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“Like a collaboration between Monty Python and Samuel Beckett in the last days of the Neue Sachlichkeit. You just have to watch it, then grab a net and try to coax your soul back down from the ceiling.” (Robbie Collin, The Telegraph)
“A cavalcade of oddness, humour, banality and even horror...manages the uniquely Anderssonian trick of not just making you notice the absurdity of existence, but reminding you to love that absurdity as well. Life is unlikely, humans are ridiculous, and the world is cruel: isn’t it great?” (Jessica Kiang, IndieWire)
“A cross between a Where’s Waldo cartoon and a Gregory Crewdson photograph, the best way to approach it is as you might a large-canvas painting or a Jacques Tati film. Where other directors seek out exceptional moments, Andersson endeavors to capture the poetry of the mundane.” (Peter Debruge, Variety)
Concluding the trilogy on being human (along with Songs from the Second Floor and You, the Living), A PIGEON SAT ON A BRANCH REFLECTING ON EXISTENCE follows Sam and Jonathan, a modern-day Don Quixote and Sancho, two travelling salesmen peddling grotesque party masks and quarrelling continuously. Sam, who considers himself the brains of the operation, ceaselessly patronizes his companion. Jonathan is slow and phlegmatic, finding happiness in the simple act of eating. Taking us on a kaleidoscopic wandering through multiple human destinies, the two inspire hilarity as much as gravity. We wander through the film, tasting the beauty and absurdity of the moment, surrounded by others all too much like ourselves. It is a journey that unveils the beauty of single moments, the pettiness of others, the humour and tragedy hidden within us, life’s grandeur as well as the ultimate frailty of humanity.
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Réalisateur-terrible Bertrand Mandico returns to BIEFF with another tale of the psycho-sexual bizarre, aptly titled Our Lady of Hormones. Shot in textured Super 16mm and bursting with the artistic glee of a passionate genre cinephile, Mandico’s film employs rear-projection, stunning technicolour and a lively, and decadent mise-en-scene to tell the erotic story of rivalry between two actresses who become obsessed by a living-and-breathing hairy lump of meat. Fitted with a protruding phallic antennae, the pet-cum-lover becomes an object of desire and envy, kicking off a murderous tale fit for a Giallo or Hammer film. A veritable surreal experience which genre-hops through comedy, suspense and horror, Our Lady of Hormones is a cautionary tale of human nature’s impotence of domesticating the very (primal) impulses we desire. (Andrei Tănăsescu, BIEFF)
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The Invention of the Desert is, on the surface, an essay abstract for the study of singularity theory; at its core, however, lies a prophetic dictum, vocalized by a digital entity hailing from a future where mankind has disappeared. Fly-bys of architectural videos populated by digital simulacra of ourselves are appropriated as the narrator describes a world - not far from ours - where human civilization grew over-reliant on technology. Gradually, our virtual presence in the videos disappears, as we learn of Artificial Intelligence surpassing the human species. Frighteningly passive in its apocalyptic conclusion, The Invention of the Desert functions as a powerful alarm call, resonating within the droning pulsations of the synthesized soundtrack well after its credits abruptly cut off its lifeline. (Andrei Tănăsescu, BIEFF)
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A blend of reality and fiction unfolds against the backdrop of a desolate place in Pierre Huyghe's Untitled (Human Mask). There is a real story attached to it, that of the monkey trained to work as a waitress for the amusement of the clientele. And there is the dystopian setting somewhere in the Fukushima nuclear disaster exclusion zone, where the artist chooses to transpose her as a lonely figure appearing like the sole survivor of a nuclear disaster. We experience a disconcerting feeling as the camera hovers over the deserted place to follow the increasingly frantic movements of the hairy creature in a blue uniform and wearing a humanlike mask, like a human-animal hybrid trapped in a post-apocalyptic dystopia. (Adina Marin, BIEFF)
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A cerebral wonder of cinematic narration, David Rodes’ film plays out within the liminal realm where thoughts and ideas germinate - the mind. Emanating from its deeply symbolic core, the film envisions its male and female protagonists meeting upon a vast, arid plateau. As their ghostly traces run circles around each other, their real manifestation brings them face to face, under the threat of a colossal electrical sandstorm that is approaching. Words are spoken, glances exchanged and the symbolic offering of an amulet leads to the possibility of contact and communication. Within this simple structure, Ancient Greek mythology is re-envisioned, placing the viewer in the middle of the conceptual plane of the mind. By dramatizing the cosmic meeting between the titans of intellect (Céos) and prophecy (Phoébé), Rodes imparts to the viewer the noblest of offerings: emotion. (Andrei Tănăsescu, BIEFF)
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REDEMPTION reveals the fluidity of cinematic meaning and the mechanisms through which collective memory constructs public figures and universal history. Voice-overs attributed to some of the most controversial politicians of our times continuously transform the archive footage into devices of remembrance, idealized reconstructions of the past and projections of the most intimate desires and thoughts. Gomes exposes our natural tendency to construct simplified representations, a mechanism in which we often also cannibalize public figures and their personal histories, draining them of humanness, in our effort to make sense of the world. (Diana Mereoiu, BIEFF)
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In Sunday Lunch, the experimental delirium of hand-drawn animation, music and voice encapsulates the essence of all family lunches’ atmosphere. Jean, a young adult, stuck in the family Sunday lunch routine, has to cope with the usual weekly inquiries and boredom. The lunch guests – Jean’s parents, maiden aunts and grandmother – take a keen interest in his personal life, sexual orientation, job and house. The family reunion stimulates nostalgic thoughts, discussions on traffic and Tupperware and comments on taxes and life. Enhanced by comedian’s Vincent Macaigne voice and the instrumental rhythm, the animation’s originality and visual delirium hint at both the guests’ tipsiness and unconsciousness. In the end, the French director’s Céline Devaux animation sets the scene for a meditation on growing up, the passing of time, and their effects on intrafamilial dynamics. (Andreea Udrea, BIEFF)
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Questioning the history of the artistic avant-garde, THE SHADOW'S SHARE is a work of aestheticized macabre founded on the myth of photography as art that little by little kills its subject. Screened at Clermont-Ferrand, the film explores the pains, obsessions and especially grotesque works of the vanished photographer Oskar Benedek, and weaves around him a whole counterfeit personal history. Offering his protagonist for examination, Smolders violently brings down the viewer from his condescendingly detached position of one who believes he has solved the mystery, and shows him that people cannot be known, much less deciphered. (Diana Mereoiu, BIEFF)
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Like the flicker of silent films or the delay of memory recall, Paul Wenninger’s Uncanny Valley unravels its story of wartime trauma through the camaraderie of two lone soldiers fighting their way out of the trenches of World War I. Employing the aesthetic mechanics found in stop-motion animation, Wenninger’s real-life protagonists move as marionettes in a theatre of war that flashes at every interval with the fear and danger. Impelled by survival instincts and a balletic camerawork that transverses time and space in awe-inspiring long-takes, the two soldiers emerge out of the ruins of war, shell-shocked and spiritually defeated. Atmospheric and compelling, Uncanny Valley offers a potent statement on the inevitable abstraction of history, erasing individual experience in favour of posterity’s superficial representation. (Andrei Tănăsescu, BIEFF)
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The second in the artist's proposed cycle of five cinematic memoirs (the first was The Dance of Reality, screened at BIEFF 2014 in a Special Jodorowsky Focus Programme), Endless Poetry portrays Alejandro Jodorowsky’s young adulthood, set in the 1940s and 50s, in the electric capital city of Santiago. There, he decides to become a poet and is introduced, by destiny, into the foremost bohemian and artistic circle of the time. He meets Enrique Lihn, Stella Diaz Varín, Nicanor Parra and many others of the country’s young, promising and unknown artists who would later become the titans of Latin America's literature. Endless Poetry is a tale of poetic experimentation; the story of a unique youth that lived as not many before them had dared: sensually, authentically, freely, madly.
"Now, well into his 80s, Jodorowsky has managed to reinvent himself in the most spectacular and unlikely way. Endless Poetry is a work of transporting charm and feeling. It’s the most accessible movie the director has ever made, and it may also be the best." (Owen Gleiberman, Variety)
"Cult filmmaker and psychomagic ‘guru’ Alejandro Jodorowsky lives up to his reputation with Endless Poetry, a film that crosses over the border from surrealism to action without ever deviating from his central thread, and speaks to people who are new to symbolism just as well as it does to the crowd that is well-versed in the structures and strange characters it produces." (Fabien Lemercier, Cineuropa)
"Alejandro Jodorowsky has found a terrific new surge of energy in his 80s with a richly enjoyable autobiographical movie trilogy, as crazy as a laudanum dream." (Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian)
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Another century has passed on the Old Continent... Large armies are trampling on the heart of civilisation and cannon fire is once again taking its toll. Amidst the massacre and the ruins, everything majestic, magnificent, and sacred, that  took millions of minutes and hours of determined labour to build, is wiped out. Jacques Jaujard and Count Franziskus Wolff Metternich worked together to protect and preserve the treasure of the Louvre Museum. Aleksandr Sokurov tells their story. He explores the relationship between art and power, and asks what art tells us about ourselves, at the very heart of one of the most devastating conflicts the world has ever known.

With this sophisticated, complex and thoroughly absorbing film, Aleksandr Sokurov has had another night at the museum reverie, a cine-prose poem or animated installation tableau, weaving newsreel footage with eerie floating images above the streets of contemporary Paris – presumably filmed with a drone – and dramatised fantasy scenes. Thirteen years after Russian Ark, that renowned single-take movie journey through the Hermitage museum in St Petersburg, Sokurov has now alighted on the Louvre in Paris. Francofonia has all sorts of wayward digressions and perambulations around the idea of French and European culture, and the role of the museum in conserving art and promoting the idea of what it means to be human. (Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian)

It will be impossible to neatly package Francofonia into a brief and accurate description, since Aleksandr Sokurov’s dense, enriching meditation on the Louvre and specifically (but not exclusively) the museum’s status during WWII defies categorization. View the trailer and you might think the film is essentially a Sokurovian dramatization of the uncertain relationship between the Louvre’s wartime director and the Nazi officer in charge of preserving France’s artistic patrimony. Watching the film, however, a larger picture emerges, in which Sokurov engages with Paris itself and the philosophical concept of a great museum. (Jay Weissberg, Variety)
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The plot, if there is any, and Bartas is not particularly keen to reveal its details, revolves around an intellectual from the city (played by Bartas himself) who takes his daughter (Bartas’s own daughter, Ina Marija Martaite) and his partner, a violinist (reallife violinist Lora Kmielliauskaite) to his country house for a summer breather. Or is it much more? [...] None of the film’s characters has a name, just to indicate how emblematic they are supposed to be, but they are all in a state of personal crisis which they are trying desperately, but not very successfully, to make sense of. Locked in tight closeups, Bartas’s characters are constantly trying to reach out to each other in their own ways, and finding it difficult either to express their feelings and their fears or to provide the advice they are expected to give. They seek someone to lean on, and find answers to questions they don’t even know how to ask. [...] Wrapped in magical images of a peaceful, calm nature disturbed only by the presence of man, this looks very much like a painful, meditative and sad reflection on life from the point of no return for a character just like the one Bartas chose to play himself. (Dan Făinaru, Screen Daily)

'Humans always doubt,' says a father to his daughter. 'Just imagine if suddenly everything (were) clear. What would you do?' What indeed? Such questions serve as a substitute for drama in Sharunas Bartas’ Peace to Us in Our Dreams, an oldschool drama in which a man, his daughter and his violinist companion openly ponder Big Themes during a country getaway. Bartas casts himself in the lead, a father who is distant from his daughter. He shows her an old homemovie in which she can be glimpsed with her mother on a merrygoround. The girl is played by Ina Marija Bartaite, Bartas’ actual daughter, and the mother by Katia Golubeva, Bartaite’s actual mother, who died in 2011 — all of which suffuses the film with a sense of loss that persists as the three living characters retreat to the country. The season is summer, but the natural lighting often suggests a wintry, twilight gray. [...] Lenser Eitvydas Doshkus captures some stunning silhouettes, and there are times in Peace to Us in Our Dreams when it’s possible to be transfixed simply by fog, blowing trees or raindrops on lapping water. (Ben Kenigsberg, Variety)
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A computer animated rendition of a South Korean soldier’s patrol along the country’s demilitarized border (DMZ) with North Korea, 489 Years, by Hayoun Kwon, deals with the (im)possibility of representing and experiencing the liminal space of borders - as limits dividing more than simple geographies. Employing a gamer’s FPS (first-person-shooter) perspective, with photo-realistic accuracy of CGI and the vivid imagery of storytelling, the narrator walks us through his routine path along the DMZ under the cloak of darkness and growing tension at the unseen enemy. Until a moment of terror strikes him still, becoming an instant of serendipity and wonder, of experiencing beauty in the least likely of places. (Andrei Tănăsescu, BIEFF 2017)
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Ever the provocateur, leave it to Gabriel Abrantes to make a tongue-in-cheek phallic story about Constantin Brâncuși’s sculpture Princess X. A Brief History of Princess X is precisely that: a cursory, episodic chronicle of Brâncuși’s (in)famous, work and the erotically-charged narrative threads that tie together its inception in Brâncuși’s atelier, its model (Princess Marie Bonaparte), the latter’s revolutionary studies in female sexuality and ultimately, the sculpture’s placement - and engagement with - in museums. If cinema operates as a canvas for our projected desires, the abstinence observed in Abrantes’ typically subversive, juvenile humour is a poignant, humble tribute to the human frailty that all art hides behind its courageous surface. (Andrei Tănăsescu, BIEFF 2017)
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Musing over sex, love and the Internet and meandering through the classic themes of father-son relationship and coming of age, by crossing, in their unique way, the line between video game and digital cinema, Jonathan Vinel and Caroline Poggi create in Our Legacy a strange environment where reality is somewhat displaced to make room for another, more disturbing universe. With his parents away from home, Lucas invites Anäis over. Having the place to themselves, they are free to indulge in naïve explorations of lovemaking. It  soon transpires that Lucas is quite familiar with sex images. His absent father, a notorious director of x-rated videos, exists in his son's life solely through his video productions. The violence of crude pornography and the tenderness of teenage first love are bound together by childlike fantasies in a loss-of-innocence story told in reverse. "The film leaves space for everyone to experience it in their own way", says Caroline Poggi. That is, according to one's own personal legacy. (Adina Marin, BIEFF 2017)
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A beach frozen in time, as if in a snapshot: people enjoying the sun, a child eating ice-cream, a father taking his picture. But in the frame another character appears. Laboriously making their way out of the waters, a group of refugees crawl to the uncertain safety of the beach, escaping from near-certain death. Premiered at the Berlinale 2016 and inspired by a photograph by Juan Medina, Summer is an ingenious and sharp political commentary on the ongoing humanitarian crisis. By mixing 3D modelling and 16mm footage, it contrasts stasis and movement, moment and duration and reveals how liberating having your struggles acknowledged is and, conversely, how limiting photographs are in telling the stories we so readily consume. (Diana Mereoiu, BIEFF 2017)
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Juliet's fate might have been crueller still, had she not been able to see dead Romeo with her own eyes. This what-if scenario is a plausible introduction to Manon Coubia’s cinematic impression of a forlorn life. A woman has spent most of her lifetime waiting for the eternal snows to melt and return the body of her husband, a mountain climber who had died in an accident during an ascent of the Mont Blanc. Under the gaze of the camera, creased bed sheets, complemented by the sound of wind, turn into mountains covered in snow. The wife lies on her bed perpetually, her dreams of the passing of seasons shown in accelerated time-lapse. With its temporal perambulation through times gone by and states of the soul, The Fullness of Time (Romance) is fundamentally a film about eternal love and about the endless power of cinema to get to the deepest core of human experience. (Ioana Florescu, BIEFF 2017)
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Digital artist and manipulator Edouard Salier delivers an award-winning vision of a near-future, dystopian Cuba, where its titular capital is occupied by a foreign force. Through the lens of a documentary crew guided by local slum-youth Lazaro, we’re immersed in a city under lockdown, a derelict ruin dwarfed by towering new structures and an oppressive force that controls the city. Gritty and harrowing, Salier’s cinema-verité footage reveals the city’s seedy pleasures and paralyzing pains with poetic visuals of unflinching realism. Through seamless digital effects  and unforgettable vistas, Habana goes beyond its narrative’s shock-and-awe conventions, emerging victoriously as a portrait of urban decay and humanity under siege. (Andrei Tanasescu, BIEFF)
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In an exercise of self-exorcism, Alexandru Petru Bădeliță gives a moving personal account of his traumatized childhood with a rich profusion of narrative layers and artistic techniques. I Made You, I Kill You, which translates - literally - in the power of life and death the paterfamilias holds over the members of his family, is the ultimate motto for the patriarchal society that rules the life of the author's native village. A collage of family photos and children's drawings mix with animation and with a touch of surrealism in an arresting cinematic whole. Voice-overs take turns and complete the grim picture of a childhood dominated by domestic violence. As in reverberation, the father's account tells of beatings and abuse he had suffered himself as a child, which leads to the dispassionate conclusion that he is not a monster; he simply has no knowledge of another way of life. I Made You, I Kill You casts a poignant uncompromising look at a disturbing world where such experiences are not the exception, but the norm. (Adina Marin, BIEFF 2017)
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Originally, HOWTO is presented to us as a conventional video tutorial, but as the computer program used starts becoming unpredictable, throbbing with autonomy, the film develops into an existential quest for meaning and spirituality. Mixing animation, motion capture and CGI, the tutorial evolves into a dynamic struggle for authority between the program and the author. Closing with a hypnotic contemporary dance full of emotion and poetry, Elisabeth Caravella unfolds a philosophical existential crisis, only to guide us to the conclusion that only by letting go and stop resisting change can you truly find yourself. (Gabriela Lupu, BIEFF)
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You Want a Story? Antonin Peretjatko’s answer is a clear affirmation of life and of cinema’s associative power of storytelling. Telegraphed to the viewer by a mysterious man heard through a distorted telephone, we’re told all you need to unravel a narrative are two female characters on a train. The rest, as they say, is history - or in this case, a visual scrapbook of an unseen flâneur’s memories, whose travels around the globe are rendered with enough wit, sensuality, mystery and joie-de-vivre to rival early-Godard and Alain Robbe-Grillet’s labyrinthine storytelling. Accompanied by an eclectic soundtrack that spans swingin’-spy standards and contemporary pop, our synaptic travels through the over-active imagination of Peretjatko’s film become a straight-arrow shot through the core of our subconscious desires. (Andrei Tănăsescu, BIEFF 2017)
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In Foyer, art takes to the streets, as Ismaïl Bahri walks through Tunis with his camera, capturing the city and its inhabitants. The subversive element of this artistic travelogue lies precisely in the white piece of paper that obscures the lens, creating in effect an unexpected representation of reality, which changes in shade and tone according to the whimsy of the wind. Bahri’s barrier-curtain invites new discourse on ways of seeing, in effect offering new take on Plato’s cave, where the screen becomes the agora of ideas and opinions and everything from art to economy and politics come under debate. Simplicity is beauty, and in Foyer’s case, poetry as well, for what is more powerful than seeing our world compressed onscreen in its purest form, as light waves blend together onto cinema’s canvas to form an abstract-yet-so-familiar representation of reality? (Andrei Tănăsescu, BIEFF 2017)
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With Novaciéries, the artists of the (LA)HORDE collective put forward their reinterpretation of a post-internet dance staged in what looks like an abandoned workshop. Jumpstyle, a dance emerged from the mainstream Hardcore, owes its existence to online self-broadcasting and although its coming into being is captivating in its own right, the authors choose not to loiter on the subject. Instead, the film combines performance and cinema to make a choreographed and metaphysical portrait of the post-industrial world. Masked dancers perform the characteristic jumps in empty spaces. Two forklifts join in with gracefully synchronized movements, and humans and machinery dance together to the sound of the Hardcore anthem Hardcore to the Bone turned into a lyrical lament. Meanwhile, videos shared on youtube and other platforms interwine, announcing a post-cinematic era. (Adina Marin, BIEFF 2017)
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Welcome to Jorge Jácome’s Fiesta Forever, a virtual moon-lit stroll through the post-clubbing landscape haunted by spectral memories of nightlife experiences. Visiting the computer-generated ruined terrain of four clubs, we move freely within their walls, bathed in their abandoned tranquility. These walls can talk, reminiscing about declarations of love, furtive glances and fleeting emotions, pick-up strategies and fateful meetings between soulmates. This sacred ground of the party becomes both a space of solitary refuge and of social gathering and human connection, marked by the experience of its past inhabitants. What we bring, leave behind or take away, as viewers, is entirely up to us. Because by the time the sun comes up, all that remains of it is but a fleeting memory, floating in the realm of humanity’s search for bliss. (Andrei Tănăsescu, BIEFF 2017)
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Gangster Backstage is Teboho Edkins' follow-up to Gangster Project, a film he completed a few years before, and for the making of which he ventured in one of Cape Town's most violent black townships where few white people dare to enter, to observe the life of real gansters at first hand. This time, instead of seeking the gangsters in their natural habitat, he summons them to the neutral setting of an empty classroom by lauching a casting call. Interviews, during which the characters  talk candidly about the pros and cons of gangster life alternate with scenes in which they stage their fears and dreams, in a barren Dogville-like decor, with white tapes marking the claustrophobic outline of a prison cell. Between the torment of confinement and the omnipresent threat of an untimely death, these amoral human beings evolve in the South-African society, which has failed so far to come to terms with itself. (Adina Marin, BIEFF)