For the fifth time now, the International Feature Film Program of the LICHTER Filmfest Frankfurt International is much influenced by a special topic, which dominates the current media discussion. Following »Revolution«, »City«, »Humour« and »Money«, this year’s topic is »Frontiers«. But while, concerning this matter, most people might think of the numerous wars and armed conflicts across the globe and might consider how Europe in particular and certainly also the international community handle the mass movement of fugitives, the film festival also features unobvious aspects of this topic. Frontiers do not simply run between nations and cultures. Social affiliation, worldviews and moral values, routines, and desires are defined through and across frontiers. The thirteen feature films of the international series offer versatile perspectives on visible and invisible frontiers.
LICHTER takes place from March 29th to April 3rd 2016 at several cinemas in Frankfurt and Rhine Main Area/Germany. Here is a selection of some of my favourites:
Coma (Documentary, SY/LB 2015), Arab. OV with Engl. subtitles, 98 min., Director: Sara Fattahi (Direct Link)
A dark apartment in Damascus, three women from three generations of one family and an attentive camera, the meticulous and incisive gaze recording daily events for many years. Sarah Fattahi films the other side of the Syrian civil war, the private – whilst in front of the lowered blinds their home disappears. The political reality penetrates the intimacy of family life only in bits and pieces, through emails, messages and stories. At the end it becomes obvious that the boundary between inside and outside, the self-reliance of the family, can no longer be maintained in the face of the war. Resulting from this family portrait – and without actually showing any violence – is an impressive representation of a society that decomposes little by little under the pressure of the civil war.
Experimenter (Biopic, USA 2015), Engl. OV, 97 min., Director: Michael Almereyda (Direct Link) German Premiere
What are the limitations of blind obedience? To answer this question, the psychologist Stanley Milgram developed a sensational experiment in 1961. He wanted to show that people are willing to follow authorities even against their own moral sense. In the Milgram-experiment, volunteers slipped into the role of teachers. Wrong answers by their “students” should be punished with electric shocks. Many »teachers« did not hesitate to even deliver fatal electric shocks regardless if the students screamed and begged for mercy. Not knowing that the students were only actors and the electric shocks were not real, the volunteers explained their conduct with having merely followed instructions. The experiment fed into the debate on deference to authority and the nature of man during the Eichmann-trial. The star-studded film shows the life of a courageous scientist between admiration and hostility.
The Wakhan Front (Feature Film, F/BEL 2015), French/Arabic original with subtitles, 100 min., Director: Clément Cogitore (Direct Link) German Premiere
The Wakhan is a mountain range between Afghanistan and Pakistan. The rugged and inaccessible no-man’s-land is a hide-out for Taliban fighters. NATO commander Antarès Bonnassieuis determined to complete his mission: He has to establish order and security at the »end of the world«. His soldiers monitor mountain tops and shepherds. Only rarely does a warning shot disrupt the silence. Military routine – until one night when two soldiers disappear under mysterious circumstances. Bonnassieu starts searching. When the Taliban, too, lose men, cluelessness ensues: Is there a natural explanation – or is the Wakhan an Afghan Bermuda Triangle?
Clément Cogitore breaks with genre limitations in his feature film debut. Military rationality is challenged by supernatural forces. In a subtly philosophical manner, The Wakhan Front poses the question of power between human and nature.
Louisiana – The Other Side (Documentary, FR/IT 2015), Engl. OV, 92 min., Director: Roberto Minervini (Direct Link)
Deep in the wasteland of the American South, in the state of Louisiana, director Roberto Minervini opens up a door for us that leads into the abyss of today’s America: To white trash, the lost white underclass of American society. For them, the American Dream will remain a fantasy. Shaped by a life between anarchy and illegality, most of these hopeless middle-aged men and women do not have much left except for drugs, alcohol and at worst suicide. They live their everyday racism and anti-regime fanaticism without inhibitions. They feel betrayed by American society. Their alienation and disappointment becomes obvious in their campaign slogan: “Make America Great Again” The Other Side provides disturbingly deep and blunt insights into the everyday life of a society that has given up on itself.
After the successful world premiere at the Festival de Cannes 2015 in the category »Un Certain Regard«, the film is now shown in Hesse for the first time.
The Lobster (Feature Film, IR/GB/GRC/F/USA 2015), English OV with subtitles, 118 min., Director: Yorgos Lanthimos (Direct Link)
In the near future: After eleven years and one month of being in a relationship David is left by his wife. This is a serious offence because according to the laws of the totalitarian society every human is obliged to live in a partner relationship. However, David is given another chance. At an isolated hotel, together with numerous other people sharing his fate he has 45 days to find a new partner. If he doesn’t succeed he will be transformed into an animal of his choice and will be chased away into the woods.
The Lobster is the first English language film by the Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos, whose 2009 film Dogtooth has been nominated for an Oscar and has been awarded several times in CannesÜ. With surreal images, black and even grotesquely enhanced humor, and a top-class cast even in the smallest supporting roles, The Lobster tells a dystopian fable about love, loneliness, and the overcoming of conventions.
The repeatedly decorated director Yorgos Lanthimos was once more able to convince with The Lobster and received the Jury Prize in Cannes in 2015 and was nominated for the Palme d’Or (Golden Palm).
Masaan (Feature Film, IND/F 2015), English OV with subtitles, 103 min., Director: Neeraj Ghaywan (Direct Link) German Premiere
In his first film Masaan, Neeraj Ghaywan tells of the coming of age of young people halfway between tradition and modernity in today’s India. The student Devi gets caught by the police with her lover in a hotel room. Out of shame, the lover commits suicide. Devi and her father are blackmailed by a corrupt cop, who threatens to bring the alleged misconduct before the public.
Deepak on the other hand, who as a worker at the crematory belongs to the lower caste, is looking for a way to be able to be with his first love from a higher caste. In their own way, both Devi and Deepak struggle against the caste system, a radical sexual morality, and the brutal punishment awaiting those who break with the traditional values. Slowly, they are approaching a modernity which offers them alternatives to the hierarchy with which their fathers still came to terms with.
With wit and life, Ghaywan tells of two strong personalities, whose paths eventually cross in Varanasi, one of India’s holiest cities. In Cannes, Ghaywan has been awarded the “Promising Future Price” for his debut, which potentially tells the exemplary story of a generation which is searching for a way out of a value system with which it hardly identifies anymore.