Last Sunday, the 21st Athens International Film Festival (aka Nyxtes Premieras) came to an end, after 2 weeks full of a great selection of films.
The winners of this year's festival Awards were:
Golden Athena of the International Competition Section: Degrade by Arab & Tarzan Nasser
The film narrates the story 13 women who are trapped in a beauty salon of a hot summer’s day in the Gaza Strip, while gunfire takes place in the outside
Prize of the city of Athens - Best Direction: Alante Kavaite for The Summer of Sangaile
The director won the same prize at the Sundance festival. The film tells the story of 17 year old Sangaile, who loves stunt planes, but her fear of heights forces her to stay in the ground. At a aeronautical show, she meets a girl at her age, who leads to her sexual awakening
Script Prize: Mark Noonan for “You’re Ugly Too”
The film balances between comedy and drama, through the well written dialogues that showcase the depth of human relationships. The story is about a convict (portrayed by Aiden Gillen - Game of Thrones’ own Littlefinger) who is being released early from prison, so as to support his teenage niece. They move to a trailer in the Irish countryside and they try to manage their stormy relationship
Special Mention to Veronica Llinas for “Dog Lady”
Audience Prize: “Labyrinth of Lies” by Giulio Ricciarelli
A film based on a true story when in 1958, a young lawyer discovers that his neighbors were nazi criminals and decides to bring them to justice. It was the first trial of war criminals, lead by Germans and caused chain reaction to a nation that was denying the horrible truth
Golden Athena of the International Competition Section – Music & Film: “Jaco” by Stephen Kijak and Paul Marchand, a documentary on the legendary musician Jaco Pastorious who redefined the sound of the modern electric bass and changed the course of modern music
My experience with this year’s festival included 6 films: The End of The Tour (reviewed in previous post), 45 Years, Bridgend, Black Mass, Extraordinary Tales and In A Lonely Place.
45 years narrates the story of a couple, who in the week leading up to their 45th wedding anniversary receives an unexpected letter which contains life changing news. Charlotte Rampling’s moving performance sets the mood, as the tension builds up to a the finale that left a lot of room for discussion and different interpretations.
Bridgend was a very pleasant surprise and by far the best film that I watched in this year’s festival. The film is based on a true (!) story, that took place in a Welsh village, where teenagers are involved in a mysterious series of suicides. The Bridgend suicide incidents, took place in the area, in the period of 2007-2012, with 79 people having committed suicide. The dark theme of the film was perfectly captured by the film’s photography and direction, a compelling soundtrack, whilst Hannah Murray’s performance was deep and emotional, reminding me Cassie in the good old Skins days.
The next film I watched, was Black Mass, the “mainstream” choice of the festival, with Johnny Depp at the role of real life gangster Whitney Bulger, who dominated South Boston in the late ‘70s and ‘80s. In what seems to be the dream Oscar role (biopic role with physical transformation) I felt that Depp did not deliver his best… Of course he was in character, capturing the madness of Bulger, but that was it. Nothing more. There were a few strong scenes but it wasn’t what I expected. Overall I felt that the film was lacking balance, with a really weak first part and a better second part that tried to set the mood too late. As Black Mass captured the relationship with the corrupted senator brother of Bulger, the local Boston FBI agent who grew up with the brothers but tries to take them down, it is very easy to compare this story with Scorsese’s The Departed. On the contrary of my favorite Scorsese film, this one failed to deliver the smooth Boston atmoshere, the tension between the characters and the suspense of a classic gangster film …
My second favorite film, was the animated Extraordinary Tales. Based on Edgar Allan Poe’s stories, this animated anthology consists of 5 spooky stories of the great author. Narrated by the amazing voices of Christopher Lee, Guillermo Del Toro and Bela Lugosi among others, this is a must see film (especially with Halloween closing in)!
Finally, the last film I watched was the oldest one. Filmed in 1950, In a lonely Place is a 101 lesson in film noir: a charming leading man (Humphrey Bogart), is involved in a mysterious (?) murder and a seductive femme fatal is caught up in the story, trying to see if the man is who he says he is. The story is not complete without funny supporting characters and a surprising ending.
So, that was overall my experience with this year's Athens International Film Festival.
Untill next year...
Ever since I first set foot on a cinema theatre, I knew that something magical was happening there....