This year’s London Film Festival already received a pat on the shoulder for gender representation, and it is time for us to applaud it, too. So far 2018 has produced some wonderful New East titles that LFF has intelligently programmed for the British audience. Showcasing over a dozen films from the region, this year’s festival spreads wide across the New East territories, featuring titles from Slovenia to Ukraine, from Romania to Serbia and Russia to Kazakhstan. Topics are as diverse as the backgrounds of their respective creators, sometimes emerging from the European festival circuit, but sometimes catching us by a pleasant surprise. And to all of you looking to catch up with the latest New East works, we have created a guide to the gems that you can see at LFF this year.
dir. Victor Kossakovsky, UK
The Russian documentarian’s latest work may or may not return to the Ancient Greek doctrine of Thales that perceived water as the principal element from which all things originated. Kossakovsky takes us around the waters of the world, from the lake Baikal and the Angel’s Falls in Venezuella, to the melting icebergs in the North Pole and the destruction of Miami post-Hurricane Irma, to capture the many colours of the element – beautiful and terrifying, a soothing healer and a destroyer all at once. A captivating attempt at capturing an element, Aquarella offers something more that eco-cinema, a poetic and emotional cinematic journey through the breathtaking sights of the alpha and omega of our world.
Aquarella will be running at the Special Presentation section on 13 and 14 October 2018.
dir. Darko Stante, Slovenia
“As long as there’s no love, there’s no consequences.”
Unable to conform societal norms, 17-year old Andrej is sent to a youth detention camp for his antisocial behaviour. What the young maverick is about to find is that there is a whole new society inside the camp that he is a whole new community that he is yet to adapt to. In this exclusively masculine space, Andrej discovers an unusual attraction to one of his inmates, but the dynamics in the camp make him unsure whether the connection between the two is not some evil power play. Consequences is ultimately a powerful and seductive queer story told from an unexpected angle that promises to win our hearts.
Catch Consequences on 17 and 18 October at LFF.
dir. Daria Zhukm Belarus-Russia-Germany-USA
In anticipation of Crystal Swan, we wrote about it earlier this year. In the summer, it won the hearts of many during KVIFF and now it’s landing on the Albion. Set a few years after Belarus gained independence in 1990, Crystal Swan follows the story of a young woman who dreams of leaving Belarus for Chicago where she could pursue her he dream job as a house music DJ. Obtaining a US visa, however, proves a difficult endeavour and, determined to flee her country, she takes the risk of buying a fake letter of employment from the black market. A depiction of a nation in the time of a hopeful anticipation of a brighter future, Crystal Swan is a story about a girl and a state coming of age together, in a time where the New East was yet to form its own definition of self and belonging.
Catch Daria Zhuk’s celebrated story on 14 and 16 October.
dir. Sergei Loznitsa, Germany-Ukraine-France-Netherlands-Romania
Sergei Loznitsa’s latest plays on one of the most defining issues of our time – the change of our perception of truth at the age of new media. Set in Ukraine’s war-torn Donbass region, Loznitsa’s latest is a fictional story about the war in Ukraine that adopts of form of ‘fake news’ TV reports. Often described as hyperralist and overly theatrical altogether, Donbass’ main objective seems to be the study of human nature under extreme political regimes. Although the film has been received with controversy around the different festivals, Loznitsa has possibly given us the political satire the New East has been in need of.
See Donbass on 17 and 19 October at LFF.
dir. Alexey German Jr., Russia-Poland-Serbia
After it received a Golden Bear nomination at Berlinale, Alexey German Jr’s biopic about the prolific Russian writer of Armenian and Jewish origins, is arriving at London Film Festival. Set in 1971 Soviet Leningrad, Dovlatov follows six days of the writer (played here by the Serbian talent Milan Marić) as he struggles through bureaucracy and ideology in an attempt to get his work published in Russia. Complemented by German’s now traditional style, Dovlatov‘s stunning cinematography evokes a certain tactile memory of Soviet experiences that Tarkovsky was a master of.
See Dovlatov on 18, 20 and 21 October at LFF.
I Do Not Care if We Go In History as Barbarians
dir. Radu Jude, Romania-Czech Republic-France-Bulgaria-Germany
I Do Not Care if We Go In History as Barbarians is a sentence uttered by Romania’s prime minister Ion Antunescu under whose regime the country committed the Odessa Massacre in 1941. In his latest, Radu Jude (Aferim!, The Dead Nation, Scarred Hearts) makes a controversial return to this dark period in Romanian history through a young artist who decides to reconstruct the horrific event. Focusing on the idea of reenacting crimes against humanity, as well as reflecting on Romania’s position during WWII I Do Not Care if We Go in History as Barbarians, is a slowly unfolding, but a definitive burner that positions us in the epicentre of the uncomfortable relationship between past and present.
The film was the winner of both Crystal Globe Label Europa Cinemas at this year’s KVIFF and will be showing at LFF on 13 and 14 October.
dir. Ognjen Glavonić, Serbia-France-Croatia-Iran-Qatar
“What do you carry inside? – Whatever they give me, I don’t ask.” – is a line of dialogue between Vlada (Leon Lucev), a driver-for-hire, and his passenger, that sounds literal and metaphorical in the climate of Nato’s airstrikes in 1999 against Milosevic’s regime. As the man completes a mysterious order from Kosovo to Belgrade, he is forced to undertake black roads which takes him on a journey around the pulsating body of his tormented nation. Constructed almost primarily on long shots and single perspective, Glavonić’s latest work is a piece rooted in a self-transcending realism – an aesthetic that doubtlessly derives from the filmmaker’s background in documentary.
The Load will be shown at LFF on 12 and 13 October.