64th TIFF: Greek Premiere

Determined to do his utmost to protect his homeland from ever-imminent invasion, young Luka – a talented sniper – makes the lengthy trek from region 27 north to Fort Kairos, an outpost on the Steppe where the General and her council maintain guard against the pending onslaught from the North. In this desolate industrial complex, fear of an attack that never seems to come by an enemy that perhaps does not exist has morphed into a sort of serene paranoia. Military training has congealed, becoming a series of bizarre, animalistic rituals; punishment for minor infractions ranges from shovelling excrement to death by thirst. When at last there is dim evidence that the North is mobilising its troops, it becomes apparent that dogma now trumps truth, compassion and common sense. Geraldine Chaplin's twisted General is just one stand-out among uniformly excellent performances, which are underscored by threatening black-and-white cinematography and precisely unnerving sound design. Obliquely tinged with the conjured terrors of George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four and the rapturous brotherly love of Jean Genet's Un chant d'amour, Jessica Woodworth's take on Dino Buzzati's much-lauded The Tartar Steppe crafts a fantasy of post-truth lunacy that perhaps reflects today more closely than is comfortable. – Nicholas Davies

Screening Schedule

No physical screenings scheduled.

Available at the Agora Market TIFF64.

Direction: Jessica Woodworth
Script: Jessica Woodworth
Cinematography: Virginie Surdej
Editing: David Verdurme
Sound: Marc Lizier
Music: Teho Teardo
Actors: Jonas Smulders, Geraldine Chaplin, Samvel Tadevossian, Jan Bijvoet, Sam Louwyck, Django Schrevens, Hal Yamanouchi
Production: Bo Films
Producers: Stefan Kitanov, Mira Staleva, Diana Elbaum, Peter Brosens, Maarten D'Hollander, Tim Martens, Flaminio Zadra, Pilar Saavedra Perrotta, Denis Vaslin, Fleur Knopperts, Anzhela Frangyan
Co-production: Krater Films, Beluga Tree, Palosanto Films, Volya Films, Art Fest, Dokino
Co-producers: Maarten D’Hollander, Tim Martens, Diana Elbaum, Flaminio Zadra, Pilar Saavedra Perrotta, Denis Vaslin, Fleur Knopperts, Stefan Kitanov, Mira Staleva, Anzhela Frangyan
Costumes: Eka Bichinashvili
Production Design: Sabina Christova
Format: DCP
Color: B/W
Production Country: Belgium, Italy, The Netherlands, Bulgaria, Armenia
Production Year: 2023
Duration: 94'
Contact: Films Boutique

Jessica Woodworth

Jessica Woodworth is a Belgian-American film director, screenwriter and producer based in Belgium. Her previous fiction feature films are Khadak, Altiplano, The Fifth Season, King of the Belgians, and The Barefoot Emperor, made with Peter Brosens. These films were screened in over 350 festivals and won over 70 awards. Jessica grew up between Belgium, Switzerland, and the US and has since studied and worked in Italy, France, China, Mongolia, and Morocco. She has a degree in literature from Princeton University and a master's in documentary film from Stanford University. She gives workshops for actors and directors, has been on juries worldwide, and is a frequent mentor for film students.


2002 The Virgin Diaries 
2006 Khadak (co-direction)
2009 Altiplano (co-direction)
2012 The Fifth Season (co-direction)
2016 King of Belgians (co-direction)
2019 The Barefoot Emperor (co-direction)
2023 Luka