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Thessaloniki Fest Selects “Faust,” “Elena” as Open Horizons Screenings

Thessaloniki Fest Selects "Faust," "Elena" as Open Horizons Screenings

The Thessaloniki International Film Festival has announced its selections for its Open Horizons program.

The Open Horizons Special Screenings, programmed by TIFF Director Dimitri Eipides, focus on works that represent contemporary trends in independent production, as well as thematically original, aesthetically challenging and socially focused films.

The 52nd Thessaloniki International Film Festival takes place November 4 – 13 in Greece’s second largest city.

The full list of films and their descriptions provided by the event are below:

“Cut” by Amir Naderi, Japan, 2011, 132 minutes. After a long and renowned career in Iranian cinema and his self-exile to New York during the 90s, Naderi turns to Japanese cinema, paying homage to the country’s master filmmakers and the medium itself. The story of an extreme cinephile film director who unintentionally gets involved with the yakuza, Cut plays out as a unique and powerful mixture of the Japanese mafia genre with its violent nature, and an art house piece about the sacrifices that an artist makes for his art.

“Don’t Be Afraid (No tengas miedo)” by Montxo Armendáriz, Spain, 2011, 90 minutes. Director Armendáriz spent a year talking with victims of sexual abuse and their therapists and immersing himself in their recollections before he wrote and directed “Don’t Be Afraid.” This is the story of Silvia, a girl with a traumatic childhood, who decides to face her terrible past head on. A haunting and suspenseful film, which employs a quasi-documentary approach, it centers on the brilliant performance of lead actress Michelle Jenner.

“Elena” by Andrey Zvyagintsev, Russia, 2011, 109 minutes. A gripping and atmospheric family drama, as skillful in its depiction of strained relationships as was Zvyagintsev’s masterful debut, “The Return,” Elena is about a simple woman married to an older, wealthy man. Divided by the chasm of their social backgrounds, the strain between them intensifies when he announces that his fortune will be bequeathed to his daughter from a previous marriage when he dies; Elena must, for the first time in her life, find a way to fight against him and against her character, in order to get what she deserves.

“Faust” by Alexander Sokurov, Russia, 2011, 134 minutes. Wholly original and quite controversial, Sokurov’s “Faust” (which won this year’s Venice IFF Golden Lion) is a ferocious, wildly energetic take on Goethe’s story of the legendary deal made between the professor and the devil. It is at the same time humorous and grave, beautiful and terrible; the spectacular cinematography and production design both convey a kind of horrifying grandeur. Faust is the last film in Sokurov’s cinematic tetralogy of power and its disastrous, corrupting influence, after “Moloch” (1999), “Taurus” (2000) and “The Sun” (2005).

“Goodbye (Be omid e didar)” by Mohammad Rasoulof, Iran, 2011, 104 minutes. Rasulof made “Goodbye” before he was arrested with Jafar Panahi and sentenced to 6 years in prison; the film is an absolute indictment of Iran’s freedom-denying regime. Noura is a young female lawyer whose license has been revoked; she is pregnant and her husband is in hiding, as they both are activists, so she decides to leave Iran in any way possible. Filmed in an austere manner and slowly building suspense, the film won the Un Certain Regard Directing Award in last year’s Cannes IFF.

“The Kid with a Bike (Le gamin au velo)” by Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, Belgium/France/Italy, 2011, 87 minutes. Continuing in the much-celebrated cinematic tradition that they have forged for themselves, the Dardenne brothers again focus on the life of a child in their sixth fiction feature, a brilliantly straightforward and humane film. 12-year-old Cyril has been abandoned by his father; his difficult life has turned him into a wild, violent child. When his path crosses that of a solitary hairdresser, she tries to offer him the care and affection he is missing, but he doesn’t know how to let her. The film won this year’s Cannes IFF Grand Prix (ex aequo with Nuri Bilge Ceylan for
“Once Upon a Time in Anatolia”).

“Outside Satan (Hors Satan)” by Bruno Dumont, France, 2011, 109 minutes. Enigmatic and unsettling, gradually building tension with Dumont’s minimal style and sensibility, “Outside Satan” is about a bizarre young woman who forms an intense attachment with a hermit. Shot in the Côte d’Opale, a bleak area of dunes and woods, the landscape itself features prominently, a canvas for the story of a man who might be Satan, a miracle-worker or a mere human.

“Rebellion (L’ ordre at la morale)” by Mathieu Kassovitz, France, 2011, 136 minutes. Kassovitz’s film tackles a real-life conflict that occurred in 1988 in the French colony of New Caledonia: a group of local Kanak separatists killed three gendarmes and took another 26 hostage. Captain Legorjus is flown in from France to resolve the situation peacefully, only to discover that because of impending elections in France and political pressure, the incident has taken a horrifying turn. Kassovitz returns to his political roots with aplomb and makes an explosive thriller, punctuated by his own intense performance as Legorjus.

“Tomorrow Will Be Better (Jutro bedzie lepij)” by Dorota Kedzierzawska, Poland/Japan, 2010, 118 minutes. Kedzierzawska (whose work was showcased during the 51st TIFF in a tribute) again focuses on three young Russian drifters who try to cross the border into Poland, for the chance of a better life. Coaxing spectacular performances from the three boys (ages 6, 10 and 11), the director succeeds in combining the realism of the world’s adversities and hardships, with the wonderful naïveté and hope of their young ages.

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