Europe on Screen 2015

I set up a new record for myself at the Europe on Screen this year – with a total of 14 movies in 8 days str8. Of course this number is nothing compared to other movie enthusiasts like my friend Mak Nina Masjhur for example, who watched at least 21 movies and that didn’t include the short movies at the closing ceremony.

I also kept a few mementos from the festival – all the tickets from the movies I watched (except the open air screenings that had no tickets), tote bag, t-shirt, and British Council notebook which I won from their Twitter quiz.

The most impressive movie that I watched this year was (of course) Pride. I have been expecting for this movie since its UK release last year, so I was totally excited when I found out that it was on the list.

Pride | UK | 2014 | Dir: Matthew Warchus

Pride was a very uplifting movie, and the fact that it was based on a true story made it even more inspirational. It was about a group of lesbians and gays from London who supported the striking miners who were deeply oppressed by the Thatcher government.

At the beginning of the movie you could see a footage of Thatcher saying of becoming a firm leader. I said to myself – there is a clear line between being firm and a complete git. She obviously had crossed that line.

Mark Ashton and his comrade Mike Jackson gathered several gays and lesbians to form a group to support the miners. Collecting donations, they made a bold move to contact a miner community in South Wales directly after being rejected by the National Union of Mineworkers in the beginning. It was 1984 and it was difficult for the common society to accept gays and lesbians. But with persistence, a unique friendship between the gays (and lesbians) and the miners was formed.

Dai Donovan, the representative of the Dulais Valley Mining Community, made a very touching speech in the beginning:

When you’re in a battle
Against an enemy so much bigger, so much stronger than you,
To find out you had a friend,
you never knew existed,
Well that’s the best feeling in the world

Apart from the story, the soundtrack was awesome. Being a big fan of 80s music, I just wanted to get up and dance when hits like Culture Club’s “Karma Chameleon”, Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s “Two Tribes”, The Smiths’ “What Difference Does it Make?”, and Bronski Beat’s “Why” were being played in the background. And Yazoo! They even had Yazoo’s “Situation” (I wore my Yazoo t-shirt on the second screening on Wednesday btw, haha). But the best dancing scene was when Jonathan Blake (portrayed by Dominic West) showed his moves on the hall of Dulais valley. As he danced to Shirley & Company’s “Shame, Shame, Shame”, everybody stood up and cheered him, thus breaking the ice during one of the LGSM’s frequent visits to bring their donations.

They had very good actors as well – Bill Nighy (Love Actually, About Time), Andrew Scott (Sherlock), Imelda Staunton (Harry Potter series), and there was even a cameo from the charming Russell Tovey (The History Boys, Looking).

For me, this is the perfect movie to watch again and again and again.

My second favourite movie from the festival was 20,000 Days on Earth, a documentary about the talented singer/songwriter Nick Cave.

20,000 Days On Earth | UK | 2014 | Dir: Jane Pollard, Iain Forsyth

I became very familiar with Nick Cave from my best friend Petya, who is a big fan of the Australian singer and has gone to his concerts in Europe. However, if you’re into his classic hits you’d be rather disappointed to know that there were almost none of them in the documentary.

But what I really like about the movie is that it tells another side of Nick Cave – his hoarding side. It all started when he discussed a Nina Simone concert which, before she started playing her piano, she stuck out her gum on the piano and later delivered a spectacular performance. It was a very transforming event, and it turned out that his guitarist and songwriting partner Warren Ellis is still keeping that gum, wrapped in her towel.

Cave claimed that there are these things that seemed to have little value but hold stories of the things that make us who we are. And as he says in the film,

It’s shit, but it’s important shit

The movie took us to Cave’s room personal archives, where he kept his notes, diaries, photos, and other little things he has been keeping throughout his life. He even still kept three locks of women’s hair he found inside a tin can that he bought at a flea market in Germany.

And just when I thought keeping my baby teeth was already very straaaannge..

Anyway, it was this archive that inspired the film’s digital partner project, the Museum of Important Shit.

At this digital museum, you can submit (photographs of) banal objects that had left such deep meaning to us, or in their words, “humble signifiers of huge significance”.

The movie also featured several people that has been major parts of his life. Warren Ellis, Ex-Bad Seeds member Blixa Bargeld, actor Ray Winstone, and the beautiful Kylie Minogue, with whom he had a duet in “Where The Wild Roses Grow”.

Here’s an outtake from the film, where Nick Cave played an intimate gig at Koko in London.

In this film we can also see the process in making the latest album from Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds called “Push the Sky Away” – how Cave writes his lyrics using his typewriter, and carrying his notebook and pen everywhere so that he can just scribble down what is inside his head.

Anyway, most of the movies I saw at the Europe on Screen were from the “Docu” section, although most of them were not strictly documentaries.

On the last day of the festival I went to see Ai Weiwei: The Fake Case, about the prominent artist who was secretly detained by the Chinese government for “tax evasion”. As mentioned in the website of The Fake Case, the charges against him, including tax evasion, online dissemination of pornography, and bigamy were widely perceived as political retaliation for his outspoken criticism of the government.

The Fake Case | Denmark | 2013 | Dir: Andreas Johnsen

Ai Weiwei was taken to solitary confinement for 81 of days in 2011 without any trial, during which he could not even call his family. He was later under house arrest, with cameras watching all of his movements. He claimed that he was just practicing his rights as a citizen, which unfortunately was considered by the Chinese government as a threat.

The movie was directed by Danish filmmaker Andreas Johnsen and most of the conversations were in English or Chinese (with English subtitles), but unfortunately the written narration was in Danish with no subtitles..

Another documentary I saw was “Nederwiet” or “Dutch Weed”. As the title implied, it was about the a variation of marijuana bred in the Netherlands. How they were planted and traded in the country, and how the current government (which had become stricter with the selling of marijuana) dealt with the new laws.

Nederwiet (Dutch Weed) | The Netherlands | 2010 | Dir: Hans Pool, Maaike Krijgsman

Those related to the trading was pretty upset with the latest regulation because it opened new opportunities to underground trading and uncontrolled quality of the products. For example, previous laws which gave people more freedom to cultivate and sell the plants had led the development of the so-called “Dutch weed”, a high-quality variant of marijuana. But now, they had to be imported again, and the quality could not be controlled.

Another movie adapted from a true story was “One Chance”, about a chubby Welsh man called Paul Potts (no, not the Cambodian dictator) who dreamt of becoming an opera singer and after a series of hit and miss, auditioned for the first Britain’s Got Talent in 2007.

One Chance | UK | 2013 | Dir: David Frankel

The main character was played by James Corden, although it turned out that the real Paul Potts had to lip-sync for Corden. Just in case you didn’t know about James Corden, he was one of The History Boys who now has his own talk show called “The Late Late Show with James Corden”.

Potts’s wife Julie Ann or Julz, was played by Alexandra Roach, whom I noticed from Vicious TV series, where she guest starred in episode 5 as Ash’s girlfriend.

This year I also watched a lot of British movies: Pride, 20,000 Days on Earth, One Chance, and also Song For Marion and the first 2/3 of Street Dance 2.

Song For Marion | UK | 2012 | Dir: Paul Andrew Williams

“Song For Marion” was a very touching movie about Arthur, a grumpy old granddad who was willing to open up and sing for the sake of his cancer-stricken wife Marion. The choir where his wife was involved in consisted some cheerful elderly folks, led by a young and vibrant music teacher called Elizabeth. She registered the choir whom she named OAP’z (Old Age Person) to a choir competition and their unique performance took them to the final, where Arthur was planned to sing solo. But grumpy old Arthur later realised that it was not his nature to be chirpy and jolly, and his bad relationship with his only son James got in his way to sing.

StreetDance 2 | UK | 2012 | Dir: Max Giwa, Dania Pasquini

I only watched the first half (or around two third) of StreetDance 2 because I was just passing the time for the second screening of Pride at Erasmus Huis, and this movie was playing outside, as a part of the open air screening programme.

It was one of those cliché competition stories, and it was just boring. Street dancing is no longer a trend as half a decade ago, and even I found the choreography not as exciting as I had expected.

Last year I mostly went to Goethe Haus for convenient reasons (mostly because it’s close to the station), while this year, strangely enough, I watched at least 8 movies (that’s half the total I watched) at Erasmus Huis. It was pretty unusual for me because I am actually not really keen of going to Erasmus Huis because there are no train stations nearby and the roads leading to that place are always crowded.

But this year, schedule-wise, Erasmus Huis had some very good selections. On the first Saturday I watched 20,000 Days on Earth and if only I didn’t have any schedule that afternoon, I would have stayed there until evening.

On Wednesday I watched five movies, with two old movies “Rubber” and “Black Magic” combined in one screening time, and then to pass the time I watched “Yema”, followed by the first half of “Street Dance 2” and “Pride”.

“Rubber” and “Black Magic” were must-see movies. Made before the independence of Indonesia, the two black-and-white movies were real classics.

Rubber | The Netherlands | 1936 | Dir: Johan De Meester, Gerard Rutten

image taken from Europe on Screen website here.

“Rubber” was about John, a Dutch employee who was assigned at a rubber plantation in Sumatra. Bringing his wife along, she was very lonely spending most of her time in their tropical home by the plantation, although just like other colonialists, they lived a wealthy life with native servants and drivers who would happily worked for them.

I know that I have to detach any feelings in learning history, but I always find it utterly annoying to see how the cunning colonialists took over our land and make the natives as their slaves.

In the mean time, “Black Magic” was about the lives of traditional Balinese in 1930s. A young man called Wayan wanted to marry Sari, the chieftain’s daughter, while the whole village wanted to get rid of his mother, a witch.

Black Magic | Germany | 1933 | Dir: Victor von Plessen, Friedrich Dahlsheim

image taken from Europe on Screen website here.

The most surreal scene from the movie was the performance of the sleep dancers. Sleepwalkers are already strange enough for me, so those sleep dancers really giving me the shivers.They seemed to be in a complete trance, and that happened to the Kecak dancers as well.

Anyway, that Wednesday I planned to have a bit of bitterballetjes after Rubber/Black Magic screening, but Hema was closed (I have no idea whether it was closed for the rest of the day or forever) so I just had a couple of chocolate wafers (Beng Beng) and went to see the next movie, Yema.

Yema | France | 2012 | Dir: Djamila Sahraoui

“Yema” was about Ouardia (played by the director herself), a mother in a remote Turkish land who had just lost a son, Tareek – killed by his own brother Ali, a fundamentalist. She started to plant vegetables and fruits to distract her from her sorrows when Ali arrived, wounded from a battle and claimed that she never loved him as much as she loved Tareek.

On Saturday afternoon I watched a group of animation films from the Holland Animation Film Festival (HAFF). There were a total of 11 short films, including the Oscar nominee “A Single Life” by Dutch animators Job, Joris, and Marieke. The film was about a vinyl single that served like a time machine, it could take you back and forward in time as you skipped the record.

A Single Life | The Netherlands | 2014 | Job, Joris & Marieke

The selection presented a wide range of animation films in terms of technique, storyline, and style. My other favourites were “Messages dans l’Air” (CH | 2014 | Nadasdy Film), “The Smortlybacks” (CH/CN | 2013 | Ted Sieger, Sophie Animation) and “Nobody Beats the Drum” (NL | 2014 | Maxmana), mostly because of visual reasons.

The animation set was closed off with another work by Job, Joris, and Marieke – promoting their hometown Utrecht for the Tour de France this year.

The screening was followed by a Q&A session with HAFF director Gerben Schermer, moderated by EoS festival director Orlow Seunke. It became quite an intense discussion as the audience sort of claimed that animation films are for children, yet there were several scenes from the films that were not suitable for children. Well, the animation set was not included in the “children” section of the festival, so the it was not the organiser’s fault. Although I must say that it would be better if they told the parents before they took the children into the auditorium.

Anyway, here is the full list of the animation films featured that Saturday:
A Single Life | The Netherlands | 2014 | Job, Joris & Marieke
Fallin’ Floyd | The Netherlands | 2012 | Paco Vink, Albert ‘t Hooft (il Luster Films)
Messages dans l’Air | Switzerland | 2014 | Isabelle Favez (Nadasdy Films)
International Father’s Day | Latvia | 2012 | Estonian Academy of Arts, Atom Art
WILQ Negocjator | Poland | 2013 | Leszek Nowicki, Bartosz Minkiewicz (Platige Image)
Run | UK | 2013 | Stuart Pound
Palmipedarium | France | 2012 | Jeremy Clapin (Papy 3D Productions)
Small People with Hats | UK | 2014 | Sarina Nihei (Royal College of Art)
The Smortlybacks | Switzerland, China | 2013 | Ted Sieger, Wouter Dierickx (Ted Sieger, Sophie Animation)
The Kiosk | Switzerland | 2013 | Anete Melece (Hochschule Luzern, Virage Film, SRF Schweizer Radio und Fernsehen)
Nobody Beats The Drum – Let It Go | The Netherlands | 2014 | Max Italiaander, Levi Jacobs (Maxmana)
Bon Voyage! | The Netherlands | 2014 | Job, Joris & Marieke

At the Goethe Haus I watched two comedy films: “The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed the Window and Disappeared” and “I’m So Excited”.

The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed the Window and Disappeared (Hundraåringen som klev ut genom fönstret och försvann) | Sweden | 2013 | Dir: Felix Herngren

The first one was adapted from the best-seller book of the same title, and it was chosen as the opening film for the festival. It was extremely hilarious, and Titing and I just couldn’t stop laughing throughout the movie.

The Swedish movie was about a 100-year-old former TNT specialist called Allan, who was leaving his elderly home and started an unplanned journey where he encountered many unexpected events. But as the story progressed, the flashbacks showed that his life was filled with extraordinary, unexpected events, as he did what he liked to do without thinking. It led him to some fascinating adventures, but some dangerous ones too.

Anyway, his current journey started at a bus station, when he bought a ticket to anywhere that he could afford with little money he had in his pocket. It could only take him to a small town with one house in Byringe but he didn’t mind. He was waiting for the bus when a punk, desperately needed to pee, asked him to hold on to his suitcase as he could not bring it inside the small toilet.

Instead of leaving the suitcase, Allan took it with him, and later he found that it was filled with dirty money that was wanted by a British mob called Pim (Alan Ford). Ford looked completely mean in this movie btw, which reminded me of his role as Brick Top in “Snatch”.

Another comedy I watched at Goethe Haus was “I’m So Excited” (Los amantes pasajeros). It was about a Spanish plane going to Mexico, but due to technical issues they were forced to fly around in circles and waited until there was an available airport nearby.

I’m So Excited | Spain | 2013 | Dir: Pedro Almodóvar

So the crew sedated all passengers in economy class (including the stewardesses), while those in business class were taken to what seemed like a never ending journey with gay (as in very happy and homosexual) stewards, closeted bisexual pilots, and bizarre fellow passengers.

The best part was of course when the three sassy stewards danced and lip-synced to Pointer Sisters’ “I’m So Excited”. However, if you expected to see more of their dances (like I did), you would be rather disappointed. But in general it was a very entertaining movie that made you want to flick your hair and flutter your eyelashes.

Another venue I went to for the EoS2015 was IFI (Institut Français d’Indonésie – or formerly known as Centré Culturel Français) which had just moved from Salemba to the city centre of Jl. Thamrin. It was a new building with much bigger and more modern auditorium, mediatheque, and a very posh café. I watched four films there : “Pride”, “Song For Marion”, “Ai Weiwei: The Fake Case”, and “Morocco”.

Exit Marrakech | Germany | 2013 | Caroline Link

“Morocco” (Exit Marrakech) was about a spoiled rich teenager named Ben who spent a summer holiday with his father in Morocco, as his father, a prominent director/producer had several theatrical productions throughout the country.

Being a total git, Ben escaped from Marrakech to follow a prostitute called Karima to her native village. After moving from one place to the other, his father finally found him and they started a road trip together to get to the next city where his father was going to have another play.

The road trip was filled with drama as Ben being a total jerk and his father realised how he had missed his son growing up, being too busy with his work and having a new family after the divorce with Ben’s mother.

So yes, I watched so many movies at the Europe on Screen this year. Still, it seemed that it was not enough. I missed the big award-winning movies like “Citizenfour” (Oscar 2015 winner for best documentary), “Ida” (Oscar 2015 winner for best foreign film) and “Winter Sleep” (Cannes 2014 winner) for example. I also missed “Moon Man”, closing film “Life’s A Breeze”, and the short film section. But hey, I cannot have everything in life and I got to work. So 14 movies in a week was already a nice accomplishment for me.

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