Many festival "must sees" are in this section of nearly 20 films about social issues. Among these is "The Long Holiday," a very personal and elegant film made by renown director Johan van der Keuken. It was shot when, after the director was diagnosed with cancer, he and his wife took a trip around the world, fearing it would be his last. "Legacy," a film by Tod S. Lending is about three generations of African-Americans. The film shows how the violent death of Terrell Collins impacted the rest of the family. The memory of the promising young man helped his surviving loved ones reshape their lives. "The film covers the Afro-American experience within a microcosm," says Docu-men-tary Festival Director Eipides. The film not only gives "welfare" and "inner city violence" a face, but it also pins "hope" and "inspiration" on everyday people.
Violence is a mark, whether we like it or not, of the 21st century. Tough issues like laws for child killers and ethics for the meat industry are tackled in two films. Michael J. Moore examines family tragedies and a California crime law, in "Murder & Media, Politics & Prisons." They wouldn't let Jennifer Abbot into 60 Canadian slaughter-houses to document animal treatment, so she passed through back doors - and even jail - to produce "A Cow at My Table." Her film sheds light on what goes on before dinner's served.
"The Strength of Angels" is a touching and sensitive work about an 8 year old Cambodian girl who loses a leg to a land mine. The film is not only about a timely issue, but how a child's life is changed by just a second.
While it may not be "ancient," ethnic identity and national allegiance have tormented the Balkans for a very long time. Several films shed light on the enduring phenomenon. "Guzelyurt," a Turkish film directed by Mihriban Tanik, captures the meeting of Greeks and Turks in a province of Cappadocia, a region that they used to cohabitate before the traumatic population exchanges of the early 1920s. Greek director Angelos Abazoglou's "Tomorrows" is a richly textured and peopled film set in Western Thrace, Greece's remote north-eastern province. The film gives viewers a look inside the region's broken ethnic kaleidoscope.
The simple things -oil, bread and wine - unite Mediterranean cultures in "Mediter-rane-an stories". This film, pitched at the previous festival's EDN pitching seminar, was shot in Tur-key, Greece and Italy.
The return of a Cuban immigrant ("Our House in Havana"), the rivalry between dervish sects ("Howling for God") and a racist killing ("Sud") are among the diverse stories in this category. "Alone" and "The New Russian Entrepreneurs" give two very different looks at Russian society and history. Other views of the world are found in "The Journey" (Maria Mavrikou), "Lalahn and Leden" (Mohammad Jafari) and "Pour La Suite Du Monde" (M. Brault and Pierre Perrault).
Screenplay: Dmitry Kabakov, Alexander Raykovski.
Cinematography: Dmitry Kabakov, Sergey Zezuilkov.
Editing: Olga Chekalina.
Sound: Eugeny Kadimsky.
Music: Eugeny Kadimsky.
35mm B&W-Colour 48'
This is the true story of a woman, Anna Diomina, who is as old as the century. Every day, for the past seventeen years, at the same time, at the same station, an elderly lady with a hump and a cart boards the same train. She leaves the train at a far away station and starts her journey through the woods. As we follow this old woman along the icy pathways, her story and that of Russia's unfolds. It is a story of loyalty and betrayal for both. Striking archival material from 20th century Russia is accompanied by simple yet lyrical images of contemporary Russia and our heroine, as she goes about her day. And as her poignant mission is revealed, a hundred years of Russian history unfolds through her personal retelling.
Screenplay: Chantal Akerman
Cinematography: Raymond Fromont.
Editing: Claire Atherton.
Sound: Thierry de Halleux.
Producer: Xavier Carniaux, Marilyn Watelet.
Originally conceived as a meditation on the beauty of the American South and inspired by Ackerman's love of William Faulkner and James Baldwin, South was transformed by a racist crime that occured just days before her arrival. James Byrd, Jr., a black family man, was severely beaten by three white men, then chained to their truck and dragged three miles through predominantly black parts of the country. South investigates this brutal slaying and examines its impact on the community. Akerman's characteristic, classically composed static shots seem suspended in time, not only as a result of their duration, but also from the historical weight of the experiences recounted. Akerman says: "How does the southern silence become so heavy and so menacing so suddenly? How do the trees and the whole natural environment evoke so intensely death, blood and the weight of history? How does the present call up the past? And how is it that this past haunts and torments you as you wander along an empty cotton field or a dusty country road?"
KTO BOLCHE: THE NEW RUSSIAN ENTREPRENEURS
Screenplay: Vitali Kanevski.
Cinematography: Wiktor Zubrajev.
Editing: E. Gortskaja.
Sound: Sergej Sinjak.
Production: ADR Productions
35mm Colour 59'
In the early 90s, Misha, a young Russian entrepreneur, goes into business with the sole objective of earning ever more money. Hit hard by the economic crisis sweeping the country, he does whatever it takes to survive. He seeks out other entrepreneurs to convince them to either join a businessmen's club or to lend him some money. During his extensive travels, Misha meets a wide variety of people: a small-time businessman/street salesman who sells a revolutionary sponge which can be used for washing dishes, hands and feet. We also meet a woman of multiple talents; an actress and producer, she is now promoting a cinematic genre hitherto unknown in Russia: the erotic film. Poignant and humorous at the same time, Kto Bolche is a portrait of "eternal Russia" in all its contradictions.
LES AMOUREUX DE DIEU
Screenplay: Dan Alexe.
Cinematography: Philippe Guilbert.
Editing: Nathalie Pigeolet.
Sound: Etienne Curchod.
Producers: Vivianne Vanfleteren, Serge Kestemont.
35mm Colour 64'
In Skopje, former Yugoslavia, two Sheiks squabble for power in a Dervish brotherhood. In this fragile, unsteady society, far from God and traditional Sufism, their petty quarrel focuses on the issue of which group will pierce themselves at the Nevruz ceremony. Through the rivalry between these two characters, who represent opposing archetypes of religious leaders, the documentary offers a living glimpse of spiritual experience at a popular level which, despite the humorous situations and extraordinary images, may shock us. The Dervishes practice a form of Islamic yoga consisting of rhythmic movements, repetitive chants and controlled breathing. During the ceremony, the Dervishes pierce their face, neck or limbs with nails and spikes. In their state of trance no blood flows. The market place is crowded. Each Sheik attempts to attract the greatest number of faithfuls and thus diminish the importance of his rival.
The Legacy: Murder & MEDIA, POLITICS & PRISONS
Screenplay: Michael J. Moore.
Cinematography: Michael J. Moore, David L. Brown.
Editing: Crickett Kowalczyk.
Sound: Philip Perkins Cas.
Music: Marshall Crutcher.
Producer: Michael J. Moore. Παραγωγή
16mm Colour 76'
When 12-year-old Polly Klaas was abducted from her suburban California home in 1993, concerned neighbours launched one of the largests manhunts in history. Two months later, paroled felon Richard Allen Davis was arrested for her murder. Mike Reynolds, whose 17-year-old daughter had also been murdered by a paroled felon, transformed his own loss into a crusade for justice as the citizen proponent of the "Three Strikes Law", by which in the event of a third offence, a long jail sentence inevitably followed, irrespective of the nature of the crimes. The results were frustrating, until Polly Klaas's father agreed to speak out in support of "Three Strikes". Fueled by radio talk show hosts, Reynold's initiative became the single most talked-about issue on the state's agenda. But Klaas soon discovered that, among other flaws, this law impacted primarily on nonviolent offenders, and two months later he became the law's most ardent opponent. "Three Strikes" won and, by June 1998, one in five California inmates were sentenced under this law. Ninety percent of those sentenced had only one prior "strike" and were sentenced for nonviolent crimes in eighty percent of the cases. The Legacy iluminates both sides of this heated issue, and reveals how criminal justice policy is promoted in today's media-saturated political climate.
THE STRENGTH OF ANGELS
LA FORCE DES ANGES
Screenplay: Eric Vander Borght
Production: Troubadour Films
Video Colour 86'
The story of a little girl facing her destiny. Cambodia, 1997. Vanna, an 8-year-old girl, lost her leg when she stepped on a land mine. The film captures one year of Vanna's life, her trials and triumphs, and her determination to walk again. Vanna knows nothing about the history of her country, except that land mines are and will remain a part of that history.
OUR HOUSE IN HAVANA
Screenplay: Stephen Olsson
Cinematography: Stephen Olsson.
Editing: Stephen Olsson.
Producer: Stephen Olsson.
Our House in Havana follows the emotionally charged return trip of Silvia Morini, a vivacious 68-year-old Cuban, who, after 38 years of living in the United States, decides to return to Cuba to search for the house, the neighbourhood and the faded remains of her opulent, privileged life. Silvia's pilgrimage is full of discoveries, engaging interactions, and personal confrontations, which carry her from exhilaration to depression, and ultimately, in a surprising twist, to an astounding personal transformation. Our House in Havana is an intimate, thought-provoking cinematic journey, seasoned with Cuban history, culture, music and passion.
Screenplay: Tod S. Lending.
Cinematography: Randell Blakely, Sid Lubitsch, Slawomir Grunberg, Theresa Sherman.
Editing: Daniel Alpert.
Music: Sheldon Mirowitz.
Producer: Tod S. Lending.
35mm Colour 90'
The Collins family have raised their children on welfare in the absence of paternal support for over three generations.Living in one of the oldest and most dangerous housing projects in America (Chicago's Henry Horner Homes) they are bombarded daily by the chronic menaces of addiction and violence. On the day filming began, their 14-year-old son, Terrell Collins, a straight A student and community model, was shot and killed outside his home, just before he was to be interviewed. Through the powerful and dignified voices of women from three generations of the Collins family, Legacy follows the inspiring story of how members of one African-American family, over a five year period, recovered from the loss of their child, broke free of welfare, overcame addiction, and escaped the specter of violence in their community.
Screenplay: Mihriban Tanik.
Cinematography: Cemalettin Irken.
Editing: Mustafa Unal.
Sound: Engin Apak.
Producer: Mihriban Tanik.
Video Colour 41'
Guzelyurt, earlier known as Gelveri, is a province of Cappadoccia whose streets are still rife with stories of migration. The earlier population was Orthodox Christian but spoke Turkish. They were forced to migrate to Greece in the 1924 exchange. The houses they left vacant were then inhabited by Muslims from Thessaloniki. From time to time, the ancestors of the people of Gelveri come to visit their parents' homes and renew their acquaintance with their parents' former neighbours. They sing together in the same language. Guzelyurt witnesses such a reunion. In the light of the recently improved relations between Greece and Turkey, the voices of the two populations that can sing together seem to grow louder; and Guzelyurt adds another voice to the chorus.
Screenplay: Stelios Haralambopoulos.
Νarration: Gerassimos Skiadaressis.
Cinematography: Yiannis Varvarigos.
Sound: Marinos Athanassopoulos.
Music: Nikos Kypourgos.
Producer: Thanos Lambropoulos.
35 mm Colour 77'
Images of the Mediterranean made with oil, bread and wine. A single meal, encompassing the history, geography, economy, climate, civilization and peoples of the Mediterranean. For centuries, the olive, the vine and the wheat have been sunning themselves in this vast, Internal Sea. Nearby, threshing floors, oilpresses, windmills and wine-presses, traces of a centuries old architecture. Dietary habits, methods of production and daily routines combine with the natural and structured environment to form the cultural body of what is the most interesting of all potential birthplaces of the human race. This is a civilization that, as a common thread, runs through seemingly dissimilar worlds, such as Greece, Turkey and Italy, where the Greek Orthodox world, the Islamic East and the Catholic West supposedly consolidate a history of differences. The Mediterranean becomes a sea of convergence and encounter, which, however, does not overlook the dynamics of dissimilarity, allowing space to both the innovative and the traditional and, above all, insisting on holding a feast after the grapes have been picked off the vine, after the wheat has been harvested, after the olives have been gathered.
DEMAIN TOUT IRA MIEUX
Screenplay: Angelos Abazoglou.
Cinematography: Milivoj Ivkovic, Stamatis Yannoulis.
Editing: Fanny Ziozia.
Sound: Yiannis Haralambidis, Dimitris Athanassopoulos.
Producer: Olga Abazoglou.
Video Colour 70'
Men, women and children carry on a secular tradition of humanity; to move towards other places, other times, to find happiness. Tomorrows is the story of these displaced people of the past and of the present, who will again have to move tomorrow, for all kinds of reasons. A film made of a series of authentic meetings, life stories, in a region called Western Thrace, a crossroads of European and Oriental mentalities and religions at the Greek-Turkish-Bulgarian border. Their departures and arrivals, their laughter -so much laughter- their solitude are there to witness that if people run in all directions and not along the same path, it is so that Mother Earth does not lose her balance.
A COW AT MY TABLE
Screenplay: Jennifer Abbott.
Cinematography: Warren Arcan, Jennifer Abbott.
Editing: Jennifer Abbott.
Music: Oh Susanna.
Producer: Jennifer Abbott.
Video Colour 90'
On May 17, 1996, Jennifer Abbott was arrested at Intercontinental Packers Ltd. for crawling under a fence and videotaping a dead cow. While the crown later dropped the charges, security alerts quickly went out from producer associations in the meat industry warning of Abbott's project. Her experience was a perfect example of her thesis - that social forces in our society conceal, distort and legitimize factory farming with perilous repercussions to animals, humans and the environment. Every year in North America, billions of farm animals are slaughtered for meat, yet we tend to accept this as the price of dinner. Our acceptance is what Vandana Shiva calls the "ethics of anaesthesia". Weaving together interviews with animal rights activists, agribusiness representatives and animal welfare experts with archival and documentary footage, Abbott has produced an extraordinarily compelling, powerful and visually stunning documentary, which looks at a situation many would rather not know about and many would prefer was never told.
POUR LA SUITE DU MONDE
Cinematography: Michel Brault, Bernard Gosselin.
Narration: Stanley Jackson.
Editing: Werner Nold.
Sound: Marcel Carriere, Pierre Lemelin.
Music: Jean Cousineau, Jean Meunier.
Producers: Jacques Bobet, Fernand Dansereau.
16mm B&W 84'
There is a place in Canada where the moon is still held to influence the Earth and where the souls of the dead are thought to help catch white whales. For centuries, the inhabitants of L'Ile-aux-Coudres, a small island in the St. Lawrence, trapped white beluga whales by sinking a corral of saplings into offshore mud at low tide. After 1920, the practice was abandoned. This feature-length film is the unrehearsed story of what happened when old-timers of the island were persuaded to revivethe practice.
THE LONG HOLIDAY
DE GROTE VAKANTIE
Screenplay: Johan van der Keuken
Cinematography: Johan van der Keuken.
Editing: Menno Boerema.
Sound: Noshka van der Ley.
35mm Colour 145'
In October 1998, Johan van der Keuken was told that he only had a few years to live. Prostate cancer cells had taken hold of his body. He had travelled the world for years with his wife Nosh van der Ley: she held the microphone and recorder, he wielded the camera. Together, they decided to spend the rest of their precious time looking and listening. At Christmas, they set off for Bhutan. Johan van der Keuken regarded the film they were embarking on as a chronicle of his own view of the world, made all the more urgent by his own mortality. They travelled incessantly and the film is characterised by their many encounters with very different people from very different societies and cultures. "Living against all odds, with the aid of beautiful stories that tell themselves, as a comfort in the face of nothingness", in Van der Keuken's own words. The film is a quest for the face of nothingness, in the hope that there is a point, a greater motive behind it all. People could say that the meaning is to be found in the movement itself and in the eyes that discern it, store it and pass it on to others. There may be enough magic in that to fill a universe, even if it is only "minor magic", as Van der Keuken calls it.
LALEH & LADAN
LALEH VA LADAN
Screenplay: Mohammad Jafari
Cinematography: Abbas Bagherian.
Editing: Mohammad Jafari.
Video Colour 36'
Laleh and Ladan are Siamese twins who are trying to make the most of their life. One day, they hope to be able to have the operation that will separate their bodies.
Screenplay: Maria Mavrikou.
Cinematography: Sakis Maniatis, Stathis Saltas, C. Assimakopoulos.
Editing: Despo Maroulakou.
Producer: Maria Mavrikou.
Video Colour 59'
The film is a journey into the past, to the years 1922-24, when the Greeks were driven out of Asia Minor and an exchange of Greek and Turkish populations took place. Through the memories of elderly Greeks from Aivali (modernday Ayvalik) and Turkish-Cretans from Rethymno who are now living in Ayvalik and its neighbouring islands, the shocking events of that era come alive once again. Seventy-six years after the exchange, Greeks return on a pilgrimage to the Aeolian land of their birth, and for the first time, ten Turkish-Cretans also visit their birthplace. They still speak the Cretan dialect and sing the poem "Erotokritos" just like they did then!...