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Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty
Henry M. Robert

Ukraine wins major award at Cannes 2011

24 May, 2011 - 00:00
MARYNA VRODA, THE WINNER OF THE SHORT FILM PALME D’OR IN CANNES / Photo from the website livestory.com.ua

Maryna Vroda received the Short Film Palme d’Orfor the Franco-Ukrainian Cross (Cross Country), making this young lady Ukraine’s second producer to win an award at Cannes (after Ihor Strembytsky’s Podorozhni (Wayfarers) in 2005). Receiving the award from Michel Gondry, the head of the jury, and actor Ludivine Sagnier, Vroda said: “I’m grateful to the festival, the jury, and my colleagues — other film directors with whom I took part in this competition. Last but not least, many thanks for my crew.”

Vroda was born on Febuary 22, 1982. In 2007, she graduated from the Karpenko-Kary National Theater, Cinema and Television University of Kyiv. She worked as an assistant director for Serhii Loznytsia on his film My Joy submitted to Cannes in 2010. She is the script writer and director of the films Family Portrait (2006-09), The Oath (2007), Rain (2007), and Cross (2011).

Cross is a 15-minute joint Franco-Ukrainian production, a reminiscence on one’s physical training experiences. But it is more than just jogging footage. The film was made last December and making it took less than a week. The cast was made up of amateurs.

In the full-length motion picture division the Palme d’Or went to Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life. Malick is a US film director who comes up with a choice production perhaps once every 20 years. This one stars Brad Pitt and Sean Penn and its screening split the moviemaking community.

The Tree of Life is a professionally made, technically flawless picture about an ordinary US family, combined with an outline of world history. The story goes back to the 1950s and features the life of the eldest son of a family who tries to find answers to the meaning of life and the relationship with God. The jury was divided over the scope and special effects that made the motion picture look like another mainstream Hollywood product. In the end, Malick’s professionalism and sense of perfection got the upper hand.

Lars Von Trier’s Melancholia proved similarly impressive. However, what made the festival’s headlines was the Danish film director’s conduct. Whether alarmed by the jury’s accord on his production, a story about the planet’s last days before the collision with another planet, or by media people’s unnerving questions, he made a number of unreasonable statements during the final press conference.

Among other things he said he was a Nazi and could understand Hitler. Nonetheless, Kirsten Dunst, one of the cast, won the best actress award.

The Grand Prix was shared between two films and, in fact, three directors: Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s Once Upon A Time In Anatolia (with its philosophic insight and spectacular cameraman’s performance reminding one of Tarkovsky’s best productions) and the Dardennes brothers’ The Kid with A Bike (both are two-time Palme d’Or winners), a heartfelt story about one’s quest for the absolute, solitude, and empathy. It seems the brothers’ tandem led to perfection once more.

Nicolas Winding Refn (Denmark) was named top film director for his Drive, a curious mix of Hong Kong thriller and film noir. Joseph Cedar (Israel) captured the screenplay award for his Footnote. French director and actor Maiwenn Le Besco won the Jury Prize for Poliss, a gritty drama about a tightly-bound, but highly-strung Parisian child protection unit. Too bad the Finnish film director Aki Kaurismaki’s Le Havre and Pedro Almodovar’s La Piel Que Habito (The Skin I Live In), starring Antonio Banderas as an eccentric surgeon, got no awards.

Making any conclusions would seem premature, yet the cameraman’s jerky performance and the emphasis on the social sphere are obviously history. Now every movie meant for an elite intellectual audience appears to be rooted in the slow metaphysical tradition of the 1970s, along with top-notch epic filmmaking techniques.

COMMENTARIES

Andrii KHALPAKHCHI, Director General of the Kyiv International Film Festival Molodist:

“This victory proves that the Ukrainian movie industry does exist; I object when they say that there’s no cinema in Ukraine. Short filmmaking is developing at present. The new generation creates a lot of interesting short films. It gives us hope that we’ll manage to bring up a new generation of Ukrainian film directors. Maryna Vroda belongs to this group, as she participated in Molodist twice as a student. It’s her first short film made in cooperation with France. It’s very important, as cooperation is an important component of modern filmmaking. Nine films were selected and Ukraine won.

“Short films are an independent segment in the movie industry. It’s especially developed in France where shorts are shown in ordinary cinemas, mostly as collections of films. In general there are many directors, for example Chris Marker, who devote all their life to short films. It’s a separate genre, like short stories for writers.

“The situation in our country is, of course, perverted… There’s no money to make full-length films, while shorts are sometimes quite cheap and can be made independently from the state and big sponsors. During the whole year the selection committee of Molodist receives about a thousand movies. Some of them are amateur, but really talented people can be found among them, too.

“By the way, we showed two short film collections in Cannes: the known Assholes and In Love with Kyiv, which will soon see its Ukrai-nian premiere. There are very interesting films in those collections.

“Certainly, I believe that Maryna Vroda will get a lot of attention after this victory. However, a lot depends on her. We’ve already seen that Ihor Strembitsky who had won a couple of years ago, didn’t live up to the hopes of many people who expected some ‘big step’ from this director, at least in terms of shorts. He has hardly done anything during this time, though Ihor works at the television and it means something to him. So, Maryna’s future will depend first of all on her and her new ideas, and an interesting project (as today private investors and the country only support interesting projects). It’s tough for any director to prove that their future project has a look-in. Though, certainly, the Palme d’Or is a certain guarantee.”

Vasyl VITER, film director, founder of VIATEL studio, associate professor at the film direction department of the Karpenko-Kary National University:

“The film Cross by Maryna Vroda, which won at the Cannes festival will be noticed in Ukraine.

I hope that a large audience will see it and critics will pay attention to it as well. By the way their opinion will to some extent depend on the fact that it won in Cannes. I heard favorable opinions about the film. The Palme d’Or gives a lot of opportunities to create new projects to any young director. Maryna has to use these opportunities not only to develop her director’s abilities, but her producer’s abilities as well, in order to create new projects aimed at raising the level of culture in Ukraine. The only thing I’d like to wish her is to take her success pragmatically. It’s clear that this victory brought great euphoria and emotions, but it is essential to stream this energy into further productive work and turn it into new interesting and longer projects. As for the question of why shorts are successful, from among the Ukrainian films, their success is absolutely natural. At the University of Theater, Cinema and Television, where future directors study, the whole process is oriented toward short films. Then the graduates normally have to start working and make their own full-length films. How-ever, a Ukrainian film industry making full-length films for cinemas and making full use of talented people, possibilities and even such recognition as the victory at the Cannes festival doesn’t, unfortunately, exist. Moreover, the existing movie industry vulgarly uses these talented people in mediocre projects. Responsibility for this lies first of all with the Ministry of Culture, the Council Cabinet and the Ukrainian parliament, which didn’t adopt any laws needed for the development of the movie industry.”

By Dmytro DESIATERYK, The Day
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