Festivals and Awards 1997-98
The American Cinema Foundation, in co-operation with its artistic partner the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, is proud to present a festival of new and classic films that have made a significant contribution to our understanding of freedom, that memorialize the victims of tyranny, and that continually celebrate the priceless gift of a free and pluralistic culture. With the end of the cold war there has never been a better historical moment to ask Americans to consider how precious freedom is, and how easily it is taken or bargained away.
Central and Eastern European films won major international prizes even during the days of repression. But their directors didn't disappear after the fall of the Berlin wall. The triumph of democracy is much more than a good theme for a festival: it is the theme of the age, and its emergence at the end of this bloody century is such a large, defining event that many of even the most gifted screen artists are only now beginning to grapple with it. We know about the flaws at the heart of Europe's socialist dream, but for 50 years it affected the everyday lives of millions of people—the way they lived, worked, and loved.
The Freedom Film Festival reminds our filmmakers—especially the younger ones—that from time to time history will make profound and unexpected demands on their courage; that their audiences have a right to call on them for spiritual uplift; that they might be required to put their hard-won careers at risk in order to defend the civic life of their people.
The Freedom Film Festival is presented each year in Los Angeles and in selected other cities. The inaugural festival premiered in Washington, D.C. at the Kennedy Center on December 2, 1997 and opened in Los Angeles at the Paramount Theater at Paramount Studios February 26.
Freedom Film Festival 1997-98
35mm, color and b/w, 165 min.
Director: Andrzej Wajda
Czlowiek z marmuru
"Compelling, controversial, brilliantly directed"
The events which were to culminate in the workers' revolt and eventual martial-law crackdown in Poland in 1981 are foreshadowed in this black satire. Director Andrzej Wajda follows a film student, Agnieszka (Krystyna Janda) who wants to make a documentary about a former worker as her graduation requirement film project. Mateusz Birkut (Jerzy Radziwilowicz) who had been lauded for his brick-laying skills before vanishing completely, is to be her subject.
Birkut was, in the 1950s—at the height of the Stalin era—the subject of a film glorifying him as a heroic worker, and became something of a star. But when he began believing the publicity himself and started interfering in worker politics the government quickly stifled him, disgracing his name and banishing him to historical obscurity. This is the story Agnieszka discovers through interviews with Birkut's contemporaries and family and through old news reels.
About the Film
While the era of the heroic worker had faded by the 70s, and Stalinism was obscure to the young actors Radziwilowicz and Janda, it was still unheard of to speak ironically about such subjects in public. The screenplay Scibor-Rylski wrote in 1963 was banned for many years, and he and Wajda survived a change in leadership before receiving approval to begin shooting. Even then, revealing the dark side of such a story raised a storm of controversy which forced everyone involved to put their professional futures on the line in defense of the film. It is all but impossible for those of us who live in the West to imagine the situation into which this film was born, and the galvanizing effect it had.
Andrzej Wajda was born in 1926. His father was an army officer murdered at Katyn, and his mother was a teacher. During the war years he attended classes in secret and held many odd jobs. He spent three years at the Cracow Academy of Fine Arts and then moved to the State Higher School of Film in Lodz in 1953. He was assistant to director Aleksander Ford and made his debut as an independent director with A Generation (1955). I Go Toward The Sun (1956?), Kanal (1957), Ashes and Diamonds (1958), Lotna (1959), Innocent Sorcerers (1960), Samson (1961), Siberian Lady Macbeth (1962), Love At Twenty (1965), Ashes (1965), Gates To Paradise (1968), Roly Poly (1968), Everything For Sale (1969), Hunting Flies (1969), Landscape After Battle (1970), The Birchwood (1971), Pilate And Others (1972), The Wedding (1973), Promised Land (1975), The Shadow Line (1976), Man of Marble (1977), Invitation to the Inside (1978), Without Anaesthetic (1978), The Young Ladies of Wilko (1979), The Orchestra Conductor (1980), Man of Iron (1981), Danton (1983), A Love In Germany (1983), A Chronicle of Amorous Incidents (1986), The Possessed (1988), Dr. Korczak (1990), The Crowned-Eagle Ring (1992), Nastasia (1994), Holy Week (1995), Miss Nobody (1996).
Awards for Man of Marble:
FIPRESCI Award at XXXI Cannes, 1978
Special Sidebar Event: Cuba, A Case Study in Censorship Screening: P.M.
with director Orlando Leal, Musical performance: Juan Carlos Formell and ¡cubalibre!
Above: music scene at Chori's Bar, 1961
P.M. takes us back to a different Havana, one that was fading even then; one that films like "The Godfather, Part II" and Sydney Pollack's "Havana" have conditioned us to expect to see as a sleazy pit of American-led vice. Instead, Leal's gentle, unobtrusive camerawork reveals rich, complex social relations among Cubans, and a degree of multi-colored camaraderie that would do a modern dance club proud. There's no selfconciousness about race, or age, or beauty; everybody from Grandma to the discreetly gay dancer is out having a good time. Besides the film screening and discussion with Mr. Leal on this evening, the atmosphere of Cuba was evoked by live music with ¡cubalibre! led by musician/composer Juan Carlos Formell, a Cuban exile who now lives in New York. The New York Times praised Formell's music as "an intense show built around his singing and the powerful, surging band." For the bittersweet remembrances of Cuba: A Case Study In Censorship Mr. Formell played selections from "Flora and Fauna," his new work in progress.—Gary McVey, Executive Director ACF
The ferry, gliding through the night, takes us into the flickering lights of a floating world ruled by pleasure and music. The dancing is free flowing and at times almost wild. A percussionist whistles the flute part of "Fefita" while marking the tempo of the danzon on the conga.
About the Film
Few films have provoked such a dire confrontation with history as Orlando Leal's P.M. This brief, elliptical excursion through the working class bars of Havana was not only banned and confiscated—it provided the excuse for Castro's infamous dictum of the arts: "Within the revolution, everything; outside the revolution, nothing."
The supression of P.M. marked the beginning of the end of artistic freedom in Cuba. It was followed by the wholesale roundup of "undesirables,"—homosexuals, artists, painters, and their friends—and their internment in forced labor camps. Ironically the Castro regime enjoyed the fervent support of much of the intelligentsia of Europe and the United States—so much so that when Orlando Leal arrived in New York as an exile in 1963, the U.S. artists and writers who had welcomed him as a visitor at the beginning of the revolution now shunned him. P.M. was shown here only once, at the New Yorker Theater, under the auspices of Jonas Mekas. Leal's announcement that P.M. had been banned and confiscated resulted in vicious attacks on his character, as well as physical violence outside the theater. He has never shown the film again until today. Leal became one of the most famous of Cuban emigre filmmakers, collaborating with Nestor Alemendros to make "Nobody Listened" and "Improper Conduct."
It is easy now, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, to denounce and repudiate the censorship of this small film. Rather than point the finger at Castro, who is an admitted dictator, we should perhaps examine our own forms of suppression and censorship that have kept this work—and how many others—out of circulation for so long in what is supposed to be a free country.—Dita Sullivan
A Note From Composer–Musician Juan Carlos Formell
I was born three years after this film was made, and by the time I was of age to go out at night in Havana, the world in this film had been diminished to a rumor, like Santa Claus, apples, and chocolate. It was far easier for me to believe in Santa Claus than in Chori's—the fabulous bar owned by a black musician. Seeing this movie now, four years after leaving Cuba, I appreciate, as a musician and a Habañero, the verve and freedom that flourished then. It is evident to me that the extreme reaction on the part of the Castro government to this ode to lower-class life was rooted in the puritanical racism that characterized the revolution. Sadly, these negative influences won out—the spirit of gozadera that was at the heart of Cuban music and Cuban life has been almost entirely eliminated. I would like to dedicate my performance today to the memory of Chori and the dancers in the bars of Havana at night.
—Juan Carlos Formell (December 6, 1997)
109 min., b/w, 35mm
Director: Filip Bajon
Contact: Studio Filmowe "Dom" ul. Pulawska 61, 02-595 Warszawa
"Accomplished and involving, Poznan '56 follows the events of a failed strike by Polish workers as seen through the eyes of a pre-adolescent boy but remembered by his adult self. Beautiful black-and-white lensing is realized with skilled craftsmanship, evoking the period and recalling the best of the pre-color era in film and television.
The day in question is June 28, 1956, when a workers' strike protesting low wages is mirrored by a class of schoolchildren refusing to sit down for their lessons. Director Filip Bajon masterfully intertwines personal stories and the worlds of children and adults.
Young narrator Darek teams up with classmate Peter and together they dodge parents, police, thugs, bullets, and explosions in their journey through the quick-moving events. Early events are presented with documentary precision, the morning's timeline fading away as the chaos of street warfare darts through the city and the losing strikers start fighting amongst themselves.
Production values are first rate, with a finely detailed re-creation of the mid-50s."—Cathy Meils, Variety
Filip Bajon (b. 1947) read law at the University of Poznan, then graduated in film directing at the Lodz PWSFTViT in 1974. He made his writing debut in 1970. After 1976 he made several experimental and television films. He was awarded numerous domestic and international prizes for the following feature films: Aria for an Athlete (1979), Children on Strike (1980), Pendulum (1981), The Daimler-Benz Limousine (1981), The Magnate (1987), The Ball at Koluski Junction (1989), The Sauna-bath (1991), It's Better To Be Beautiful and Rich (1993).
Poznan '56 was awarded six prizes at the 21st Festival of Polish Films in Gdnye in 1996. Bajon also works as a stage director in Poznan and Krakow and teaches at film schools in Helsinki, Berlin and Lodz.
110 min., color, 35mm
Director: Oles Yanchuk
Contact: Oles Yanchuk - Film Director, Dovzhenko Feature Film Studios
Creative unit "Zemlya" Prospekt Peremohy 44
Atentat: Osinnie vbyvstvo u Munkheni
The film tells the dramatic story of thousands of Ukrainians who took refuge in a displaced persons camp after the war. These were people who had fallen into captivity as Polish or Red Army soldiers, those who had been sent to Germany on forced labor, the Ukrainian Division volunteers as well as those who fought their way at gunpoint towards the West after the war. They lived in uncertainty and fear, a fear kept alive by the Soviet Intelligence agents who had a keen, hostile interest in their attitudes and political programs. One of the men closely watched by the KGB was Stepan Bandera, leader of the Ukrainian nationalists' organization. He was murdered in Munich in the autumn of 1959. Fiction and reality are intermixed in this reconstruction of the events.
Oles Yanchuk (b. 1956) graduated from the Kiev Photography Institute (1976) and worked as a photo-reporter. In 1979 he began studying film directing at the Theatre Institute in Kiev, from 1984 on he worked as assistant film director and then as director at the Dovzhenko Film Studios. In 1991 he made his debut with the noteworthy feature film Famine 33. He presented stark pictures about the nightmare that Stalin visited upon rural Ukraine, with millions fated to die of the famine caused by the forcible collectivization program. About the film, the director says, "The effort to unveil yet another unknown side of our tragic history through the means of a feature film is and always will be most essentially interesting for me. Who else than we can mediate the truth for the world about our Ukraine?".
97 min., color, 35mm
Director: Hynek Bocan
Contact: Ceskà Televize-Telexport Kavci hory, 140 70
(Czech Republic 1996)
In his story Boomerang, on which the film is based, scriptwriter Jirì Strànsky returns to his own experiences in communist labor camps where he was imprisoned for several years. The film story is set in 1958, the period following the fall of the Stalin cult, when some of those who had faithfully served the communist regimelike ex-colonel Dobrysuddenly found themselves in the most infamous uranium-mine labor camp: Pribram. Until recently Dobry had belonged to the arrogant brass of the administration. After coming face to face with the "enemies of the republic," men whose lives he had once ruled, he is found on the ground half dead and drenched in blood. And yet he finds a kind of spiritual salvation in the person of Svoboda, a teacher who had been unjustly sentenced to 12 years for high treason. Not even years of suffering under communist despotism have dulled his aversion to violence...
Hynek Bocan (b. 1938) created his most significant films in the '60s: Nobody is Going to Laugh (1965), A Private Storm (1967) and Honour and Glory (1968). He did not manage to finish his drama Prison (1968) as the subject was banned (he returned to it in 1990). The film Boomerang has become his personal and creative rehabilitation.
100 min., color, 35mm
Director: Péter Timár
Contact: Magyar Filmunio Városliget fasor 38, H-1068
It is 1961, the year in which Gagarin made the first journey into outer space, and a Berlin crisis seemed to tempt the Third World War. Nothing has happened here at home for a long time and it seems that nothing will for at least the next 30 years. And in order to make absolutely sure that nothing will happen, Block Representative Comrade Simon watches over morality and order like a hawk.
"La Dolce Vita" appears in movie theaters, and then a "Show Me Your Best" talent contest is announced. The dwellers of the block are caught up in the excitement and confusion. Everyone signs up for the contest in the hope of winning a trip to freedom, and indeed the winners may be able to go the World Youth Festival in Helsinki—beyond the Iron Curtain. Many reversals of destiny, love affairs and songs follow before it is shown that fate cannot be entrusted to chance.
Péter Timár (b. 1950, Budapest). From 1976 to 1985 he made a number of short films and shot the work of his colleagues in the Béla Balázs Studio. He graduated from the School of Dramatic and Cinematic Arts after attending from 1981 to 1984. His feature film debut, Eroticism, (1986) was well received by both critics and audiences. In 1987, he shot the film mosaic Movieclip featuring popular stars of Hungarian pop music; Before the Bat's Flight Ends (1988) is a successful psycho-thriller. The comedy Leave Robinson (1989) followed, as well as another crazy comedy, Slapjack (1990), a year later. Dollybirds is a technically inventive musical comedy evoking the life of '60s Budapest youth intoxicated with popular music. It was awarded the Grand Prize at the 1997 Overview of Hungarian Cinematography. His latest work is the medium-length sociological documentary Home Tours (1996).
101 min., color, 35mm
Director: Vladimir Michálek
Contact: Ceská televize Telexport Kavci hory, Praha 4
(Czech Republic 1996)
Czech-American screenwriter Milena Jelínek set this 1934 novel, by the Czech poet, writer and Catholic priest Jakub Deml, into the second half of the 1980sa period of passive survival under the totalitarian communist regime. Now in conjunction with real events dating from that time, it remains a melancholy story about a village priest, the rather directly named Father Holy, who fights for the chance to save an "insignificant" little church. Like other more familiar movie priests, Father Holy refuses to accept compromise, chose his vocation somewhat by coincidence and wrestles with his earthly love for a woman. Father Holy achieves status for us when he stands before those in power who arrogantly liquidate material and spiritual values and actually take it upon themselves to decide "whether God exists or not." Holy fails in his unequal battlehe is transferred from his parish, where he had found allies. And yet he is the victor because he has come to terms with life and has acquired the inner serenity to be able to encourage those weaker than him.
Vladimir Michálek (b. 1956 in Mladá Boleslav) graduated in documentary films at FAMU in 1992. During his studies he worked at the Barrandov Film Studios as Assistant Director. His first independent work was a series of documentaries, e.g. The Temple of Nature (1987), Well-Being (1988) Junkies (1989, made in the USA), The Silence that Hurts (1990) etc. He made his feature film debut with America (1994), inspired by Franz Kafka's unfinished novel.
Awards: The Association of Czech Cinematographers for Martin Duba's photography; The Czech Lion for Radim Hladik and Michal Dvorák for the film music, Veronika Zelková for best supporting actress, Boleslav Polívka for best actor.
97 min., color, 35mm
Director: Pavel Chukrai
In the autumn of 1952, six-year-old Sanya and his widowed young mother Katya are going by train across a cold and starving Russia that is still struggling to recover from World War II. Like many others in postwar Europe they struggle for at least a bearable life—which for them means finding shelter and enough bread to eat. A handsome and gallant young officer in uniform, named Tolyan, boards the train and is immediately attracted to Katya. In a small provincial town they rent a room in a communal flat surrounded by a lot of neighbors, where they settle down to live as a family. Gradually, with Tolyan's encouragement, Sanya learns his own rules of life. According to these rules, force is life's main dignity—so the slightest insult must be answered with a bloody beating. Force and authority frighten and attract. Tolyan is the embodiment of any power and authority figure, and the boy loves and hates him at the same time. This inner conflict becomes Sanya's central drama—and Russia's. Tolyan is dramatically revealed to be not at all what he seems, and the ties that bind the three travelers are stretched and twisted
Pavel Chukrai began as a cameraman's assistant, then was a director of photography before becoming a feature director. He has also written several films. He is currently in production on Tango-Billiard, to be directed by Georgy Shengelia. His films include Please, Recall From Time To Time (1978), People In The Ocean (1980), The Cage For Canary-birds (1983), Zina-Zinulya (1986), Remember Me As I Am (1987) a television film that was awarded Best Director's Award at Tokyo International Film Festival and the Shanghai International Film Festival; The Key (1992) made for France's Canal Sept and The Hawk (1993) a documentary about Vladimir Zhirinovsky. In 1996 he directed a series of commercials that won the Silver Lion and Bronze Lion at Cannes. About The Thief, Chukrai says, "I made the film about the childhood of the generation which has had such a strong influence on the life in this country today. For me it was important to comprehend and explain how and why the post-war generation has grown up as it has, and not in another way." The film also received the Italian Senate's Gold Medal at the Venice Film Festival.
Winner, 1997 NIKA Awards (Russia's Academy Awards)
Winner, 1997 Grand Prize of UNICEF; Grand Prize of the Junior Jury; Italian Senate's Gold Medal, Venice Film Festival
Nominee, 1998 Academy Awards, Best Foreign Language Film
Nominee, 1998 Golden Globe Awards, Best Foreign Language Film
Nominee, 1998 European Film Award