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Troia Film festival sets an ambitious slate


The 21st edition of the Troia International Film Festival (Festroia), Portugal’s oldest and most adventurous film event devoted to international and independent cinema, kicked off on May 28 with a wide-ranging program, with particular nods to European and American Independent films.

The Festival is based in the picturesque coastal town of Setúbal, about 90 minutes south of Lisbon. Troia is actually the name of the expansive beaches in the vicinity, and was the site of the Festival for the first fifteen years of its existence. However, as a way of bringing the films to a wider public, the Festival moved into the center of Setúbal, with the impressive Forum Luisa Todi as its main screening venue.

This year, Festroia will present about 150 films over its ten days. The Festival opened on May 28 with the Portugese premiere of CRASH, the directorial debut of Paul Haggis (Oscar winner for Best Screenplay for MILLION DOLLAR BABY), a bracing exploration of race and class tensions in contemporary Los Angeles, with an all-star cast including Sandra Bullock, Don Cheadle, Matt Dillon, Ryan Phillipe and Brendan Fraser.

The Festival boasts four Competitive Sections: the Official Competition, First Works, American Independents and Man and Nature. Films in the Official Competition compete for the prestigious Golden Dolphin prizes. Previous winners have included such films as FOOL FOR LOVE (Robert Altman, US, 1986), ONE FULL MOON (Endaf Emlyn, Wales, 1992), COLD FEVER (Fridrik Thor Fridriksson, Iceland, 1996), THE BANDIT (Yavuz Turgul, Turkey, 1998), ITALIAN FOR BEGINNERS (Lone Scherfig, Denmark, 2001) and last year’s winner, BONJOUR MR. SHLOMI (Shemi Zarhin, Israel).

This year, films competing for the Golden Dolphin Awards include: TURTLES CAN FLY (Bahman Ghobadi, Kurdistan/Iran), DIRTY SOUL (Milan Cieslar, Czech Republic), BOMBOM – EL PERRO (Carlos Sorin, Argentina), DAY AND NIGHT (Simon Staho, Sweden / Denmark), MACHUCA (Andrés Wood, Chile / Spain), HAWAI, OSLO (Erik Poppe, Norway), DALLAS PASHAMANDE (Robert Adrian Pejo, Hungary / Áustria), SOUTH (Martin Koolhoven, Netherlands), METALLIC BLUES (Danny Verete, Israel/Canada) and DELIVERY (Nikos Panayotopoulos, Greece).

The Official Competition Jury is made up of Marczuk-Pazura (producer, Ukraine), Sudhir Vasudeo Nandgaonkar (director, Bombay International Film Festival, Índia), Claudia Landsberger (director, Holland Film and co-founder of European Film Promotion, The Netherlands), Margarida Cardoso (director, Portugal), João Antunes (film critic, Portugal), Ingvar Sigurdsson (actor, Iceland) and Francisco Bravo Ferreira (distributor, Portugal).

“With so many film festivals around the world, our biggest challenge is maintaining the quality of the films that we show”, Artistic Director Fernanda Silva offered. “Sharing prints among Festivals has become difficult and expensive”, she continued, “but we now have enough of a record that we have the trust of film professionals from around the world.”

While it is hard for an older Festival to come up with “new tricks”, this year the Festroia team have introduced a number of innovations. The most stellar is the collaboration with pan-European organization European Film Promotion, to present a sampling of this year’s Shooting Stars, Europe’s young acting talents. The Shooting Stars initiative has become a staple for EFP, with a gala presentation (and party) held each year at the Berlin Film Festival.

This year, Festroia will present nine Shooting Stars, as well as having the local premieres of six of their films in competition. Acting talent attending the Festival includes Aleksandra Balmazovic (Slovenia), Johanna Bantzer (Switzerland), Jan Budair (Czech Republic), Jacob Cedergren (Denmark), Marisa Cruz (Portugal), Dorka Gryllus (Hungary), Monic Hendrickx (The Netherlands), Alexia Kaltsiki (Greece) and Kari-Pekka Toivonen (Finland). EFP will also host an international seminar at the Festival to discuss the challenges for young European actors.

Toivonen, the Shooting Star from Finland, will be represented by the film PRODUCING ADULTS (director, Aleksi Salmenpera), one of six films from Finland that will be showcased at the Festival in a special Country Focus. “We see our role as expanding the visibility of films from countries that have a smaller production output and are often less featured in the international limelight”, Artistic Director Fernanda Silva offered.

Other highlights at this year’s edition include European Discoveries, a program highlighting the young director nominees for the prestigious Fassbinder Awards; representative screenings from some of Eastern Europe’s most prestigious Cinema Schools; an International Meeting of New Talents networking conference presented in cooperation with the European Film Academy, FIAPF and OCIC; and cinema showcases from Brazil, Mozambique and the host country of Portugal. More on First Works and American Independents in a subsequent article.

“Running a Festival like this one has become more difficult and more expensive in recent years”, Silva stated. “Government support has gone down and it is difficult to find private sponsors in Portugal, although this year we have added Grupo Amorim, a private company, to our roster of regular support from government, cultural and tourism agencies”.

Although local distributors do descend on the Festival to discover gems not yet slated for local release, Silva added that the theatrical scene in Portugal has become more difficult and that the Festival “may be the only opportunity for the general public to see these wonderful films.” For over 20 years, Festroia has kept to its mandate and remains one of Portugal’s consistent film treasures.

Sandy Mandelberger
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