Saturday, May 23, 2015

The Bosnian-Herzegovinian Film Festival 2015 Block One: THE CHICKEN and DEAR LASTAN!

I went to the opening block of films at The Bosnian-Herzegovinian Film Festival Thursday night. Good friend of Unseen Joe Bendel has been trying to get me to go for over a year. He said there was no excuse for me not going this year since he had given me more than enough warning. He was right, I had no excuse, and having been I’ll definitely go to more next year.

The evening started when I met Joe at the bar that’s attached to the Tribeca Cinemas. We hung out, talked, had a drink and Joe had some of the food they put out for everyone to enjoy.
Zlatko Filpovic introduces the evenings program

I have to say it’s been a while since I was last at the Tribeca Cinemas but they have renovated them nicely. The new décor is lovely and the seats quite comfortable. To be honest one of the reasons I didn’t want to get a lot of tickets for the fest was the Cinema seats used to be a bit rough, but they replaced the old theater seats and all is right with the world.

The evening began with the short THE CHICKEN. Set in 1993 in Sarajevo the film tells the story when a young girl’s dad sends her a live chicken from the front line instead of cake. What happens is pure chaos as the young girl decides to set the bird free instead of having it for dinner. Creating more tension and terror than most full on horror films this is a great little film. It’s a killer slice of life of life during war time. If the film has any flaw its that the little girl is a tad too naive about what her actions are- I mean they live under the watchful eye of snipers. It would have worked in a longer film but here its slightly unbelievable (especially since she knows what her mother going out means.)

The feature was the documentary DEAR LASTAN which was about the advice columns supposedly written by Lastan a comic character in children’s magazine Modra Lasta, once the second bestselling magazine in Yugoslavia.

The film charts the course of the advice column from its creation on to today. Along the way we get to hear from some of the people who were Lastan and other people who work at the magazine. We watch how the advice column went from questions about unrequited love among grade schoolers and how to survive 5th grade to frank questions of sex, parental abuse and social problems. The frank honesty and slight humorous responses made the magazine a must read for the Yugoslavian youth for the decades before the internet.

This is a really good little film. Once the film gets beyond the specifics of Yugoslavia you realize how many of the problems really are universal the film becomes utterly fascinating. Watching the film I got jealous, how great would it have been if there had been someone like Lastan in the US? How much better adjusted we all would have been? Then again if someone tried to do it in say Weekly Reader or Highlights parents groups would have had their heads explode.

If the film has any flaw it isn’t the film’s fault, its simply that because the film isn’t in English only the speaking voices are subtitled so all of the letters and magazine pages remain untranslated. I know that had I been able to read the printed material more would have been gained. On the other hand just being able to see this film was an absolute treat
Zlatko invites director Irene Skoric to the stage

I should mention that after the film there was a very brief Q&A with director Irena Škorić and her DP. There were only big two points discussed. The first was that Mondra Lasta is still being published, but only with a print run of around 30,000 copies. The other was that the film came about when the director was asked what she wanted to do next, and she said something on Lastan but that was impossible because his identity was secret more closely guarded than some national security ones, only to be told instantly that the person she was talking with knew the guy who was the first person to write as Lastan.

I want to thank the Bosnian-Herzegovinian Film Festival for bringing this film to the US. I’m looking forward to next year to see what other treats show up.

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