The International Competition of Feature Films attracts genre diversity and offers a unique title from Slovakia as well

One of the most attractive competitions at the 30th International Film Festival Art Film will be the International Competition of Feature Films. It is open to film directors from around the world who have made their first, second or third feature-length film under professional conditions after 1 January 2023. In the current edition of the competition you can find images of different genres from different continents. The thriller has a significant representation in it, but at the same time the section also offers comedy, music and original Slovak dance titles. The section is compiled by the Art Director of the festival, Martin Palúch, who said: “In recent months, the absolute majority of the films in competition have also made their impact at major international film events. These are significant directorial achievements and we are very pleased that they are in competition with each other in the attractive Art Film competition section.”

The Mexican-produced film BAD ACTOR tells the suspenseful story of the sexual abuse of an actress by her colleague during the filming of a movie. Daniel claims he’s innocent, Sandra intends to press charges, while the production team would prefer to sweep everything under the rug to avoid a scandal. The director Jorge Cuchí, who mainly deals with issues of justice in his films, leaves the audience to decide for themselves what verdict to give based on small nuances and facts presented in a drama with the elements of a thriller. The image comprehensively portrays the personality of both the victim and the accused, and constantly feeds the audience with doubts and contradictory information about what actually happened. Each viewer must come to his or her own conclusion.

The story of the sci-fi film ANOTHER END takes place in an alternative present or a very near future. In a car accident, Sal lost not only his beloved Zoe, but with her the meaning of life. However, the hope that he will meet her again has not died. There is a modern way to bring Zoe back to life, if only for a short time. Her mind can only be restored with the help of another woman’s donor body. So Sal has to find a volunteer who will allow him to say goodbye to his love forever. In addition to the original theme, echoes from festivals around the world praise the performances of the central duo – Mexican actor Gael García Bernal (Sal) and the current star of European cinema, Renate Reinsve (Zoe), who became famous for her role in The Worst Person in the World. Before the director of ANOTHER END Piero Messina embarked on his own artistic career, he had worked as an assistant director on the films by Paolo Sorrentino – The Great Beauty and This Must Be the Place. With his own films finding themselves in the main competitions of world film festivals, it has become obvious that Messina is making the most of his high-quality school of directing.

Mira is sixteen years old and achieves great results at school in the Himalayas. So far, she hasn’t thought about love or anything related to it. All that changes when she meets a new student, Sri. Mira suddenly discovers a whole new dimension to her emotional world. However, experiencing new desires and rebellions will be complicated by the mother, who in a way also craves for the boy’s attention. The more Sri and Mira’s relationship deepens, the more the daughter-mother relationship suffers. The Indian director Shuchi Talati‘s debut GIRLS WILL BE GIRLS is disarming in the way it accurately captures the excitement of burgeoning romance and the vulnerability of young actors in love, even if one of them is hiding in the body of an adult woman.

The successful Italian musician and actress Margherita Vicario has taken up the director’s role for the first time and directed the musical costume drama GLORIA! – the story of young Teresa, who, after the birth of her illegitimate son, lives in the Catholic institute of Sant’Ignazio for rejected women. The year is 1800 and the musical Baroque is prevalent in Italy. However, in Margherita Vicario’s debut film, it mixes with much more modern styles, thanks to the quiet and inconspicuous Teresa, who has a lot of extraordinary songwriting talent. Into the environment of the rejected women, Teresa brings not only magical music, but also social principles that no one would have dared to think of at the time.

The GIRL WITH THE NEEDLE, an extremely disturbing film directed by Magnus von Horn, which was selected for the Cannes 2024 festival, comes with a similar theme, but with a significantly darker piece. Karoline is unemployed shortly after the end of World War I and expecting a child with a man who is not her husband. Rejected by the society during an amateur abortion attempt, she meets Dagmar, who promises to help Karoline find an adoptive family for the child. But Dagmar is actually someone completely different from who she pretends to be. The film’s monochromatic stylisation and sobering mise-en-scene bring a story inspired by a true event – one of the most shocking criminal cases in Danish history.

The set of debut films in the International Competition of Feature Films is complemented by the film REI by the Japanese director named Toshihiko Tanaka. His personal history as a filmmaker began only recently, when during the coronavirus pandemic he decided to film the story of Hikari, a woman in her thirties. The name Rei is a gender-neutral first name, and in Japan it represents an empty character that only becomes full and gains its meaning when associated with others. Hikari feels a great emptiness in his life. When she meets Masato, a deaf photographer on the island of Hokkaido, she feels that starting a new relationship could banish her loneliness and doubts the meaning of her existence. The young filmmaker, who won the Tiger Award for his work at the Rotterdam Film Festival, has made a powerful drama about building relationships with all the good and the bad things that come with it.

The first film by director Louise Courvoisier called HOLY COW! depicts the environment of the French countryside, where the author herself comes from. The central character of the comedy drama is the barely grown-up Totone, whose father suddenly dies, and so the boy is forced to really grow up, to take care of his younger sister and the family farm. Financial hardship leads him to enter a competition for the best cheese, which offers a generous award to the winner. In order to produce a winning cheese, Totone must first make a few decisions that will test his fresh maturity. All the components of this heart-warming film, be it the editing, the music, or the performances by the non-actors – authentic villagers, in their own way capture the metaphor of adolescence, responsibility and the transformation of a boy into a young man of action.
The film premiered at Cannes 2024, where it won the Youth Award in the Un Certain Regard section.

Six years ago, the Danish director Gustav Möller won the audience’s favour as well as a number of prestigious festival awards with his chamber thriller Distress Call, including directly at the Art Film Festival, which awarded the film the Blue Angel for the Best Feature Film as well as the Best Actor in a Leading Role for Jakob Cedergren. Möller’s new thriller drama the SONS has an equally intriguing subject, and in order for the audience to fully participate in it, they will have to stretch their own imagination once again. The main character is Eva, a principled warden of a Danish prison who makes no secret of her care and sincere concern for the prisoners and their good behaviour. However, with the arrival of the new convicts, Eva finds herself in a difficult situation. She recognises one of the prisoners. She decides to act and maybe even do something that goes against her principles. She wants to be transferred to the most strictly part of the prison to be closer to the man who is reawakening her past. The psychological thriller makes the audience wonder what is going through the heroine’s head and what her next intentions are. Suspense and mystery will therefore not be lacking in the second, highly anticipated film by Gustav Möller, a filmmaker who has an extremely detailed insight into the functioning of Danish institutions such as police stations, psychiatric hospitals and, in this case, prisons.

The story of the drama GOODBYE, JULIA, the director Mohamed Kordofani’s first feature film, is set in a fairly recent period of Sudanese history, when, prior to 2011, Christian southerners sought to secede from the Muslim north. In the film, Mona, a wealthy Muslim woman and a former singer, accommodates a Southern widow, Julie, and her son, Daniel, so that they are not left on the streets after the death of the father of the family. A strong friendship develops between the women, despite their different religious and cultural backgrounds. But one of them holds a secret that could prove fatal to the fervent relationship. In 2023, the film became the first ever Sudanese title to be included in the Un Certain Regard section at the Cannes Film Festival and immediately won the Freedom Prize. The story of guilt and friendship has since enjoyed international praise and acclaim.

The original dystopian thriller ZENIT, directed by György Kristóf, a native of Košice, tells the story of the dynamics of power and the shaping of the political scene not only in Eastern and Central Europe during the last decades, in an unconventional way through dance and movement. “This dystopian science fiction is based on our trauma from the political changes that took place following the collapse of communism in 1989 in the countries of Eastern Europe and unfortunately continue to this day. It is a reflection of the abuse of power, corruption and the power of the united voice of the people,” says György Kristóf and adds: “I am convinced that it is possible to tell a comprehensible film story without words, just through the language of dance. Although we tried, we could not find any suitable reference for our project.”  The story of this unique film revolves around a prisoner who was supposed to free himself and his fellow prisoners. However, the leadership of the group will awaken in him a desire for power. The main choreographer of the film is internationally acclaimed Slovak choreographer Anton Lachky, who has lead a successful dance group in Belgium for twenty years.

The prestigious Blue Angel Awards for the Best Film, the Best Director and the Best Female and the Male Actor in the International Competition of Feature Films at the Art Film IFF shall be decided by a three-member expert jury. Its first member is the Ukrainian visual artist and filmmaker Anna Kryvenko, who lives in Prague and Kyiv. She graduated from the Centre of Audiovisual Studies at the Film and Television Faculty of the Academy of Performing Arts. Her first feature documentary My Unknown Soldier (2018) won a Special Mention at the Zagreb Dox festival. The latest feature project in development, The Sun of the Living Dead, was screened at the International Film Market at the Cannes IFF 2020. The jury will also include the Kurdish-Swiss filmmaker Mano Khalil, who studied feature film at the Academy of Fine Arts under the guidance of Professor Stanislav Párnický. Since 1996 he has lived in Switzerland, where he works as a director and a producer. His first feature documentary The Beekeeper (2013) won at DOK.fest festival in Munich. After his debut feature film The Swallow (2016), he shot the documentary Hafis & Mara (2018) and the semi-biographical drama Neighbours (2021). The third member of the jury will be the Slovak director Marek Kuboš. In the 1990s he belonged to a significant generation of young Slovak documentary filmmakers. He is the author of the award-winning films A Photographer’s Journey (1995), Train Station 2nd Class Kralovany (1998) or Such a Small Propaganda (2001). In 2018, he shot his feature-length directorial debut, The Last Self Portrait, and later his second feature film, ± 90 (2022).

The 30th anniversary edition of the Art Film IFF will take place thanks to the support of:

Organiser: ART FILM FEST s.r.o.;

Co-organizers: City of Košice, K13 – Košice cultural centers, ART FILM FEST, n.o., LGM, s.r.o., FORLIVE;

The festival was financially supported by: Audiovisual Fund
The festival is co-financed by the Košice self-governing region from the Terra Incognita program;

Major advertising partner: Slovenská elektrizačná prenosová sústava, a.s.;

Main partners: Národná lotériová spoločnosť TIPOS, Východoslovenská energetika, EUK-Force, SPP, CODES Brand House;

Automotive partner: PORSCHE; Official hotel: Hotel Yasmin;

Main media partners: TV JOJ, Pravda, Eurotelevízia;

Advertising partners: construction company Adefex, Jadrová a vyraďovacia spoločnosť, a.s.,  Best Press, U. S. Steel Košice, Betpres, Transpetrol, ANTIK Telecom, Cinema Úsmev, CORE LABS;

Technological partners: NOV, ZEBRA, DELTA OnLine, ARICOMA, TelekomCLOUD;

Official contractors: DKC Veritas, Eastern Slovak Museum in Košice, Krušovice BOHÉM, BARZZUZ, DOMOS SLOVAKIA, Restaurant Contessa, Café Slávia, spring water Lucka; Official wine: Kubbo Select and Ostrožovič;

Media partners: JOJ PLAY, JOJ 24, Film Europe, Rádio KOŠICE,, Forbes, Korzár, Slovenka, SITA, TASR, See & Go, BigMedia, Košice City Guide,, Visit Košice,,, MOJAkultúra;

Partners: Východoslovenská vodárenská spoločnosť, Nadácia CEF, Slovnaft, AUPARK Košice, Carmeuse Slovakia, JOJ Cinema, Hydrotour travel agency, Taper, YumEarth, KAIFER advokátska kancelária s.r.o., Deva, Košice Airport, ECO Technologies, CPK Slovakia, Casa Trade – Casablanca cafe, DC MEDICAL, KPK Reklama, Kvitok, HAIR Factory Košice, Kvety Garomi, Air Taxi;

Financial awards partners: CANON, Filmarina;

Catering partners: Ohnisko – Fire Dining & Brew Bar, Pub u kohúta, El Nacional, Maiko Sushi, Café de Paris, Tabačka Kulturfabrik; BISTRO Blanc, Andiamo GROUP, BENZE; Red Velvet Cake Bar;