Natalie Gravenor | Thursday November 5th, 2015 | 5
Until Sunday, November 8th, the city of Cottbus is at the center of the (not only) Eastern European film world with the 25th Cottbus Film Festival. The city in southeastern Brandenburg’s Lausitz region, near the German-Polish border and situated in an area populated by the Slavic Sorb minority, is a geographically and culturally ideal location for presenting Eastern European films and facilitating East-West cultural exchange.
Founded in 1991 by film professionals who gained their first cinephile experiences in the GDR film club scene – a forum for discovering more exotic cinematic fare than in state-regulated mainstream cinemas – the festival has essentially told a history of post socialist transformation on film. The festival’s main mission was and is to showcase the excellence and diversity of films from Eastern Europe (by the festival’s own definition all countries and successor countries of the former Warsaw Pact, from the former GDR to Caucasus and Central Asian former Soviet states). By presenting a broad array of works, including national blockbusters, art house highlights and works by newcomers, the film festival aims to playfully tweak at those Western clichés about post 1989 Eastern Europe: booze, brutality and brass music.
This year, the established Competition (short and feature), National Hits and Spectrum sections are augmented by a special focus on “Eastern Europe of Cities”. The fifth and final focus in a series devoted to diversity in Eastern Europe (previous festival editions focused on queerEast, religions, cultures and regions). Curated by festival program director Bernd Buder and scholar-journalist Barbara Wurm, “Eastern Europe of Cities” presents documentaries and two fiction films exploring various aspects of urban development in Warsaw, Simferopol (Crimea), Kjustendil in Bulgaria, Baku, Sarajevo, Kazan, Kyiv, Moscow, Chisinau, Yerewan and Tiflis. Gentrification, seclusion of marginalized ethnic and other groups, armed conflict, but also alternative culture, celebrations of everyday life and satire of modern big city mores are feature in the program. At the “Grand Hotel Prizren” festival sidebar exhibition, music videos showing urban life in various Central and Eastern European cities are screened.
In the video below (in German), Bernd Buder discusses the background and thematic lines of the program:
The Cottbus Film Festival has a channel on realeyz featuring highlights from past editions. BELGRAD RADIO TAXI is poised to become the urban cult film for the Serbian capital, while KONTROLL is a dark comedy cum thriller set in the Budapest underground train system. And the ever popular SHUTKA BOOK OF RECORDS is a mockumentary about Shutka in Macedonia. The town is purportedly the largest Roma community in the Balkans, its inhabitants have also broken any record known to man. (Sacha Baron Cohen, were you listening?)
For more information about the Cottbus Film Festival, click here.