Report: 39th International Film Festival—FEST 2011

39th International Film Festival—FEST 2011
Belgrade, Serbia
February 25–March 6, 2011

Belgrade’s 39th International Film Festival, FEST 2011, sold more than 93,000 tickets and included a diverse array of films by established directors and rising international stars, along with festival premieres by leading directors in and around Serbia. The award-winning British actor and now film director Ralph Fiennes opened FEST 2011 with his directorial debut, Coriolanus (2010).

The adaptation of Shakespeare’s Coriolanus, which centers around the Roman war hero, was shot entirely on the streets of Belgrade in authentic Serbian Parliament buildings. According to Fiennes, the film was never meant to be anything but a Shakespeare adaptation because he wanted the city to “impersonate” Rome socially and architecturally.1 He told festivalgoers that Belgrade suited the atmosphere and aesthetic texture he needed because it resembles a modern city with many contrasts between the rich and the urban poor. Fiennes felt Belgrade was the perfect architectural embodiment of the social extremes key to Shakespeare’s play.

Although the film is set in modern times, it retains Shakespeare’s original dialogue, but Fiennes’s dramatic narrative, like those of fellow British directors Kenneth Branagh and Derek Jarman, follows a classic BBC pattern of development on the big screen. As such, Fiennes builds the interplay of the characters in order to enliven what could otherwise be a flat Shakespearean narrative.

The FEST 2011 program included forty-three nominations in this year’s Oscars and ended with the Serbian film premiere of Enemy by Dejan Zecevic. The major award of the festival, the Erythrocyte Award, went to Macedonian director Milcho Manchevski for his latest film, Mothers (Majki, 2010), for what the jury described as its “subtle exploration of truth and fiction in three deliberately diverse episodes” and its daring blurring of boundaries between fiction and documentary “in order to exert and negotiate [a] powerful feeling of still-present matriarchy in the contemporary society of Macedonia.” Mothers focuses on matriarchy in modern Macedonia and beautifully depicts a feminine atmosphere through the viewpoint of women. Breaking away from traditional single-genre expectations, Manchevski links three stories from different genres—feature film and documentary—around the unifying subject of femininity. Manchevski draws on the heritage of Fyodor Dostoevsky and Nikolai Gogol by depicting both the positive and negative aspects of life. “I made Mothers as an attempt to figure out how to live and not be on the losing side—at least for the moment. Perhaps we need to embrace our sadness and our fears,” explained Manchevski.

FEST 2011 hosted several outstanding films from the United States and England such as The King’s Speech (2010, directed by Tom Hooper), Black Swan (2010, directed by Darren Aronofsky), and three more films that were awarded Oscars. The western True Grit (2010) attracted many faithful followers of the Coen brothers. Clint Eastwood’s Hereafter (2010) is a film that stands out from the actor/director’s previous work. The excellent documentary Inside Job (2010, directed by Charles Ferguson), about the great financial crises in the U.S., attracted significant attention in Belgrade. The best Foreign Language award went to In a Better World (2010, directed by Susanne Bier). Other notable French films included Xavier Beauvois’ Of Gods and Men (2010), which has won three major awards from the French Film Academy, and Francis Ozon’s Potiche (2010). Two outstanding British films were 127 Hours (2010, directed by Danny Boyle) and Another Year (2010, directed by Mike Leigh), another masterpiece about the British middle class.

Radmila Djurica is a Serbian freelance film, theatre, and art journalist. He has been a jury member for the International Federation of Film Critics (FIPRESCI) at film festivals in Europe. Alyce Wilson, the editor of Wild Violet Online Literary Quarterly, helped prepare this article for publication.

NOTE 1. All quotations and paraphrases are taken from public presentations at the festival.

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