As such a massive and versatile festival is difficult to sum up on just a couple of pages, I will only focus on the films that impressed me the most at this year’s PÖFF. While putting together my programme, I tried to make as versatile choices as possible this time, but by the end of the festival it still appeared that I had remained myself and watched a string of morbid horrors. The day was partly saved by the fact that I had decided to see as many debuts as possible, including some brighter pieces, but my favourites are still on the darker or the more psychedelic-fantastical side of life and humanity. In the following paragraphs, I award a few completely unofficial prizes of PÖFF, which unfortunately do not bring any benefits to the authors or filmmakers.
Francisco Hevia and Vinko Tomičić “Cockroach” (“El Fumigador”)
It is always extremely exciting to follow what goes on under the tough insect-like shell of lonely people. In that regard, Hevia and Tomičić’s “Cockroach” is no exception, with its hero Guido reminding me of the unhappy main character of Gerard Johnson’s film “Tony”, who watches kung fu and karate films from videotapes at home and, once in a while, attempts to start a conversation on the topic with someone on the street – unsuccessfully. His interests and inner world are of no concern to anyone and the same seems to apply for the cockroach fumigator Guido. Guido does not even come across as an introvert, rather an autist, whose life is all about stable routine and whose sociability does not stem from necessity or desire, but seems to only be a joyless imitation of general norms. When the stability is lost, it cannot end well, of course. Although Guido is a rather unpleasant type, the film’s slightly perverse tone is not the result of his personality only, but also the way the women surrounding him have been portrayed. The women have only a few miserable roles to fulfil in this sadly ending story: a caretaker, a provider of pleasures, and a servile victim who only follows orders. “Cockroach” depicts a sensitively created and superbly played disgusting piece of the world, about which it is difficult to say whether it is mostly inhabited by people or insects.
Most Shaking Film
Eduardo Roy Jr. “Ordinary People” (“Pamilya Ordinaryo”)
Almost two hours of incessant noise of the streets of Manila, in the middle of which two teenage glue-sniffers live at first with their new-born baby and later are in search of the kidnapped child, is quite exhausting. If, in the first half of the film, the youngsters who live on the street seem rather robust and unpleasant in their expressions and way of life, the more humane they become as the film rolls along and the more we see the monstrous traits of the humans living on the higher levels of hierarchy. A story with no ray of light!
Most Personally Affective Film
Yaniv Berman “Land of the Little People” (“Medinat Hagamadim”)
The author can talk about the background and the making of this film much better than I can and you can read about it from the interview published earlier (https://kultuur.info/blogi/en/2016/11/22/helina-koldek-interview-yaniv-berman-director-land-little-people/), but I could not ignore it when pointing out my festival favourites. Primarily because the empathy, accuracy and dynamic camerawork of this film made me feel like I had gone through a time machine and ended up as the fifth member of the company of children the film is about – the one who documents everything. A film experience that affects one personally and brings back one’s own memories is quite rare.
Jim Hosking “The Greasy Strangler”
It is a film not many will share a praising word for and quite honestly I’m finding it hard to think of someone to recommend it to. In conclusion, I can say that about half an hour into watching “The Greasy Strangler”, I started to be impressed by the nuances I usually consider minuses in films, like lame humour and silly music. I watched and wondered – what is the charm of this film? One of the possible answers is that while genre-pure comedies irritate and tire me with their endless aspirations of generating witty remarks and mostly fail, then “The Greasy Strangler” has not put much effort into making the dialogues versatile. They teem with repetitions and not very fluent jokes are told again and again. Very lifelike! I am a great fan of the everyday life and as an attentive listener of mundane conversations, my curiosity is instantly aroused – and I feel that this boredom banging with monotony eventually forms into a cool and exciting pattern. And that’s what happens.
Favourite Film of 2016
João Pedro Rodrigues “The Ornithologist” (“O Ornitólogo”)
“The Ornithologist” has a lot of the vibe of Raoul Ruiz’s „The Territory“: wandering in the woods and landscapes of consciousness, weird encounters and mysterious atmosphere full of references and allegory. And then it’s something completely different. Something so full of fantastical and multi-layered that you have to experience it yourself. It is no secret that one of the prevailing themes in the films of João Pedro Rodrigues is gay romance, which can turn out to be a pro or a con while watching the film in the cinema. A con in the case you happen to sit next to a couple who starts to loudly argue during a scene of romance, which one of them picked out the pervert film from the programme. A pro in the case you have become bored with the usual gaze of a male in a film, which, by the way, is not only made by men. Watching “The Ornithologist” made me feel like they had used my brain and my eyes instead of cameras in this Portuguese jungle – I haven’t seen anything shot from such a perfect and suitable perspective on the large screen for a long time.