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Balkan Survey programme - Thessaloniki Film Festival 2015
7 October 2015
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For 22 years the Thessaloniki International Film Festival’s (November 6 - 15) Balkan Survey section, curated by Dimitris Kerkinos, has been showcasing the best samples of the Balkan area’s film production. Well-known directors, as well as promising newcomers in their exceptional debuts, the majority of which are women, tackle a variety of challenging social themes in this year’s edition. Balkan Survey also celebrates the work of Romanian auteur Mircea Daneliuc, one of the most important and influential filmmakers, whose work in Romania during the 80s and post-communism era remains largely unacknowledged outside his country. Daneliuc will be in Thessaloniki to introduce his films to the Festival’s audience.

Mircea Daneliuc
Mircea Daneliuc Tribute
Mircea Daneliuc is considered as one of the most important Romanian artists. His subversive films, which evaded the communist censorship, are filled with realism, dark humor and unrelenting satire aiming at social reality. Born in 1943 in Hotin (today’s Ukraine), Daneliuc studied French Philology at the university of Iasi and Film Directing in Bucharest Film and Theatre Academy, from which he graduated in 1972. Apart from directing and writing for the cinema and theater, Daneliuc is also an actor, while he has also written many novels and short stories.
Daneliuc’s debut feature The Ride (1975) is a profoundly human road movie that renounces the classic narrative of socialist realism and praises friendship and companionship. A landmark film of the Romanian cinema, Microphone Test (1979) stands as a poignant comment on the bureaucratic absurdity, the unsolved social and economic problems, as well as the people who “feed” the system and its hypocrisy. Set in a Romanian village in the ‘50s, Foxhunting (1980) tackles a taboo subject: it records the destruction of Romania’s rural class, through the story of a farmer who resists the collectivization process and stubbornly refuses to sign his land and cattle over to the state.
A cruise on the Danube, awarded to the best workers from various factories in communist Romania, raises questions of ideology and politics in The Cruise (1981), a bold film with a strong dissident message by which Daneliuc dares to criticize the regime in harsh times of censorship against the freedom of artistic expression. Iacob (1988), one of Daneliuc’s best films, centers on the tragic fate of Iacob, a miner wrongly accused of stealing gold. With its stark realism, the film explores a universal theme: a man’s struggle for dignity under humiliating circumstances.
Following Ceaușescu΄s fall, Daneliuc ponders cinematically on the transition of the Romanian society in a straightforward and cynical manner. His film The Conjugal Bed (1993) becomes a detailed portrait of this era, blending black humor, grotesque elements and shocking brutality with a main character that is driven to madness by the absurd world around him. Fed Up (1994) is a satire of Romania’s health system that also reflects the disappointment of its people in the post revolutionary era, despite their regained freedom. A critique on the new political elite, The Snails’ Senator (1995) centres on a senator and former member of Romania’s communist party, whose relaxing weekend in the country is disrupted by a crew of Swiss journalists who investigate his corrupted actions in the past.

The Balkan Survey Films
Family ties, female oppression, painful relationships, echoes from the past, Balkan traditions and politics:  A series of compelling themes is featured in this year’s Balkan Survey films. 12 films will be screened in total, 7 of which are directed by newcomers.  
Dalibor Matanić’s The High Sun (Croatia/Serbia/Slovenia, 2015 - Un Certain Regard Jury Prize at Cannes Film Festival) is a commentary on the aftermath of the civil war told through three love stories set in three consecutive decades - 1991, 2001 and 2011. Love also lies in the heart of Svetla Tsotsorkova’s Thirst (Bulgaria, 2015), a film that juxtaposes the thirst for water with the thirst for love, focusing on a family whose harmonious world is shattered by two newcomers. 
Set in Istanbul, Frenzy by Emin Alper (Turkey/France, 2015 - Special Jury Prize at Venice Film Festival) unfolds like a post-apocalyptic thriller whose protagonists –two alienated brothers- are transformed into parts of the political system’s violent and oppressive mechanisms. Turbulent Balkan politics are also highlighted in Ivo Trajkov’s Honey Night (FYROM/Slovenia/Czech Republic, 2015), another thriller inspired by the novel Ear by Jan Procházka that takes place within a night in the ‘90s, featuring a couple that faces a serious marital crisis. Radu Jude, one of Romanian’s most distinguished contemporary filmmakers, delivers the black-and-white period drama Aferim! (Romania/Bulgaria/Czech Republic, 2015 - Silver Berlin Bear for Best Director at Berlin Film Festival), a Balkan western that presents a thorough anthropological and cultural study of racism in the area.

Verica Nedeska in Ivo Trajkov΄s Honey Night
A middle-aged family man witnesses a murder in the apartment downstairs and becomes torn between his fear and the sense of justice in Radu Muntean’s suspenseful, gripping drama One Floor Below (France/Romania/Germany/Sweden, 2015), a film that raises questions about morality. Motherland by Senem Tüzen (Turkey/Greece, 2015 -  53rd Thessaloniki Film Fest’s Film Market Crossroads award) depicts a tense mother-daughter relationship that reveals the gap between the traditional and modern lifestyle in contemporary Turkey. Visar Morina’s powerful debut film Father (Germany/Kosovo*/FYROM/France, 2015) also delves into parental relationships, this time from the son’s perspective. Set in pre-war Kosovo*, this coming-of-age film touches upon the delicate themes of fatherhood and immigration. Echoing Sofia Coppola’s The Virgin Suicides, Deniz Gamze Ergüven’s Mustang (Turkey/France/Germany, 2015 - Europa Cinemas Label Award at Cannes Film Festival and also a 53rd TIFF Crossroads project) is another outstanding debut film full of feminist energy, which follows five teenage sisters undergoing physical and emotional imprisonment within a suffocating, conservative society. Female oppression, along with questions of gender and sexuality, are also highlighted in Laura Bispuri’s bold first feature Sworn Virgin (Italy/Germany/Switzerland/Alabania/Kosovo*, 2105). The protagonist –remarkably embodied by the Italian actress Alba Rohrwacher- rejects her female identity, swears never to have sex and becomes a man, in order to escape from the patriarchal traditions dominating rural Albania; however nature seems to take its toll on her.
The vulnerable characters in The Sky Above Us by Marinus Groothof (Netherlands/Belgium/Serbia/Greece, 2015) strive to lead a normal life under a threatening sky shadowed by the 1999 NATO bombings in Belgrade, in this authentic, universal study of human behavior in times of war, which focuses not on politics, but on people’s everyday stories. This perspective also takes centre-stage in Ines Tanović’s low profile, deeply human debut Our Everyday Life (Bosnia-Herzegovina/Croatia/Slovenia, 2015). The protagonists are a middle-class Bosnian family caught in a chain of personal problems, while experiencing the aftermath of post-war Bosnian society’s transition to a different sociopolitical and economical situation.
In addition, 6 short films will be screened in the Balkan Survey section. Mother Virgin No More by Derya Durmaz and Tuesday by Ziya Demirel comment on the status and role of women in the Turkish society. There is Nothing in This World (international premiere) by Andreea Vălean focuses on the Romanian music manele, while Ramona by Andrei Creţulescu is an exercise in cinematic style, with echoes of Tarantino. Heavens by Jelena Maksimović and Ivan Salatić and Sunday by Goran Dević (world premiere) tackle the issues of fatherhood and nostalgia respectively.
Balkan Survey’s films Our Everyday Life (Bosnia-Herzegovina), Father (Kosovo*), The High Sun (Croatia), Mustang (France), Honey Night (FYROM) and Aferim! (Romania) are submissions for the Best Foreign-Language Film at the 88th Academy Awards.

Source: Thessaloniki Film Festival official website
  The Sky Above Us
  Sworn Virgin
  The High Sun
  One Floor Below
  Our Everyday Life
  Honey Night
  The Snails' Senator
  The Conjugal Bed
  Fed Up
  The Cruise
  Microphone Test
  The Ride
  Dalibor Matanic
  Svetla Tsotsorkova
  Radu Muntean
  Radu Jude
  Andrei Cretulescu
  Derya Durmaz
  Emin Alper
  Andreea Valean
  Goran Devic
  Dimitris Kerkinos
  Jelena Maksimovic
  Ines Tanovic
  Marinus Groothof
  Laura Bispuri
  Alba Rohrwacher
  Ivan Salatic
  Ivo Trajkov
  Deniz Gamze Erguven
  Visar Morina
  Ziya Demirel
  Senem Tuzen
  Mircea Daneliuc
  Balkan Presence at Thessaloniki International FF 2014
  Greek Cinema at the 55th Thessaloniki FF
  55th Thessaloniki IFF - Zelimir Zilnik Masterclass
  55th Thessaloniki IFF - Crossroads Opening
  55th Thessaloniki IFF - The Awards
  Leaness and Resilience: 55th Thessaloniki International Film Festival
  Thessaloniki Film Fest 2015 official website
  Thessaloniki Film Fest on Twitter
  Thessaloniki Film Fest on Facebook
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