This year, the Bratislava film festival decided to pay homage to a little plastic item that once shaped the way we perceived films and life around us – videocassette. On the first glimpse, it may appear as an obscure episode and a marginal medium in the history of cinema; however, the VHS boom is a true phenomenon that has forever changed not only the face of the film industry (have you seen Boogie Nights?) but also life in many societies locked behind the Iron Curtain – at least that’s what young Romanian director Ilinca Calugareanu is trying to show us in her feature documentary, Chuck Norris vs Communism.
True pioneers of the VHS industry were certainly Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus, two Israeli cousins who arrived in America with a strong desire to make films and money. In 1979 they bought a small studio called Cannon Films and in the course of a single decade they turned it into a huge brand that gradually became the synonym for action B-films. Their business model was based on viewers’ strong appetite for such films (which walked hand in hand with the rise and dominance of the VHS medium), endless sequels, catchy trailers, bombastic advertising and sleazy yet smart pre-sale policy.
The studio made household names out of wooden actors such as Chuck Norris, Jean-Claude Van Damme or Dolph Lundgren and prolonged the careers of once respected ones such as Charles Bronson; however, from time to time it also showed a touch of genius when it produced films by respected filmmakers like Jean-Luc Godard (King Lear), Andrei Konchalovsky (Runaway Train), Barbet Schroeder (Barfly) or even Franco Zeffirelli who insisted that his Otello produced by Cannon Films was his best picture ever. The Golan-Globus tandem shamelessly plagiarised box office blockbusters and parasitized on their popularity; for instance, their King Solomon’s Mines somewhat spoofs the Indiana Jones series while their Missing in Action has been “slightly inspired” by the story of Rambo II. In order to make money, the cousins did not hesitate to make often pathetic sequels to more or less series such as Superman 4, Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 but also Powaqqatsi by Godfrey Reggio.
The story of Cannon Films teems with bizarre stories that are discussed in great detail in Mark Hartley’s documentary, Electric Boogaloo; however, the main mission of the section Nostalgia: VHS Stories was not to make fun of Cannon Films but rather to make festival-goers view the VHS phenomenon without prejudice and appreciate its indisputable impact on cinema and society.
By Tomáš Hudák
Translated by Daniel Borský
Based on votes cast by the visitors, the Bratislava IFF Viewers’ Choice Award went to Wanuri Kahiu’s second feature film Rafiki (2018) about forbidden love in Kenya.
Awards of the 20th Bratislava IFF 2018
“If you’re lucky enough to make living of something you really love, there is a downside – you don’t do it for fun, it’s a job.”
Tomáš Hudák. He studied Film studies (criticism) at the Academy of Performing Arts in Bratislava (VŠMU). He’s a fan of film, music, literature and the art as such. He’s a freelancer, writing film reviews and co-organizing several Slovakian film festivals.
“It’s nice to step out from the bubble of social networks – the binary world of likes/unlikes to be part of the group of totally different people, who are connected only by the skateboards.”
Šimon Šafránek. – director, journalist, DJ – multi-genre artist with the sensation of music and word. He’s a freelancer, writing for the Denník N, Hospodářské noviny, Reflex, Magnus etc.
“Films make us better, braver, more romantic and free”
Bibiana Ondrejková. A popular theatre and voice actress and presenter. The general public knows her as the Slovak voice of Phoebe Buffay from the TV show Friends. Upon seeing her, viewers will associate her with the Slovak TV series The Defenders (2014), Red Widow (2014), Homicide Old Town (2010) or Block of Flats (2008).
“Actors infuse film with emotion and give it a soul”
Daniel Rihák. A fresh graduate of film directing at the Academy of Performing Arts in Bratislava under the leadership of prof. Martin Šulík. A director of (so far) student films and a number of commercials. His graduation film The Trip recently won the Best Director and Best Sound awards at the Áčko Student Film Festival.
“All women have the power to change things”
Ivana Hucíková belongs to the generation of young Slovak filmmakers. She studied at the Academy of Performing Arts in Bratislava, from which she graduated in 2015 with her film Mothers and Daughters. A Bratislava citizen from Orava, living and creating in Slovakia and the USA. So far, she has made several short documentary films: Into My Life (2018), Connie & Corey (2017) and is currently working on the development of several film projects as their director, producer or editor.
“Cinema is a great medium for sharing common European values”
Dominika Jarečná was born in 1999 in Bratislava. She currently studies Theory and History of Arts at the Faculty of Arts, Masaryk University in Brno (Czech Republic). She was a member of the Giornate degli Autori jury at this year’s Venice IFF and is a LUX Prize ambassador for the years 2018 and 2019.
Film festival: “It’s a bit like a vacation full of stories”
Alena Sabuchová is a young Slovak author and screenwriter. For her debut collection of short stories Back rooms, Alena was awarded the Ivan Krasko Prize for the best Slovak-language debut as well as the Tatra banka Foundation Young Artist Award in the category of literature. She writes scripts for television and radio, and is currently working on her second book, which will be published next year.
“These films were among the most awarded debut films at this year’s leading festivals”
Nenad Dukić. Serbian film critic, who has been collaborating with the team of people preparing The Bratislava International Film Festival for 8 years now. This year (the 20th anniversary of the festival’s existence), he is again the compiler of the Fiction Competition and co-compiler of the section Cinema Now.
The popular section Cinema Now brings an overview of the most remarkable films of the season. Its curators, Nenad Dukid and Tomáš Hudák, have assembled the most interesting movies that have stirred the waters of world’s major festivals. For 20 years, the Bratislava IFF has been supplying the Slovak film public with names, which often become stars of the screen.
The curators of the section Lexicon: Female gaze, festival programmer Tomáš Hudák and the director of this year’s festival spot Ivana Hucíková, have focused on the status of women in cinema, their portrayal in film, and the uniqueness of a woman’s experience.