Scanorama: action and redundant special effects-free, but still gripping hearts

DELFI / Tomas Vinickas

If you are looking for Hollywood-made action movies, then Scanorama is definitely not for you. Gražina Arlickaitė, the art director of Scanorama, says the festival is nearly intensive action and redundant special effects-free, but the films hardly leave a viewer emotionless. The Lithuanian Tribune talked to Arlickaitė about Scanorama 2014.

Can you, please, take us to the roots of the festival?

The first Scanorama took place in 2003. The ultimate task of the festival was to get Lithuanian spectators acquainted with film directors from Norway, Finland and other Northern countries, as well as the Northern film classics and the industry news. Back then, Larson von Trier-inspired art movement “Dogma 95” had become extremely popular. Those at its reins started gripping the cinema world with the outstanding screen works by Lars von Trier, Thomas Winterberg and Søren Kragh-Jacobsen, among other names. Their awards from the most prestigious film forums spurred even the biggest skeptics to turn to the relatively little known Scandinavian film industry.

In fact, it was then when the wide-spread myth that all the Nordic countries have got only the worldwide-famous film directors Ingmar Bergman and Aki Kaurismäki broke down.

For Scanorama, it has been particularly important for the Bergman-like spirit of film-making as well as the challenges of the provocations by Lars von Trier.

It was not a coincidence, therefore, that the film “Dogville”- one of the most vivid and most matured works by Lars von Trier – opened the first Scanorama and the educational programs were started off with “Bergman’s Voice.”

Having begun as a film forum of Nordic countries luring mostly Nordic cinema lovers over the first years, Scanorama continued growing in terms of the scope of the film programs, the number of filmgoers and the expansion of the geography. Today, being the forum of all the European countries, Scanorama puts on the screen around 100 films of various genres and Europeans formats for over 20 days in Lithuania’s four largest cities’ cinema theatres.

How has Scanorama evolved over the 11 years?

We’ll be holding the film festival for the 12th time this year. The festival has grown and developed rampantly over the years. Not only has the viewership skyrocketed, but also the variety of the genres and formats, as well as the scope of the festivals and the ambitions of filmmakers. The dynamics of the Nordic cinema and its rapid dispersion in the world has naturally taken us to the deepest realms of the European cinema as the programs, meanwhile, have been expanding the understanding of what the cinema classics are about; the novelties and the new expressions of the film language are definitely the characteristics of the years.

This year’s Scanorama is offering 13 each of other supplementing film programs. When putting them together, we tried to make sure that each film would be an inseparable part of the entirety, and the themes and issues they raise would be flowing smoothly and enriching and extending one another, or just getting everyone at least surprised at some point.

What is characteristic to Scanorama films is the classic way of relation of a plot and the respective aesthetics, all kinds of experiments, clamorously witnessing how the conventional film structure can be broken down and not forgetting to cast glimpses at what we deem “a traditional film.”

If one was to look through the film programs in the festival, one could easily spot the features in all of them, including the movies by Wim Wenders, Jean Luc Godard, the brothers Dardenne, François Ozon, Alain Resnais, Olivier Assayas, Gianni Amelio, the retrospective Theodoros Angelopoulo and, sure, by Joanna Hogg, one of the most interesting recent cinema discoveries.

These names are the guarantor of the art level of the festival. I can also mention here some other names of Nordic filmmakers that blend very well into the spirit of the festival- Hans Petter, Molando, Ruben Östlund, Liv Ullmann, Pernille Fisher Christensen, Kristian Levring, Nils Malmroso and Eriko Poppe.

Some of the most vivid films are definitely “Kebab & Horoscope” by film director Grzegorz Jaroszuk, “Love at First Fight” by Thomas Cailley, “Correction Class” by the Russian film director Ivan I. Tverdovsk and last but not least “Girlhood” directed by Céline Sciamma.

The films as well as the directors tend to address the virtual quintessential questions of existence, values, options, as well as the causes and fallouts.

I’d say the melodic, witty, soul-and-heart gripping, merry and sometimes puzzling European films invite us to confront ourselves and get into the conversation over the values and the human mission on the planet Earth.

I wonder whether you with your keen eye on the filmmakers’ production would be able to track down their journey in film making from their first Scanorama in 2003 until now?

Indeed, from the very first Scanorama we’ve been devoting much of our attention to the professionalism of filmmakers and the quality of the films they stand behind. Most of the films that rolled during Scanorama were really powerful, and so were the film directors.

Since we appreciate talent, it is not surprising that we’ve been continuing to invite some of the film directors we know from their previous appearances at Scanorama again and again. And they keep coming back with their new works.

A couple years ago, for example, Scanorama took off with the debut movie “Either Way” directed by the Icelandic film director Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigurdsson. This year, we’re eagerly looking forward to seeing on the screen his newest feature- “Paris of the North.” Cyron Melville, a French actor, whom we saw on the Lithuanian screens in 2009, is going to be featured in the film “On the Edge” this year. But perhaps the record-holder in Scanorama appearances is Hans Petter Moland, a Norwegian film director, whose all pictures made their way onto the Scanorama screen. This year’s his work is “In Order of Disappearance.” The other Norwegian film director Bent Hamer has a similar record with Scanorama.

To answer your question, without a question, we are very keen on following up the creative paths and fates of the filmmakers and the artists.

How unique is the festival across the Baltics?

Every festival differs from others by its conception and the geographic latitude, by which a festival is limited, but which allows looking into things deeper, further and wider. From that point of view, we are very happy that most film critics tend to value our festival as a cinema applying clearly defined criteria of evaluation and which doesn’t pander to the mediocre tastes.

The Baltic dimension within the framework of the festival is also very important to us. “The New Baltic Cinema”, a competitive festival’s program showing featurettes this year, focuses on the Baltic countries and their young filmmakers.

Is there anything special about this year’s Scanorama?

First of all, there’s some good news for featurette lovers- we’re putting back on the screen the night movie program “The Northern glow.” All the fans of late-evening entertainment are invited to be part of the later featurette marathon during which one will be able to enjoy good movies, as well as a great gathering, tasty coffee and food tidbits.

We’re aiming this year to look deeper into the past of Lithuanian cinema. Again, we are eager to bolster this year the positions of the festival’s competitive program “New Baltic Cinema” and kick off, for the first time, “Director Talks”, an event devoted for the festival’s film directors. During the talks, to be held on November 13, Joanna Hogg, one of the most interesting modern British cinema representatives, will be sharing her experiences and insights that are useful both to beginner creators and professionals.

The variety of movies at Scanorama is nothing short of extraordinary, but, this year, we’re very proud of the very interesting combination of cinema genres, varying from heart-gripping dramas to parody, to the modern European western, black humor, and from exceptionally strong documentaries to the special program featuring record-holders films, like “Ballas” (director Volker Schlöndorff) rediscovered after 40 years, “Reality Dance” (director Alejandro Jodorowsky) that was created after a break of 23 years and, last but not the least, “Childhood” (director Richard Linklater) that has been shot for 13 years.

How many Lithuanian filmmakers will we see at the festival?

The moviegoers should get really interested in three very meaningful premieres of Lithuanian documentary film. The storyline of the premier “Lida, Vanda, Liusia”, directed by Julija Zubavičienė,swirls about three grandmothers travelling to London. The newest work by Giedrė Žičkytė, “Master and Tatjana”, is about Vitas Luckas, the beginner of conceptual photo art in Lithuania, a very rebellious personality and a talented photographer. And finally we have Audrius Stonys’ “The Gates of Lambs.”

Which of the afore-mentioned films have already reaped international rewards?

Like every year, the Scanorama program this year has been comprised of movies that have already been featured in an array of the most European cinema festivals across the continent: Cannes, Berlin, Karlovi Vary, Göteborg, Linco (“Crossing Europe”), Haugesund and some others.

One of our traditional strivings is to show Lithuanian viewers films that in the previous international cinema forums have instigated hot discussions and got a lot of feedback. Therefore, the festival’s program includes the documentary “Maidan, 2014” by the Ukrainian film director Sergeij Loznica, who has actually made his debut with the documentary in Cannes Festival this year, and “A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence” ( director Roy Andersson) recently has acclaimed “Golden Lion”, the main prize, in Venice Film Festival.

The spectators also will see the outstanding Georgian filmmaker Georgij Ovashvili’s film “Corn Island” that has received “Crystal Globe” in the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival this year. “Letter to the King” shot by Hisham Zaman has claimed this year the nomination of the best Nordic film, and we’re proud it will be on the Scanorama screens this year. By the way, the film director’s film “Before Snowfall” which we showed last year has been nominated as the best Nordic film in Göteborg Film Festival. Among the notable attendees this yeat will obviously be the much-talked-about Russian film director Ivan I. Tverdovski, whose “Correction Class” this year snatched the title of the best debut film.

On the behalf of the Scanorama team, I’d like really to invite all cinema lovers to look for cinema theatres that have already started rolling the afore-mentioned and other films.

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