18th FilmFestival Cottbus competition and programme

    In less than a week it will be "curtain up" again for East European cinematic art at its finest. The FilmFestival Cottbus will be having its 18th edition from November 11 to 16. The leading festival for films from the Central and East European region will be "coming of age" and is again promising both a varied and exciting programme with outstanding cinematic pearls and prominent international guests.
    Between local roots and the search for visions - more than 100 films from 30 countries exploring the world of our Eastern neighbours in six days.
    The patronage of the FilmFestival Cottbus has been taken over by the Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs and Deputy Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, Frank-Walter Steinmeier together with the Minister President of the Federal State of Brandenburg, Matthias Platzeck. Both patrons will be welcoming the guests of the opening ceremony on November 11at the Staatstheater Cottbus.

    Feature Film Competition
    Ten films from ten countries of Central and Eastern Europe were nominated for the Feature Film Competition, stretching geographically from the Polish neighbour to far-off Kazakhstan. They include three international co-productions, of which two were made in collaboration with German partners. The traditionally strong Czech cinema is represented with two films, while the revived Russian cinematography - by far the most productive film nation of Eastern Europe - has substantial involvement in four works. Nine of the selected works will have their German premiere in Cottbus. While there is stylistic diversity, a thematic relationship makes itself clearly felt between the films. Five of the ten nominated titles deal with an existence far away from the hectic and glittering life of the big city. The harsh and tradition-bound living conditions in the country are often in conflict with the supposedly free and progressive conditions in the city.
    A humorous tone is adopted by Sergei Dvortsevoy in his story about looking for a bride in the Kazakh steppe. The Cannes prize-winner

    TULPAN - also the opening film of the Cottbus festival - tells the problems of a young man who returns to the boundless expanses of Kazakhstan from the big city and wants to build up a new life for himself in the traditional way. The hero in Mikhail Kalatozishvili's WILD FIELD ends up in a similar steppe-like region. This visually stunning and elliptical epic of beguiling beauty uses gently ironic melancholy to tell the story of a man in a practically deserted landscape, who calmly gives himself up to the realities of nature. The Hungarian Kornél Mundruczó also gets by with little dialogue in his drama DELTA and subsequently won the FIPRESCI Prize in Cannes. The wildly poetic delta, the mouth of the Danube with its many channels flowing into the Black Sea, is the setting for a disastrous incestuous brother-sister relationship. Another life on the river is the subject of the new film by the Czech Bohdan Slama, who

    had previously had success in Cottbus in 2002 and 2005 with the films WILD BEES and SOMETHING LIKE HAPPINESS. In COUNTRY TEACHER, he now focuses on the homosexuality of a young intellectual who escapes to a small village from the capital of Prague. With great sensitivity, Slama ventures here to address a taboo of Czech cinema. MUCHA by Vladimir Kott is also about an exodus from the big city, albeit more of an involuntary one. With an unerring sense for dry humour and without false sentimentality, he tells an unusual father-daugher story and provides an insight into Russian provincial life far away from the hip metropolises.
    Meanwhile, Michaela Pavlátová's NIGHT OWLS is set on a city's outskirts. The Prague suburban tales provide the background for a touching coming-of-age story. The Czech director describes the first steps into adult life precisely and with unpretentious and minimalistic

    strokes as a story of a difficult transition. Anca Damian's CROSSING DATES functions like Robert Altman's SHORT CUTS: Seemingly chance encounters, the supposedly unmotivated meeting of people are presented in an interwoven narrative whose loose stands are finally brought together in a common patchwork of life.
    Explicitly political statements can be found, on the other hand, in the productions from Poland and Croatia as well as in a Russian-Bulgarian co-production. Michal Rosa takes the audience in SCRATCH to a largely suppressed chapter of recent Polish history. After decades of a supposedly harmonious life together, a woman suspects that her husband had worked as a spy in the 1960s and simply married her as a means to an end.
    With NO ONE'S SON, Arsen Anton Ostojic delivers a furious snapshot of today's Croatia which is still fighting with the shadow of the Yugoslavian past.
    In his Karlovy Vary prize-winning film CAPTIVE Alexei Uchitel presents a commentary on the Chechnya conflict, which, from a Russian perspective, is unusually differentiated and conciliatory. An almost intimate human rapprochement begins across hostile fronts between two Russian soldiers and their Chechen prisoner.
    The International Festival Jury this year includes the Kosovo-born actress Arta Dobroshi (LORNA'S SILENCE), the deputy managing director of German Films, Mariette Rissenbeek (Germany), the Russian FIPRESCI president Andrei Plakhov, the executive director of the Israel Film Fund Katriel Schory and the Polish set designer Allan Starski, the Oscar-winner for SCHINDLER'S LIST.

    Short Feature Competition

    Ten films from eight countries were nominated for the Short Feature Competition. Traditionally the festival's crowd-puller, these films are screened in the "Long Night of the Shorts." The countries featured range from the Baltic states to the Caspian Sea, with Romania and Poland both having a particularly strong presence at this year's edition with two productions apiece. The Romanian cinema, now having enjoyed international success for some time, is represented firstly with THURSDAY by Hadrian Marcu, which describes the frustrating daily

    routine in a cotton mill. Radu Jude's ALEXANDRA, meanwhile, follows on from THE TUBE WITH A HAT which received the short film competition's main prize at Cottbus in 2006. The Pole Jan Wagner is also coming to Cottbus for the second time with a short film. He follows PORNO with MY BROTHER and a further episode about the difficulties of becoming an adult, while Anna Karasinska strings unusual everyday experiences together in UNIVERSAL SPRING. The difficulties of puberty and first love are depicted by Marina Vroda in the Ukrainian film THE OAT and Karchi Perlmann underpins Hungary's reputation for droll humour with THE DINNER.
    The Bulgarian film GAME by Kristina Groseva - at two minutes, the festival's shortest film - will be shown out of competition.
    The German-Hungarian actress and director Rita Lengyel (BERLIN CALLING), Mira Staleva, director of the renowned industry event "Sofia Meetings", as well as Martin Aadamsoo, development manager at the "Baltic Film and Media School" in Tallinn, were appointed as members of the international Jury for the Short Feature Competition.


    The Specials section is dedicating homages to three Oscar-winners who are celebrating anniversaries this year: Jirí Menzel and István Szabó will be congratulated on the occasion of their 70th birthdays

    with the screening of their most recent works, the literary adaptations I SERVED THE KING OF ENGLAND (2006) and RELATIVES (2006). The two top directors can reflect on their life and work in the affectionate documentary DIRECTORS ON A STRING (2008, international premiere) as well as in film talks where they will answer questions from the audience.
    With "Spot on Polanski", the festival will be honouring - with support from the Polish Institute Berlin - another Oscar-winner who celebrated his 75th birthday this year. Apart from a compilation of six of his early short masterpieces, the festival will be showing the highly praised adaptation of the literary classic OLIVER TWIST (2005), the production design for this latest work by Roman Polanski was undertaken by Oscar-winner Allan Starski, this year a member of the International Festival Jury.
    Moreover, there will be homages for two successful young actresses who are also serving in Cottbus festival juries: Arta Dobroshi is

    currently enjoying great success in the latest work by the Dardenne brothers LORNA'S SILENCE (2008) and Rita Lengyel shines in the techno drama BERLIN CALLING (2007) by Hannes Stöhr.
    A well-established and popular part of this section is the presentation of highlights from the programmes of festivals with close links to Cottbus. This programme includes the International Film Festival Karlovy Vary coming with THE WORLD IS BIG AND SALVATION LURKS AROUND THE CORNER (2008) by the Bulgarian Stefan Komandarev. This will be the German premiere of a project from Connecting Cottbus, which was realised as an international co-production. Three medium-length films - COSMIC STATION, THREE MEN AND A FISH POND as well as NAZIS AND BLONDES (all 2008) - will be screening as a contribution from DOK Leipzig. The Filmfestival Max Ophüls Preis from Cottbus' twin town of Saarbrücken will be showing its Audience Prize winner NOVEMBER CHILD (2007) which will also close the festival's 18th edition in the presence of the director Christian Schwochow.
    Apart from a showcase of all the short films from the gifted Polish animation filmmaker Izabela Plucinska, the festival will be offering animation fans an opportunity to see 'behind the scenes' of making an animation film. In collaboration with the Polish Institute Berlin and kindly supported by the DEFA Foundation, the festival is organising a workshop with the filmmaker giving a practical introduction to the question "How do you make an animation film?".


    Six debut films have been selected this year for Spectrum, of which three works supplement the selection for this year's Focus of "New Cinema from the Baltics": KINNUNEN, an eccentrically comical tale from Estonia, VOGELFREI, a Latvian joint project by four directors, as well as the international co-production MIDSUMMER MADNESS, a turbulently humorous story with a star cast. The showcase also features the latest works by the cinematographies of Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, which have rarely appeared at film festivals. Both Marat Alykulov's ABSURD AND ABSURDITY as well as SWIFT by Abai Kulbai offer a modern view of today's youth in the cities of the former Soviet republics, since they are hardly aware of their past and follow their own paths in the search for identity.

    National Hits

    Another audience highlight at the festival is provided with the National Hits section. Perfectly staged genre cinema at its finest is offered here with a lightness of touch that one would scarcely have expected of East European cinema. This time round, three top hits will have their German premiere in Cottbus and promise first-class entertainment: Latvia will be represented by DEFENDERS OF RIGA which will appeal to patriotic emotions, Poland is participating with LADIES, which has become the most popular contemporary film since the fall of the Berlin Wall, while Juraj Jakubisko delivers the most successful Slovakian film of all time with the opulently staged historical drama BATHORY.

    Russian Day - The Highlights of the year

    A new festival section is being established for the first time this year with the "Russian Day". With the establishment of this section the festival is paying tribute to the Russian cinema which has found its way back to its former glory and reputation after years of stagnation. As a celebration of "100 Years of Russian Cinema", the public and festival guests will have the chance on November 12 to see a representative cross-section of Russia's current production output. There is a real excitement about the international premiere of ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE PROVINCES

    (2008) which won the young
    director Katja Shagalova an award at the Moscow Film Festival. Also being shown in Germany for the first time are the anti-war drama RIORITA (Petr Todorovsky, 2008) and SCHARA (Reso Giginejshvili, 2007), one of the biggest successes with the Russian audience. There will also be a screening of the lyrical poem SONGS FROM THE SOUTHERN SEAS (Marat Sarulu, 2008) which is an international co-production with German involvement.
    This film programme will be accompanied for the first time this year and in cooperation with the Connecting Cottbus East West Co-production Market by a specific platform to promote the German-Russian film dialogue. Structured as a roundtable discussion, this meeting will offer invited industry representatives and filmmakers from Russia and Germany the opportunity for an intensive and open exchange, to explore the considerable potential for bi-national collaboration and thus a basis for future cooperations and co-productions. Based on an appraisal of the film industry's present situation, the discussion will focus largely on the cinema audience in both countries as well as the practice of co-production.
    In the evening, the "Russian Day" will end appropriately with the appearance of the Russian Kompott DJ team in one of the festival clubs.

    Focus: „New Cinema from the Baltics"

    Aptly for the festival's 18th birthday, the motto of this year's Focus is "Young and Easy?" The joys and discoveries, vagaries and problems of becoming an adult are the central motifs in a large number of new productions from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. In these films, the chances and risks are addressed of young adolescents who are

    looking for their place in the world and are often faced in the process by difficult decisions. No less than three films are focused on the special situation of young women: in MONOTONY (Latvia, 2007), the directorial debut of Juris Poskus, a young Latvian girl flees to Riga to change her life. Kristina Buozyte speaks in THE COLLECTRESS
    (Lithuania, 2008) about a young women who explores her own limits through extreme situations, while WHERE SOULS GO (Rainer Sarnet, Estonia 2007) highlights the hidden fears of two girls.
    The other countries on the Baltic Sea - Poland, Russia, Germany as well as the Scandinavian countries of Denmark, Finland and Sweden - are each contributing one film to the programme. The subject here also revolves around the lives and loves of young adults and their search for orientation in an increasingly confused world.
    Poland is sending the alluring love triangle THE THIRD (2004) which had its German premiere in Cottbus back in 2005 and makes an intelligent allusion to Roman Polanski's early work KNIFE IN THE WATER (1962). Russia is represented by the romantic fairytale IT DOESN'T HURT (2006), the most recent film by the cult director Alexei Balabanov. Denmark will be here with the moving drug drama NORDKRAFT (Ole Christian Madsen, 2005) which is also a successful literary adaptation. The 50th Nordic Film Days of Lübeck will present itself in Cottbus with this film and others from Scandinavia.
    This year's Focus „New Cinema from the Baltics" is curated by Kornel Miglus, responsible for film at the Polish Institute in Berlin. The film programme was made possible thanks to support from the Federal Agency for Civic Education (bpb).

    Retrospective: "1968 - the Prague Spring and the Aftermath"

    This year's retrospective under the heading of "1968 - the Prague Spring and the Aftermath" is dedicated to the historically significant caesura of 40 years ago. In the commentaries currently circulating in the media, these major political events in the Eastern part of Europe are often just perceived as a footnote to the dawn of pop culture. However, this film programme intends to portray the effects those events had to this day from a specifically Eastern perspective. The feature films of the former CSSR are placed here in the context of

    newsreel reports and other news programmes from that time. The spectrum of selected films ranges from works by the Czechoslovak "New Wave", which was strongly influenced by Neorealism and formal experimentation, through to explicitly political productions. Examples for both of these cultural approaches are provided by the omnibus film PEARLS ON THE GROUND (Jiri Menzel, CSSR, 1965) or the tragicomedy by Jan Nemec THE PARTY AND THE GUESTS (CSSR 1966). In later film treatments, the events are then subjected with a gap of thirty to forty years to a re-evaluation: with more of a conciliatory tone in the comedy COSY DENS (Czech Republic 1999) or a consistently pessimistic view in IT'S GONNA GET WORSE (Petr Nikolaev, Czech Republic 2007).
    Filmmakers and contemporary witnesses will attend Q&As on the programme to provide deeper insights into the events of four decades ago.
    The retrospective is being staged with support from the DEFA Foundation; the sidebar was curated by the Berlin film journalist Bernd Buder.

    Children's and youth programme

    The motto of this year's children's programme is "I am strong".
    The youth programme, on the other hand, is reflecting this year's retrospective by dealing with the youth rebellion at the end of the 1960s and its effects in East and West. The youth programme is supported by the Heinrich Böll Foundation in Brandenburg.


    The film offer is rounded off by an accompanying programme that includes film talks, workshops, exhibitions, readings, concerts, and parties - all dedicated to offering insights into Eastern European art.


    The opening on November 11 will see the festival being a guest in the Staatstheater Cottbus which recently celebrated its 100th birthday. Keeping up the tradition, the Stadthalle Cottbus, the "Weltspiegel" cinema, the Kammerbühne and the Obenkino in Glad-House will serve once again as the screening venues during the festival week. The festival centre will be located as previous years in the Stadthalle Cottbus.