This year’s International New Horizons Competition includes 12 titles—12 discoveries by 12 filmmakers whose original ideas, unique vision and artistic bravado made a huge impression on us.
Kelly Cooper and Pavol Liska are undoubtedly risk-takers, having adapted for the big screen Elfride Jelinek’s The Children of the Dead, turning a mountain film into an insane, trash horror movie. They take advantage of the “spiritual” potency of Super 8 film and silent movies to exorcise Austria’s inglorious past and present-day hypocrisy. Elements of horror can also be found in Johannes Nyholm’s Koko-di, Koko-da. Nyholm’s surreal, melancholic (partially animated) fairy tale, made to the rhythm of a music-box melody, is a unique, moving story of loss, anger and grief.
Richard Billingham, in turn, evokes the ghosts of his childhood. His Ray & Liz is about a suburban family and life on the margins as a progressive process of isolation: from the city, from society, from each other. No wonder that the leitmotif of the story are unpaid electricity and gas bills and the related threat of being cut off. Billingham shot his film on 16 mm film, as did another Briton, Mark Jenkin. The black-and-white, ostentatiously vintage Bait is about gentrification, the tourist tsunami and the killing of local traditions. The protagonists in the magnetic, poetic Fire Will Come, set in the nearly empty villages of Spanish Galicia, are longing for tourists. The mountainous landscape of the region is not just a background: raw and demanding, it shapes human characters and relationships in its own image; it carves their faces and teaches toughness. The film’s protagonist is a local outcast, an arsonist named Amador.
This year’s competition also includes other outsiders and lonely wanderers, such as Henrique from Ico Costa’s Portuguese film Alva, an enigmatic tale of violent revenge and escape that is nearly devoid of dialog. Then there’s S., a Tunisian deserter who, like Robinson Crusoe, constructs a new identity far removed from civilization. In Tlamess, Ali Eddine-Slim draws on Kubrick and Leone in a surprising new way. Another outsider is a blind young Russian, a soldier wounded on the front in World War I, in a film by Aleksander Zolotuchin, who listens intently to the sounds of history. The hitchhiker—a mysterious man who is out to kill—in Jinpa by Chinese director Pema Tseden certainly belongs in this group of loners, the excluded and those who simply don’t belong. But this is a path that goes around in a circle: destiny, karma, fate.
Another outsider is Khadija, who walks the streets of Brussels at night in Ghost Tropic. Her unplanned, half-dreamed, half-prosaic wandering is the work of Jim Jarmusch. The spirit of this legend of the American underground is also felt in Take Me Somewhere Nice, a road movie that travels from Amsterdam to the lost villages of Herzegovina, the destination of a Bosnian girl who was raised abroad. Ena Sendijarević has created a tragicomic image of life, reminiscent of Stranger Than Paradise, that takes place between countries, languages and cultures. The protagonists in Jessica Forever are marked by feelings of homelessness and loneliness. This is feminist science fiction directed by Caroline Poggi, neo-baroque wildness of the heart, a dystopian tale about lost boys and their foster mother.
The Grand Prix winner (with a EUR 15,000 prize) will be chosen by a jury made up of Isabella Eklöf (Grand Prix winner of the 18th New Horizons for Holiday), Johann Lurf (visual artist and director, maker of ★), Rasha Salti (Lebanese curator, programmer and screenwriter), Agnieszka Smoczyńska (director of The Lure and Fugue) and Kim Yutani (program director of the Sundance Festival). Festival audiences will also choose their own award winner.