Film Festival Reports

Our coverage on the latest film fests.

BERLINALE 2018: GRASS BY HONG SANGSOO

By Aldo Padilla

To grab a thread to hang on to in Hong Sang-Soo’s cinema is not always an easy feat, especially when it’s time to write about the ideas in his new film, since his themes and tools he uses in cinema are well known. The truly complex feat starts in deciphering these subtleties that make the latest film unique, especially now that the filmmaker is going through a particularly prolific stage, with four films a year.

BERLINALE 2018: SEASON OF THE DEVIL BY LAV DIAZ

By Aldo Padilla

Narrating a country’s historical moment requires understanding it as a complex cycle. It’s not enough with the ambience and historical context. It’s important to suggest the entire travelled road to this day and try to incorporate it in the work. The Philippines is going through a complex moment where abuses of the past seem to come back, since the government appears to be outsourcing violence and keeping the population in fear.

BERLINALE 2018: PREMIERES SOLITUDES AND DIE TOMORROW

By Aldo Padilla

During the last Rotterdam film fest, a certain tendency of “cruelty cinema” located in schools could be found. Five films seen in the Dutch festival are about school adolescents ending their stories in a tragic way, due to different abuses of classmates, professors or social media, all represented as a true hell on earth. Even if part of this may be true, or that this problems are not a particular thing of the present, one struggles to understand the pattern of punishment with the adolescents in those films, either for lack of integration, sexual early awakening, and overall, a common factor in gender violence, since it was women who suffered the greatest abuse.

BERLINALE 2018: DOVLATOV BY ALEKSEI GERMAN JR.

By Aldo Padilla

Being a non-recognized artist in one’s time is something that has been dragged as a curse for the most part of many transgressive creators in their times. Many circumstances are fruit of a political or repressive context, but most of the time this is related to the incomprehension of editors, critics and public in general. Sergei Dovlatov is one of those figures that only in the exterior could be really appreciated in the nineties. This and his early death mythicized even more his image.

BERLINALE 2018: CLASSICAL PERIOD, INTERCHANGE AND WILD RELATIVES

By Aldo Padilla

The characters in the films of Ted Fendt are of a surprising simplicity. The simplification he realized in Short Stay of the classic lost character without a path, defined in the streets of Philadelphia, seems to be transposed in his new film Classical Period, where the characters are defined by how much do they know, how many authors can they quote and how many references can they give on every possible topic. Although everything seems like an empty discourse, which could easily be part of a paper or a thesis, since it says nothing in between this long, verbose dialogue that doesn’t seem to end.

BERLINALE 2018: ARCHIVES OF THE MIND’S EYE

By Pamela Cohn

The queuing system at a festival this huge is long and arduous. An investment of an hour or more waiting in line is sometimes necessary. I was one of the first in the pass holder line (no ticket) to see Forum Expanded Program #3, a curation of four experimental films. Part of the cinema spectacle in a case like this is watching many people get up and walk out of a screening they just waited over an hour to get into, to be replaced by people waiting outside who didn’t get in initially but hung out anyway in case a spot might open up.

BERLINALE 2018: THEATER OF WAR, THE HEIRESSES

Por Aldo Padilla

The history of the Malvinas war is a tale with strange nuances, since it doesn’t carry the same name for Argentinians and English, who call them Falklands. The story that both countries tell is pretty different. Then, how is it possible to represent a conflict trying to avoid a position or doctrine? There’s not a concrete answer to this eternal question. The idea of impartiality is a utopia, and an approximation to a subjective reality is all that is left.

BERLINALE 2018: WILD RELATIVES – PLANTS AND BIRDS AND ROCKS AND THINGS

By Pamela Cohn

Forum and Forum Expanded with its forty-eight year legacy has become its own robust festival residing still pretty much in the shadows of the main program, but with its own imperatives of collecting stories from the periphery. Some colleagues are always sure to tell me how underwhelmed they are by the programming. This year, the exhibition’s theme curated by Arsenal – Institute for Film and Video Art, expertly led by Stefanie Schulte Strathaus, is entitled A Mechanism Capable of Changing Itself, a nod to avant-garde film artist Maya Deren’s idea: “Marxism is the only theory of politics which designed a mechanism capable of changing itself – as in the concept of the withering away of the state.”

BERLINALE 2018: ISLE OF DOGS BY WES ANDERSON

By Aldo Padilla

Usually, there is some condescendence when talking about animated cinema, which is usually put in the “family” or “children” section. To the generalists, this cinema is usually limited to consume or nostalgia, with no other quality that its pictorial beauty or its closeness to reality. Despite this idea, it’s possible that animated cinema could be evaluated under the same parameters than conventional cinema, while certain qualities of it make animation unique in its conception, turning that genre in a contradiction in itself.

ROTTERDAM 2018: THE FACT, THE FAKE AND THE FICTION

by Chloé-Galibert-Laîné

Having discovered IFFR for the first time this year, I can’t comment on the evolution of the program over years, or the specificity of this 2018 edition. And I regret it: I would have loved to be able to measure the impact of the overall insanity of 2017 on this year’s productions, as well as on the curatorial choices of the festival’s programmers.

ROTTERDAM 2018: CRITICS’ CHOICE – READERS BY JAMES BENNING

By Tara Judah

This is not a film review.

A perfect pairing: the durational work of James Benning (Readers, 2017) and a dynamic, good-humoured video essay (Reading/Binging/Benning, Kevin B. Lee and Chloé Galibert, 2018) about how we watch and how we read.