FEBIOFEST prepares SPECIAL UKRAINE SECTION
Febiofest Bratislava International Film Festival has joined initiatives to support Ukraine. The special programme section Ukraine: in the centre of Europe will present eight titles that reflect current events in our neighbouring country. Admission fees from these screenings as well as voluntary contributions during the festival will be donated to the #KtoPomôžeUkrajine Initiative.
Febiofest has always strived to respond to current movements in society, and so this year we’ll bring numerous important films to cinemas. In light of the shocking and aggressive war waged by Russia in Ukraine, which poses a global threat and impacts us all, the festival team has created the special section Ukraine: in the centre of Europe, which will show themed films every night. "Just as we were wrapping up this year's festival programme, Putin's troops invaded Ukraine. We had to react to this event, so we assembled a special section of films that we hope will shed some light on the context of this tragic event. These are films related to contemporary Russia and Ukraine, the violation of fundamental human rights and freedoms, and documentaries that reflect more broadly on occupation," says Ondrej Starinský, the festival's programme director.
What does military occupation mean? Israeli filmmaker Avi Mograbi aims to explain in his documentary The First 54 Years – An Abbreviated Manual of Military Occupation, based on Israeli’s occupation of the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. And the occupation of our country in 1968 is revisited through unique newly-discovered archival footage in Jan Šikl's Reconstruction of Occupation.
The documentary F@ck this Job follows Natasha - a successful, wealthy woman who yearns for fame and the fulfilment of her dream. In Putin's Russia, she sets up an independent TV station, but her "baby" soon becomes a lonely island of political and sexual freedom. TV Dozhd (Rain) is the only independent news TV station to survive Putin's rule.
The film Courage by Belarusian director Aliaksei Paluyan was shot during the presidential elections in Belarus. The documentary centres on three actors from an underground theatre in Minsk, who are concerned about their country’s future. But the people’s voice is brutally suppressed by the regime's security apparatus, and the country finds itself on the brink of civil war.
The selection of documentaries concludes with two films by the great expert on contemporary Russia, Vitaly Mansky: The first is a unique portrait of the man with whom it all began, the now aged Gorbachev (Gorbachev. Heaven). And the second - Relatives (2016) - is a personal look at the conflict between Russia and Ukraine that began after the Maidan. Mansky, as a Russian citizen of Ukrainian descent, visits his extended family in Ukraine where he candidly discusses the tense current situation.
Reflection is one of the two fiction films in this special selection. Directed by Ukrainian Valentyn Vasyanovych, the resulting film is just as important as the documentaries. It narrates the story of a Ukrainian surgeon who is captured by Russian military forces in the eastern Ukraine conflict zone. Upon release, he returns to his comfortable apartment where he strives to find meaning in his life by trying to improve his relationship with his daughter and ex-wife.
Donbass, for which director Sergei Loznitsa won the 2018 Cannes Directing Prize, is also set in the separatist region. The film pictures the opaque situation in the region where a hybrid war is being fought - the fight is both fought and staged.
Proceeds from these screenings (and several others designated in the festival programme) will support aid for Ukraine via the #KtoPomôžeUkrajine Initiative.
Other sections of this year's Febiofest also include titles that in many ways relate to the current situation. For example Nina Guseva’s The Case, a documentary about the demonstration for fair elections in Russia in 2019; the animated feature The Crossing, which follows the dramatic journey of siblings fleeing persecution from an unidentified Eastern European country; and Michal Nohejl's Occupation, a Czech feature film about one night, one bar and a sleepy party that is disrupted by a drunken Russian officer. Also notable is Stop-Zemlia (2021), a Ukrainian film by the talented young director Kateryna Gornostai. This coming-of-age film (awarded at last year's Berlinale) is a radical, authentic and sensitive look at the troubling sense of youth and the inner view of Ukrainian adolescents.
And finally, Ukraine is also represented in the short film competition In the Middle of Europe, as we've always considered this country an integral part of Europe
Febiofest will again be different than in previous years, and different than we imagined. Yet we believe that the films will enable us to unveil the harsh reality that we cannot turn a blind eye to. Now, more than ever, we need to teach people to recognise right from wrong. Facts from fiction. We hope that our film selection will contribute to this aim.