17 critically acclaimed European films at your fingertips
We are grateful for “virtual cinemas” this pandemic and a special shout out to the Delegation of the European Union, the EU member states, and the different EU cultural institutes for giving cinephiles an avenue to watch European art films since they brought Cine Europa to the Filipino audience in 1997.
Cine Europa was where my awareness of critically acclaimed European films began as on the big screen, I watched the likes of Breaking the Waves (1996), Character (1997), Run Lola Run (1998), and The Celebration (1998) at the Shangri-La Cineplex.
Now on its 24th year, Cine Europa brings in 17 award-winning films for free. One just has to sign up at www.cineeuropaph.com.
Online, we caught some of the films that competed at the Cannes Film Festival, the Sundance Film Festival, and the Mar del Plata International Film Festival.
O Que Arde (Fire Will Come) won the international competition at the 34th Mar del Plata Film Festival in Argentina. The biggest revelation of this film is 86-year-old Benedicta Sánchez who won the Best New Actress at The Goya Awards, Spain’s version of The Oscars. With no formal training, Benedicta plays a mother who lives in a farm taking care of cows. She welcomes her arsonist son (Amador Arias Mon) back as they struggle to survive in the woods. The film won the Jury Prize in Un Certain Regard at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival.
Aurora chronicles the life of a Finnish party girl and manicurist (qualified nail technician) played by Mimosa Williamo who is unhappy with her work and her father. She meets an Iranian refugee Darian (Amir Escandari) in a food joint and learns that to get an asylum, he needs to marry for the sake of his eight-year-old daughter. There is a silent admiration between the two but Aurora’s drinking problem, which she denies, is one of obstacles to the two of them having a committed relationship. In one of their fights, Darian confronts Aurora and says, “I’m sorry for myself” for loving her. Aurora tries to make amends after her frost bite hospital stint but it looks like only one of them will have happy ending.
Now showing at Cine Europa are some of the films that competed at the Cannes Film Festival, the Sundance Film Festival, and the Mar del Plata International Film Festival.
Nos Batailles (Our Struggles) from Belgium is a drama involving Olivier (Romain Duris), a hard-working union employee at a “department store” warehouse. He is suddenly displaced when his wife abandons him and their two kids. Will he succeed as a single father? Good thing his mother and sister come to the house to help out and bring order. Meanwhile, the absentee mother even sends a postcard from Wissant, a place where she grew up. Olivier tries hard to fill in the gap but still the kids miss their mother to the point of running away and the youngest sadly confessing, “We didn’t find Maman.” The film, one hour and 38 minutes, is a big winner in the 2019 Magritte Awards in Belgium.
“I want to keep you safe, you’re my children,” says Gica Enache to his nine children in Acasă, My Home, a 2020 Sundance’s World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award for Cinematography. Director Radu Ciorniciuc films a family in Bucharest Delta as they live in harmony with Mother Nature but a drone shot reveals they are “squatting” on a popular nature reserve. Even Prince Charles comes for a visit to do a tree planting activity with them. The Enache family has been living in the reserve for 18 years with no electricity. There is nothing “decent” in their lifestyle—they burn their garbage, which can cause forest fires and they sleep together with their chickens and pigeons in their shanty house.
Local government and child services force them to leave and adjust to a suburban life. They stay in a dilapidated apartment and the kids are having a hard time adjusting. Gica’s health has deteriorated. Vani reports to his father, “They made us tear the house.” Indeed, city life dislocated and imprisoned the Enache family.
If you want to attend a typical homeowners’ association meeting, there is Vlastníci, adapted from the play The Society of Owners and directed by Jirí Havelka. At one long table, a simple vote from the owners result in a grueling exchange where personal issues take over the common good. The construction of an elevator, touching the attic, homosexuality, the death of an owner, following the bylaws are some the issues in this ruckus in this 97-minute Czech humor film. Mrs. Zahrádková (Tereza Ramba) is in a beast mode near the end of the film but the wisest among them are Cermák brothers who volunteered not to bother anyone just as long they sign a blank paper for a power of attorney. Danger is coming!
Cine Europa 24 runs until Sept. 29, 2021. www.cineeuropaph.com.