THE CATHEDRAL
THE CATHEDRAL
Producer: RICKY D'AMBROSE
USA, 2021, 87 MIN
An only child's meditative, impressionistic account of an American family's rise and fall over two decades.

“Ricky D'Ambrose’s brilliant second film, which is effectively the director’s own coming-of-age story and the record of the gradual disintegration of his family, opens with a voiceover which is as peculiar as it is universal in the way the intimate and the personal become intertwined with the global history. D'Ambrose will stick to this principle throughout the movie which is intimate and epic at the same time, in its every shot which is poetical and political simultaneously. Thus for the protagonist the final falling apart of his big family which has been shrinking before our eyes, blots out even the catastrophe of the Twin Towers collapsing nearby.” Denis Ruzayev
A TALE FOR THE OLD
A TALE FOR THE OLD
Producer: ROMAN MIKHAILOV, FYODOR LAVROV
RUSSIA, 2022, 78 MIN
One morning, criminal boss Batya summons his three “sons” and tells them the latest news. Everyone remembers how, three years ago, the keeper of the regional community money Mulya escaped with it. Everyone also remembers how he was found, punished, and buried. But the news are as follows. Yesterday Mula, alive and well, was seen in three cities at once: St. Petersburg, Novosibirsk and Rostov. So Batya sends his “sons” to these cities to scout out the situation. For each of them, the journey will not be the easiest.

Roman Mikhailov is one of the most popular modern-day writers. Among his admirers are philosophy students and theatre fans alike. He wrote another multi-character Russian fairy-tale and in collaboration with Fyodor Lavrov made a screen version of it, keeping his typical symbolic layers and allusions and at the same time granting the audience freedom of interpretation. The cult status of the movies is guaranteed by the meticulous choice of secondary actors (from Pakhom to Garkusha), by the music of “25/17”, the dark humor and the readily quoted dialogues. The possibility of multiple interpretations, the unconventional reflections about the world of the past, which has determined our present, make one want to come back to the “A Tale for the Old” again and again.
IN LIMBO
IN LIMBO
Producer: ALEXANDER KHANT
RUSSIA, 2022, 109 MIN
Fifteen-year old Sasha and Danya had their first sex. Sasha's parents find out about it, and the stepfather locks her up at home. But the protagonists decide to run away deciding to defy their parents and the whole world. Freedom intoxicates them, especially the modest and indecisive Danya, who crosses the line of the law. Sasha's stepfather leads the search; he intends to get a real sentence for the boy. An innocent child's prank turns into a chase after armed criminals.

A second film is always a big challenge for a director who has made a breakthrough debut. A native of Khanty-Mansiysk, cineaste and a regular spectator of “Spirit of Fire” Alexander Khant did not disappoint those who had believed in him: he again tuned in to the wave of modernity, examines eternal themes in the format of catchy and energetic festival cinema. In “Viktor “the Garlic”...” he covered the conflict of fathers and sons, in “In Limbo” he explores the teenage fear of restlessness, within a painful actual context. Khant is always with the young, believes in them, loves them, gives his hand to them: any viewer will undoubtedly remember the final shot of the new film.
COMMUNISTS!
COMMUNISTS!
Producer: CHRISTOPHER SMALL
UK, 2021, 75 MIN
After arriving at a festival to present her latest work, filmmaker Sacha Roth sets about restoring some order to her existence. She is staying in a familiar place: a house that once belonged to her grandmother, and is now occupied by many of the women working at the festival. She tries to put a simmering legal dispute at the back of her mind, despite the fact that she is still mentally and physically recovering from the disastrous medical episode that precipitated it. The festival itself is a comforting environment, one that returns some of Sacha’s self-confidence and command of the spaces in which she found early success as a filmmaker and animator. While there, she begins to nurture the early outlines of an idea for a film entitled “Communists!”, supposedly inspired by the women who work at the festival. But soon after her arrival, Sacha is witness to an assault that ends in a violent killing. She unthinkingly attempts to turn a real-world assault into art, more or less obliterating all of her relationships in the process.

Christopher Small is one of the prominent contemporary film critics and curators, known for his wide-ranging interests. He admires “Golden Hollywood”, can discuss silent Japanese cinema and is uncommonly well-versed in modern-day filmmaking. Making a movie is a bold and risky step. He turns to the material he is familiar with – a Utopian festival universe abounding in possibilities and inevitable disappointments (today it is perceived as a sort of retro since the pandemic has dealt a serious blow to this world). Small avoids the main pitfall: “Communists!” is not a work for a few chosen film buffs (though for them there are friendly allusions like a tune from Jacques Rivette’s “Out 1”) but rather an attempt to start a universal conversation about the place of art and artist in the modern world. Small is not afraid to be (self)critical, is not shy about the fragility of his film which means that it is open to real beauty and reflections.
KAFKA FOR KIDS
KAFKA FOR KIDS
Producer: ROEE ROSEN
ISRAEL, 2022, 120 MIN
Cross-generic film, combining a musical comedy with layers of drama and of political documentary. The film is set as the pilot episode for a TV series that perversely aims to make Kafka’s tales palpable for toddlers. The story delivered in this first episode is The Metamorphosis. While the tale of Gregor Samsa's transformation into a vermin is rendered in animation, the reading of the story occurs in live action, in the magical story-house, where an unnamed grandparent figure reads the story to a child, surrounded by a troupe of lively objects, such as Ms. Lamp and Mr. Table. These animistic friends dub the tale's characters, and perform the film's songs, accompanied by a toy orchestra. As the plot thickens, the ensemble is joined by other mascots, such as The Bearer of Bad News, and the house's sage: Kafka's left shoe. The centrality of the law in Kafka’s writings and thought, and the notions of childhood that are explored in the film lead towards its end to a very different narrative realm: an exposition of the complex and troubling ways in which childhood is legally circumscribed in the occupied territories by military law.

Roee Rosen is one of the most unusual and self-contradictory modern artists, which is further corroborated by his feature debut. Surrealism, musical and satire are only some of the instruments he expertly uses to subject his own work to Kafkian metamorphoses. Despite its unique humor, his film takes a sober and sad grown-up look at the modern world where people are always separated by borders. One consolation is the music by the toy orchestra of Igor Krutogolov who is the founder of the “Krusenstern and parokhod” music group.
JOJO
JOJO
Producer: ANTONI COLLOT
FRANCE, 2021, 90 MIN
Danger lurks. 13-year-old Jojo is about to abandon a neuro-syphilitic father to the loneliness of his blindness. These two, accompanied by the fascinating and ambiguous presence of a young nurse, have a few days to say goodbye. “Jojo” is the missing part, the dreamed story, of a childhood.

There are few attempts in cinema to make the impossible screen versions of the heritage of Georges Bataille, famous for “Le Bleu du ciel” and “L’Expérience intérieure”. A rare exception is an original interpretation of “Histoire de l'œil” by Ivan Cardoso who was a guest at last year’s “Spirit of Fire”. Antoni Collot has set himself an even more challenging task: Jojo is young Bataille. But it is the opposite of the traditional biopic: Jojo has a dream, Jojo is making sense of life, the boys memorizes Baudelaire’s verses, for the first time learns what poetry, death, illness, growing old mean. Collot’s movie, shot almost on his own, is a documentary fantasy, a spiritualistic séance, an imaginary conversation with his beloved writer.
BEATRIX
BEATRIX
Producer: MILENA CZERNOVSKY, LILITH KRAXNER
AUSTRIA, 2021, 95 MIN
“Beatrix” presents a female body. It is the body of a young woman who spends a good amount of time alone in a house. She tends a bit to the house, gets bored, talks on the phone and receives visitors. The camera fragments the body of Beatrix into its individual parts. Her inner life becomes visualized by constricted images and a manic stillness. Something is eating at the apparent freedom of her solitude. A femininity becomes physically tangible – corners and curves, liquids, touches, deformations. Film shows banal, somnambulistic acts such as eating, drinking, cleaning, jumping, bathing, reclining, talking, and looking. And then it begins all over again. What normally escapes our view is made entirely present. Urgency and ennui become one in an uncompromising confrontation with the existence of a young woman.

Who is Beatrix? This is a major mystery of this movie. The authors named her after the main character of the short story “Probleme, Probleme” by the Austrian writer Ingeborg Bachmann, who is tired of social life obligations. Czernovsky and Kraxner comment that Beatrix “embodies a generation that is characterized by boundless possibilities, that often lead to an aimless search. Overwhelmed by the freedom of choice, she chooses to do nothing at all”. Exquisite 16-mm footage does not only belong to the cultural canon of Vera Chytilová, Chantal Akerman and Valie Export, but expands it, in particular thanks to the intensive on-screen presence of Eva Sommer with her unusually nuanced professional performance.
CHANNEL 54
CHANNEL 54
Producer: LUCAS LARRIERA
ARGENTINA, 2021, 90 MIN
Who is Norberto Otero? Armengol Torres, the Space World Week organizer, proposes Lucas to start an investigation on a parallel broadcast about the moon landing in 1969 received by a radio amateur in his home in Avellaneda, Buenos Aires province. Due to Armengol's insistent conspiracy theories, Lucas investigates the very nature of the images, but he meets again and again with the elusive figure of a man who is becoming increasingly dark: Norberto Otero.

The story of American astronauts’ landing on the Moon has fascinated many generations of conspiracists, dreamers and filmmakers. What else is there to be said about it? Lucas Larriera, one of the best Argentinean sound directors (there are more than a hundred titles in his filmography), devoted decades to investigating this problem. His interest stems from media archeology among other things: he studies well-known footage as well as their copies published in long-forgotten magazines. The director’s lasting interest in the topic carries a shade of the melancholy obsession, of the doomed attempt to interpret the world and find the meaning and logic in life, of the quest for the impossible. Fittingly, Larriera adds a personal dimension to the movie – a film about space and our planet’s satellite is bound to touch upon loss and grief.
STARS AWAIT US
STARS AWAIT US
Producer: ZHANG DALEI
CHINA, 2020, 145 MIN
Decades ago in north-eastern Asia, where lived Russian, Chinese and Koreans. Ma was a border smuggler with fluence in Kupchino before, after years life in prison Ma was released in New Year’s Eve but to face a new era. Ma started his lonely new life with searching for his girlfriend Karinna, his lost passion, hope, and good old times. Ma got a job in an auto repair factory where he met Wei, from whom Ma sees himself in similar age. Later, Wei fell into some trouble with Petrov, Ma‘s old friend. Ma helped Wei settle his dispute and convinced them go to the South China, a warmer place where opened to a free market.

Zhang Dalei the visionary has mastered the intricacies of genre cinema and this time offers a surrealist take at gangster melodrama and neo-noir. But evidently, still being under a deep influence of his studies in St. Petersburg, he places his characters in a dream-like universe of an imaginary Kupchino, which calls to mind the most extravagant Russian pictures of the late 80's – early 90’s. He has chosen a line from a song by the “Mirage” group as the title of the movie, has sent his characters to a concert by the “Kino” group, he has been inspired by Sergey Solovyov’s “Assa”. The result is an innovative Chinese movie and simultaneously a stranger’s love-letter to Russian culture.
ORPHEUS
ORPHEUS
Producer: VADIM KOSTROV
RUSSIA , 2021, 116 MIN
The film brings us to the last days of the summer of 2019 in Nizhniy Tagil. Young filmmaker Vadim returns to his hometown to meet his first love Anya and say the last words to her, capture with the camera the last moments with her, the end of the summer, and the dawn of the youth. “Orpheus” is the line of farewells in which everything is for the last time.

“This is an independent movie which the director, cinematographer, editor and leading actor Vadim Kostrov shot without a budget. The protagonist spends the last days of summer in his hometown which gradually evolves into and on-screen mythic kingdom of eternal farewells. Nominally this anthology of partings, multiplying the experience of the Antique musician Orpheus, should be considered fiction, but the boundary between truth and fantasy, between characters and actors shimmers and dissolves. Everything is ghostly in the fluid, sad and tender, absolutely genuine and invented, earthly and otherworldly Nizhy Tagil. It is like some eerie underworld, a post-rock meditation or early films by Sharunas Bartas, whose film “Freedom” is quoted in “Orpheus”.  Vadim Rutkovsky
RED MOON TIDE
RED MOON TIDE
Producer: LOIS PATIÑO
SPAIN, 2020, 84 MIN
Time seems to stand still in a village in the Galician coast. Everybody there is paralyzed although we can still hear their voices: they talk about ghosts, about witches, about monsters. Three women show up, they are trying to find Rubio, a sailor that has recently disappeared in the sea.

This is Lois Patiño’s second feature. For more than a decade he has been researching into Galician imagination, sexuality and identity. In “Red Moon Tide” he seems to hypnotize the audience, turning documentary footage and myths of a fishing village into a horror movie. The fragile world is frozen in anticipation of the arrival of the Monster, which, as the legend has it, is coupled with the rise of the red moon. In his films Patiño handles the camera himself and his new movie is another proof of his unique visual gift.
THE HIDDEN FOUNTAIN
THE HIDDEN FOUNTAIN
Producer: RAQUEL CHALFI
ISRAEL, 2020, 97 MIN
She was an orphaned child toiling to support her family. Only after many harsh years she became the sculptor and poet Miriam Chalfi. One of few women-sculptors, alone in a “male-art”, she smashed conventions and gender-borders. She was also adamant in her refusal to let me, her daughter, make this film. I made it over many years of immense hardships – mirroring Miriam's way. Her arduous path demanded endless patience. So did this film. It respects Time. Endeavoring to crack the enigma of Miriam's life and art, the film moves forward, backward, in spirals – like memory. Like the winding path of the Hidden Fountain.

Raquel Chalfi, a prominent poetess and a pioneer of Israeli experimental cinema, devoted almost thirty years of her life to this film. The modest and reserved movie may seem a personal testimony, an autobiography, but it is an exquisitely tactful treatise on life and art, and on how one is inseparable from the other. What is art? What is sculpture? How is abstract sculpture born and where does it come from? How does it find its place once transported from the artist’s workshop into a park filled with trees, wind and birds? Every cut, every shot of this poetic movie is saturated with deep emotions which only cinema can convey.
PROLONGING LIFE
PROLONGING LIFE
Producer: DMITRY FALKOVICH
UK – RUSSIA, 2020, 99 MIN
Dmitry is a Russian emigrant living in London with his wife and son. He is one of the most successful venture capitalists in the world. He has everything, but at the age of 46 years and 7 months, he realizes that one day he will die. Dmitry creates a fund investing in life-prolonging technology.

Venture investor Dmitry Falkovich instantly won the full-fledged title of a filmmaker thanks to his debut, “Ivanov”, which won the “Spirit of Fire” main prize (this award can be seen in his new film). In the film's meaningful finale, the fate of the protagonist is left to doubt, but as we learn in “Prolonging Life”, which begins with a screening of “Ivanov”, it was only cinema. Then real life begins: Falkovich and his wife Katya play themselves and their life in London. Though it is the first document of Russian emigration in Britain , it captures our attention primarily by its careful intonation, interest to details and delicate color palette. “Prolonging Life”, enriched with new contexts in the period of the world epidemic, is an important addition to the Russian literary and cinematic traditions, to the feelings of intelligentsia.
KOOZHANGAL
KOOZHANGAL
Producer: VINOTHRAJ P. S.
INDIA, 2021, 76 MIN
Two arid hamlets separated by a distance of 13 kilometers from the down South of Tamil Nadu unfurl a drama witnessed by the sun. An alcoholic wife beater embarks on a journey, dragging his young son along to fetch back his wife whom he had chased away. The land and human emotions lay brazenly palpable in the scorching heat. This journey is fraught with the sweat and smudge of the common folk, crawling critters and the deserted terrain.

«The most compact epic ever. The mutual journey of the boy and his alcoholic dad is both a real horror and movement towards spiritual rapport but without trite humanitarian clichés and wretched dramatic gimmicks. It is fair play against the background of spacious landscapes, indifferent to petty human squabbles. But they do matter to the brilliant first-timer Vinothraj, whose biography is similar to that of Tarantino, incredible as it may seem. His path to film directing began in a DVD shop in Tamil Nadu». Vadim Rutkovsky
TUG
TUG
Producer: JON LAZAM
PHILIPPINES, 2021, 69 MIN
Two lovers sitting on a rundown structure which by day looks like a pockmark in the middle of a park bustling with construction work. But it's nighttime and they are quiet and too exhausted to look back, or ahead. The dust of the day hasn't fully settled but the present already feels as elusive as memory.

Philippine cinema is known for its attempts to redeem the missing archive and close the gaps in the hushed-up history of the country. Jon Lazam goes a step further along the revolutionary path. “Tug” is neither reconstruction, nor art-house homage. It is an artifact which appeared out of nowhere like the first films which were not made by the Lumiere brothers but by nameless artisans. The purity of his method gives a sensation that cinema has been invented by the director before our very eyes. At the same time “Tug” does not ignore its predecessors and similar to silent Hollywood it records melancholy days and tempestuous nights, the realism of daily life and the fantasy of imagination, it finds beauty in recreation parks and the art of clowns and it does not shun away from gloomy social underworld.
NIGHT OF THE KINGS
NIGHT OF THE KINGS
Producer: PHILIPPE LACÔTE
FRANCE – IVORY COAST – CANADA – SENEGAL, 2020, 93 MIN
A young man is sent to La Maca, a prison in the middle of the Ivorian forest ruled by its inmates. As tradition goes with the rising of the red moon, he is designated by the Boss to be the new Roman and must tell a story to the other prisoners. Learning what fate awaits him, he begins to narrate the mystical life of the legendary outlaw named Zama King and has no choice but to make his story last until dawn.

This jail exists in real life and the director knows about it from experience. As a child Lacôte visited his mother who was an inmate there. Though instead of the stale naturalistic prison drama the viewer will see something totally different. It is a visual allegory of politics and the power of imagination and art. The unpredictable trajectory of the movie balances between a fairy-tale, a musical, a dance, ritual theatre and even Afro-fantasy. The long night comes to a close.