Three new releases straight from Cannes to compete at Art Film Fest

The International Competition of Feature Films has long been Art Film Fest’s centrepiece, and the festival’s nineteenth edition, held from June 17 – 25 in Trenčianske Teplice and Trenčín, will once again include this cinematic prize-fight, featuring the work of talented, up-and-coming directors. Having already racked up accolades at other international festivals, the fifteen films will vie for Art Film Fest’s premiere trophy – the Blue Angel.

"In the selection process, we look for pictures bearing a distinctive artistic signature and convincing realization of original ideas. Each and every film chosen is the work of intriguing filmmakers who promise a bright future for cinema in Europe and around the world," says Peter Nágel, Art Film Fest’s director and the section’s programmer.

Nágel also notes that the selection is distinguished by its high proportion of young protagonists, characters struggling to express their opinions and gain respect, often within difficult family circumstances or relationships.

This year’s competition will also be the first in the festival’s history to feature a Slovak film – "The House" (Dom) from young Slovak director Zuzana Liová, screened at festivals such as the renowned Berlinale to great acclaim. Art Film Fest will present the film as part of its opening ceremony, in an exclusive Slovak sneak preview.

The picture tells the story of a father who is building a house for each of his two daughters, a project which becomes the outlet for all his dreams and ambitions that went unfulfilled during communism. But when his daughters unexpectedly begin to rebel, long-hidden secrets are brought out into the open.

Czech cinema will be represented by Václav Kadrnka’s feature-length debut "Eighty Letters" (Osmdesát dopisů), also featured at this year’s Berlinale in Forum, a section dedicated to young talent.

Based on its creator’s own memoirs, the film painstakingly evokes the pervasive powerlessness of the communist era, portraying a boy and his mother’s attempts to overcome the bureaucratic gauntlet necessary to join his father in the UK. In the time it takes to earn the officials’ rubber stamps, she manages to write exactly eighty letters describing the tortuous (and torturous) process to her husband.

These Slovak and Czech films will be pitted against formidable adversaries, including titles fresh from the recent Cannes International Film Festival.

"Right at the last minute, we managed to acquire three brand-new releases which were among the official selections at Cannes just days ago," says Nágel.

Among Art Film Fest’s greatest spoils is Austrian director Markus Schleinzer’s "Michael", one of the competitors for Cannes’ Palme d’Or.

The film portrays ten-year-old Wolfgang’s last five months of captivity at the hands of thirty-five-year-old Michael. “It’s a film about a perpetrator. And I wanted to report from his own world and his way of seeing. In ‘Michael’ I have deliberately prevented any judgemental or explicatory morals from appearing. So there is just the man and the child and their interactions. I wanted to create something you must expose yourself to. Where everyone has to see what it is, and what it does to me; and look at precisely these feelings. I think that helps a society or all of us to get on and progress," says the director about his debut, which earned great acclaim at Cannes.

"The End of Silence" (La fin du silence), the feature debut of French director Roland Edzard, was featured in the Quinzaine des realisateurs section.

The picture begins in a remote mountain home, where a violent quarrel suddenly erupts. The family’s younger son Jean is thrown out of the house, subsequently joining a group of hunters who teach him to kill. The following night, his mother’s car goes up in flames, and Jean, feeling responsible, disappears into the woods… "I wanted to make an impressionistic suspense movie, not a social drama," explains Edzard.

Another film coming straight from Cannes to Art Film Fest is director Bakur Bakuradze’s intimate Russian drama "The Hunter" (Ochotnik), selected for the Un certain regard section.

"The Hunter" is the story of a farmer named Ivan, whose entire reality consists of his pigs, tractor, meat business and family: his wife, their pubescent daughter and their little son. And his only passion: hunting. But when two new workers arrive from the local prison, his world is turned upside-down.

"This film is about the nature of intimacy, about the necessity of intimacy. It is the strongest feeling a person can experience in this world … What happens when this space of the everyday is ruptured by the intimacy between two people? What happens when someone comes into your life who has no illusions but also needs you?" asks Bakuradze in his film.

The competition will also include director Richard Ayoade’s "Submarine", a British-American picture that was a major hit with audiences as prestigious festivals like Toronto, Sundance and Berlin. The film focuses on a fifteen-year-old boy with two goals – losing his virginity by his next birthday and thwarting a dance teacher’s plans to lure his mother away from the family.

Yet another fierce contender will be Chinese director Li Hongqiho’s "Winter Vacation" (Han Jia), which will arrive already bearing awards such as the Golden Leopard and the FIPRESCI Award from Locarno 2010.

The film’s central theme could be summed up as "bored in China", or "what to do in a dead town". It’s the winter holidays, and the youth in a dreary provincial city face an arduous school-free existence. But what looks at first glance to be another typical Chinese festival flick full of drawn-out shots quickly transforms into an absurd parody of such pretentious productions.

Art Film Fest 2011 – the 19th Trenčianske Teplice/Trenčín International Film Festival is made possible by the financial support of the Audiovisual Fund.

Organizers: ART FILM, n.o., FORZA, a.s. 

Co-organizers: The Town of Trenčianske Teplice, Trenčianske Teplice Health Spa

General Sponsors: Omnia Holding SE, AquaCity Poprad

Main Sponsors: Tatra banka, Slovnaft, VUJE, OHL ŽS

Official Transport Provider: Lancia

Logistics Sponsor: DHL

Free student cinepasses provided by: Prvá stavebná sporiteľňa (First Housing-Construction Savings Bank)

Sponsors: TIPOS, Ernst & Young, AVI studio, Penzión Baske, Cinemax, Santovka

Official Suppliers: Pilsner Urquell, HUBERT J.E., Hotel Pax – the festival spa hotel, A Briliant, Esterle&Esterle, MF team, LampART, Lenovo, Stredná odborná škola polygrafická (Vocational School of Printing)

Main Media Sponsors: Slovenská televízia, televízia JOJ, Rádio FM, Pravda,

Media Sponsors: Central Europe Television, Kino CS, Muzika CS, Doku CS, Rádio Europa 2, Rádio Hit FM, .týždeň, Eurotelevízia, Pardon, OK!, Kinečko, Kam do mesta, Focus, Boomerang Media, SITA,, BlueSky, Televízia Trenčianske Teplice, euroAWK, Willmark

Partners: The City of Trenčín, the Trenčín Self-governing Region, the Embassy of Israel in Slovakia, the European Commission Representation in Slovakia, the Embassy of the USA in Bratislava, the Office of the Embassy of Sweden in Bratislava, Sodec Quebec, the Slovak Film Institute, Cinecitta, the Italian Cultural Institute in Bratislava, Omnia, RONA, Celtima SK,, Hotel Flóra, versity