various venues, London
various venues, London
The BFI London Film Festival (8-19 October) sets out an ambitious programme for 2014 including three Austrian films: Johannes Holzhausen's The Great Museum about the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, Sudabeh Mortezai's Macondo about a Chechen boy living as a refugee in Austria, and Ulrich Seidl's In the Basement.
The Great Museum
In 2013, Vienna’s Kunsthistorisches Museum prepared an ambitious renovation and reinstallation of its palatial Kunstkammer galleries, a magnificent collection said to be the most important of its kind in the world. While the museum’s staff prepared for this momentous occasion, director Johannes Holzhausen set up shop alongside them to reveal the inner workings of the institution. Working and filming alongside the museum’s curators, conservators, registrars and administrators, he and his crew documented the daily interpersonal dramas that form the human soul of this imposing institution.
-- 11 October, 3:30pm, VUE Islington Cinema
-- 18 October, 1:00 pm, BFI Southbank, NFT2
Tense, touching and insightful realist drama about a young Chechen refugee trying to keep his head above water in suburban Vienna. This very impressive first feature by Iranian-Austrian documentarist Sudabeh Mortezai is an assured slice of realism about 11-year-old Ramasan (Minkailov), who lives with his mother (Gazieva) and sisters in Macondo, a Viennese suburb populated largely by refugees. In line with Chechen tradition, the boy – the one family member sufficiently fluent in German to deal with the immigration authorities – has taken responsibility for their well-being since his father vanished in the war in Chechnya. Then a man (Elbiev) turns up in the neighbourhood claiming to have been his dad’s best buddy. Mortezai’s psychologically astute handling of Ramasan’s predicament – should he trust the stranger? – and depiction of the world he inhabits are sympathetic yet unsentimental, so that the boy’s moral and physical welfare matter to us just minutes into the film. Not unlike the Dardennes’ work, the film conveys tenderness whilst gripping like a vice.
-- 12 October, 3:30pm, VUE West End Cinema
-- 13 October, 6:30pm, Curzon Soho Cinema
In The Basement
Ulrich Seidl (Paradise Trilogy, Import/Export) teasingly presents this documentary about fellow Austrians and the many strange things they do in basements. Through devilishly constructed sequences, Seidl probes themes of power and powerlessness, impotence, sublimated violence and rage. A dominatrix has her massive, hairy-backed ‘piggy’ lick a toilet bowl clean. A hunter talks about Wiener Schnitzel under a boar’s head. Powerless old white neo-Nazis spout ignorance and xenophobia about Austrians of Turkish descent raping ‘their’ women. An a older white woman secretly mothers lifeless dolls. Seidl uncomfortably straddles the line between fetishising and mocking his subjects, while his eye for photographic composition renders everything ‘ugly beautiful’. With shots so lusciously, precisely composed and characters too-strange-to-be-true, this is certain to incite debate about the nature of documentary; it’s real, or isn’t it? And do we care when filmmaking is this utterly brilliant?
-- 14 October, 8pm, National Film Theatre
Visit the BFI website for more information.