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Lincoln Center presents At the Crossroads: Slovenian Cinema

Presented by the Film Society of Lincoln Center in collaboration with the Slovenian Film Fund.

Walter Reade Theater
July 16 - 22

At the Crossroads: Slovenian Cinema - more than a dozen classic and contemporary films that chart Slovenian cinema’s uplifting success story will be presented in a weeklong retrospective by the Film Society of Lincoln Center in collaboration with the Slovenian Film Fund at the Walter Reade Theater July 16-22, 2008. Director Marko Nabersnik and author, film writer, and Slovenian scholar Joseph Valencic will be on hand to introduce screenings throughout the series.

Slovenia is a country in southern Central Europe bordering Italy to the west, the Adriatic Sea to the southwest, Croatia to the south and east, Hungary to the northeast, and Austria to the north. At various points in Slovenia's history, the country has been part of the Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire, the Republic of Venice, the Holy Roman Empire, the Habsburg Monarchy, the Austrian Empire (later known as Austria-Hungary), the State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs, the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes between the two World Wars, and the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia from 1945 until gaining independence in 1991. Yet through it all, the Slovene people have retained their cultural identity.

However, it was not just with independence in 1991 that Slovenian film was born. Slovene Cinema has a history over 100 years long and actually thrived during the socialist republic. Film first appeared in the capital Ljubljana as early as 1896. Karel Grossmann is recognized as making the first true Slovene Film in 1904. Since Grossmann’s early foray into filmmaking, there have been over 150 Slovene feature films, plus a few hundred documentaries and short films. Slovene Cinema is currently producing between four and six feature films each year. (Another interesting Slovene film fact is the Ljubljana Gay and Lesbian Film Festival which has run since 1984 is the oldest gay and lesbian film festival in Europe).

In the context of a divided 20th-century Europe, Slovene film aesthetics clearly reflected the country's borderline characteristics. Whilst the influence of social realism was present in Slovene film from an early stage, film aesthetics in Slovenia have oscillated over the years between entertainment and politics, art and industry, aesthetics and ideology.

Triglav Films, Slovenia’s first major film studio, was founded in 1947, and within a few years was producing both popular domestic comedies such as Vesna and international hits including Valley of Peace, for which African-American John Kitzmiller received the Best Actor prize at the 1957 Cannes Film Festival. Many of the new currents in ‘60s European cinema arrived early in Slovenia, and works such as Dance in the Rain and Paper Planes helped introduce a modernist sensibility into Yugoslav cinema. Following independence, many feared that an audience as small as Slovenia’s could not sustain a national cinema. Despite rough years, critical and commercial successes including Outsider, Sweet Dreams and last year’s major prizewinner and box office hit Rooster’s Breakfast have shown the viability of the country’s filmmaking.

Slovenian films have also become an increasingly familiar presence at international film festivals. The Slovenian Film Fund has been essential in fostering this remarkable growth. Founded in 1994, the SFF has supported over 20 directorial debuts, helping create a new generation of filmmakers. It has also promoted Slovenian film more actively internationally and encouraged co-production arrangements with other members of the European community. As a result, at a time in which most discussions of international cinema focus on the negative impact of globalization, Slovenia has become an uplifting and inspiring success story for the cinemas of other small nations.

At the Crossroads: Slovenian Cinema is presented by the Film Society of Lincoln Center in collaboration and with major support from the Slovenian Film Fund. The series was programmed by Richard Peña and organized by Irena Kovarova, independent film programmer. Additional support provided by The Consulate General of Slovenia. Special thanks to Consul General Alenka Suhadolnik and Nerina T. Kocjancic, Head of Promotion, Slovenian Film Fund.

Beneath Her Window / Pod njenim oknom
Metod Pevec, Slovenia, 2003; 91m
Dusa is a 30-something dance instructor whose life’s in a rut. Involved with a married man, she’d like to break away but fears being alone. She’s not helped by the example of her mother, who takes on a new boyfriend each time she needs household repairs done. Then Dusa suspects that she’s being stalked—that someone is not only following her but also going into her apartment. After all, her drain was clogged, and now it’s not…
Director and screenwriter Metod Pevec’s delicious, offbeat romantic comedy moves with the grace of a fine dancer, instantly switching steps and even subjects as it traces the emotional permutations of the engaging Dusa. His film is full of confused, defensive, completely contradictory and very contemporary characters—and he loves every one of them.
Sat Jul 19: 7:30pm; Mon Jul 21: 1:30pm

Dance in the Rain / Ples v dezju
Bostjan Hladnik, Yugoslavia, 1961; 100m
With its frequent shifts of point of view and jumbled time frame, Dance in the Rain was one of the first films to introduce to Yugoslavia the new, modernist approaches to cinematic storytelling that were then emerging across Europe. Peter (Miha Baloh), a painter who earns his living as a teacher, thinks back to the years he has wasted personally and artistically. He has grown tired of his affair with a middle-aged actress, Marusa (Dusa Pockaj), who for her part seems determined to go on with the relationship despite her lover’s indifference. The film revolves around a set of recurring scenes and locations—Peter’s shabby bedroom, a well-appointed restaurant, city streets slick from water sprayed by street cleaners—and grows more dreamlike as the couple’s relationship disintegrates. A former assistant to Claude Chabrol, director Bostjan Hladnik returned to his native Slovenia to make this fascinating New Wave-influenced meditation on coming to terms with your own desires.
Sat Jul 19: 1:00pm – introduced by Joe Valencic; Tue Jul 22: 5:15pm

Guardian of the Frontier / Varuh meje
Maja Weiss, Slovenia/Germany/France, 2002; 100m
“Feminism, globalization and the deep-seated tribal passions that ignited the Balkan wars are only three of the pertinent themes touched on by Guardian of the Frontier, which offers a remarkably evenhanded, and disturbing, reflection on the tug of war between modernism and older cultural forces percolating below the glossy facade of contemporary life.”—Stephen Holden, The New York Times
“A trio of stunning students on summer break, bored with partying, decide to take a canoe trip down the river Kolpa. Their pleasure cruise becomes a journey into fear, tinged perhaps with the supernatural, when the young women discover that the woods hide not only the border between Slovenia and Croatia, but also that between the permissible and the forbidden. An erotic and menacing fairy tale as well as a dazzling debut by Maja Weiss, whose eye is equally keen for color and incident, fantasy and politics and the intimate landscape along the river as it is for contemporary life in her country in tough times.”—New Directors/New Films 2003
Sat Jul 19: 9:30pm; Tue Jul 22: 3:15pm

Idle Running / V leru
Janez Burger, Slovenia, 1999; 90m
Taking a page from the Jim Jarmusch notebook, first-time director Janez Burger elicits winning performances from his young cast and resourcefully fashions a quirky and mature low-budget movie about the consequences of avoiding life. The cynical, conveniently lazy and seductive Dizzy (played by co-screenwriter Jan Cvitkovic) is a veteran student living a campus life of boozing, snoozing and watching TV. His life of no commitment and barely a dream for the future is interrupted when Marko, a serious freshman from the countryside, moves into his room—with his pregnant girlfriend in tow. Idle Running is a beautifully realized study of self-discovery that is both funny and touching, with characters who are immediately recognizable to anyone who’s ever set foot in a college dorm. Screened in New Directors/New Films 2000.
Sun Jul 20: 6:45pm; Mon Jul 21: 3:30pm

Outsider
Andrej Kosak, Slovenia, 1996; 100m
Set in the late ‘70s, Outsider is the story of Sead (Davor Janjic), a young man from a “mixed” family—his mother is Slovenian and his father a Bosnian, as well as a career officer in the Yugoslav Army. His father’s frequent transfers mean Sead has always been an outsider. Living now in the Slovenian capital Ljubljana, Sead falls in with the local contingent of punk rockers, which gives him an avenue to vent as loudly as he likes: “Slovenia’s reigned by anarchy // Today Sead is at his apogee.” Yet the anger and inner demons that Sead has accumulated over those years of loneliness just won’t let go. With a terrific lead performance by Janjic, Outsider offers an engaging look at the consequences of one young man’s revolt against the system. It was the biggest Slovenian box office hit up to that point and gave hope that a future for that cinema might well be possible.
Wed Jul 16: 4:00pm; Sun Jul 20: 9:00pm

Paper Planes / Na papirnatih avionih
Matjaz Klopcic, Yugoslavia, 1967; 80m
Marko (Polde Bibic) is a photographer who leads a fast, fashionable life, full of parties and transient affairs. Yet there’s emptiness inside him as he longs for something of real value for his life. While examining film he helped shoot for a TV program, he discovers what he’s after: a beautiful young woman, caught momentarily on film, who embodies an innocence that was long ago lost to him. When a chance meeting at an art gallery introduces him to the object of his fascination—Vera (Snezana Niksic), a promising ballet dancer—Marko is more smitten than ever. But how much of the real Vera could any photograph capture? Beautifully acted by its two leads, Paper Planes is a delicate, quietly observed meditation on modern relationships that became an instant classic with both critics and audiences.
Mon Jul 21: 5:20pm

Raft of the Medusa / Splav meduze
Karpo Godina, Yugoslavia, 1980; 101m
Karpo Godina, one of Yugoslavia’s most talented cinematographers, moved to directing with this wry look at the arrival of the aesthetic revolution in the just-founded “Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes”—soon to be known as Yugoslavia. Kristina and Ljiljana, two young schoolteachers working in the provinces, fear that they’ll eventually die of boredom. Then an avant-garde troupe of artists from Belgrade arrives in town, preaching the gospels of new art movements called Dadaism, Surrealism, and Futurism—not to mention their own homemade brew, “Zenithism.” The troupe outrages the locals while delighting the teachers. When an epidemic closes down their school, they throw their lots in with the artists, now joined by the “Strongest Man in the Balkans.” Godina loads his film with echoes of Dadaist and surrealist films, and he powerfully renders both the idealism and naiveté of characters who truly believe that making art is a way of making a revolution.
Thu Jul 17: 9:00pm; Sat Jul 19: 3:00pm – introduced by Joe Valencic

Rooster’s Breakfast / Petelinji zajtrk
Marko Nabersnik, Slovenia/Croatia, 2007; 125m
Laid off in his hometown, Djuro is grateful that his former boss has arranged an apprenticeship for him in a rural garage, and he is well received by his new employer. Djuro imagines that he’s opted into a tranquil, easy-going life—until he catches sight of Bronja, a statuesque beauty who clearly has eyes for him. Too bad she’s married to Lepec, the local mob boss. Djuro soon discovers that small town life isn’t nearly as sleepy as he thought.
Always on the verge of becoming a kind of thriller, Rooster’s Breakfast is packed with eccentric characters and subplots—including Gajas, the garage owner so obsessed with Severina, a well-known pop singer, that Lepec arranges for Gajas to spend the night with her; is this the dream date he’s been waiting for? Winner of national awards for best director, best screenplay and best actor, Rooster’s Breakfast has also been an enormous commercial success.
Wed Jul 16: 6:15pm – Q&A with director Nabersnik; Sat Jul 19: 5:00pm – Q&A with director Nabersnik

Spare Parts / Rezervni deli
Damjan Kozole, Slovenia, 2003; 87m
Shown in competition at the Berlin Film Festival, Spare Parts is a searing look at one of the saddest conditions of the contemporary world: the traffic in men, women and children so desperate for a chance to start new lives in Western Europe that they’ll pay and risk death to make it there. Unlike earlier films on the subject, Damjan Kozole looks through the eyes that organize this soul-deadening business.
In the shadow of the nuclear reactor in Krsko, southern Slovenia, Ludvik (Peter Musevski) runs a thriving trafficking operation, transporting whoever has one thousand Euros to pay him to the border of Italy. His new helpmate Rudi seems shocked by the business, but he and Ludvik gradually form a tenuous bond. Kozole, perhaps the best known Slovenian director internationally, is less interested in denouncing the activities of his characters than he is in plunging us into their world—the endless round of back roads, abandoned warehouses and roadside diners that make up Ludvik’s day-to-day reality.
Sun Jul 20: 1:00pm; Mon Jul 21: 7:15pm

Sweet Dreams / Sladke sanje
Saso Podgorsek, Slovenia, 2001; 110m
Based on a screenplay by popular Slovenian novelist Miha Mazzini, who claimed that he was writing a portrait of a generation with this film, Sweet Dreams is set in Yugoslavia in the early 1970s when the American cultural invasion had just begun. Thirteen-year-old Egon is just a little bit behind everyone else, culturally speaking. His great goal in life is to get a record player, and the local shop has just the one he wants—if he can somehow convince his mother to buy it for him. A rich, revealing chronicle of an era, Saso Podgorsek’s second film charts Egon’s attempt to find his own way among his family, hippies, schoolmates, teachers, Communists and dissidents.
Mon Jul 21: 9:00pm; Tue Jul 22: 1:00pm

Valley of Peace / Dolina miru
France Stiglic, Yugoslavia, 1956; 82m
African-American actor John Kitzmiller came to Europe as a soldier and never really left: following his discharge, he worked in the rapidly expanding Italian film industry, usually playing GIs named Joe or Johnny. He later worked across Europe, and in 1957 received the Best Actor award at Cannes for his work in Valley of Peace—the first person of African decent to receive such a major festival prize.
A war film giving a definite nod to the current spirit of détente between East and West, Valley of Peace begins as a group of Slovenian children play war games under the shadow of the occupying German Army. When an Allied air raid destroys much of their town, two children, Lotti and Marko, set off for a place they’ve only heard about: the Valley of Peace. Along the way they run into Jim (Kitzmiller), a downed American flyer, who accompanies them while avoiding German patrols. Beautifully photographed, the lyrical film’s somewhat obvious politics are elegantly expressed through the wonderful interplay of Kitzmiller and the two young actors.
Thu Jul 17: 2:30pm; Sun Jul 20: 3:00pm – introduced by Joe Valencic

Vesna
Frantisek Cap, Yugoslavia, 1953; 93m
One of the best loved of all Slovenian films—the national film award is actually called the Vesna in the film’s honor—this surprisingly gentle college comedy was a huge hit that helped put Slovenia’s just founded film studio Triglav Film on the cinematic map. A group of college students spend their days looking for ways to get out of studying for their upcoming finals. They can’t help but notice Vesna, the pretty daughter of an especially tough mathematics professor. When Vesna discovers that one of them, Samo, was courting her only to catch a glimpse of her father’s final exam, she breaks up the relationship. But Samo is not so readily deterred. Although made in the newly socialist Yugoslavia, the film does not hint at class struggle: Everyone is fashionably dressed, eating well and living in well-appointed houses or apartments. Veteran Czech director Frantisek Cap, who had immigrated to Yugoslavia after Tito’s break with Stalin, went on to have a successful career in his adopted country.
Wed Jul 16: 2:00pm; Sun Jul 20: 4:45pm – introduced by Joe Valencic

When I Close My Eyes / Ko zaprem oci
Franci Slak, Slovenia, 1993; 99m
When I Close My Eyes begins as a young girl, Ana, comes across the body of a man hanging from a tree. That man turns out to have been her father, and the motivation behind his suicide seems to have been political. Years later, the post office in which Ana (Petra Govc) works is robbed. The policeman assigned to the case falls in love with her, but Ana only has eyes for the robber, who she soon begins to follow. A taut, unsettling thriller, When I Close My Eyes gradually develops into a devastating portrait of a society ruled by suspicion and power games. Govc is a mesmerizing presence, always following some inner drive leading her way beyond where you thought she would go. Screened at New Directors/New Films 1994.
Wed Jul 16: 9:00pm; Thu Jul 17: 4:15pm


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