First Slovenian Film Festival: A look back at an ambitious program

The first edition of Slovenian Film Festivalorganized by the Slovenian Film Center and the Slovenian Embassy in France between September 29 and October 2 at the Les 7 Parnassiens cinema in Paris, is a revelation and a success.

By Hannah Starman

To read our article on the shorts presented at the festival, it’s here.

An ambitious program – five feature films, four short films and numerous exchanges with the film crews – introduces French audiences to the jewel of contemporary Slovenian cinema without forgetting its classic cinematographic heritage. For this first edition, the organizers have clearly pulled out the heavy guns, but Nerina Kocjancic, responsible for promoting Slovenian film abroad at the Slovenian Film Center, reassures us that “the same quality will be maintained for the next editions of the festival. »

In the selection, we find the restored version of the legendary war film The Valley of Peace which brought John Kitzmiller the Palme d’Or for best actor in 1957, thus rewarding for the first time in the history of cinema a black actor with such a prestigious prize (it was not until 1964 for the Sidney Oscar Poitier). Since 2016, The Valley of Peace is also the only Slovenian film included in the program of the Cannes Classics section. Nerina Kocjancic defends her choice: “It’s an anti-war film which is completely topical and it has its place in the programming. »

Panorama of Slovenian cinema today

To present contemporary Slovenian cinema to French audiences, the organizers have made the double bet of showing recent films (2020/21) that have already proven themselves at festivals and highlighting emerging female directors.

Two films programmed for this edition of the festival were submitted to the Oscars for the best foreign language film, San Remo in 2021 and The Orchestra in 2022. The short film Sœurs won the international grand prize at the Clermont-Ferrand Short Festival in 2021 and two other shorts, Granny’s sex life and Steak housewere rewarded with prizes and special mentions from the jury in Les Arcs and Annecy.

Five out of nine films were directed by women, including four award-winning short films at festivals in France as well as the feature film Slut, a pejorative term for a woman, a romantic comedy that appealed to Slovenian and French audiences. Liza Japelj-Carone, culture officer at the Slovenian Embassy in France, shares her impressions after the screening: “It’s an authentic, natural and light film, the likes of which you rarely see in Slovenian cinema. A real treat ! “Eva [l’héroïne de Salope] is lost and goes to extreme acts, but she pisses off and gives the middle finger to everyone she meets and her attitude appeals to me,” actress Liza Marijina smiles affectionately for her character.

Slovenian film production may be modest (about ten feature films a year), but it is qualitative and varied. “Today, for the first time, we have very good directors of all generations, from 25 to 65, and that changes everything,” explains Matevž Lužar, the director of The Orchestra and the President of the Association of Slovenian Directors. The program offered to us reflects this diversity of themes, genres, eras, landscapes, voices, music and colors and it offers spectators the quintessence of an uninhibited, blunt, fresh and self-deprecating “Sloveneness”.

Great performers embody everyday heroes

In a retirement home, an old man suffering from dementia renews his budding romance every day with an old lady who, also demented, discovers him anew every morning at breakfast. All the intimacy woven the day before is lost and the eternal replay of the first encounter is as poetic as it is melancholic. In a collocation, three young artists row between the quest for meaning, the rails of cocaine, the desire to leave and artistic projects as bizarre as they are nauseating. In a city, a transsexual prostitute saves a tomboy with a bandaged chest from being raped, and in a bus, the members of a brass band drink, sing and drink again.

Precarious lives, drowned in alcohol, animated by violence or obscured by oblivion, relationships tested at every moment by an existence whose scope is only shrinking, a daily heroism without brilliance and without pretension, a humor gratingly, a love-hate of the country and a hope despite everything are told through these “little” stories which, in order not to fall into the cliché, require a big game.

Actors, professionals and amateurs, are there. Whether it’s discussing the price of beef, throwing up on the carpet after a drunken night out, raving about genitals with venereal disease, smashing a garden gnome with a club, or torturing yourself with he idea of ​​feeding his dog, which has been dead for thirty years, the performers deliver a fine and fair game, always with a touch of unwitting humor.

“In the Orchestra, half of the actors are amateurs. They are real musicians playing in a real orchestra and they blow your mind,” reveals Matevž Lužar while sipping his beer. “There is a retro side, an atmosphere that evokes old Yugoslav films. The Chinese love it. The Sisters team is made up almost exclusively of amateurs, only one actress is professional. Director Kukla explains her approach: “We shot the film in four, five days, but before shooting, we spent three months doing everything together; eat, listen to music, dance, everything. I was looking for personalities, not actors. »

Endearing and exasperating, lost in the known universe literally and figuratively, the heroes and heroines of this contemporary Slovenian cinema howl, rail, sigh and whisper their desire to leave this “asshole of the world” that is Slovenia. , while inventing a thousand excuses to stay there. The local expression “vukojebina” literally means “the wolf’s baisodrome” and God knows that Slovenians are attached to their wolves!

When is the next festival?

After this very successful first edition of the Slovenian film festival, we only want one thing: a second edition. Nerina Kocjancic is optimistic: “Slovenian film production is probably not sufficient to organize an annual festival, especially since we do not want to compromise the level of quality that we have imposed on ourselves, but a biannual festival seems to me perfectly possible. »

Around the table of a Montparnasse café, the jewel of Slovenian cinema drinks beer and discusses everything and nothing. I ask about the future. “Why do you always have to have plans? What if we don’t have one? asks Liza Marijina. The Orchestra’s director of photography, Simon Tanšek, gestures to the waiter: “Boy! Another tour! »

Visuals (c) poster and photos of the festival

We want to thank the author of this article for this awesome content

First Slovenian Film Festival: A look back at an ambitious program