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Again due to the pandemic all films had to be screened online except from the film by Mijke de Jong on Saturday 5 February

In order of watching:

Opening film

Please baby please, Amanda Kramer, US, 3

Suze and Arthur are the ideal Lower East Side bohemian couple. He earns a modest living as a clarinettist, she is a stylish housewife, dutifully doing the washing up. One evening, they witness a murder, committed by a rough gang of greasers in leather jackets, on the sidewalk in front of their house. This introduction to the intimidating Young Gents arouses previously unsuspected emotions and feelings of sexuality in both Arthur and Suze.
This movie is stylish but also hard to follow and swallow.

Geza, Reyndert Guiljam, Netherlands, 5

Part of RTM shorts 1. A villa in Hillegersberg with a speedboat moored to his own jetty, expensive cars, lunch at Old Dutch – life smiled at criminal lawyer Géza Szegedi. Until the tax authorities came to put things straight. Penniless and without regret, he looks back at his glory years. Portrait of a colourful character who refuses to be tragic.Suze and Arthur are the ideal Lower East Side bohemia.

So loud the sky cannot hear us, Laviania Xausa, Netherlands, 5

Part of RTM shorts 1. So Loud the Sky Can Hear Us explores the identity of a group of Feyenoord supporters. They unfold a hidden world of faith, love, compassion, and vulnerability. As Xausa attempts to trace back the 'lost voice of God' among the voices of the supporters, she wonders how the lost monophony of ancient chants may turn into a new polyphony.

Feyenoord as church and family at the same time.

The execution, Lado Kvatanya, Russia, 5

This film uses the theme of police detective vs serial killer for an excitingly stylised, macabre and haunting narrative, that ultimately revolves around the identity of an era: in this case, the late 1980s Soviet Union. With Glasnost and the end of communist rule, the West also learned of the (unsurprising) fact that there were serial killers in Russia too – the most notorious case probably that of Andrei Chikatilo, nicknamed the Rostov Ripper, or the Russian Hannibal Lecter.

Based on these and many other sources, Kvataniya and screenwriter Olga Gorodetskaya constructed an immersive psychological puzzle, jumping back and forth in time, to reveal ever new-possible motives for the actions of all the protagonists. It all starts in 1990, when Detective Issa Davydov is celebrating his promotion and receives a call, reporting a crime that looks precisely like the ones of the serial killer that he famously captured some years before.

The mole song: final, Miike Takashi, Japan, 4

Nipple-targeting seagulls. Old men rapping in a bathhouse. Drugs smuggled as Italian pasta. Welcome back to The Mole Song’s world. The third and final part of this series of manga adaptations, by IFFR regular Miike Takashi, is once again loaded with delicious madness. Following Undercover Agent Reiji (IFFR 2014) and Hong Kong Capriccio (IFFR 2017), this time the enemy are Italian mafia smuggling their ‘speed-a-roni’ into Yokohama’s port. Yakuza boss Papilon, fearing for his business, wants to stop them from entering, and so do the Japanese cops: Reiji works for both as an undercover agent. All these complications this give cult director Miike a playground for crazed subplots.

At times fooling us into thinking it’s an ordinary action thriller, The Mole Song: Final is a cocktail that smashes together slapstick comedy, farcical fantasy and puppet animation, with Reiji – played again by the energetic and engaging Ikuta Toma - always at the centre of the tornado that just keeps on spinning.

Every week 7 days, Eduard Grecner, Czechoslowakia, 1964 and restored in 2022, 3

The film could have been a lyrical evocation of the ČSSR's first generation: the youngsters born during the war, who grew up in a state violently at pains to find and define itself, and were now ready to break away from the nation-builder ethics of their elders – but Grečner turned it into an anxiety-riddled existentialist vision of a whole globe in fear.

The last ride of the wolves, Alberto Demichele, Netherlands, 4

Pasquale, an old crook who lost his fortune to gambling, organises his last big heist and reunites The Wolves, a gang of North-Italian fairground operators who moonlight as thieves. The robbery of a money truck – transporting 12 million euros in cash – could be a good pension for everybody, and secure the legacy of their old-school craftsmanship. De Michele subtly infiltrates this dark world, in which he 'steals' the stories of other thieves in support of his own work. Secretly, according to the filmmaker, another robbery takes place in the film: “Not art theft, but theft as art”. Based on a true crime.

France, Bruno Dumont, France, 4

She’s literally called France, the newsreader (played by Léa Seydoux) for France’s most important news programme. France de Meurs doesn’t shy away from ‘re-enacting’ even the most sensitive stories. French director Bruno Dumont is clearly taking aim at the national media and political establishment in France, which often sing from the same hymn sheet. The opening scene even has a witty cameo for French President Emmanuel Macron.

This biting parody reflects on what authenticity is worth in this post-modern world. It is only after France is involved in a car accident, that she realises that her deeds do have serious consequences. Her bubble finally starts to burst. Dumont plays with the relationship between entertainment and reality, to such an extent that the whole film almost feels like a façade.

Hit the road, Panah Panahi, Iran, 4

Seatbelt… Mirrors… Handbrake… Clutch… Father, leg in plaster on the back seat, growls driving instructions. His hyperenergetic young son dances and jumps around the car. They bicker about the ill dog in the trunk, but from the passenger seat mother mainly tries to keep things light. The eldest son drives this unruly group – to which he doesn’t seem to entirely belong – in silence, through broad Iranian landscapes.

The aim of this chaotic family trip seeps through the cracks of this tender and slightly absurd fiction debut, in which Panah Panahi – son of influential director Jafar Panahi – noticeably establishes his own artistic voice. The dialogues cover love and friendship, as well as the relative merits of Batman, Lance Armstrong, and 2001: A Space Odyssey. Using visual humour and a prominent soundtrack, that combines Bach with nostalgic Iranian pop songs, the film paints a sensitive portrait of a family desperately trying to postpone the pain of an impending farewell.

Noche de Fuego, Tatiana Huezo, Mexico, 4

Three girls – Ana, Paula, and María – live in a remote mountain village dominated by drug cartels. Most of the adult men have left to earn money elsewhere, but they don’t send money home to the women they have left behind. The women work in the poppy fields, and try to keep their daughters out of the hands of the clans.

Urf, Geetika Abbasi, India, 4

Lookalikes are as much part of Indian popular cinema’s romance with stardom as the super celebrities they – sometimes more and sometimes less – resemble. The Juniors, as they’re popularly referred to, live a paradoxical existence all of their own: if one meets Kishore Bhanushali on the streets, it's like time is out of joint, for he looks like Golden Age-icon Dev Anand – in the 1960s! It’s fitting that Bhanushali is also a stand-up comedian, as the Juniors are in equal parts paeans to and parodies of the original stars. The Juniors even have their own films, which are often satirical revisions of beloved classics.

Tralala, Jean-Marie Larrieu et Arnaud Larrieu, France, 4

“Whatever you do, don’t be yourself”, is the message given by a mysterious young woman to a street musician played by Mathieu Amalric. In this idiosyncratic musical, by French comedy directors Arnaud and Jean-Marie Larrieu, this life lesson comes across as a religious revelation: carrying just his guitar, the modern troubadour sets off for Lourdes in search of the mysterious woman, who may just be the contemporary answer to the miraculous appearances of the Virgin Mary.

In the Catholic place of pilgrimage, the musician meets a colourful collection of people who help him shed his old identity. He is seen as a man who left long ago, and taken in by this family as their prodigal son. Accompanied by playful, sultry, and emotional musical segments ranging from meandering rock to melancholy disco, this drily comic musical takes in a whole range of people drifting through life.

Life of Crime, Jon Alpert, USA, 5

For 36 years, journalist and Oscar-nominated filmmaker Jon Alpert followed three troubled people in Newark, New Jersey. Rob, Freddie, and Deliris are friends trying to survive on the fringes of a callous society. They make money initially with petty crimes and increasingly turn to drugs to keep reality at bay.

The veritable friendship between the maker and his charismatic subjects allows for unfiltered access, whether during thieving runs, in quiet places where they can shoot up, in the car with a john, or in the courtrooms, prisons, and rehab clinics they keep ending up in.

Throughout this unrestricted and deeply intimate portrait, the film bears witness to a failing system, where rehabilitation isn’t an option and only societal symptoms are addressed. The lead characters’ remarkable resilience makes for an astonishing filmic experience, despite the spectre of the inevitable culmination.

Neptune Frost, Saul Williams & Anicia Uzeyman, Rwanda, 3

A collective of computer hackers escape from their deadly work in a coltan mine, and establish a community in the hills of Burundi. With the intersex runaway Neptune as the shining star at its centre. Using her highly advanced consciousness, they hack the internet and tell the world that something has to change in the industries producing the raw materials on which the producers of iPhones and computers so depend. In spiky raps on top of driving beats, the rebels call for technology to be used to liberate humanity from its stereotypical thinking and oppression.

Hold me tight, Matthieu Almaric, France, 4

Clarisse, who appears to have left her husband Marc, drives an old station wagon around France. Her husband and their two children, Lucie and Paul, still live in their home, where a piano occupies centre stage. Clarisse admits to a waitress that she really misses her kids.

In his sixth feature film, French actor and filmmaker Mathieu Amalric alternates between scenes which focus on Clarisse and flashbacks of a happy family. Sometimes, there are flashbacks within flashbacks, for instance to Marc and Clarisse’s initial meeting. As viewers slowly become aware of the timing, things gradually become clear. This creates a moving film buoyed by the impressive performance of Vicky Krieps (known for Phantom Thread, 2017) as Clarisse, troubled by ghosts from her past. The soundtrack consists of a variety of beautiful (piano) music, ranging from Beethoven to Schönberg to JJ Cale (Cherry).

Medea, Alexander Zeldovich, Russia, 4

Medea is an intelligent, highly educated woman who gives up on her dreams when she falls for rich businessman Alexei. When the pair have two children, she patiently waits for him to divorce his wife, and as he decides to emigrate from Russia to Israel, she meekly follows him. But when he shuns her for having committed a crime to protect him, her blind love turns into burning rage.

This contemporary version of Euripides’s 2,500-year-old myth about Jason and Medea acquires additional meaning by being set in ‘the promised land’. Desperate Medea loses herself in religion and sexual excess before her thoughts of revenge get the upper hand. The woman who views love as more important than children is impressively portrayed by Georgian actress Tinatin Dalakishvili, who is introverted and fragile at one moment, whilst volatile and capable of deadly violence the next.

Medusa, Anita Rocha da Silveira, Brazil, 4

Mariana is 21 and lives in a religious community, where she does her best to be the ideal woman: beautiful and docile. In the evenings, she and her friends express their religiosity in other ways. In town, they hunt down women with looser morals and teach them a lesson. When Mariana no longer fits the perfect picture herself, however, her belief is shaken.

This retelling of the Medusa myth places themes such as misogyny and beauty standards in a modern, stylised setting. The soundtrack is a mix of contemporary religious pop and synthesizers straight out of a 1970’s thriller, while the visuals are reminiscent of the work of Dario Argento.

Anatomy of time. Jakrawal Nilthamrong, Thailand, 4

Anatomy of Time begins with the ending: the death of Maem’s beloved spouse, a merciless former Thai army officer who fell from grace late in his career. Alternating between past and present, filmmaker Jakrawal Nilthamrong’s second feature film – his first, Vanishing Point, won him the Tiger Award in 2015 – tells the story of Maem, the daughter of a rural clockmaker. We see her as a young woman yet to discover herself in the 1960s, and in her present role as her dying husband’s loyal caretaker – a man now hated by the Thai people.

Mijke de Jong, Along the way, Netherlands, 3

She presented her first film at the festival in 1990 and now Mijke de Jong is back at IFFR with Along the Way, the moving story of two refugees trying to reach Fortress Europe. The film’s genesis lies in the voluntary work De Jong did at the infamous Moria refugee camp on Lesbos, where she met the Afghan twins Nahid and Malihe. Touched by their story, ambitions and talent, De Jong decided to collaborate with them.

This results in a moving, powerful film about Fatima and Zahra’s experiences, stranded, as they are, in Istanbul after a life-threatening journey from Teheran. Their goal is Greece, but even then they will still be nowhere. Like other young adults Fatima and Zahra hope they will make it; they dream of careers as filmmakers.

Inexorable, Fabrice du Welz, Belgium, 4

She tells the rich Bellmer family that she has been attacked, but we viewers know better – Gloria has just bashed her own face with a coke can. The question is, of course, why does she want their attention so badly? In the thriller Inexorable, it gradually becomes clear that this young woman will stop at nothing to infiltrate Marcel and Jeanne’s family.

In the same vein as films such as Scorsese’s Cape Fear (1991) and Denis Dercourt’s La tourneuse de pages (2006), director Fabrice du Welz (Adoration, 2019) centres his film around a rich family that becomes increasingly disrupted by the arrival of a mysterious interloper. Gloria knows exactly how to play the members of her host family off against one another. And she does so with bloody conviction. In this 70s-style thriller, ice-cold revenge and unconditional love are insidiously close. The actors generate palpable tension, with a particularly impressive performance from young Alba Gaïa Bellugi.