The 50th Thessaloniki International Film Festival has announced the 13 foreign titles that will screen in the fest’s International Competition section, which caters to first or second features by emerging filmmakers. The list includes Ahmad Abdalla’s “Heliopolis,” from Egypt, Samantha Morton’s “The Unloved,” from the UK, Scandar Copti and Yaron Shani’s Israeli Oscar submission, “Ajami,” and a lone US entry, David Lowery’s “St. Nick.” The complete list of titles is listed below, including synopses provided the festival, which runs November 13-22, 2009
The 50th Thessaloniki International Film Festival
Medal of Honor (Medalia De Onoare, Romania, 2009) by Calin Netzer. Following the success of Adrian Sitaru’s Hooked in the 49th TIFF (Silver Alexander), another Romanian feature will participate in this year’s competition. Netzer narrates, in a straightforward, realistic manner, the story of Ion and Nina, an elderly couple in a cheerless marriage. Their lives change, not necessarily for the best, when Ion receives a medal of honor from the government. World Premiere.
Father’s Acre (Apafold, Hungary, 2009) by Viktor Oszkar Nagy. In this visually stunning debut feature, a man returns home from a long period in prison to discover that his relationship with his son has been severely damaged by his absence and the actions that caused it. The director’s somber treatment of his subject is highlighted by the impressive cinematography by Tamas Dobos. International Premiere.
Missing Person (Sarameul Chatseumnida, South Korea, 2009) by Lee Seo. In Korean society, a hierarchical system of elders and seniors -often functional, other times brutal- dominates relationships in the family, the workplace and the community. In Missing Person, the lack of morality of the protagonist, a real estate agent who mistreats anyone who is weaker than him, is symptomatic of a society of cruelty and indifference. European Premiere.
Children Metal Divers (Bakal Boys, Philippines, 2009) by Ralston Jover. Children Metal Divers is the directorial debut of established screenwriter Jover, who penned Kubrador and Foster Child. The story centers on a group of children that, illegally and dangerously, dive in the dirty waters of Manila Bay to recover metal scraps as a means of survival. The non-professional cast was chosen amongst real metal divers, and their acting skills and tenacity are impressive. European Premiere.
Heliopolis (Egypt, 2009) by Ahmad Abdalla. The Heliopolis district in Cairo, home to the presidential palace and designed in 1905 as a modern, luxurious addition to the city, is the setting in which a multitude of characters live and harbor various desires. Through their lives and connections with each other, an insightful and emotional portrait of contemporary Cairo is drawn. European Premiere.
The Day Will Come (Es Kommt der Tag, Germany / France, 2009) by Susanne Schneider. Susanne Schneider’s second film is an evocative family and psychological drama, largely centered on the passionate performances of the two female leads. In the film, the lives of its protagonists become gravely affected not only by their relationships in the present, but also by Germany’s dark past of terrorism during the 70s. European Premiere.
Norteado (Mexico, 2009) by Rigoberto Perezcano. In this sometimes bleak, but often humorous film, a young Mexican man tries to illegally cross the Tijuana border into the United States, only to fail several times. During the wait before each attempt, he bonds with two women who have also experienced this illegal immigration process, albeit from the other side of the frontier. Pereczano’s debut feature offers a fresh take on this much-filmed subject and displays humanity, compassion and hilarity in the grueling immigration undertaking. European Premiere.
St. Nick (USA, 2009) by David Lowery. Little dialogue is spoken in this dreamlike journey of two young siblings, a boy and a girl who have fled their home. They walk and wander aimlessly around the Texas plains, squat in empty houses and steal food; despite their harsh reality, the director’s gentle approach and the affectionate relationship between the two children create a wonderfully tender and quiet film. European Premiere.
The Unloved (UK, 2009) by Samantha Morton. Actress Samantha Morton’s directorial debut, written by Morton and Tony Grisoni (frequent collaborator of Terry Gilliam), tells the story of a young girl caught between unfit parents and the inadequate foster care system. Following the British social-realist cinematic tradition and drawing from her life (Morton herself was raised in state care), the first-time director has infused her film with the qualities of effortlessness and tenderness that exemplify her acting career. European Premiere.
Ajami (Germany / Israel, 2009) by Scandar Copti and Yaron Shani. Ajami is a Jaffa neighborhood, a veritable melting pot of cultures and religions; Jews, Muslims and Christians live next to each other in a nervous arrangement, ill at ease and ready to clash at any moment. Co-directed by Israeli-born Palestinian Scandar Copti and Jewish Israeli Yaron Shani, Ajami presents an explosive tapestry of characters living a ruthless reality.
The Last Summer of La Boyita (El Ultimo Verano de La Boyita, Argentina / France / Spain, 2009) by Julia Solomonoff. In this intuitive and understated coming-of-age tale, a young girl spends her summer in a Pampas farm. Jorgelina, still too childish to comprehend the workings of nature and the human body, begins to discover and understand the complexities of sexuality; she also uncovers a unique mystery through her platonic friendship with one of the young ranch boys.
The Day God Walked Away (Le Jour Ou Dieu Est Parti En Voyage, France, 2009) by Philippe Van Leeuw. As more films about the Rwandan genocide emerge from world cinema, renowned cinematographer Philippe Van Leeuw’s first feature takes a personal, first-person look into the tragedy. The film recounts the story of a young Tutsi woman whose children have been murdered; hiding in the woods, she meets a hunted man and together they struggle to survive, while the carnage takes place all around them.
Blood and Rain (La Sangre y La Lluvia, Colombia/Argentina, 2009) by Jorge Navas. Blood and Rain takes place over one rainy and violent night in Bogota, when a coke-addicted woman and a grieving taxi driver find each other in a cruel city. The director uses the revenge/murder story genre conventions to achieve suspense, and also succeeds is creating a realistic portrait of a city, a country and its people.