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  • Go East: Cottbus Film Festival


Go East: Cottbus Film Festival

The Cottbus Film Festival rounds up the most interesting, beautiful and out-there films in eastern Europe (and beyond) for six days of screenings and competitions Nov 8-13.

Image for Go East: Cottbus Film Festival The Cottbus Film Festival rounds up the most interesting, beautiful and out-there films in eastern Europe for six days of ecstatic cinema Nov 8-13. For six days in early November, the small town of Cottbus, nestled almost right on the the Polish border 120 km southeast of Berlin, becomes the buzzing capital of eastern European cinema. Join directors, actors, and other cinephiles at the 26th annual Cottbus Film Festival to experience some 200 flicks from 45 countries ranging from amateur shorts to Oscar-worthy features. We recommend taking the trek out there for the whole fest, but for you busier Berliners who may only be able to squeeze in a couple of days, here’s what’s happening so you can decide for yourself. For full immersion, go for the 12 full-length films in the Features Competition, all of them German premieres competing for the festival’s coveted LUBINA award. Among them are Romanian director Bogdan Mirică’s gory, yet artful Câini (“Dogs”), in which a young man returns from the city to claim his dead uncle’s land and becomes fatally entangled in a local drug lord’s vye for power. Staying on the dark side of familial ties is the beautifully tragic feature Ostatnia Rodzina (“The Last Family”) winner of Best Polish Film at the Warsaw Film Festival, a fact made all the more impressive considering it’s director Jan Matuszyński’s first feature. Inspired by the photographs and home movies of dystopic Polish artist Zdzisław Beksiński, the film focuses on the fragile, often painful, relationship between artist and son. Indulge in some conspiratorial titillation in Žiga Virc’s category-defying ‘docu-fiction’ film Houston We Have a Problem! Did NASA acquire socialist Yugoslavia’s space programme in the 1960s for billions of dollars? You’ll get an answer, but maybe not the truth. For a fresh take on family drama, look to This Is Not the Time of My Life (photo), Szabolcs Hajdu’s latest flick that’s already picked up Best Picture at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival. An almost painfully pinpoint accurate depiction of how family can drive you crazy, it’s played with a dash of laughs to alleviate your discomfort. The National Hits section gives you a chance to see movies that are smashes in their country of origin but virtually unknown abroad. Take Jutalomjáték (“The Carer”) from János Edelényi: a witty comedy bringing together cultures, generations, and temperaments in its fast-paced depiction of the heart-felt relationship of a dying Shakespearean actor and his young Hungarian caretaker. The festival keeps things fresh by adding a brand new category this year: the U18 Youth Film Competition will show films from Germany, Poland and Czech Republic for younger audiences, promoting a shared history of cross-border experiences. Berliner Mónica Lima, winner of our own Exberliner Film Award special mention at 2014’s Achtung Berlin film festival, shines in this category with her most recent short Viktoria, the story of a young athlete who must choose between her Paralympic dreams and regaining her ability to walk. The same triumvirate appears in the Special section’s focus – “Czechs, Poles and Germans – Searching for traces beyond historical distrust” – which delves into experiences of displacement pre- and post-WWII. A particularly heartwarming example of this category is found in Ann Michel and Philip Wilde’s Reversing Oblivion. Their short documentary chronicles Michel’s return to the Polish estate her family owned before WWII, and her attempts to uncover the hidden history of her Jewish ancestors. Russia get its own round-up in a section called Russkiy Den, a full day dedicated to eastern Europe’s most prolific source of cinema, from blockbuster to experimental, arty to commercial. Check out gems like the campy comedy and 2014 Audience Award winner B&W about forgiveness and understanding, or award-winning dramatic short Finnish Knife, Persian Lilac which follows a young Roma man after he is released from prison. Cottbus gives Berlin centre stage in the retrospective “Bridges and Breaks – Convergence in Post-Unification Germany” which focuses on changes and upheavals in the lives of Berliners in the 1990s. Picks include Peter Welz’s Burning Life (1994), an action-packed tale of ladies at large after becoming an unlikely crime duo or Eoin Moore’s Plus Minus Null (1998) which explores the strained loyalty of friends hustling in the red-light district in Kurfürstenstraße. Don’t miss out on this intimate festival that reminds us that eastern Europe is an important part of the cinematic map with a vast selection of quality film. Cottbus Film Festival, Nov 8-13 | Cottbus, see website for locations and full programme