One thing the programming team here at the AFF is always on the lookout for are the acclaimed films from the International Festival Circuit. Many have already collected plenty of awards hardware, and I’d like to talk briefly about two major films that come to Halifax through the Atlantic Film Festival with accolades that make them, frankly, film events not to be missed.
First off, from this year’s Berlin Film Festival, comes the magnificent Russian drama How I Ended This Summer. Winner of three major prizes in the German Capital’s Film Fest--two acting awards and a citation for ‘artistic achievement’--it’s basically a two-person story set entirely on a remote arctic island.
Written and directed by up-and-comer Alexi Popogrebsky, How I Ended This Summer tells the story of two men--one older, one younger--who man a weather station and monitor radioactivity levels on an island that was once an important Cold War-era Soviet base.
When communication between the two men breaks down, the extraordinary landscapes take on an even larger role in the film. The result is a mesmerizing cinematic experience that pits the fragility of human nature against the monolithic and enduring influence of the land, weather and sea.
For a complete change of environment--but not necessarily of pace--A Screaming Man trades the cool Russian summer arctic for the relentless heat of Central Africa. Winner of the Jury Prize this year at Cannes, this writer/director effort (Mahamat-Saleh Haroun) zeroes in on the relationship between a father and his son as violent rebellion shakes the former French colony of Chad to its very core.
Again, landscape plays a definitive role in this film, with the relatively lushness of the City eventually transforming to the blasted desert of the army emcampments on the outskirts of town. As Chadian society literally begins to break down, the bounds of family remain one of the few tangible values in a disintegrating world, and watching a man try to hold on to those values is indeed a heartbreaking exercise.
While both How I Ended This Summer and A Screaming Man take a while to build up narrative steam, they eventually climax in deeply moving and heavily emotional scenes that will stay with you for weeks, months and perhaps even years afterwards.
One final bit of advice. There’s a very good chance you’ll never, ever get to see
A Screaming Man and How I Ended This Summer on the big screen in Halifax again. So this year’s AFF may be your only chance to catch these important examples of World Cinema the way they are supposed to be seen. (by Senior Programmer, Ron Foley MacDonald)