MUNICH — (MunichNOW Arts & Culture) — We just received this bulletin from the 2018 Munich Film Festival. This annual event opens on Thursday, June 28 and runs through July 7.
The films being shown at the 36th FILMFEST MÜNCHEN come from 43 different countries and thus represent a cross-section of contemporary filmmaking around the globe. Although the origin of the individual films does not influence their selection, some geographic focal points can be discerned.
A look behind the red curtain, beyond Chinese megacities
FILMFEST MÜNCHEN is presenting four Chinese films this year and will welcome the respective filmmakers including master director Jia Zhang-Ke in person. This is made possible by the involvement of the headquarters of the Confucius Institute. The highlight and centerpiece is “Ash Is Purest White” by noted director Jia Zhang-Ke.
In his masterful work, Jia Zhang-Ke underscores his status as a chronicler of his country by dealing with the (societal) consequences of Chinese turbocapitalism. “Ash Is Purest White” takes the viewer on a journey through colossal imagery of organized crime; it is a romance, a gangster film, and a melodrama all at the same time. Alongside him, the festival is showcasing courageous young directors who have a powerfully driven vision of art and style.
They look behind the scenes of the China we know, at provincial areas beyond the megacities. Far-reaching processes of change, for example, are a theme in Yue Dong’s avant-garde police thriller “The Looming Storm”, while Feifei Wang’s “From Where We’ve Fallen” and Miaoyan Zhang’s “Silent Mist” observe complex entanglements of destinies and desires.
FILMFEST MÜNCHEN is also showing two further Chinese films: “Dragonfly Eyes” by visual artist Xu Bing, which deals with the topic of surveillance as well as Yang Lu’s historical martial arts spectacle “Brotherhood of Blades II: The Infernal Battlefield”. The program also includes the humorous Taiwanese indie grotesque “The Great Buddha+” by Hsin-Yao Huang. On July 3 at 4:30 p.m., first Jia Zhang-Ke, then young newcomers Yue Dong, Feifei Wang, and Miaoyan Zhang, will talk to Filmfest curator Bernhard Karl at the Filmmakers Live panel discussion entitled “The Chinese Cinema Miracle” in the Black Box at the Gasteig.
Social horror from Scandinavia
Danish director Mads Brügger creates a thematic as well as a geographic connection between the Far East and the far north in “The Saint Bernard Syndicate”, which is showing in the International Independents section. In this film, two incompetent Danish businessmen think they can make a lot of money in China.
No fewer than three Scandinavian films are part of the CineVision competition section this year. Director Ali Abbasi’s Swedish film “Border”, which received the “Un Certain Regard” Award in Cannes, is a powerful allegory about the way minorities are treated. This hybrid of social drama and horror movie leads us into a mythical world surrounding a headstrong customs agent, a world that is both wonderful and nasty.
Gustav Möller’s Danish thriller “The Guilty” is an intense chamber play about a police dispatcher who must find out over the phone where a kidnapped woman is being held. The Norwegian fairy-tale western “Lake over Fire” by Joern Utkilen sets classical genre elements in Scandinavia. A fabulously comical world comes into being: a trailer park turns into a western town and cowboys ride mopeds while wearing oversized helmets, while in a gold mine, colorful plastic beads are extracted which can be used to iron fanciful trivets.
Other films include “Amateurs”, a comedy by Gabriela Pichler, and “Jimmie”, a drama by Jesper Ganslandt, which each in its own way deals with the topic of migration. To mark the 100th anniversary of Ingmar Bergman’s birth, the festival is showing Jane Magnusson’s documentary “Bergman: A Year in a Life” as well as Bergman’s “From the Life of the Marionettes”.
Italian cinema: more variety than ever before at the Filmfest
Italian cinema is represented by a powerful lineup at the 36th FILMFEST MÜNCHEN. The focus is on two strong women of Italian cinema, sisters Alba and Alice Rohrwacher, as well as on Naples as an Italian city of film. Actress Alba Rohrwacher can be seen in two films: in “Lucia’s Grace” (directed by Gianni Zanasi) as well as in “Happy As Lazaro”, the latest film by Alice Rohrwacher, who received the award for best screenplay for this film in Cannes.
Focusing on Naples, the festival is presenting the mysterious love story “Naples in Veils” by Ferzan Ozpetek and the Mafia musical “Love and Bullets”by the Manetti brothers. Both stories take place in the famous port city that has long been a fascinating backdrop in cinema. The other Italian movies shown at the festival demonstrate the importance of Italy to cinema: Stefano Savona’s “Samouni Road”, a profound family portrait that takes place in Gaza City; “Tainted Souls”, a drama about drugs by Matteo Botrugno and Daniele Coluccini, as well as “There’s No Place Like Home” by Gabriele Muccino.
In addition, on July 4 at 4 p.m., the Filmmakers Live panel discussion “Cinema italiano” will be held on the topic of the state of Italian cinema — with directors Gianni Zanasi, Ferzan Ozpetek, Matteo Botrugno, Daniele Coluccini und Stefano Savona. It will be moderated by Christoph Gröner, a curator at FILMFEST MÜNCHEN.
The cinematic successors of Lucrecia Martel
A particular focus is on Argentina, whose film industry has experienced an unparalleled proliferation over the past two decades. Currently, the country is producing more than 200 feature films each year. This process started with director Lucrecia Martel, to whom the 36th FILMFEST MÜNCHEN is devoting a retrospective. Her debut film “The Swamp” (2001), a portrait of a bourgeois family at their decaying country estate, influenced an entire generation.
This includes the latest of today’s filmmakers to be discovered and become part of the Filmfest lineup, among them Silvia Schnicer and Ulises Porras; they enter the universe of Martel’s first film and update it in “Tigre”. Close observation of societal reality remains a central theme in Argentinian cinema even today. In “Alanis”, Anahí Berneri sketches a portrait of a prostitute, as much without mercy as without prejudice, but also tenderly. “The Snatch Thief” by Augustín Toscano portrays social unrest and the lack of opportunity in backwaters as well as the desire for a new identity from the perspective of a motorized purse thief.
In “The Little Match Girl”, Alejo Moguillansky offers a comical look at the seething undercurrents of society in Argentina today and the difficulty of making art in that country. In this film, Helmut Lachenmann, a famous German composer, struggles with the rehearsals of his opera of the title when a wave of strikes shuts down the entire capital.