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Feature and short film competition at Cotbus: look East

17. FilmFestival Cottbus - Festival of East European Cinema: 6.-10.11.200780
The festival will feature films from 25 countries and explore everyday life and visions of our East European neighbours

1. The feature film and short feature competitions

Ten films from ten countries of Eastern Europe were nominated for the feature film competition. Eight of the selected films will have their German premiere in Cottbus. This year's focus region of ex-Yugoslavia will also have a particularly high profile in the competition with two (co-)productions from Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina as well as from Serbia. Over and above this, Russia is able to emphasise its undisputed significance and dominance as the biggest East European film producing country. The range of cinematic expression in the Russian productions is, moreover, reflected with two thematically extremely varying approaches. There will be the German premiere of THE BANISHMENT by Andrei Zvyagintsev, the long awaited follow-up to his successful film THE RETURN. Set in charmingly beautiful landscape, it tells a vivid family drama about love and hatred, guilt and atonement. TRAVELLING WITH PETS is also set somewhere in the dreamlike expanses of the Russian countryside. Vera Storozheva, who received the Grand Prix at the Moscow Film Festival for this film, portrays here with gentle humour the wondrous transformation of a young woman who unexpectedly succeeds in freeing herself from the fateful relationship with an older husband.
Other countries, other everyday lives: everyday situations are humorously explored in the Kirghiz and Polish films. The story of the kidnapping of a bride in Kyrgyzstan, PURE COOLNESS, captivates with a poetic charm that succeeds in combining the highly serious situation with casual ease. Andrej Jakimowski's amusingly told TRICKS was named the Best Polish Film this year. Here, we can discover the world of the adults again through the eyes of a child in a quite different way. Together with the bright Stefek, we set off on the search for family, love and cohesion.
The stories are much more serious and oppressive in the totally provocative works from Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, Georgia, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Serbia. Two fates, two wars, one location - and a half a century in between: THE LIVING AND THE DEAD by the Croat Kristijan Milic reminds one of PLATOON in the Balkans. Opulent, sinister images which don't let one go so lightly. THE RUSSIAN TRIANGLE by Aleko Tsabadze is the Georgian statement on the Chechnya conflict. At the fore is an exciting crime story about corruption and treachery, with a top-notch cast with NIGHT WATCH star Konstantin Khabenski. INVESTIGATION by the Bulgarian Iglika Trifonova shows another excerpt from the life of a detective superintendent who is supposed to get a man who has allegedly murdered his brother to make a confession and comes up against her own limiting factors in the process. A psychological chamberpiece which penetrates into the most hidden corners of the soul. The Czech film RULES OF LIES by Robert Sedlacek is also a psychological thriller about dark secrets and lies. Rapid editing and an exciting and elaborately story which is gripping to the closing credits.
As with many films from Hungary, this year's entry also can't be classified to any genre compartment as far its form or content are concerned. Janós Szasz presents shocking images in OPIUM - A MADWOMAN'S DIARY of cruelly cold torture in a madhouse at the beginning of the previous century. Played with alarming intensity, it reaches into the depths of the human psyche.
Aleksander Rajkovic moves the Shakespeare drama HAMLET to the contemporary Serbian reality. Instead of Danish castles, there are barracks at a rubbish tip on the outskirts of Belgrade where the warring clans fight one another. Almost without exception there are only amateur actors appearing in front of the camera and performing in their world and the language of the Roma people.
In addition to the official competition, Cristian Mungiu's 4 MONTHS, 3 WEEKS AND 2 DAYS can be seen as the eleventh film. The sensitive masterpiece about an unwanted pregnancy in Romania before the revolution was awarded the "Golden Palm" in Cannes in 2007. Due to Cannes' festival regulations the film from Romania will be screening out of competition.
The shooting star Henriette Müller (Germany), the Slovenian producer Dunja Klemenc, Serge Sobczynski from the Cannes Film Festival, last year's main prize-winner Oleg Novkovic (Serbia) and Hans Hodel, president of the church film organisation Interfilm (Switzerland), have been named as the members of the International Festival Jury.

In the short feature competition, the trend for this year's edition is toward longer productions. Ten films (up to 30 minutes running time) were nominated from seven countries, distinguishing a broad thematic spectrum in their subjects and styles and presenting an impressive cultural diversity in their totality. Traditionally the festival's crowd-puller, these films will be shown in the Long Night of Shorts. The Russian cinema is again particularly well represented in this competition as well with two productions. In STONE PEOPLE by Leonid Rybakov, stones rain from heaven which make for sunshine on Red Square, while Anna Fenchenko tells a comedy about stress in relationships in the Russian provinces in MATCH-MAKING. Poland also has two films this time, Wojciech Kasperski's commentary on the hooligan scene among football fans REFUGE CITY and PORNO by Jan Wagner, the story of a teenager discovering love. All good things come in threes and so Kyrgyzstan appears unusually productive this year with two films: a conflict-ridden return from Kazakhstan in Marat Alykulov's BORDER and DUTY OF THE SON, an everyday tragedy between poverty and prison by Temirbek Birnazarov.
The Iranian-French journalist Shahla Nahid, the festival director of "achtung berlin" Hajo Schäfer and the last year's Cottbus short film prize-winner Radu Jude from Bucharest have been named as the members of the jury for the short feature competition.

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