interesting twists and turns, not just an action-packed movie about the wind, creeping up on them like a villain.”
Hassan Fazili tried to make films and to run an art café in Afghanistan. Yet his film made his family a target for the Taliban.* A former friend who went over to the terrorists warned the filmmaker about the threat. Together with his wife and children Fazili hastily packed his things and this was a beginning of the journey of political refugees that went on for several years. During this time, Fazili recorded life in camps and safe houses, clashes with the locals, crossings of European borders and endless waiting for the moment when European officials recognize his family as victims with a right to life. Midnight Traveler was made with any means available, from cheap phones to semi-professional cameras, and its plot remains a mystery for its protagonists and makers who try to get through the millstones of European migration policy.
Hassan Fazili: I feel that our family’s experience is not unique to us and is an important part of human history and must be preserved and seen by all. I always thought that I had to honestly record like a historian and not hide things from viewers because of my personal issues. But sometimes I do wonder whether I should have made this film, because after this, my family must begin a new life and forget all the problems we suffered before. I worry about this problem because I am caught in between two different ideals. As a filmmaker, I feel I must document some of the problems in the world so that future generations. As a father and a family member, sometimes think that I’ve done wrong and sometimes I think I’ve done right.”
* Taliban is an organization banned in Russia
Mila has been diagnosed with tongue cancer. She decides to head for the Amazonian jungle to Peruvian shamans and to make a film about her healing process. There is a certain visitor traffic already going on in Peru: since 1991, Anatoly Khizhnyak, a well-known traveller and adventurer, has been spending much time there. What will Mila find in those forests for herself, what will this trip to ancient jungle lead to?
Last year, Nastia Korkia took part in the short-film competition of Message to Man with her film Dramatic and Mild. This year sees the première of her completely new and different film. Estoy Feliz above all is a deeply personal film about her own mother, dedicated to all mothers.
When captured on camera, Amazonian exotics – preparation of ayahuasca, living in close contact with nature – immediately lose its magical properties. The source of the unexplained in Estoy Feliz is the protagonist herself who endures this journey, this stare of a camera and this world whose colours are starting to fade.
Nastia Korkia: “I had a complicated history with this film. It was not me who decided to shoot it. It was completely my mother’s idea. I wanted very much for my mother to be treated at the Sechenov, Herzen or Blokhin cancer centres, but she decided to seek help from a shaman in Peru on the bank of the Amazon. So I decided to make a film about it. And I simply had to support her choice, because it is a personal choice, how and where to get treatment, but this is easy to say, yet hard to accept in actuality.
My biggest revelation was when I realized how a person can be simultaneously so weak to accept reality and so strong to have it their way, how much fear and perseverance can be in there. Working on the film was good for my mother: it took her mind off her condition, she had something to think about except her treatment, and that was very important, I think. In the end, I am strangely proud of the fact that my mother, as always, decided to have it her way and refused to accept the scenario imposed by her doctors; she surprised and scared everyone and managed to implement her plans. And that everything is well with her.
And all these lopsided overexposed shots made on an iPhone and a point-and-shoot camera, all this slightly silly talks, all this naive joy at the sight of pineapples, turtles, crocodiles and blue butterflies amid the illness that got on my nerves, all this will always remain with me and I hope that it will forever remain in the past that we managed to escape from, but it is good to have this weird film that simply had to be made.”
The Ochoa family runs a for-profit ambulance service: in Mexico City, there are only 45 state-owned ambulances for nine million citizens, so private family-run ambulances are an attempt of the concerned citizens to start a business, pursue better livelihoods and address the disturbing situation in the city.
Luke Lorentzen’s intensive doc makes critics worldwide crack the same joke: “So you still think that our country has healthcare problems?” Lorentzen alternates between the scenes of night shifts and of the family’s domestic life with subplots of its own, primarily about the coming of age of young Juan who is both shy and infantile. In the car, shift after shift Juan becomes the head of the family. The ambulance setting and the film’s delicate topic put Lorentzen in a difficult situation: he alone coped with two cameras, spent many shifts together with the Ochoas and dedicated more than three years to making of the film.
Luke Lorentzen: “With Midnight Family I spent over 80 nights sleeping, eating, and essentially living in the ambulance with the Ochoas. I was of course there for the exciting stuff, but the trust really builds when it’s 6:00 AM, we’re parked on a dark street corner, nothing is happening, and for some reason I haven’t gone home yet.”
Young Zoryana lives in the countryside with her husband Edgars and her mother. She does the housework, plays the piano, raises a child and works at a computer. This idyll has to end, though: the family wants to move to Riga, where her husband works at a fast food joint and urban conditions allow raising children “like everyone else.” Zoryana’s Russian mother dissuades her from living “in cages.” Zoryana is torn between the wishes of her husband and her mother.
Zoryana Horobraya (that is going to be world premièred at Message to Man) is a début of Elita Klavina, a leading actress at New Riga Theatre. She is a former journalist, so this astuteness in the choice of characters for her first film is no coincidence. Klavina uses them to reveal the conflicts of the modern Baltic. Zoryana’s choice in the film is not only between the city and the countryside, but between the Russian language and Latvian, between her mother’s old beliefs and European living standards (in the countryside Edgars grows and sells vegetables and in the city he works at a fast food restaurant).