23rd – 25th September
Yugoslav Film Archive, Kosovska 11
38th BITEF ON FILM 14
Editor: Vera Konjović
“Intolerance is itself a form of violence and an obstacle to the growth of a true democratic spirit.”
A hundred years have elapsed since the Great War or, as some people call it, the primal catastrophe of the twentieth century. Memories, discussions, accusations, justifications, articles, treatises, books, plays, films… and Bitef, but rather than a story about the Great War, the festival offers a story about the past in the form of the present.
As one watches the productions selected for Bitef this year, one immediately comes up with the title and subject-matter of Bitef on Film: Intolerance. On the other hand, if we watch films chosen for the programme, we can conclude that at the bottom of it all is envy.
There is a story about envy in the early literature of our part of the world – the Bible. In the very beginning there were Cain and Abel and they were followed by hosts of the envious and they have caught up with us. And in the beginning of film history is the unavoidable D.W. Griffith with his intolerance presented through history: in its core is the very first beginning of everything: the envy.
I listen, I read the reminiscences about the First, the Second and all the other wars and I remember…
1975. At that time I worked for FEST. That year it showed the Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie. Our guest was Serge Silberman, producer of important French and most of Bunuel’s films. He was a Jew, born in Lodz, a survivor of a German concentration camp. He shocked me when he said: “People are getting restive, there hasn’t been a war for a long time.” I thought: nobody will go to war in Europe after World War II.
At that time the 1990s in Yugoslavia seemed to me inconceivable..
Agnieszka Arnold is, like Serge Silberman, from Lodz. She is the author of a documentary film Neighbours about the persecution of Jews in Jedwabne, north-east of Warsaw. The horrendously cruel event which took place during the German occupation is memorable because the responsible for it were Poles, Jewish ‘neighbours’, In literature, this event was addressed by the well-known Polish writer Tadeusz Slobodzianek in his play Our Class to be presented during the main Bitef programme this year. The production comes from Lithuania where, as in Poland, there is the inglorious history of the persecution of Jews. It will be interesting to compare documentary and literary versions of the same event in the Polish-Lithuanian adaptation.
De Sica, Visconti and Zafranović in their films The Garden of Finzi-Continies, La caduta degli dei and Occupation in Twenty-Six Pictures, respectively, reflected along the same lines as Griffith, Slobodzianek and Arnold.
Past is Present is the title of Bitef this year. And the fact that a large number of film and theatre artists address the past in their work is a phenomenon supporting this thesis. This also goes for the fact that the works inspired by past incidents have as their subject-matter intolerance and envy, showing the history of the humankind as a history of violence.
Serbian National Theatre, Novi Sad
Duration: 117 minutes
Author: Agnjeszka Arnold
Producer: Telewizja Polska S.A
Country of production: Poland, 2001
Agnieszka Arnold (1947), Polish journalist, writer and director of documentary films frequently provokes vehement arguments with her works. She seems to have specialised in embarrassing topics. One of them is the pogroms of Jews in Jedwabne, Radzilow and adjoining villages. She is the first artist to address seriously this topic. In Neighbours she interviewed witnesses, participants and survivors of the Jewish massacre: one thousand six hundred in Jedwabne and eight hundred in Radzilow and the surrounding area.
In 1997, when she finished the film, Arnold was convinced it would never be shown. She ran it for friends and those who wanted to see it. One of them was Jan Gross who, with his interest aroused, began to research it. He wrote a book which he called Neighbours with Arnold’s consent. As soon as it was published, the broadcasting of the film on TV (2001) was announced. It was seen by two million of forty million Poles. They were in shock. They had heard or known about the event but, as is usually the case, accepted it but did not believe it. One of the comments: “I’ve heard about the massacre and read a few things. After the film I became painfully aware that something truly terrible had happened there.” (Magdalena Rachkowska, 35, office clerk.)
September 23rd, 17.30
Duration: 121 minutes
35 mm, b/w, silent
Screenplay and direction: D. W. Griffith
Cast: Mae Marsh, Lillian Gish, Constance Talmadge, Robert Harron, Elmo Lincoln, Eugene Pallette
Production: USA, 1916
D. W. Griffith (1875–1948) is considered by many the father of the film art. His best known films include The Birth of a Nation, Intolerance, Hearts of the World… It is interesting that Griffith, a man who made so many innovations in the film art, believed that there would never be sound film. He said: “Films are written in sand; they are applauded today and not remembered tomorrow.” And he was wrong there because applauds still resound after his films.
Intolerance shows for the first time four interlacing stories: Babylonian, Judean, French and modern American. Griffith invested a huge amount of money in the film but it did not pay off in the distribution. Today it ranks 47th on the list of the best films of all times.
24th September, 17.30
(La caduta degli dei)
Duration: 152 minutes
35 mm, colour
Directed by: Luchino Visconti
Screenplay: L. Visconti, Enrico Medioli, Nicola Badalucco
Cast: Dirk Bogard, Ingrid Thulin, Helmut Griem, Helmut Berger
Production: Pegaso Film
Country of production: Italy and FR Germany, 1969.
Luchino Visconti di Modrone, count Lonate Pocolo was a member of the Communist Party of Italy although of aristocratic origin and member of one of the richest and most influential families. He went to Paris and began his film career as Jean Renoir’s assistant. He authored about twenty of the best Italian and world films
Hitler takes over the power in Germany. Apparent harmony reigns in the powerful Essenbeck family of industrialists, but each of the sons has his eye on the inheritance. The situation is made worse by a big difference in political affiliations and preferences.
25th September, 17.30
THE GARDEN OF FINZI-CONTINIS
Il giardino dei Finzi-Contini
Duration: 90 minutes
Directed by: Vittorio De Sica
35 mm, colour
Screenplay: Vittorio Bonicelli
Cast: Lino Capolichio, Dominique Sanda, Helmut Berger, Fabio Testi
Production: Documento Film
Country of production: Italy, 1970.
Of De Sica it has been unfairly said that as an actor he would accept just any part in order to get money and be able to direct films about topics of interest to him.
The list of De Sica’s films is long and impressive. It suffices to mention just a few of them: Bicycle Thieves, Miracle in Milan, Shoeshine… For The Garden of Finzi-Continis De Sica was awarded the Golden Bear in Berlin..
Mussolini seizes power in Italy. In the garden of a wealthy Jewish family of Finzi-Continis they play tennis, organise tournaments, have fun, unconcerned about the events in their country and elsewhere. The realisation comes too late as one day fascists knock on the door.
OCCUPATION IN TWEENTY-SIX PICTURE
(Okupacija u dvadeset šest slika)
Duration: 112 minutes
35 mm, colour
Directed by: Lordan Zafranović
Screenplay by: Mirko Kovač, Lordan Zafranović
Cast: Frano Lasić, Boris Kralj, Milan Štrljić, Stevo Žigon
Production: Jadran film, Croatia Film
Country of production: Yugoslavia, 1978.
Lordan Zafranović (Šolta, 1944) studied film and direction at FAMU in Prague. In several of his documentary and feature films he addressed and denounced nationalism and crimes, committed in particular by the ustasha. This caused him trouble in Croatia. Franjo Tuđman said he was the “enemy of the Croatian people”. In the 1990s he left for Vienna, then Paris and finally settled in Prague. Now he lives in Prague and Zagreb.
Occupation in Twenty-Sic Pictures caused a big stir in Croatia. It was not banned but seldom appeared in cinemas. It was nominated for Palme d’Or in Cannes. Zafranović won three awards at the Film Festival in Pula: for the best film, direction and camera.
Dubrovnik on the eve of and during World War II. Three pals – a Croat, an Italian and a Jew – enjoy life in a beautiful city. The idyll is cut short by the occupation. The city becomes the place of execution. The once three best friends end up on the opposed, enemy sides. And the bloodshed begins.