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Echoes of #PÖFF23

#PÖFF23 might be over but as the festival was attended by over 180 journalists, critics, film students and young writers striving to become professional writers, we were left with a plethora of interesting reviews, interviews and articles and we’d like to share a selection of some them with you!

See this article to find out which films won the awards and read here about the statistics and records the festival broke last year.

#PÖFF23 Lifetime Achievement Award laureate Andrei Konchalovsky and his Sin

Sin

Andrei Konchalovsky, or ‘Andron’ as he’s called in his homeland Russia, was probably one the most interviewed person at the festival, receiving the honourable Lifetime Achievement Award and screening his latest film, the ‘arthouse blockbuster’ Sin – a lavish, artistically resonating portrait of the Renaissance artist Michelangelo.

Out of the 30+ interviews in several different languages, we picked two to share with you. Here’s Leonardo Goi’s talk with him published in the Film Stage, discussing Michelangelo, artist’s role in the society and the naivety of Tarkovsky.

He also spoke with Screen International’s Geoffrey MacNab about why he wanted to make a film about Michelangelo, why he left Hollywood and what he remembers of the stories he heard there.

Screen also published a review of the film written by Demetrios Matheou.

“Are Marvel films cinema?” dispute reaches Tallinn

Dante Spinotti in Tallinn

Remember when Martin Scorsese caused a small earthquake, saying that Marvel films aren’t cinema but a theme park ride? Tallinn offered another chapter for this dispute, as during an interview he gave in Tallinn to Tiffany Pritchard, two-time Academy Award nominee DOP Dante Spinotti who has shot Marvel’s Ant-Man and the Wasp reacted to Scorsese’s comment, saying he was not thinking right when he made that accusation.

Spinotti gave a popular masterclass in Tallinn and presented the film Now is Everything that played in the Rebels with a Cause competition, which he produced and directed the photography for.

The Official Selection

The premiere competition programme of the festival offered 21 distinct stories told in various genres and originating from four continents of the world.

There was one man who not only watched all the films, but also wrote about all of them. Dirty Movies is a UK-based film news and reviews portal and its editor and critic Victor Fraga watched all of the films in the Official Selection, in addition to some films from other programmes, offering a wild amount of interesting reads.

Kontora

Made in Japan, directed by Anshul Chauhan from India, the winner of the Grand Prix and the Best Music awards, stole the hearts of the international jury led by Mike Newell and was also very well received by the critics. Stephen Dalton wrote in The Hollywood Reporter that the film “…delivers high-gloss monochrome visuals, strong performances and a layered narrative that wavers between past and present, realism and magical realism, straight family drama and poetic allegory”.

Muscle

Muscle was another favourite of both the critics and juries – the middle-aged man’s spiritual downfall in the hands of masculine gym teacher with toxic influence won the Best Actor award for the star Cavan Clerkin and sparking a series of praising reviews, including publications like The Hollywood Reporter, Screen International, The Hollywood News and Cineuropa which also published an interview with the film’s director Gerard Johnson who speaks about the gym culture explosion in the UK.

Gipsy Queen

Hailed for her central performance as the migrant single mother of two, who, as last measure of hope in a dire financial situation, decides to return to boxing ring she had left behind years ago, actress Alina Serban captured the hearts of the festival audiences, critics and the jury, who handed her the Best Actress of award. Her powerful acceptance speech shed light on her past as a victim of racial abuse for being a Roma, while also serving an inspired and inflaming callout for fighting racial intolerance and prejudice. See her interview in Cineuropa, read the reviews in Screen International, Cineuropa and Eye For Film. The film will screen next at the Santa Barbara IFF.

Arracht

The bleak historical Irish drama set during the years of the Great Famine was received well by the audience and critics, with Screen International’s Fionnuala Halligan calling it one of the programme’s highlights, as praise also arrived from Amber Wilkinson in Eye For Film.

Gutterbee

A satire set in a made-up town in Southern US with a kink for sausages and Bavarian culture (yes, it features Ewen Bremner as a German entrepreneur with a fetish for Southern German ethnic clothing and dance moves), aimed as a cultural-critical missile towards the far-right mentality, Gutterbee was always going to divide opinions, as is clear in the Screen International and. Cineuropa reviews The film continues on its wicked path successfully, with a next chapter playing out at Rotterdam IFF and Santa Barbara IFF. Director Ulrich Thomsen did not go light on religion in the Cineuropa interview.

Flying Circus

This bonkers Kosovo, Albania, North-Macedonia comedy set during the early days of the Kosovo war sees an Kosovar theatre troupe risking their freedom to cross the border into Albania, to participate at a theatre festival with their Monty Python-inspired act, hoping to meet Michael Palin, who is filming his documentary in the country. Critic Marta Balaga wrote in Cineuropa: “Luckily, Berisha clearly believes that thou shalt not take the name of thy Monty Python in vain. The love is there, sure, but ultimately, it’s a story that stands up on its own,  thanks to some assured direction and a truly entertaining team of performers…”

The film will travel to the Santa Barabara IFF next.

First Feature Competition

Isaac

Although not winning any awards, this artistically complex and intellectually challenging Lithuania debut by Jurgis Matulevičius set in three historical contexts in 1941-1966, was among the favourite films of several critics, landing praising reviews in The Hollywood Reporter and Cineuropa and reaching Patrick Gamble’s list of best things he saw in Tallinn in the Little White Lies magazine. Read the interview with the director in Cineuropa.

Looted

Winner of the Special Jury prize for its talented ensemble cast that included Charley Palmer Rothwell, Thomas Turgoose, Tom Fisher and Morgane Polanski, Looted was the talk in town with reviews in The Hollywood Reporter, The Hollywood News and Screen International who also published an interview with the film’s director Rene Pannevis, while also featuring among the top four experiences of the US journalist Steve Dollar in his roundup in Filmmaker Magazine.
The film is a coming of age story of a young man whose everyday life is torn between caring for his bedridden father, finding a job and hanging out with the gang of his friends with who they occasionally run illegal odd jobs.

Supernova

The Polish thriller chronicles the aftermath of a car accident caused by a powerful public figure and its socially explosive aftermath in a Polish rural area. Seemingly shot as a single take, it has received praise for the sharp hands of its director Bartosz Kruhlik and DOP Michał Dymek.

Ola Salwa wrote in a Cineuropa review at Gdynia IFF: “Snap judgements, decisions made under the influence of booze or emotions, the inability to see the bigger picture – in other words, all the kinds of mental shortcuts that people take – are the invisible yet present antagonists in Supernova,” while Movies Room editor Szymon Goraj chose it as the third-best thriller of the year after Parasite and Us. Read the interview with the director in Cineuropa.

The film will travel to the Santa Barbara IFF next.

Rebels with a Cause

Cook, F**k, Kill

The newest international competition at the festival, dedicated to artistically more obscure and out of the box films, the Rebels with a Cause had its most successful year as of yet, with most of the films receiving a warm welcome and a lot of attention. Russia’s LGBT-themed film Outlaw sparked a series of interviews in Russian and Estonian media, while the provocative family violence-themed Cook F**k Kill received positive reviews in Variety and in Screen International, where Demetrios Matheou called it a “complicated, fascinating film”. The film will screen at Rotterdam IFF and Göteborg IFF next.

Other critical favourites included the psychological thriller with a darkly comic edge, Advantages of Travelling by Train that was praised in Cineuropa by Marta Balaga, calling it “… frankly rather brilliant, with unpredictable stories hidden within stories hidden within other stories, Russian Doll-style, blending in seamlessly and with visual energy to spare.”

A Family, an off-kilter tale of a man recruiting strangers to create staged scenes of his family’s past, was also received with big enthusiasm as Anton Bitel called it “Funny, bleak and profound, and full of deliriously deadpan lines (“You should not blame a fruit dessert for your form”), it casts its director as a far more assured wrangler of ensembles and ideas than the unimaginative, emotionally constipated Emerson could ever be,” in his Eye For Film review, while also being highlighted by Patrick Gamble in his Little White Lies roundup.

Asian Movie Pulse

Dedicated solely to Asian cinema, AMP asked PÖFF regular Marina Richter with the daunting task to review all the Asian films in the programme, which she achieved with aplomb.

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