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TBILISI: Inhale-Exhale by the acclaimed Georgian-born Berlin-based director Dito Tsintsadze was awarded best feature film at the 20th edition of the Tbilisi International Film Festival. The festival ran from 1 to 8 December 2019.

TALLINN: The Grand Prix of the 23rd Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival went to the Japanese feature film Kontora directed by Anshul Chauhan, while Motherland directed by Tomas Vengris won the Baltic Film Competition. The festival was held from 15 November to 1 December 2019. One of the unique new events this year was the new two day VR workshop sponsored by Film New Europe.

VENICE: Director Steven Soderbergh’s film The Laundromat, which screens in the main competition in Venice, is based on the book Secrecy World: Inside the Panama Papers Investigation of Illicit Money Networks and the Global Elite by Jake Bernstein. The book and a series of exposes articles in 2015 came into being when documents that became known as the Panama Papers were leaked to journalists by someone inside the Panamanian law firm of Mossack Fonseca, one of the world’s largest providers of offshore corporate services. The documents revealed information about more than 200,000 offshore companies and set off an avalanche of scandal and money laundering investigations around the world, although no one is assuming that anything has changed in this system that aides the super-rich in hiding their money from tax-authorities and government officials.

VENICE: American indie filmmaker James Gray is not the first name that springs to mind when you think of a Hollywood sci-fi blockbuster, but Ad Astra, which boasts Hollywood mega-star Brad Pitt in the leading role, is an accomplished film with enough artistic backbone to score a slot in the main competition in Venice.

VENICE: Director Todd Phillips enters the Venice competition lineup with what just might be the first Batman film that is for non-Batman fans. His film Joker takes the usual Hollywood comic book franchise into much deeper and more interesting psychological territory than the usual special effects laden star vehicles. while still managing to deliver all the expected Gotham City sets and characters in full regalia. Set in a thinly disguised New York City of either the late 1970s or the not distant future, when the city is overwhelmed with crime, greed, filth and society’s breakdown, we see the origins of the famous characters of the later films.

VENICE: Director Noah Baumbach already has ten feature films to his credit so it is no surprise that this already accomplished and respected filmmaker has landed in the Venice competition with his latest offering Marriage Story. What is surprising is that this just might be his best film yet.

GDYNIA: The 44th Polish Film Festival in Gdynia, which took place 16 - 21 September 2019, awarded its top prize Golden Lion for best film to Mr. Jones directed by Agnieszka Holland. Corpus Christi by Jan Komasa dominated the gala and won nine prizes, including best director and best script.

VENICE: Václav Marhoul is the first Czech director to score a place in the Venice competition lineup since Jiri Menzel’s The Life and Extraordinary Adventures of Private Ivan Chonkin in 1994. The Czech, Slovak and Ukrainian coproduction The Painted Bird is based on the acclaimed 1965 novel by Jerzy Kosinski and makes tough viewing with its uncompromising take on the pain and suffering of its main character.

The 76th Venice Film Festival opened with a pre-festival screening of the restored Czech classic Extase directed by Gustav Machaty and a Czech and Slovak film The Painted Bird screened in the main competition for the first time in 25 years. FNE TV spoke to Michal Bregant Director of Czech National Film Archives, Czech director Vaclav Marhoul and Slovak producer Zuzana Mistrikova about this year’s festival.