16 June, 2008
A Focus On European Cinema At Festroia
Saturday, June 14-------Although my “beat” on this site is generally to report on European cinema in North America, I am currently in Europe attending the Festroia in Setubal, Portugal. My job here is to program and coordinate the American Independents Competition, which this year presented 8 new films from American directors.
But this Festival is remarkably European in focus, with nearly 80% of the films coming from all the countries on the continent. The Official Section, where films compete for Best Film, Best Director and Best Acting prizes, was dominated by European talents, including Free To Leave (Peter Payer, Austria), Worlds Apart (Niels Arden Oplev, Denmark), Estrellita (Metod Pevec, Slovenia), The Class (Ilmar Raag, Estonia), Black Ice (Petri Kotwica, Finland), The Bird Can´t Fly (Three Anna, The Netherlands), Mirush (Marius Holst, Norway), Empties (Jan Sverak, Czech Republic), Mermaid (Anna Melikyan, Russia), The Trap (Srdan Golubovic, Serbia) and All Will Be Well (Tomasz Wiszniewski, Poland).
In fact, Polish cinema was very much in evidence here. This year´s country spotlight, a showcase of 9 new films, was on Poland. In addition, films screening out of competition included Just Like Home (Lone Scherfig, Denmark) and The New Man (Klaus Haro). The Festival´s First Works competition, dedicated to debut directors, also was strongly European, including the films: Family Rules (Marc Meyer, Germany), Karoy (Zhanna Issabayeva, Kazahkhstan), Thieves (Jaime Marques, Spain), Out Of Bounds (Fulvia Bernasconi, Switzerland), The Art of Negative Thinking (Bard Breien, Norway), Preserve (Lukasz Palkowski, Poland), Megapolis (Ella Arkhangelskaya, Russia) and Darling (Johan King, Sweden). Short films from European filmmakers and film schools were also featured, as well as 13 short films competing for the Prix UIP, sponsored by the European Film Academy.
European star power is also being honoured at the Festival tonight. As part of the official Awards Ceremony of the 24th edition of Festroia, the Festival will honor the career achievement of Spanish actress Assumpta Serna with a Gold Dolphin award.
The talented actress has won more than 20 Best Actress prizes and has acted in more than 60 films in six languages: Spanish, Catalan, Portugese, Italian, French and English. Born in 1957, she has acted in theater and fiilms in over 20 countries. She is a board member of the European Film Academy and both a member of the American Academy of Motion Pictures, Arts and Sciences and the Spanish Academy of Cinema. She was recently elected President of AISGE, the organization in Spain that deals with the task of managing and protecting the intellectual property rights of 4600 actor members.
A few of her many films are: Almodovar's Matador, the 1993 Spanish Oscar entry The Fencing Master, Maria Luisa Bemberg's film, I, the Worst of All, The Craft, Sam Fuller's Day of Reckoning, Wild Orchid, opposite Mickey Rourke, Nostradamus, with Rutger Hauer and F. Murray Abraham, Circle of Passions, with Max Von Sydow, Short Cut to Paradise with Charles Dance, and stars opposite British actor Sean Bean in the Napoleonic epic Sharpe´s Rifles, a British film-series. She recently starred in the American independent film Uncertainty, directed by Scott McGehee and David Siegel.
In 1997 Serna took up writing. Her first book, Screenacting, was followed by Monologues in V.O and her third book is in the works. After the release of her first book she began teaching workshops in Universities and Film Schools on the subjects of "Acting for Camera", "Directing Actors" and "The Script and the Actor".
She is also the founder of first team, an institution for film educaton that features the contribution of professionals like Phillip Noyce and Emma Thompson and aims to promote team work in the filmmaking process. Since 2000, first team has given courses in Spain, Portugal and Argentina, reaching more than 1200 actors, directors and screenwriters from all over the world.
For this American, coming to Portugal (with its beautiful countryside, abundant sunshine, sparkling waters and superb cuisine) has also been a tour of the European continent, and of contemporary European cinema. I look forward to reporting on these excellent European films as they make their way to North America in the coming months.
By Sandy Mandelberger, North American Editor