Surely, one ought to start the summary report about the 40th Molodist Festival from the main news: as predicted, the full-length film My Joy (directed by Serhii Loznytsia, a joint production of Ukraine, Germany and the Netherlands). This is truly an important event: for the first time in the history of Molodist as an international festival a Ukrainian film won the Grand Prix (the Silver Deer statuette and 10,000-dollar prize). It has also won the Prize of FIPRESCI, the International Federation of Film Critics.
The leading story of the film My Joy seems to be simple, rigid, like a police report. The hauler Georgii (Viktor Nemets) sets out for an ordinary trip with a load of flour. On his way he runs into a traffic jam. He decides to find a bypass way through the villages, loses his way, and disappears in some rural area.
Director Serhii Loznytsia makes his character go through all the possible pits of the Russian provincial hell. He is attacked, robbed, offended, he is treated worse than a beast. Up to the very end of the movie Georgii is not an action character, rather an observer; his passivity is a way to provoke, to verify the other people’s humanity. All the more so, Loznytsia introduces several scenes that have no direct relation to Georgii, extrapolating one man’s story on the history of the community, i.e., the country or people.
The film is structured with mathematic clarity: as it usually happens on trips, My Joy consists of lots of encounters, separate episodes, with each one being a description of specific characters, times, and customs. The remote place where Georgii finds himself is shown by Loznytsia as almost a different civilization. It is under a spell, perhaps even cursed (there is a demonstrative dialogue with tramps who later cripple Georgii: “Where does this direction go?” “To nowhere. It’s a dead end, evil spirits.”) New characters appear after every turn in the bewitched road: sometimes they are impenetrable like evil Asian idols, sometimes totally frenzied like an officer who sees a hanged man in a forest, or the mad old man in the final scenes reporting to the imaginary command, “I have destroyed the traces.” He repeats, over and over again, something about the “communal grave of traces.” The multi-layer story is pierced with prevailing motives: the film starts and ends in a road police post, with the “law-enforcement officials” seeming more dangerous than any bandits. The world we see follows the laws of the jungle, the war is waged by everyone against everyone.
On the whole, one easily robs and beats here, they start shouting and swearing in rage without second thought, the mere hint of love is burnt with red-hot iron, so “my joy” refers to what the place is lacking, catastrophically so. Loznytsia creates a chthonic world, which has neither monsters, nor demons: it has terrible habits and people’s relations.
However, in this darkness Georgii is just a witness or victim. He might be the only one who is innocent. Drawing religious parallels is fairly risky, yet I will dare foresee that the hero, by his function in the plot, is like an angel: he is a witness; his helplessness forces his surroundings to make the eternal choice between the good and evil. And when the story comes to an end, he, as a good angel should, punishes both the torturers and the victims. Thus, he brings the situation to an absolute zero. For he, who has been betrayed three times, deprived of memory and mind, thus innocent, has more reasons than anyone to do so.
Loznytsia’s hard cinematographic tale cuts in the mind like a sharp knife. My Joy, without blaming anyone at the end of The Day, simply shows the level of mutilation of the world we are living in.
But while contemplating the film I understood: at some point of time the curse will be lifted.
The winners in parallel competitions were known on the eve of the festival’s closing, on Saturday. So, the short film Der kleine Nazi (Little Nazi) directed by Petra Luschow (Germany) won the main awards of the jury of the Federation International de Cine Clubs (FICC) and Ecumenical Jury. The international press also conferred special awards on the student film Itt Vagyok (Here I am, Balint Szimler, Hungary) and short movie Uerra (War, Paolo Sassanelli, Italy).
Encouraging diplomas went on the short movie Last Letter (directed by Yurii Kovaliov, Ukraine) and full-length drama Die Fremde (A Stranger, directed by Feo Aladag, Germany).
The jury of Sunny Bunny, the competition of films dedicated to the homosexual topics divided the main prize between the two films Postcard to Daddy, directed by Michael Stock, Germany, and Broderskab (Brotherhood, directed by Niccolo Donato, Denmark). A special diploma went to the full-length mixture of erotic and horror L.A. Zombie shot by the eccentric American Bruce LaBruce.
The special competition “Ukrainian Panorama of 2009-2010” was created specifically to support the Ukrainian cinema: here the works are accepted both on film and video carriers, which is important taking into account the fact that not all Ukrainian moviemakers, unfortunately, can afford to use full-fledged shooting equipment. This year the diploma for the best director’s work went to the film Dogs of Ukrainka, directed by Daria Onyshchenko, Germany-Ukraine, the award for the best female role went to Yulia Zhytelna (short movie Ballet Shoes, directed by Yulia Hohol), while the Grand Prix and the 2,000-dollar prize went to the documentary I am A Monument to Myself by Dmytro Tiazhlov.
The Yves Montand Award for Best Young Actor, with its 1,000-euro prize, went to Monica del Carmen, who played a journalist with suicidal inclinations in the Mexican film Ano bisiesto (Leap-Year) by Michael Rowe.
In the competition of student films the winner was Ich bin’s Helmut (It’s me, Helmut by Nicolas Steiner, Germany), and the encouraging diploma from the jury went to Hungarian Balint Szimler (Here I am).
This year the festival has two best short movies: the award was divided between Majorite opprimee (Oppressed Majority by Eleonore Pourriat, France) and GirlLikeMe directed by Rowland Jobson, UK.
Finally, two awards — the Audience’s Favorite and Best Full-Length Film — went to the French-Swedish fusion of comedy and musical Sound of Noise (directors: Ola Simonsson, Johannes Stjarne Nilsson).
On the same evening in the Opera House honorable “Deer,” for contribution to cinematography were conferred on the renowned Ukrainian actor Ivan Havryliuk and our famous fellow-countrywoman Liudmila Gurchenko, whose two-song performance was a real culmination to the feast.
Read a detailed report on the jubilee Molodist and an exclusive interview with Serhii Loznytsia in the upcoming issues of The Day.