This year’s Cannes Film Festival may still be searching for a new feature than can provide the sort of pure pleasure that Maren Ade’s breakout “Toni Erdmann” did in 2016, but fans of nuanced cinema about fraught relationships will be able to tap into something slightly similar in the latest from producers Jonas Dornbach, Janine Jackowski, Michel Merit, Ben von Dobeneck, Bruno Wagner and Ade herself.
Hailing from some of the same producers of “Toni Erdmann,” Valeska Grisebach’s Un Certain Regard entry “Western” shines a light on the unnerving xenophobia that is still prevalent in parts of Europe.
Per the film’s official synopsis, “A group of German construction workers start a tough job at a remote site in the Bulgarian countryside. The foreign land awakens the men’s sense of adventure, but they are also confronted with their own prejudice and mistrust due to the language barrier and cultural differences. The stage is quickly set for a showdown when men begin to compete for recognition and favor from the local villagers.”
In an official statement, Grisebach explained that “several different paths led to this film that, increasingly and by association, joined together to form a story. One was the Western genre….As a girl, I identified with the male heroes of Western films and at the same time had crushes on them, so I was always excluded from the start. Perhaps this conflict also contributed to my wish to explore this per se ‘male’ genre. I wanted to get closer to the solitary, inflated, often melancholic male characters of the Western.”
She added, “All of this corresponded with the subject of latent xenophobia – something I’ve long wanted to explore in a film. I was interested in this idea of ‘German-ness,’ which sometimes manifests as an indistinct feeling of strength, of superiority. The impulse to place yourself in the highest status, to differentiate yourself. The moment in which contempt supersedes empathy.”
Grisebach’s graduation film “Be My Star” was nominated for the Adolf-Grimme-Award in 2002 and received the Critics’ Award at the Toronto International Film Festival as well as the Grand Jury Award at the Turin Film Festival.
Her second feature film, “Longing,” premiered in 2006 in the Berlinale Competition. The film received several awards, including the Special Jury Award in Buenos Aires, the Grand Prix Asturias at the Gijón International Film Festival and the Special Jury Award at the Warsaw International Film Festival.
“Western” will premiere during Cannes in the Un Certain Regard section. Check out our exclusive trailer for the film below.