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Brussels Festival of European Film - Programme

"Relaunched last year with a new crew and new objectives, the Festival continues with its new formula that discovers new European talent from the 45 countries of the Council of Europe. The programme will therefore be made up exclusively of the first and second works of European filmmakers, but across all the genres.

English decadence, irreverent Belgian humour, French transsexuals, intellectual Spanish directors, almost silent but moving cinema from Italy. This is what we will find in the selection for the Brussels Festival of European Film to date. Like last year, the Festival dedicates itself to the discovery of directors. It proposes a programme consisting solely of first and second works.

Funny, moving, arresting, distracting, fascinating, often intriguing are the labels one could use to describe the programme of this 2004 edition. The selection is dazzling and visually captivating. It offers us a new style of European cinema, respectful of the origin and the specific identity of the film and its director, even though some films are financed by three different countries.

You will not love all the films. Not because of their quality, but rather because of their affiliation with certain styles or their subject matter. Please trust us: these are films that have seduced us, and it is our pleasure to let you discover them. No more than 26 films and therefore a selection chosen with care, but the public will be able to see them in their entirety should it wish to do so."

Dominique Janne

BERLIN BLUES (Herr Lehmann) - Germany - 2003 - 115 min. - colour
Director: Leander Haussmann
Cast: Christian Ulmen, Katja Danowski, Detlev W.buck, Janek Rieke
Screenplay: Sven Regener (by the novel of)
Director photography: Frank Griebe
Editor: Peter R. Adam
Sound: Wolfgang Schukrafft
Music: Charlotte Goltermann
Production: Claus Boje / Boje Buck Produktion

Synopsis: Summer 1989. In a few months, Frank Lehmann will be thirty, and he is not particularly happy about it. As if that weren't enough, his parents plan to visit. The prospect of the visit deeply upsets him, because he has had them believe that he works as a cook in a restaurant. In reality, he is a barman in a bar for artists. Located in Kreuzberg close by the Berlin Wall, the bar he works in is essentially a place for people who can not or who don't want to face up to reality. Frank here meets his friends, a group of louts (with or without artistic aspirations) who call their barman "Herr Lehmann". Whether they are philosophers or druggies, they all share the same goal: never to grow up. On November 9th 1989, the Berlin Wall falls and Herr Lehmann turns thirty. From that day on, not only his life but the whole country is no longer as it was before ...

Comment: Born in 1959 in Quedlinburg, East Germany, Leander Haussmann attended the Ernst Busch acting academy in East Berlin. He acted and directed at theatres in Gera, Parchim and Weimar. He was artistic director of the Bochum Schauspielhaus from 1995 to 2000. In 1996, he played in Detlev Buck's Jailbirds. His first feature film was the prize-winning Sun Alley (Sonnenalle) in 1999. Berlin Blues is his second feature film. The story of Berlin Blues (released in Germany under the title Herr Lehmann) is based in the book by Sven Regener, who also wrote the film script. In Berlin Blues, Leander Haussmann perfectly captures the moment where a man's life and a country's present are subjected to cataclysmic change…


BROTHERS (Broidit) - Finland - 2003 - 77 min.- colour
Director: Esa Illi
Cast: Max Bremer, Aaro Vuotila, Milka Ahlroth, Marianne Kütt, Ville Virtanen
Screenplay: Esa Elli
Director photography: Marita Hällfors, Mekka Uotila
Editor: Kaie-Ene Rääk
Sound: Janne Laine
Production: Lasse Saarinen / Kinotar Oy

Synopsis: As the title indicates, Brothers tells the story of two brothers. Sami, the older one, lives in town and has built himself a career as a photographer. But his personal life is a shambles. His younger brother, Joni, lives in Estonia and suffers from an incurable disease. Thanks to the love he receives from his girlfriend Rimma, however, he bursts with energy and joie de vivre. One day, Sami decides to go to Estonia to persuade his brother to return for treatment in Finland. Staying with Joni and seeing how happy his brother is, he realises that it is better for Joni to stay on, close to Rimma. His visit to the countryside also affords him a new perspective on his own life...

Comment: Born in 1962 in Finland, Esa Illi also cinematographed all his documentary films. He is teaching acting at Tampere University. His first film, Monkey Business (2000) was a film about friendship, foolishness and a present days' conflict with the past. His second film, Brothers, is a perfect example that simplicity, too, can be inherently cinematic. Brothers is a film that touches upon life, death, love, and loneliness in a style reminiscent of Cassavetes. And is in no need of one word more.


DEADLINES - Great Britain / France / Tunisia - 2004 - 103 min. - colour
Director: Ludi Boeken, Michael Alan Lerner
Cast: Stephen Moyer, Anne Parillaud
Screenplay: Michael Alan Lerner
Director photography: Ivan Strasburg B.S.C.
Editor: Suzanne Fenn
Art direction: Taoufik Behi
Sound: Faouzi Thabet
Music: Justin Adams
Production: Raphael Films, Ludi Boeken, Eric Dussart

Synopsis: Beirut 1983. It is in this town torn apart by civil war, that Alex is supposed to replace a colleague. He is a young ambitious correspondent but without any experience whatsoever. He comes to know Julia, a war photographer whose professional dedication makes her fly in the face of all danger. Alex suspects she is hiding something and tries to win her confidence. When Julia discovers that a captain of the Lebanese army who had been killed was in reality an Israeli spy, she decides to tell Alex - who promptly publishes the story. This gains him the respect that he wanted ever since he arrived in Beirut. But his publication unleashes a chain of events that make the tables turn against him…

Comment: Both filmmakers, Boeken and Lerner, have worked as war correspondents for BBC and Newsweek, respectively. The milieu described in Deadlines, thus, familiar territory to them. Based on real facts and was made on a very modest budget, the film surprises us with its stylistic austerity and proves that war films do not necessarily have to be packed with violence and special effects.


HOW I KILLED A SAINT (Kako ubiv svetec) - Macedonia / Slovenia / France - 2004 - 82 min. - colour
Director: Teona S.Mitevska
Cast: Labina Mitevska, Milan Tocinovski, Silvija Stojanovska, Kiril Korunovski, Dzevdet Jasari, Lea Lipsa, Toni Mihajlovski
Screenplay: Matthew Bardin, Teona Strugar Mitevska
Director photography: Alain Marcoen
Editor: Nicolas Gaster, Rohan Sen
Art direction: Vuk Mitevski, Kiril Spaseski
Sound: Bruno Tarriere
Music: Olivier Samouillan, Project Zlust
Production: E-motion Film, Labina Mitevska, Silkroad Production, Sisters & Brother Mitevski Production

Synopsis: After having lived in America for several years, Viola returns to her native Macedonia. Staying with her family, the young woman is confronted with a society torn by internal conflict, where money and work are in scarce supply. She discovers that her brother Kokan has turned into a fanatic nationalist: he sabotages NATO vehicles, works as a messenger for black market bosses, and ultimately dreams of committing a big terrorist attack some day. As the film progresses, the stories of the two get linked. Without knowing it, Kokan puts his sister at great risk, which forces the young woman to reveal the true reason for her return.

Comment: Born in 1974 in Skopje, Teona Strugar Mitevska was a child actor for television and teatre. Later she trained as a painter, finishing her BA in graphic design. She was art director for companies such as Saatchi & Saatchi. In 1998, she started the MFA film programme at the Tisch School of Arts. Together with her brother and sister, she founded a prouction company. She directed her first short in 2000 (Veta) and a documentary in 2001 (Amer in America). How I killed a Saint is her first feature film. In this film, Teona S. Mitevska convincingly depicts a country at war with itself whose inhabitants have to live without security of any kind and with the permanent threat of explosive violence. Kokan's thirst for violence is symptomatic for an entire country in search of its identity. How I Killed a Saint speaks of people who try to survive under the most extreme conditions. Born out of a deep need to tell the story of contemporary conflicts, this film without doubt belongs to a new generation of talented filmmakers from the Balkans.


HURENSOHN (Son of a Whore) - Austria - 2003 - 86 min. - colour
Director: Michael Sturminger
Director: Chulpan Khamatova, Miki Manojlovic, Stanislav Lisnic
Screenplay: Michael Sturminger (based on the novel by Gabriel Loidolt)
Director photography: Jürgen Jürges
Editor: Heinz Ebner
Art direction: Andreas Donhauser, Tanja Hauser
Sound: Renate Martin
Music: Adrian Vonwiller
Production: Josef Aichholzer, Donato Rotunno / Josef Aichholzer Filmproduktion

Synopsis: In the 80s, Ozren is a little boy of Croatian origin living in Vienna with his mother. He worships her, as all children do. When the mother leaves the house every evening to work as a prostitute, the son is unaware of her profession. In her absence, Ozren is looked after by his aunt. Several years later in primary school, Ozren is treated by other children as "a whore's son". He does not understand this insult, doesn't his mother work as a waitress? Once at a school party, Ozren waits in vain to be picked up by his mother. Despondent and hurt, he wanders through the streets of the city. By chance, he ends up in a brothel where the porter shows him what his mother's work really consists of. But the young boy does not grasp what he sees. A few years later, the civil war breaks out in Croatia and Ozren is determined to find out the truth about his mother. But, his life takes an unexpected turn.

Comment: Owing to complete mastery of the camera and without resorting to the slightest artifice, the director Sturminger succeeds in making us share Ozren's thoughts at different stages of his life. Hurensohn comes as a delicious surprise from a country whose films we only very rarely get to see on our screens. Not to be missed!


IL VENTO, DI SERA (The Wind, in the Evening) - Italy - 2004 - 92 min. - colour
Director: Andrea Adriatico
Cast: Corso Salani, Francesca Mazza, Sergio Romano, Fabio Valletta, Francesca Ballico, Paolo Billi, Giancarlo Cauteruccio, Daniela Cotti, Franco Laffi, Luca Levi, Claudio Marchione
Screenplay: Stefano Casi, Andrea Adriatico
Director photography: Gigi Martinucci
Editor: Roberto Passuti
Art direction: Andrea Cinelli, Maurizio Bovi
Sound: Roberto Passuti
Music: Roberto Passuti
Production: Monica Nicoli / Teatri di Vita

Synopsis: Paolo is at home waiting for his boyfriend Luca to arrive for dinner. In the meanwhile, Marco gets home, but as soon as he opens the door, two shots kill him. Luca accidently gets in the kiler's way. The killer shoots him and he falls, seriously wounded. People run into the street. Among them is Paolo, completely upset, an his neighbour Francesca. She takes Paolo the the hospital where he argues with the doctor who can't tell him anything about Luca because Paolo isn't a "real" relative. Paolo learns accidently from a journalist that Marco was an important politician in the government and Luca has just died...

Comment: Born in 1966 in L'Aquila, Andrea Adriatico has worked as a theatre director since 1989. In 1991, he founded ":riflessi", one of the most interesting companies for new Italian theatre. In 1993, he created "Teatri di Vita" in Bologna, an international center for performing arts. He has worked as a journalist and teaches video art at the Fine Arts Academy of L'Aquila. After having directing three shorts (Anarchie, quel che resta di liberté, égalité, fraternité in 2000, L'auto del silenzio in 2001 and Pugni e su di me si chiude un cielo in 2002), Il Vento, di Sera is his first feature film. With the help of very intense camera work and keeping the dialogue to a minimum, Andrea Adriatico makes us share the feelings of Paolo and of Francesca. He uses the events as an opening to explore the broader question what can happen if someone you love vanishes from your life from one moment to the next. With Il vento, di sera he gives us a film brimming with emotion.


IN YOUR HANDS (Forbrydelser) - Denmark - 2003 - 101 min. - colour
Director: Annette K.Olesen
Cast: Ann Eleonara Jorgensen, Trine Dyrholm
Screenplay: Kim Fupz Aakeson, Annette K. Olesen
Director photography: Boje Lomholdt
Editor: Molly Malene Stensgaard
Sound: Christian Lund
Music: Jeppe Kaas
Production: Ib Tardini / Zentropa Productions

Synopsis: Anna and Frank are desperately trying for a baby. Just recently, Anna was given the position of vicar in a woman's prison. Although the histories of the inmates touch an emotional chord with her, she carefully guards her distance. Nonetheless, Anna is intrigued by Kate, a mysterious inmate with the reputation of being a healer. But this fascination does not last long, as she discovers the reason for which Kate is doing time. Taken together with Anna's personal situation, this discovery deeply unsettles her.

Comment: Born in Copenhagen in 1965, Annette K. Olesen worked as a trainee in a television cutting room. She took up studies in directing at the Danish Film School where, after graduating in 1995, she subsequently taught. She has also worked as a researcher for documentary filmmaker, Jorgen Leth. Her first feature film, Sma Ulykker (Minor Mishaps) was a very big hit. Her second feature film, In Your Hands, is Dogma film in the pure lineage of Lars von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg. Thematically, the film is clearly made in opposition to a certain Calvinist attitude. The filmmaker Olesen has frankly declared that after her debut Minor Mishaps, she wanted to do a "feel bad movie". Nothing could be farther from the truth: In Your Hands, is an honest film and with its open ending it argues its case for the art of relativisation.


THE LAST TRAIN (Posledny poezd) - Russia - 2003 - 82 min. - B/W
Director: Alexej German Jr.
Cast: Pavel Romanov, Peter Merkuriev, Alexei Devotchenko, Irina Rakshina, Alexander Tyurin, Marina Radzhiyeva, Natalya Lvova
Screenplay: Alexei German Jr.
Director photography: Oleg Lukichev
Editor: Olga Laboskina
Art direction: Victor Drozdov
Sound: Serge Sokolov, Anatoly Gudovsky
Production: PIEF Film Studio, Victor Izvekov, Yelena Yatsura

Synopsis: In the middle of the '44 winter somewhere on the eastern front of World War II, an elderly doctor arrives in a German camp. Total defeat is imminent. The man quickly understands that the soldiers are preparing for retreat. He is advised to do the same., but he refuses. Seeing that he will be virtually the last person left behind, he accepts to leave together with a soldier. In the course of their journey, the two men cross the infinite desolation of a winter landscape, a freezing no man's land that knows no pity, full of fog and snow where the war is always lurking. Through snowstorms and across battlefields, and along the ever more absurd conversations between the two men, the film underscores the unreal character of what is happening to them.

Comment: Born in 1976 in Moscow, Alexei German Jr is the great Aleksej German's son. He grew up in St.Petersburg and studied from 1996 to 2001 at the VGIK in Moscow. Since then, he has worked for the Lenfilm Studios. The Last Train is his first feature film. This very strong début with great tact tells the story of ordinary people drawn into the madness of the eastern war front against their will. German Jr. introduces us to a profoundly good man, opposed to the war, who suffers a futile death. This war drama was shot in black and white cinemascope to magnificent effect.


ROADS TO KOKTEBEL (Koktebel) - Russia - 2003 - 105 min. - colour
Director: Boris Khlebnikov & Alexei Popogrebsky
Cast: Igor Chernevich, Gleb Puskepalis, Agrippina Stelkova, Alexander Ilyin, Vladimir Kucherenko
Screenplay: Boris Khlebnikov & Alexei Popogrebsky
Director photography: Shandor Berkeshi
Editor: Ivan Lebedev
Sound: Evgeniya Pototskaya
Production: Roman Borisevich / PBOUL Borisevich RU

Synopsis: In an attempt to escape from his past, a father leaves Moscow in the company of his young son. Their goal is to reach Koktebel, the seaside resort on the Black Sea where the sister of the father lives. As they have no money, they have to walk or hitchhike. The father is happy to stop now and then to earn some money and to rest. The journey offers him the opportunity to win back his self-confidence and the trust of his son. In the son's imagination, Koktebel appears as a paradise, and the journey's slow progression increasingly angers him. When his father then falls in love with a doctor who is just as lonely as he is, the son sees this new presence as an intruder in the only affective relationship he has had in his entire life. And he decides enough is enough…

Comment: Boris Khlebnikov studied film theory at the VGIK in Moscow. His filmography includes the documentary short Mimochod (1997), which he co-directed with Alexei Popogrebsky, and the short drama Tricky Frog (2000). Alexei Popogrebsky studies psychology at Moscow State University before co-directing the short Mimochod. Roads to Koktebel is their first feature film. Boris Khlebnikov and Alexei Popogrebsky are masters in the art of exploring the depth of images and emotions. Once more, vast scenery is used to shape a story, here to express the relationship between father and son. Roads to Koktebel reveals the incredibly promising talent of the two filmmakers.


SQUINT YOUR EYES (Zmruzoczy) - Poland - 2003 - 88 min. - colour
Director: Andrzej Jakimowski
Cast: Zbigniew Zamachowski, Malgorzata Foremniak, Andrzej Chyra, Ola Proszynska, Andrzej Mastalerz, Rafal Guzniczak
Screenplay: Andrzej Jakimowski
Director photography: Adam Bajerski, Pawel Smietanka
Editor: Cezary Grzesiuk
Art direction: Ewa Jakimowska
Sound: Piotr Kokosinski, Wojciech Mularczyk
Music: Tomasz Gassowski
Production: Andrzej Jakimowski / ZAIR

Synopsis: Jasiek is a unemployed teacher who has more or less given up on life. He now lives on a rather strange farm, where a good handful of eccentric characters keep him company. And then comes Mala, a little girl of ten years already has a mind of her own. She ran away from home because her materialist parents had no time for her. Jasiek lets her stay at his place but does not worry himself overduly about her. Mala's father finds Jasiek and tries to convince her to come back but she refuses. It is then Mala's mother's turn to visit the farm and work upon her daughter.

Comment: Born in 1963 in Warsaw, Andrzej Jakimowski studied philosophy first and then colpleted his studies at the film academy in Katowice. He made short films and short documentaries. In his first feature film, Squint Your Eyes, he plays with the perceptions and the expectations of the viewer. He succeeds in creating a world of his own, between reality and fantasy. The carefully-executed camerawork, the very subtle humour, the original set decorations, and the highly convincing performances make Squint Your Eyes a refreshing comedy, which undoubtedly represents a new trend in the Polish cinema d'auteur.


SUMMER IN THE GOLDEN VALLEY (Ljeto u zlatnoj dolini) - Bosnia-Herzegovina/ France / Great Britain - 2003 - 104 min. - colour
Director: Srdjan Vuletic
Cast: Haris Sijaric, Kemal Cebo, Zana Marjanovic, Svetozar Cvetkovic, Aleksandar Seksan, Emir Hadzihafizbegovic
Screenplay: Srdjan Vuletic
Director photography: Slobodan Trninic
Editor: Catherine Kelber
Art direction: Kemal Hrustanovic
Sound: Bruno Tarriere
Music: Simon Boswell
Production: Ademir Kenovic / Refresh Productions

Synopsis: Sarajevo 2003. Fikret is an adolescent who wastes away his days, sniffing glue in the company of his friend and fantasising about sex. The two friends dream of a rich and carefree life. The monotony of their everyday life is shattered by the death of Fikret's father. At the funeral, a man introduces himself saying he is owed a large sum by the father. Since honour demands that the debt be paid, so that the deceased can rest in peace, Fikret accepts to take over the debt. In order to get together the sum needed, the two friends get involved with a couple of ever shadier characters and, in the end, are sucked into a maelstrom of violence …

Comment: Born in Bijelijina, Srdjan Vuletic attained a dregree in dircting in 1995 from the College of erforming Arts. He erved as assistant director on Ademir Kenovic's The Perfect Circle in 1997 and wrote the screenplay of Amed Imamovic's 10 minutes in 202. He has directed several short films, including I Burnt Legs in 1993, March 8th in War in 1993, War Cinema in 1994 and Hop, Skip & Jump in 2000. He also contributed the short film Trip to the Moon, segment from Made in Sarajevo in 1998. Summer in the Golden Valley is his first feature film. In this film, Vuleti? shows how a society tries to escape its collapse. The director belongs to a generation that has been given a painful heritage by its predecessors: destroyed villages, lost principles, and the chaos of a civilisation torn apart. Despite the gloomy picture given of Sarajevo, the director still manages to give us a film full of warmth.


WAS NUTZT DIE LIEBE IN GEDANKEN (Die Liebe in Gedanken / Love in Thoughts) - Germany - 2004 - 88 min. - colour
Director: Achim von Borries
Cast: Daniel Brühl, August Diehl, Anna Maria Mühe
Screenplay: Achim von Borries, Hendrik Handloegten
Director photography: Jutta Pohlmann
Editor: Gergana Voigt, Antje Zynga
Sound: Peter Schumacher
Music: Thomas Feiner, Ingo L.Frenzel
Production: Stefan Arndt, Christophe Mazodier, Manuela Stehr / X-Filme Creative Pool

Synopsis: June 1927. Paul Krantz and Günther Scheller are just about to pass their final exams. Both have high expectations of life: they want to make the utmost of it and do so without compromises. They demand no less in love. They jointly form the "suicide club" and swear that they will kill themselves should they be disappointed by love. In the company of Günther's sister Hilde, they pass a weekend in the country house of the Scheller family. During a party, Paul falls in love with Hilde. But being a very sought-after girl, Hilde chooses Hans instead, her brother's former lover. Paul is very disappointed. So is his friend Günther, as he realises that his secret love for Paul will never come to anything. This is the moment when things go wrong ...

Comment: Born in Munich in 1968, Achim von Borries took up studies in history, politics and philosophy at the University in Berlin in 1989, followed by filmmaking studies at the German Film and Television Academy in Berlin in 1993. Made in the year 2000, his graduation film, Engand! received numerous international awards anf was a box-office hit in cinemas. Von Borries also works as a script doctor and he has collaborated on various projects, including the television series Boomtown Berlin and Goodbye Lenin. In Die Liebe in Gedanken, he draws up a melancholy portrait of the unhappy loves of a wasted generation. Like Carl Boesse and Max Nosseeck before him, this filmmaker was fascinated by the Steglitz murders. With Was nützt die Liebe in Gedanken, in the deep colours of summer, he delivers a tale of happiness and rebellion, and the confused emotions that often accompany the two.


WITH GEORGE BUSH ON MY MIND (Los abajo firmentes) - Spain - 2003 - 90 min. - colour
Director: Joaquin Oristrell
Cast: Javier Camara, Juan Diego Botto, Elvira Minguez, Maria Botto
Screenplay: Maria Botto, Javier Camara, Juan Diego Botto, Elvira Minguez, Joaquin Oristrell
Director photography: Mischa Lluch
Editor: Miguel Angel Santamaria
Art direction: Soledad Sesena
Music: Nacho Mastretta
Production: Joaquin Oristrell, Cristina Rota

Synopsis: On its tour, a theatre company travels through Spain's heartland. After the sudden death of one of the actors, their agent sends them Jorge Ruiz, a young actor who is the latest hot thing in a television soap. The company welcomes him with extreme reserve and because of his reputation as a popular actor, does not take him seriously. But, apart from being a serious actor, the young man is also a political activist. At the same time, the war in Iraq seems more probable with each passing day. Jorge hears from a friend that all Spanish theatre companies plan to begin each of their performances with an anti-war speech. He proposes this idea to his colleagues. Initially, this spreads discord among the members, but Jorge succeeds in convincing all of them. The plan is put into action. But the company soon realises that their speech is not met with a unanimous welcome.

Comment: With George Bush on My Mind is a very accomplished film about the troubles and joys of a theatre company. With great subtlety, Oristrell interweaves his anti-war message with the experiences of the characters without once resorting to bland activism. A talent not to be missed!

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