Anca Miruna Lăzărescu

Born in Timisoara, Romania, Anca Lăzărescu immigrated with her family to Germany in 1990. She studied at the German Academy for Film and Television in Munich and has directed several documentary and short films. Her graduation short, Silent River (2011), was invited to over 300 international festivals and won more then 80 awards. Anca also spent time abroad volunteering in an Israeli kibbutz and completing an internship at CNN and on the comedy series Scrubs in Los Angeles. That Trip We Took With Dad is her first fiction feature. Filmography: Bucharest-Berlin (short), 2004; Salma Beneath Two Skies (short), 2005; The Secret of Deva (short), 2007; One Day Today Will Be Once (short), 2009; Silent River (short), 2011; That Trip We Took With Dad, 2016

Florian Eichinger

Florian Eichinger started as a TV editor in the 1990s. After directing commercials and music videos, his theatrical feature films Without You I Am Nothing and Nordstrand were invited to numerous international film festivals and won several national and international awards. Eichinger’s films ‘question gender stereotypes and aim to explore human complexity against the background of interpersonal conflicts.’ Filmography: Der letzte Geselle (short), 2006; Without You I Am Nothing, 2008; Nordstrand, 2013; Hands of a Mother, 2016

Amit V. Masurkar

Amit V. Masurkar was born and raised in Mumbai, where he still resides. He dropped out of an engineering course at Manipal Institute of Technology at the age of 20 to pursue filmmaking. He later acquired a BA degree in History from Mumbai University. Masurkar has written for sketch comedy shows and Bollywood films. His directorial debut, a USA-India coproduction, was the ultra-low-budget comedy, Sulemani Keeda, which became an indie sleeper hit. Newton is his second film. Filmography: Sulemani Keeda, 2014; Newton, 2017

Winter Flies

Two mismatched boys in a stolen Audi wend their way clear across the Czech Republic in Olmo Omerzu’s road movie, an alternately melancholic and uplifting tale that won the Czech Lion (the Czech equivalent of the Oscar) for Best Film earlier this year and netted Omerzu the Best Director award at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival in 2018. Equally playful and hard-edged, funny and poignant, the film follows 14-year-old Mára (newcomer Tomáš Mrvík in a star-making turn), a supposedly tough skinhead, and 12-year-old Heduš (Jan František Uher, irresistible), a chubby sidekick dressed in camouflage clothing and carrying a BB gun, as they make their way to Mára’s revered grandfather’s home. What they are running away from is never made explicit, but the journey’s the thing: along the way they acquire an unwanted dog, lust after and eventually befriend a lovely young hitchhiker (Eliška Křenková), and learn some hard life lessons. Omerzu’s introduction of a little magic realism into this special coming-of-age narrative gives it the wings that allow it to soar…

‘Delightfully unsentimental… [Cinematographer] Lukáš Milota frames the action impeccably, with hard, desaturated imagery never romancing the dismal, drizzly roadside locations, while still having a sullen beauty that also complements [the film’s] moments of deadpan humour… There are moments of magic and moments of mayhem, but the emotional effect of this you-and-me-against-the-world story is a piercingly bittersweet melancholy that anyone ever has to grow up…’—Jessica Kiang, Variety

Willy the 1st

Winner of the Prix d’Ornano for Best French Debut as judged by foreign film journalists in France, Ludovic Boukherma, Zoran Boukherma, Marielle Gautier, and Hugo P. Thomas’ dramatic comedy is a funny and ultimately deeply affecting amalgam of fiction and reality based on the life of non-professional actor Daniel Vannet. He plays Willy, a slow, socially challenged 50-year-old man who lives with his twin brother Michel (Vannet again) and their parents on a hardscrabble farm in Normandy. After Michel hangs himself, Willy is bereft—doubly so when his parents say they are going to institutionalise him. ‘Get stuffed!’, he says. ‘I will have a place of my own, a scooter, and some friends!’ And off he goes…

At the centre of this droll, poignant, and visually ambitious film is a fantastic and totally realistic performance from Vannet. As he tells us in a voiceover at the beginning, his twin brother and only companion really did hang himself. Locals play extras and the depressed town of Caudebec is shown in a realistic light (one charming joke has Willy seeing Caudebec as the metropolis of his dreams). The film doesn’t sugar-coat anything: Willy is not a sentimental caricature (in fact, he can be frightening when angry) and small-town attitudes—homophobic and otherwise—are shown for what they are. As Willy grapples with the vagaries of life on his own, a moving portrait of a tragically stunted man (Vannet only learned to read at 45) coming to life emerges. You can’t help but be affected. ‘[Vannet] delivers a touching and vanity-free performance that combines understated melancholy with deadpan drolleries.’—Boyd van Hoeij, Hollywood Reporter

Hands of a Mother

Winner of the Young German Cinema Award for Best Director as well as the Best Actor prize (for lead Andreas Döhler) at the Munich Film Festival, Florian Eichinger’s perfectly acted drama is a rare thing these days: a film for thinking adults that confronts a difficult subject—parental child abuse—with intelligence and compassion, while eschewing any hints of melodramatic histrionics.

On a boat cruise, 39-year-old husband and father Markus (Döhler, doing a marvellous job in a very demanding role) is struck by a memory. He comes to realise that his mother, Renate (Katrin Pollitt), sexually abused him when he was a child. (Statistics suggest that in about 10 to 20 per cent of sexual-abuse cases, the perpetrators are women and female teenagers.) To his surprise, his mother immediately admits her crimes. How does one come to terms with such a thing? This is the gist of Eichinger’s fine film as he explores the psychological and professional fallout for Markus and everyone in his family, including his wife, Monika (a superb Jessica Schwarz) and, not least, Renate herself. Amongst many other admirable qualities, the film is notable in that it never caricatures anyone. Yes, there are some shocking moments, but they are perfectly justified and well earned. The film also has masterly pacing: there is a tension running throughout suggesting that things may explode in a heartbeat. And, finally, Eichinger and his great cast have such confidence in what they are doing that there is not a single exploitative moment in the whole film. Remarkable!


India’s submission for the Best Foreign-Language Film Academy Award in 2017, Amit V. Masurkar’s darkly comic political satire centres on Newton Kumar (Indian star Rajkummar Rao), an idealistic government clerk entrusted with a task that appears deceptively simple: conducting elections in a remote village in the jungles of central India, where there are less than 100 potential voters. But the bushes are full of Communist guerrillas engaged in armed insurrection, the security force charged with protecting Newton’s team is openly hostile, and the indigenous locals are both afraid of guerrilla reprisals for voting and totally in the dark as to who the candidates actually are. ‘Free and fair elections’ in a minefield like this will require all the moxie Newton can muster, for, as they say in the jungle, ‘The more things change, the worse they will get’.

‘The subversive genius of Amit V. Masurkar’s sophomore feature Newton is how it brings out the best and the worst of the electoral system in the form of an offbeat comedy… This smart indie is amusing all the way to its bittersweet conclusion. The professional cast is well-versed in ironic social nuance. Both exasperating and endearing in the title role, Rao again shows he is a chameleon actor whose gift for poker-faced comedy revs up the figure of a rigid young civil servant.’—Deborah Young, Hollywood Reporter

The Line

Winner of the Best Director award at the 2017 Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, Peter Bebjak’s thriller is all about crossing ‘lines’—both physical and moral—and the tragic consequences for doing so in the no-man’s-land straddling the Slovak Republic-Ukraine border. It’s 2007 and the Slovak Republic is about to join the European Union, something that could prove deadly for Adam (a riveting Tomáš Maštalír) and his cigarette-smuggling business. A husband and a father with a moral code—no involvement with hard drugs for him and his team—Adam is an anachronism, especially in relation to his thoroughly immoral, no-holds-barred Ukrainian rival across the border. With change coming, the stakes rising, and betrayal looming, Adam is backed into a corner…

‘Redolent of The Godfather and The Sopranos with a soupçon of Animal Kingdom and a welcome dose of black humour, The Line is an entertaining, fast-paced crime thriller… [It] leaps to the top of its genre class with muscular direction from Slovak director Peter Bebjak; a genre-savvy screenplay by Peter Balko; unusual locations spectacularly captured; a propulsive score; and impressive performances, in particular, a go-for-broke, extremely physical turn from Slovak theatre and TV star Tomáš Maštalír as the lead.’—Alissa Simon, Variety

The Dragon Defense

First-time director Natalia Santa’s droll drama about three middle-aged men whose friendship centres on chess manages to draw trenchant parallels between the careworn lives of its protagonists and the shabby bars, cafés, casinos, and chess clubs (including the famous Lasker club) that continue to age (dis)gracefully on the streets of Bogotá. Samuel (Gonzalo di Sagarminaga, who also wrote the score), an underemployed math tutor and divorced father, spends most of his time playing chess and avoiding romantic involvement, much as his buddies Marcos (Manuel Navarro) and Joaquin (Hernan Mendez) do. Something has to change… Drawing comparisons with the work of Aki Kaurismäki for its melancholic charm and affably down-at-heal characters, The Dragon Defense also displays Santa’s intuitive way with composition and imagery.

‘Santa harvests quiet moments of humanity and poetry from the humdrum lives of [the] three washed-up older men… The Dragon Defense’s keen sense of how people can be moulded by their environment until they become part of the background is refreshingly original and conveyed with real directorial panache… [This is] a film whose charms build by slow accretion—not least of them the friendship of these three rather pointless but still oddly engaging men. Santa’s direction is confident, especially in terms of the rhythm and pacing.’—Lee Marshall, Screen

That Trip We Took With Dad

Set amidst the turbulent events of 1968 in Eastern Europe—the crushing of the Prague Spring by the Russian Army, the consolidation of power by future Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu—writer-director Anca Miruna Lăzărescu’s moving and funny dramatic comedy draws on her own father’s story for a road-trip tale unlike any other. Romanians of German background, family Reinholtz consists of curmudgeonly father William (Ovidiu Schumacher) and sons Mihai (Alex Mărgineanu), a conflicted doctor, and younger firebrand Emil (Răzvan Enciu). When Dad becomes ill and requires special surgery, the trio embarks on a trip to Germany—and things go awry almost immediately, as their arrival in Czechoslovakia coincides with the movement of a column of Russian tanks… The humour on display here is pointed, while the contradictions and confusions of life in the Eastern Bloc are laid bare. The film’s thorough grounding in period detail also adds immensely to its charm and poignancy.

‘A warm and engaging family dramedy… Lăzărescu displays a talent for moving between humour, drama, and tragedy and an eye for framing a moment—whether it is the sight of the Skoda on the road with a tank or the boys getting there hands on more Western LPs than they ever dreamed possible. The period is recreated in detail and given a burnished glow by cinematographer Christian Stangassinger’s warm cinematography.’—Amber Wilkinson, Eye for Film