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Festival of European Cinema Lecce 2013

Ships
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"Ships" (Elif Refig)

"Cinema animates the eyes" states the slogan of the 14th European Film Festival which was held this year in Lecce from 8 to 14 April. But, I would argue, without hesitation, the festival does far more than that. Setting aside the picturesque locations that have played host to exhibitions dedicated to Aki Kaurismaki and Francesca Neri (Carlo V's castle and Teatini's Monastery), the films in competition not only 'animated' my eyes, but also filled my soul and made my heart pound. Through different visual means, directors and writers have been able to grasp the multifaceted complexity of human life (above all, in my opinion, the extraordinary Loving (Milosc, 2012), directed by Slawomir Fabicki). The ten films in competition, produced by different European countries (Turkey, Germany, Denmark, Greece, France ...), oscillating between hope and disillusionment, between dream and reality, poetically touched on some of the themes that most characterize contemporary society. Among these are, above all, generational conflict between parents and children, and the crisis of marriage as an institution. The characters in these stories, desperately searching for their own identity, are equally searching for a place in the world, a safe haven that will soothe their pain.

With the exception of Danish director Martin Lund and his funny and irreverent The Almost Man (Mer eller mindre mann, 2012), directors and writers mostly chose narratives characterised by an intimate and dramatic tone. Stupidly and irresponsibly, a driver hits a man, and then, annihilated by guilt, tries in vain to repair the damage. Exploring her family history, a woman discovers by chance that her father withheld the fact that his grandfather was a colonel in the SS. Tired of his life spent in a shipyard, a man vainly dreams of abandoning the place to go sailing on an imaginary ship called (not surprisingly) "Vamos". A teenager goes in search of an absent father and discovers that he is nothing more than a fat loser with no money.

These films mostly take place in daylight locations and share a common stylistic tone through their almost total absence of the soundtrack. All have avoided using glamorous actors, those made famous by celebrity gossip and the glare of photographer's flash. The films emphasise, above all, the strength of European cinema: even when European directors make use of 3D or tip their hats to Hollywood mega-productions (to seduce audiences that demand increasingly sophisticated special effects), European films still have as their subject the worries and emotions of the human race.

The strong competition selection was complemented by public and press encounters with Kaurismaki (a real showman), a retrospective dedicated to Francesca Neri and an exhibition of Israeli cinema. But perhaps the most interesting innovation of the 14th European Film Festival was, in my opinion, the tribute to Fernando Di Leo, one of the most acclaimed directors of Italian B-movies, adored by Quentin Tarantino and known to fans of the genre for having fleshed out the absolutely Italian style known as "poliziottesco." A tribute to a forgotten director who, with very limited means of production, was able to cross national borders and make a huge contribution to Italian cinematography. (Ignazio Senatore)

Lecce (Italy, Festival of European Cinema, April 9-13, 2013). Prize: Ships (Ferahfeza) directed by Elif Refig (Turkey, 2012, presented in the European Feature Film Competition). Motivation: "Ships, a striking film for its aesthetic and expressive abilities, marks the emergence of a promising new director. She confronts the theme of an odyssey, putting together a pulsating film that shifts between hope and disillusion, between dream and reality. The characters, two so-called losers looking for their identity, build their universe like a refuge within the real world." Jury: Karin Svensson, Sweden ("Svenska Dagbladet"), Marie-Pauline Mollaret, France ("Ecran Noir"), Ignazio Senatore, Italy ("Segno Cinema Rewiew"). Print source: The director herself (elifre@gmail.com, +905336369910). The website www.ferahfezathemovie.com is under construction.
Festival: http://festivaldelcinemaeuropeo.it/

Reports

Ships Sailing to Infinity... and Beyond. Marie-Pauline Mollaret discusses the FIPRESCI award winner: Elif Refig's Ships. arrow.
What Does It Say about Europe?
Karin Svensson overviews the films in competition and tries to answer the inevitable question. arrow.

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