Giornate degli Autori turns twenty, leaves its adolescence behind, comes to terms with its first chapter and lays the foundations for the next. We celebrate this important milestone with filmmakers – men and women – who have the courage to leave their own comfort zones.
The celebrations kick off with our opening film in Giornate degli Autori’s international competition, Los océanos son los verdaderos continentes, the feature directorial debut by Milanese filmmaker Tommaso Santambrogio. A Cuban-Italian co-production, the film is set entirely in Cuba and conveys all the vitality and melancholy of the island nation today, its hopes and lost dreams, through a story touching three generations.
French filmmaker Élise Girard moves to Japan for her third feature film, Sidonie au Japon. Does one really need to go to the ends of the earth to find oneself? For Sidonie, magnificently portrayed by Isabelle Huppert, that would appear to be in the case. In a strange, remote place, continuously shifting back and forth between past and present, between ghosts and real people, the woman finds the meaning and identity she had lost.
More Japan at Giornate with Kyoshi Sugita, one of the most intriguing directors in contemporary Asian film, whose film Kanata no uta, with its straightforward, simple yet not simplistic style, tackles the theme of empathy and altruism. Here a solitary young woman observes the pain on strangers’ faces, people as solitary as she is, until they become familiar, persons to embrace.
The suffering portrayed by Dutch newcomer Stefanie Kolk in Melk might seem like a wall that cuts off people and all hope as well. Yet giving to others the thing that fate has rendered useless to oneself – in this case, a mother’s milk for a stillborn child – represents a strong, if startling, message, and a practical, by no means rhetorical sign of the desire for rebirth through others.
Belgian filmmaker Delphine Girard, in her Quitter la nuit, a sequel of sorts to her short film Une soeur, which earned her an Oscar® nomination in 2020, turns her lucid and never rhetorical gaze on a police investigation of a case of rape, and manages to convey the salvific power of women’s solidarity (between the victim and the woman cop, in this film).
A child, a biological mother, and an adoptive mother: the most classic narrative triangle leading to conflict. Yet the Basque filmmaker Víctor Iriarte (Sobre todo de noche) breaks with literary convention and, with the help of superb actresses Lola Dueñas e Ana Torrent, creates the story of an alliance that arises in an attempt to defend the real meaning of relationships, even those often trapped in the red tape of those who don’t take feelings into account.
Canada’s Ariane Louis-Seize represents an independent genre cinema and here, in Vampire humaniste cherche suicidaire consentant, she presents a young female vampire whose empathy could well kill her. She refuses to nourish herself since it means killing, thus overturning the rule written by those who feel entitled to dominate those around them.
Two films seemingly worlds apart also speak of partnerships and alliances: the Moroccan film Backstage by Afef Ben Mahmoud and Khalil Benkirane and the Greek film To kalokairi tis Karmen by Zacharias Mavroeidis. In the former, a sort of dancing road movie with marvelous choreography by Belgian-Moroccan Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, the directors step into the lives of a dance troupe and reveal its internal dynamics: its little vendettas and settling of scores, its secrets and confessions. The latter is an openly queer comedy that probes the meaning of different relationships, including those of families, partners, friends, and even pets, as it tells the story of two friends who spend a day at a gay beach near Athens, as they hammer out a feature film project.
A collective realization plays out in Wu yue xue by Chong Keat Aun. The ghosts of a tragedy from the past attempt to make their case in the present, to bring the repressed truth to light. The massacres of yore often get forgotten; now a filmmaker from Malaysia challenges that silence wielding imagination and a personal style.
From the street theater of Chong Keat Aun to the Greek comedy of Aristophanes(Lisistrata) – the source of inspiration for Iranian filmmaker Ayat Najafi. From the competition to the special events, the face-off between life and art informs the Giornate lineup. Aftab mishavad, the film that inaugurates our out-of-competition selection, addresses a powerful and complex rebellion, with people risking their lives, acts of oppression, freedoms to be won, and women who take it on themselves to overthrow rules not set in stone – rules that should by rights dissolve through a unanimous consensus.
Two Slovakian filmmakers, Ivan Ostrochovský and Pavol Pekarčík (Photophobia), arrive in Ukraine. Amid the rubble of a devastating war, they decide to adopt an alternative point of view, that of children who have taken refuge in a subway station. The two directors have no intention of hiding anything; they simply capture the daily life in the midst of destruction, tracking the stubborn will to live.
In L’expérience Zola, Gianluca Matarrese brings us to linguistic and literary “otherness” where a pair of French stage actors rehearse, and follows them as they travel from reality to fiction and back, in a continual exchange between art and life.
The French-Palestinian director Lina Soualem (Bye Bye Tibériade) travels back in time to meet her own mother, the well-known actress Hiam Abbass, and all the other women that make up a large family in Palestine in the last century, a time of war, hopes, wrongs, diasporas, and that proud desire to stay in Palestine to take a stand for being there.
Another Italian filmmaker, Edoardo Morabito (L’avamposto), goes on the move and takes the direction of the Amazonian rainforest, on the trail of a Scottish eco-warrior who has devoted his life to the Amazon. The world as it is now does not correspond to what we wish for ourselves. Or should we say our desires do not dialogue with what we practice, and that world reacts mutely, and can even become inhospitable? Can we still change direction? Can we embrace the ideals of someone who seems doomed to fail, spectacularly?
A special treat arrives from the famous French director Céline Sciamma, our jury president in 2022, who gifts Giornate with a short film shot in Rome, completely self-produced, which avails of the artistic contribution of singer Chiara Civello: a little gem paying homage to poet Patrizia Cavalli (This is how a child becomes a poet).
On the same day, at the same time, and in the same theater, Sciamma will be in the company of Teona Strugar Mitevska (21 Days Until the End of the World). The Macedonian filmmaker has also donated audiences a personal diary, a political critique, an act of rebellion. And who could be better than Mitevska and Sciamma, when it comes to insubordination?
The closing film out of competition is the American Coup! by Austin Stark and Joseph Schuman, starring Peter Sargsaard. A small group is holed up in a villa in 1918 to protect itself from the Spanish flu, but not from each other: they are prey to all the worst human instincts, like selfishness, ambition, deceit, plotting behind other’s backs, betrayal. Will we ever be able to become better people?