Next up from the Panorama stream are the films from Eastern Europe, India, the Middle East, and Africa. There is a huge array of countries, cultures and concerns within this group of films, and together they speak to the richness and diversity that the festival offers to audiences. Enjoy their trailers parked below…
Set largely in taxis, Stephan Komandarev’s gem of an ensemble drama dissects the sometimes cruel, sometimes ironic vagaries of life in today’s Sofia. Beginning with the story of Misho (Vassil Vassilev), a broke father who shoots a corrupt banker and then turns the gun on himself in an unsuccessful suicide attempt, Komandarev fashions a daisy-chain narrative both melancholy and hopeful. “[This] clever, fleet-footed film observes [life in Sofia] with poignant accuracy and flashes of wry humour.”- Variety
Garden Store: Family Friend
(Trailer not available)
Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia, 1939: after the Gestapo arrest three men, a family friend provides for their wives and children, but over the years a forbidden love blossoms. An assured period piece which uses the familiar WWII backdrop as fertile soil, VIFF fave Jan Hřebejk’s latest takes root as a moving, humane drama unafraid to wrestle with the fraught tensions of love, family, and betrayal with a twinkle in its eye. “Family Friend achieves an exquisite balance between comedy and drama.”- Prague Reporter
With her lonely weeks bookended by fraught visits from her sons, widowed Hana (Zuzana Kronerová) is adrift—until she pulls the drowning Brona (Pavel Nový) from a freezing river. As she succumbs to his odd charms, she’s likewise seduced by the invigoration of ice-swimming and the camaraderie of the eccentrics who claim it as their passion. Bohdan Sláma’s film is a beautifully rendered reminder that self-realization and a sense of belonging can be discovered through the most unlikely circumstances.
(Trailer not available)
Ana Urushadze’s remarkable debut finds a Tblisi housewife (Nato Murvanidze) forced to choose between her family life in patriarchal Georgian society and her lifelong repressed passion for writing. Opting to plunge into the artistic abyss, she sacrifices herself to her book both mentally and physically, and her fantasy life begins to merge with her reality. When she decides to read her novel to her family, it becomes clear she is using her writing to sublimate her frustrations—and all hell breaks loose.
Poet, actor and filmmaker Yılmaz Erdoğan reaches a career high in this epic dramedy, using his feel for mood, wit and the nuances of character to spectacular effect. Telling the story of a proud man and his three beautiful daughters over the course of decades, the film generates laughs and poignancy in copious measures. Graced with casting coups, vivid colours and wonderful performances, it’s an old-fashioned delight of the kind Hollywood has lost the ability to make.
That Trip We Took with Dad
(Original language trailer)
In 1968, brothers Mihai (Alexandru Margineanu), a doctor, and Emil (Razvan Enciu), an 18-year-old contrarian, accompany their ill father William (Ovidiu Schumacher) on a trip from Arad, Romania, to Dresden, where Dad is scheduled for surgery. The Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia puts a large crimp in their plans… Anca Miruna Lăzărescu’s debut, drawing from her own father’s life, “wraps its political message up in a warm and engaging family dramedy… Deserves every one of its 111 minutes.”- Eye for Film
(Original language trailer)
Plunging into the beautiful-yet-harsh world of Russian ballet, director Valery Todorovsky maps out the heartbreak, petty politics and wide-eyed dreams of aspiring ballerinas. The tale of a hopeful girl swept up in currents of dance unfolds against the dramatic backdrop of Tchaikovsky’s own majestic ballets, striving for authenticity while keeping the audience on its toes. “Moving and entertaining, The Bolshoi is a majestic treasure that succeeds on the big screen.”- Screen-Space
Once again, modern Russia comes under the knife of master vivisectionist Andrei Zvyagintsev (Leviathan, VIFF 14). The marriage of Boris (Alexei Rozin) and Zhenya (Maryana Spivak) is in its death throes when their son Alyosha (Matvey Novikov) disappears after hearing them fight. Was he kidnapped? As Boris and Zhenya face bureaucratic lethargy and their own selfish desires, time may be running out… “An eerie thriller of hypnotic, mysterious intensity… Zvyagintsev has produced another masterpiece.”- Guardian
The corrupt, shifting boundary between the Slovak Republic and Ukraine in the days prior to the former’s entry into the EU is the setting for Peter Bebjak’s tense crime drama about the head of a cigarette-smuggling ring (a star-making turn from Tomáš Maštalír) whose personal and professional lives are starting to unravel… “Redolent of The Godfather and The Sopranos with a soupçon of Animal Kingdom and a welcome dose of black humor, The Line is an entertaining, fast-paced crime thriller…”- Variety
The Nest of the Turtledove
Featuring gorgeous cinematography, Taras Tkachenko’s sensitively directed film centres on married mother Daryna (Rimma Ziubina, excellent), who returns to the rural Bukovina region of Ukraine after two years in Genoa working as a maid. Can the newly independent Daryna possibly resume her traditional roles—especially given she is pregnant…? Eschewing melodrama in favour of a finely etched realism, Tkachenko drops in subtle examples of Ukrainian traditions that add to the flavour of this affecting drama.
No Bed of Roses
Indian star Irrfan Khan is riveting as a vain filmmaker who leaves his wife for his daughter’s classmate in Mostofa Sawar Farooki’s realistic dissection of family dysfunction. With a dispassionate camera that captures every subtle expression and action, Sawar Farooki crafts probing visuals that perfectly match Khan’s layered performance. “Irrfan Khan takes the lead in this nuanced film from Bangladesh about… the quietly devastating impact of a husband’s infidelity on those closest to him.”- Screen
The aged Daya (Lalit Behl) has a dream foretelling his own death and demands that his beleaguered son Rajiv (Adil Hussain), an accountant, take him to the holy city of Varanesi to await his fate. Rajiv has no choice but to agree and soon they are in the eponymous Varanesi hotel, a vermin-infested dive… Featuring lovely views of the holy city, Shubhashish Bhutiani’s debut is warm, funny and charming by turns. “An Indian comedy full of emotional depth and understated paradox…”- Hollywood Reporter
Durga (Rajshree Deshpandey) and Kabeer (Kannan Nair), a young couple in Kerala, accept a ride from two young men in a van. So begins their nightmare… Sanal Kumar Sasidharan’s powerful thriller was, reportedly, completely improvised, which explains its disturbing realism and the feeling that anything might happen at any moment. “Generates a steady thrum of dread… The story of one couple’s journey gone horribly awry feel[s] universal, an allegory about the violent misogyny that plagues India.”- Slant
On Election Day in the conflict-ridden jungle of Chhattisgarh, central India, Newton (Rajkummar Rao), an idealistic polling clerk, is caught between indifferent security forces and a public that refuses to vote for fear of reprisals. Darkly comic and surprisingly tense, Amit V. Masurkar’s dramedy exposes the contradictions faced by the world’s largest democracy. “The shades of grey that Newton must ultimately confront… are splashed across the screen with subtle power and simmering poignancy.”- Screen
Lipstick Under My Burka
Alankrita Shrivastava weaves together four stories of Indian women refusing to play by the rules in this warmly funny tale. Shirin (Konkona Sen Sharma) hides her job from her husband; Leela (Aahana Kumra) gets engaged while having an affair; religious student Rehana (Plabita Borthakur) discovers sensual pleasures; and Auntie Usha (Ratna Pathak Shah) is obsessed with erotic fiction… “Lipstick is audaciously outspoken about women’s sexual desires and fantasies, both visually and verbally.”- Hollywood Reporter
The Nile Hilton Incident
By setting his gripping neo-noir in a Cairo on the edge of revolution, director Tarik Saleh elevates a riveting tale into a forceful political allegory. Cynical cop Noredin (Fares Fares) sees his inquiries about a murdered singer stymied at every turn. The deeper he goes into Cairo’s underworld, the higher up the political ladder the crime reaches… “Perfumed with an enervated atmosphere of decrepitude… Saleh’s striking feature parts the curtains on an era in the final throes of decline…”—Hollywood Reporter
No Date, No Signature(No trailer available)
Vahid Jalilvand’s film gives us Dr. Nariman (Amir Agha’ee), a forensic pathologist and upstanding member of the community. When he injures a child in a motor vehicle accident, the good doctor is willing to take him to the hospital, but the kid’s father declines his help. The next morning Nariman discovers that the boy has died… Besides being a riveting drama, No Date, No Signature offers a nuanced look at class and power relations in contemporary Iran. It’s a disquieting but profoundly satisfying movie.
Azar(No trailer available)
First seen racing on a dusty motocross track, Azar (Niki Karimi) isn’t exactly the conventional ideal wife, at least not in Iran. She’s confident, capable and deeply committed to the fledgling pizzeria she runs with her husband, Amir (Hamid Reza Azarang), but she’s a little too progressive for some tastes. So when a terrible tragedy threatens the future of both Amir and the business, she ends up paying the price. Mohammed Hamzei’s debut is a deeply felt snapshot of gender inequality in contemporary Iran.
A droll yet melancholic undercurrent runs throughout this alternately funny and tender satire about a subject you rarely see onscreen—the lives of modern Arab Christians in Israel. Adam (writer-director Shady Srour), an unsuccessful 40-ish Arab-Christian businessman living in Nazareth with his wife, decides to bottle the “holy air” from Mount Precipice and sell it to tourists—if, that is, he can avoid the gangsters demanding protection money and the priest who controls the market on Christian trinkets…
Reseba: The Dark Wind
Kurdish director Hussein Hassan shot this affecting drama—about a Yazidi woman (Diman Zandi), kidnapped by ISIS members during the Yazidi genocide, who is rejected by her community after being rescued by her fiancé (Rekesh Shabaz)—in refugee camps in Kurdistan with the help of the Yazidi community. Unfussy visuals and a fast pace add urgency to a subject never before filmed. “Hassan’s sensitive, muted handling of potentially explosive subject material has the undeniable ring of authenticity…”- Screen
During a renovation in Beirut, a disagreement over plumbing escalates until Toni, a Lebanese Christian, utters a grievous insult at Yasser, a Palestinian refugee. Filing a formal complaint that leads to a highly publicized trial, Yasser inadvertently fuels a national debate between their respective communities. Reminding us how the trivial can serve as tinder for a political wildfire, director Ziad Doueiri crafts a modern day fable about how someone can play oppressor and victim in the same conflict.
Alain Gomis’ vibrant, impressionistic drama, set in the streets of Kinshasa, focuses on a single mother (the riveting Congolese singer Véro Tshanda Béya), a bar singer who tries to go it alone in a megacity where corruption, violence and ingrained sexism make every day a challenge. When her 14-year-old son is badly injured in an accident, she reaches out… “Gomis’ latest… [weaves] a sensual, sometimes hopeful, sometimes disturbing urban tapestry with threads of image, sound, poetry, and song.”- Variety
Beauty and the Dogs
Told in nine chapters, each consisting of a single fluid shot, Kaouther Ben Hania’s (Challot of Tunis, VIFF 14) fiction debut is as ambitious as it is disturbing. Based in fact, her film follows student Mariam (Mariam Al Ferjani, exceptional) who, on a night out, is raped (offscreen) by two police officers and then finds both the medical bureaucracy and the police force aligned against her. Laying bare the misogyny that permeates modern Tunisia, this is “a harrowing and necessary film.”- Hollywood Reporter
Ritual circumcision of South African Xhosa boys as a passage into manhood is only one form of wound on display in John Trengove’s sensitive debut. Centred around the closeted Xolani (well-known gay singer Nakhane Touré), a caregiver to the newly circumcised boy-men; his (married) lover, Vija (Bongile Mantsai); and Xolani’s latest charge, the rebellious teen Kwanda (Niza Jay Ncoyini), this powerful drama is “[a] hard-edged but beautifully wrought study of clashing Xhosa models of masculinity.”- Variety
Tickets for all of these amazing films available here.