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Entries in European Cinema (2)

Saturday
Feb102018

PREVIEW: 2018 BRUSSELS INDEPENDENT FILM FESTIVAL

Two short films from the distant shores of Australia are amongst the line-up of the 2018 Brussels Independent Film Festival, which relaunches after a six year hiatus in Belgium’s de jure capital this weekend. Morteza Halimi’s animation Drifting Away, an ethereal, dream-state ode to cubism and sportscars, and Melina Maraki’s moody retail space thriller Tricks, already an international festival circuit favourite, will vie for festival honours from the week-long program comprising 67 films culled from over 2000 submissions from 23 countries.

The re-emergence of the Brussels Independent Film Festival is cause for celebration amongst auteurs whose works have a more idiosyncratic, individualistic aesthetic. Founded in 1974 as the Festival International du Film Independent de Bruxelles, its primary aim was to celebrate experimental cinema shot on Super-8 film, before expanding its vision to include many different forms of cutting-edge filmmaking styles. It ran in its original incarnation for 38 years, during which it welcomed the likes of Pedro Almodovar, Francois Ozon and Nanni Moretti, before funding and resource shortfalls forced its closure in 2012.

In addition to the two-pronged Australian contingent, the 2018 roster of films includes the World Premiere of Anshul Chaunan’s Bad Poetry Tokyo, starring Shuna Iijima as a broken woman reconnecting with her past in countryside Japan; a Valentine Day session of Brazillian Luciana Canton’s confronting examination of modern sexual mores, Public Intimacy (pictured, left); competitive-eating legend-turned-offbeat film visionary Crazy Legs Conti’s cult short Soulfinger vs Goldfinger, which stars Denzel Washington and Al Pacino, somehow; co-directors Mark Olexa and Francesca Scalisi’s Half-Life in Fukushima, a documentary on farming practices in Japan’s radiation red zone; and, Belgian filmmaker Nathalie Teirlinck’s feature Past Imperfect, the story of a high-level escort forced to suddenly deal with the responsibilities of motherhood.

The Brussels Independent Film Festival has also paired with the arts initiative l’Heure d’Hiver (Winter Time) to present the Belgian premiere of Flatland, a video installation by Iranian artists Alireza Keymanesh and Amir Pousti. The special presentation runs in conjunction with a series of short films from the Islamic Republic of Iran, including Anahita Ghazvinizadeh’s When a Kid Was a Kid, Omid Adibparvar’s Die Hard and Asma Ebrahimzadegan’s Common Hole.

The competition categories are spread across all forms and disciplines, with festival organisers set to honour Best Narrative Feature Film, Best Documentary Feature Film, Best Narrative Short Film, Best Documentary Short Film, Best Animated Film, Best Experimental Film and Best Belgian Film. The trophy awarded to prize winners is one of the most coveted European festival gongs; the seven winners will receive their own edible monument to the national landmark The Atomium, crafted from 100% Belgian chocolate by local culinary legend Wim Vyverman.

The Brussels Independent Film Festival runs February 11 to 18. Admission is free of charge at the event’s screening venues, the Atomium (Atomiumsquare, 1020) and Cinema Galeries (Galerie de la Reine 26, 1000; pictured, above).

Thursday
Nov232017

SCARY MOTHER: THE ANA URUSHADZE / NATO MURVANDZE INTERVIEW

2017 ASIA PACIFIC FILM AWARDS: Ana Urushadze is a 27 year-old writer/director who hails from Tbilisi in Georgia. Her debut film, a stark and challenging drama called Scary Mother, may be the finest first effort of 2017. The titular matriarch is Manana, a mother of three whose ambition to be a published author threatens to deconstruct her middle-class existence, when she reveals the narrative of her first novel to be a brutal, thinly veiled skewering of the life she has created for herself. Working alongside Urushadze is acclaimed Georgian actress Nato Murvanidze, whose portrayal of Manana has been lauded as one of the year’s most accomplished lead turns. 

In Brisbane to attend the Asia Pacific Screen Awards as nominees in the Best Director and Best Actress categories respectively, Ana Urushadze (pictured, above) and Nato Murvanidze (below) sat with SCREEN-SPACE to talk about creating the vivid mindscape of Scary Mother…

SCREEN-SPACE: When confronted with a set of characters and a reality as maddening as that in Scary Mother, it is daunting to enquire about its origins…

Ana: The origins come from a script I wrote for a short film, a project that literally ran for about a minute. Events unfolded a bit differently, but the story was the same; it was about a wife telling her husband about her dream to tell this story. The treatment was rejected when I submitted it, but when I expanded the story and broadened the script into feature length, I resubmitted and it was approved. I was most fascinated by the idea of one character being out of the ordinary, being at odds with a normal life. Following her discoveries, watching her as she is taken out of her family life and how those around her react to this change is what developed into her story.

SCREEN-SPACE: There are authors in your family, Ana…

Ana: Yes, my sister is a writer although she refuses to call herself that because, she says, she hasn’t been published. I tell her, “You write! You’re a writer!” (Laughs) And my mother was once a writer, who went through a period where she started and stopped. So there were certainly connections to the real world, to my real world.

Nato: [The script] was a big surprise. I’ve known Ana for years, and I knew she was a very talented person, but her script surprised me very much. That such a young person could write these word and these characters is remarkable. It sounded like the voice of a much older, wiser person, with more life experiences. And I was really afraid, actually, because I was unsure if I could do it or not. Manana is a very intense character that demands you follow her 24 hours a day and it struck me as hard to be able to do that.

SCREEN-SPACE: Despite a vast body of work, Nato, had you ever encountered a woman like Manana?

Nato: I work a lot in theatre, and it is not uncommon to find these complex, difficult characters in the works of great playwrights, but you rarely get to play characters like this in movies. Ana and I met regularly and discussed at length the character, to delve deeper into her psychology. 

Ana: You know, everything with this film happened very quickly. We have a quite small group of filmmakers in Georgia and we know all the respected greats in the industry, like Nato, but we didn’t have access to young, unknown names and faces we needed to play the family. So we went through casting to secure some of the actors, and I drew on people I knew that were not names in the industry but who were perfect for the roles. If they had not done the wonderful jobs they did, the film would have turned out very differently.

SCREEN-SPACE: One of the great scenes of the year in film is the single-shot slow-reveal when Manana finally reads her work to her family…

Ana: I wanted to start tight, on her face, and then reveal the whole scene as her words began to impact the family members. It felt like the most visually supportive way to capture that moment.

Nato: I said to Ana, “Give me the length of time you need for me to read this through and for you to get the shot, and I’ll do it.” (laughs) We talked about it before shooting that writers usually can’t read their own words very well. So the situation with her family, and the struggle to decide will she do it or won’t she do it, pushed us to create this staging of the scene.

Ana: And it takes a slightly exaggerated form, as much of the reality does in the film, but it works I think. (Pictured, right; the director with the Golden Leopard Best First Feature trophy from this year's Locarno Film Festival).

SCREEN-SPACE: It is also a very funny scene in a film that may not get it's due as a comedy…

Ana: It is so good to hear that, thank you. It is meant to be funny in parts; even the title, ‘Scary Mother’, is clearly meant to be funny, I think.

SCREEN-SPACE: Describe the state of the Georgian film sector for us. Is it an industry where distinctive, female voice such as yours are nurtured and encouraged?

Ana: It certainly is. Our whole industry is in agreement on the topic of women filmmakers getting their voice heard. There is a high percentage of women filmmakers, whose films are getting seen both at home and overseas. The Georgian National Film Centre runs a competition every year for debut films and, while the funding is low, applications are high. So a strong film culture does exist.