Deeper than skin. 19th edition reveals its first guest – Denis Côté

 

19th Bratislava IFF will host yet another star of North American independent film. Following last year’s guest Alex Ross Perry, this year’s Profile will be dedicated to Canadian Denis Côté who will also personally present principal pieces from his filmography.

 

The engagement of a 43-year-old Canadian film-critic-turned-director who wears shots from Eisenstein’s October tattooed on his back reiterates the Bratislava festival’s undying commitment to scouting the uncharted waters of contemporary cinema. An auteur with a distinctive style, Denis Côté belongs to a narrow group of filmmakers who regularly harvest prizes at major international film events, in his particular case the Berlin and Locarno festivals. One of the hallmarks of Côté’s filmmaking is blending fiction and documentary techniques, which is also reflected in our selection consisting of two fiction and two documentary films that often mix absurdity with mystery and lyricism with verism.

 

A special screening of Côté’s latest film, A Skin So Soft (Ta peau si lisse, 2017), which premiered this year in competition at the Locarno Film Festival, will most likely be a highlight of the programme.

 

The oldest film in our selection is All That She Wants (Elle veut le chaos, 2008), a psychological study of a vulnerable young woman dwelling in a place where the time has stopped. Living alone with her tormented father who forces her to prostitution, Coraline seeks solitude and speaks seldom. Deprived of means and opportunities, she is exposed to the world of gangsters in the line of work. A slow-paced, black-and-white movie with an open-ending that was presented at Bratislava IFF several years ago, the film was awarded the Leopard for Best Direction award at the Locarno Film Festival.

 

Two years later, Côté returned to Locarno to repeat the success with Curling (2010), which follows in the footsteps of his previous piece. Once again he explores a small and withdrawn world, revealing a complicated kin relationship in which the father strives to isolate his daughter from the outside world. The director builds the story on rather long static shots and relaxed pace while seamlessly incorporating various bizarre elements into it, with crispy-iced Canadian nature painting the background and curling taking the centre stage.

 

Côté’s documentary filmmaking is respresented by Bestiarium (Bestiaire, 2012), a piece that intertwines the portraits of animals and people, emphasising their complex and multi-faceted relationship. Focusing on mutual similarities and differences and pointing out various imperfections and asymmetries of the humans, the director shows our distorted perception of animals as mere objects and ruins our notions of their appearance but, most importantly, manages to create an artwork filled with unmistakable poetry that clearly eludes all traditional pigeonholes.

 

In his most recent documentary film, A Skin So Soft, Côté peeks into the universe of bodybuilders. Once again featuring strong elements of both absurdity and poetry, the film explores the man’s age-old yearning for perfection. Striving to penetrate the surface of bodybuilders’ figures perfectly shaped in back-breaking training routines, the camera reveals that the characters are not just hunks of muscles but primarily sensitive, even vulnerable human beings.

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.