The International Film Festival Febiofest Bratislava returns after two years, its program full of ambitious and experimental works.
Designed as a platform for promoting auteur cinema, Febiofest Bratislava presents current trends in independent cinema with a particular focus on productions from Slovakia and neighboring countries.
Aiming to attract viewers of different age groups, the week-long event (which runs from March 16-22) encompasses various genres including fiction, documentaries and animated films.
The festival is organized by the Association of Slovak Film Clubs in cooperation with the Slovak Film Institute. Founded in 1993, Febiofest was initially limited to Slovak films but has since opened up to other countries, notably the other Visegrád countries (Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary), Austria and Ukraine.
The short film competition
Title In the heart of Europethe competition section of the program is dedicated to short films from across the region.
Twenty short films are selected each year, all of them less than 30 minutes long. As the festival hopes to present the best current films from the region, the main criterion is the artistic merit and quality of the films submitted rather than an equal representation of genres, themes or countries.
As is often the case with art films, this year’s selection offers harrowing takes on mundane events.
Hungary Szunet (Break) by director Levente Kölcsey, for example, tells the story of a schoolboy whose parents want to take him out of school and send him to work. What is just a part of the daily routine for the school principal is a life-changing moment for the boy, but no one seems to care.
In Pozdrav z Nigeria (Greetings from Nigeria), a Czech short film by Peter Hoferica, an old man named Emil receives an email from a self-proclaimed Nigerian prince asking for financial help. In return, the prince promises Emil his royal recognition as well as half of his inheritance. Despite her family’s disapproval, Emil sends her the money.
The winner of the competition will receive 3,000 euros. As the films in competition could not be screened in theaters due to the Covid-19 pandemic, no winner has been announced in 2021. According to the organizers, discussions with the authors after the screenings are an integral part of the process. selection of the winning film.
Luba Orechovska, the general director of the festival, said Emerging Europe on the ordeal that the organizers went through because of the pandemic.
“In 2020, Febiofest was about to start on March 11 but just two days before, the first Covid cases in Slovakia were announced and all cinemas were closed. The same thing happened when we planned to hold the festival on an alternative date to winter 2020. On the opening day of the festival, a second lockdown of the year was announced and we had to close the festival on the very day of its opening. . A similar scenario unfolded in 2021.”
Sections out of competition
Apart from the main competition, Febiofest includes sections featuring cast premieres of the latest Slovak films, titles from acclaimed international filmmakers showcasing the latest in art house cinema, as well as a range of films from single archive.
According to the festival’s website, for the non-competitive Limitless section, “the programming team goes wild and chooses the most interesting, innovative and less traditional titles”. The organizers challenge viewers to “bring an open mind, a pinch of bravery, sit back and enjoy the selection to the limit”.
Planet Dark, a late-night screening section featuring “a well-curated spectrum of the hottest scary movies and hottest films produced around the world,” is also guaranteed to keep moviegoers on the edges of their seats.
The main part of the festival takes place in Bratislava, although a selection of films is then screened in several cities in Slovakia.
Apart from avant-garde films, Febiofest Bratislava also brings together film professionals from all over the world. The main networking opportunity of the festival is Industry Days, a live event which will also be streamed online.
Since art films are aimed at niche markets rather than mass audiences, producing them is no small feat. According to Orechovska, art house productions in Slovakia are chronically underfunded.
“The most important and very often the only source of funding for arthouse films is the public support of the Slovak Audiovisual Fund and the Slovak Radio and Television. Both have limited funds,” says Orechovska.
“For most feature film projects, the only way to produce a film is to make an international co-production and seek funding abroad, also by asking for pan-European support from programs like Creative Europe or Eurimages.”
Unfortunately, the same is true for auteur cinema elsewhere in the world. Art films rarely receive the kind of financial backing associated with mainstream productions, forcing directors to resort to lesser-known actors and modest film sets.
For viewers, it’s often a blessing in disguise, with art house films breaking the bounds of cinematic convention and offering economical yet refreshing storytelling techniques.
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