Fiacha Harrington picks his recommendations from Love & Anarchy 2019 - the 32nd Helsinki International Film Festival.
This summer’s blockbusters such as The Avengers and Spiderman begin to fade from theatres to make room for more serious fair just as award season hopefuls take their place. The lure of the silver screen has somewhat diminished in recent years as viewers are turning to streaming services and home comforts as their preferred viewing space. Even big name directors such as Martin Scoresese are being financed by the likes of Netflix, where his new film, The Irishman, will be released. There is talk that The Irishman will get a limited cinematic run prior to its premier a few weeks later on Netflix.
But it is not all just blockbuster movies or epic tv series like Game of Thrones that dominate the market place. I believe that there is a middle ground to be found. Director Todd Phillips, known best for his Hangover movies, finds his new film The Joker taking home the top prize – the Golden Lion award at this year’s Venice Film Festival. For some, this maybe a comic book movie winning out over Roman Polanski’s J’Accuse, but in my opinion it goes to show that there is room for both sides of the art house experience. And it’s exactly the film festival that is that middle ground and melting pot where the big, the small, the heavy hitters and new hopes converge to offer the best that film can be. The movie festival has also become one of the only places for people to see certain films on the big screen.
And it’s exactly the film festival that is that middle ground and melting pot where the big, the small, the heavy hitters and new hopes converge to offer the best that film can be
For us here in Helsinki it is the Helsinki International Film Festival – better known as Love & Anarchy (or Rakkautta ja Anarkiaa in Finnish) – that offers us the opportunity to see movies where they are meant to be seen, on the big screen and in the dark – rather than on something you put in your pocket and use to call your mom (which you should always remember to do).
This year’s Helsinki International Film Festival’s Gala Movies are the opening movie Blinded By The Light from director Gurinder Chadha – a movie about a Pakistani teen living in 1980s Luton who discovers the music of Bruce Springsteen. A Hidden Life, the long-awaited new film by the legendary director Terrence Malick closes the festival in an epic mood with a poetic telling of the story of Franz Jägerstätter, an Austrian WWII conscientious objector.
The Finnish Gala presents Maria’s Paradise, the new film by director Zaida Bergrot. Set in the 1920s it tells the story of Salome who becomes infatuated with a religious sect leader, Maria. Salome begins to question the truth behind the sect’s actions. Portrait Of A Lady On Fire (Portrait de la jeune fille en feu), which won the Cannes Best Screenplay award, will be screened in the Love & Anarchy Gala that celebrates the new currents of cinematic art. Written and directed by French director Céline Sciamma, Portrait of a Lady on Fire is a love story set in 18th century Brittany. As well as arthouse big-hitters, the first ever R&A Shorts Gala provides a unique opportunity to see the year’s most eagerly anticipated domestic short films .
There is much to choose from over the eleven days that the festival runs. For those of you unsure which films to go and see here are a few suggestions.The 32nd edition of Helsinki International Film Festival – Love & Anarchy welcomes Warren Ellis to Helsinki. The virtuoso musician known as Nick Cave’s co-composer will be a guest alongside Director Arno Bitschy – who brings to Helsinki their French-Finnish documentary film This Train I Ride (2019) – about an American vagabond women looking for freedom on the rails.
This year’s Nordic Flair Award goes to the Danish master director Lone Scherfig and her film The Kindness of Strangers (2019). Scherfig attends the festival to give an open masterclass. Hungary-based British director Peter Strickland comes to the festival to present his new film In Fabric, a satirical horror comedy about a killer dress in the literal sense of the word “killer”. Sweden’s Anna Odell brings to Helsinki her new directorial effort X&Y, a film about gender roles. Other international guests include Frauke Kolbmüller, the producer of the German Oscar candidate System Crasher (Systemsprenger, 2019), Sven Marquardt, the bouncer of the legendary Berghain techno club and the main protagonist of Beauty and Decay, and Pia Hellenthal, the director of Searching Eva, the most raucous documentary film of the year.
Love & Anarchy gets the chance to present the debut Finnish screenings of films such as Robert Eggers’ terminally weird The Lighthouse – a film that packed the cinema houses in Cannes this year with Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson both at their very best. And Then We Danced, a Levan Akin gem that has stirred festival audiences in the same way that Call Me By Your Name did – the movie takes an intense plunge into the night life of Tbilisi and in the heated goings-on of a dance group. Love & Anarchy also screens Matthias & Maxim, a buddy romance by the Canadian enfant terrible Xavier Dolan. Polish director Agnieszka Holland returns with Mr. Jones, about a British journalist who reported from Stalin’s Soviet Union. High Life, the first science-fiction film by Claire Denis, is shown whilst the Love & Anarchy Trailblazers selection includes No Fear, No Die (S’en fout la mort, 1990) and 35 Shots of Rum (35 rhums, 2008) from this master director. The Death of Dick Long, the shocking comedy by Daniel Scheinert, is screened as a last-minute addition. MID90S sees actor Jonah Hill step behind the camera to tell the story of a few critical months in the life of a pre-teen, when his character discovers skateboarding and the near-instant friends that come with it – this film has been called a pure joy
A cast lead by Honor Swinton Byrne, Tom Burke and Tilda Swinton star in The Souvenir. Directed by Joanna Hogg – her look at privileged life has been compared by Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian to a “contemporary English response to the rhetoric of Antonioni or Visconti.” Port Authority by Danielle Lessovitz is a love story between a boy named Paul and Wye a girl, who turns out to be Trans – the film set in an underground LGBTQ subculture. Hail Satan? by Penny Lane is a documentary about the pseudo cult known as the Satanic Temple. As we have come to expect from Love & Anarchy Film festival there is a diverse selection of movies to choose from and there is bound to be something for everyone.
As we have come to expect from Love & Anarchy Film Festival there is a diverse selection of movies to choose from and there is bound to be something for everyone
Some additional information about this year’s festival is the call for parity. 46 % of the films at this year’s festival have been directed by women. 32 % of the feature films and 58 % of the short films have been directed by a woman or by a non-binary person. Of the over 800 feature films considered for programming, 26 % had a female director. Of the four gala feature films of the festival, three are works by women. All of the director’s of the short films in the R&A Shorts gala are women. 76 % of the members of the Love & Anarchy programming committee are women.Last year, more than one-third of the Love & Anarchy feature films and almost half of the shorts were directed by women. For some screenings their will be Buddy Tickets available. This means you can get 2 tickets for 15€, these are however limited to a certain amount and only for films, for more info on this please visit the festival website here. Prepare to turn your smartphone off and enjoy the films on the silver screen, the way they were meant to be.
The 32nd Love & Anarchy Film Festival runs between Thursday 19th to Sunday 29th September. For a full list of movies please visit the festival’s website here.