Unsettling

Posted April 3rd, 2011 by Ben

Divining the balance between how much a film festival programme represents its submissions and how much it represents its selectors is one of those impossible but fascinating chicken and egg questions. Naturally the programme has to reflect both but I hope for the sake of everyone living in Europe that this year’s ECU programme isn’t purely a reflection of the continental mood – for if it is then we are very unsettled.

The clearest and most eloquent expression of this for me came from director Terry McMahon who describes his film “Charlie Casanova” as being a monument to his own personal cowardice and the cowardice of every Irishman in the face of the countries current financial disaster. Tall and red haired he is like a furious mountain, his passionate pronouncements on his countries predicament falling from his lips with the sonorous boom of someone slamming doors in the underworld. “A once proud nation have all become cowards, and I’m a coward too but I wanted to know that when my grand children asked me what I’d done about the crisis I could at least say that I’d made this film, that I’d tried to say something.”

This sense of teetering on the brink of catastrophe infuses the festival. Sitting in the warm darkness of la grande salle, 7 Parnassiens, post-apocolyptic visions of the future merge into echoes of the second world war, assassins and murders trudge exhausted across the screen, worn down by the corrupting drudgery of their work. Even my favourite film of the festival so far, Chema Garcia Ibarra’s sublimely dry sci-fi comedy “Protoparticulas” draws its unexpected laughs from an atmosphere of epic failure.

It’s not that the programme is anything less than captivating, or that the films aren’t as beautiful, as thoughtful and as superbly put together as they are bleak. Championed as ever by the inexhaustible passion of festival founder Scott Hillier, in many ways this programme feels like the festival’s most important yet. But if these films collectively hold up a mirror to the soul of Europe, then we’re twisted up and screaming…

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