Los Angeles' South East European Film Festival: 'The Other Irene'

The Other Irene
Nik Xhelilaj Alive
9:06 Igor Sterk
Secret Years Maria Takacs
Andrei Gruzsniczki's The Other Irene with Andi Vasluianu looking for his missing wife (top); Nik Xhelilaj in Artan Minarolli's Alive!, about Albanian blood feuds (upper middle); Igor Sterk's 9:06, an unusual suicide case (lower middle); Maria Takacs' Secret Years featuring closeted lesbians during Communism (bottom)

The 5th SEE Fest – Los Angeles' South East European Film Festival – will take place at the Goethe-Institut Los Angeles and UCLA's James Bridges Theatre from April 29 through May 3. According to its organizers, SEE Fest is the only festival in the United States dedicated to movies made in that (very, very) culturally diverse part of the world. [SEE Fest highlights]

Among this year's screening films are Artan Minarolli's Alive!, an examination of the consequences of a certain type of traditional family values – blood feuds – in Albania; Marianna Economou's Bells, Threads & Miracles, about curious happenings at the St. George Monastery on the Princes' Islands of Turkey, where 100,000 Muslims come pray for miracles at a Christian Orthodox church; and Atil Inaç's A Step into the Darkness, best film winner at the 2010 Tiburon (Calif.) Film Festival, in which a Iraq War refugee in Istanbul becomes enmeshed with radical ideologues.

Also, Andrei Gruzsniczki's The Other Irene, a mystery-cum-political drama in which a Romanian husband (Andi Vasluianu) meets all sorts of bureaucratic obstacles while searching for his missing wife; Mariá Takács' Secret Years, in which Hungarian lesbians remember what life was like under Communism; Igor Sterk's 9:06, a psychological drama in which a Slovenian police inspector (Igor Samobor) becomes obsessed with an unusual suicide case; and Boris Mitic's humorous documentary about life in Serbia in the last two decades, Goodbye, How are you?

Additionally, SEE Fest will be hosting its 2nd annual Business Conference on South East Europe's cinema on May 3 from 9am-1pm at the Center for Managing Enterprises in Media, Entertainment & Sports (MEMES) at UCLA's Anderson School of Management complex. The SEE Fest Business Conference is described as “a half-day seminar on packaging and financing international productions, producing in South East Europe, and the role of new media in distribution of foreign films.”

The 5th annual SEE Fest runs from Thursday, April 29 through Monday, May 3, 2010. Screenings April 29 & 30 start at 6:30pm, May 1 & 2 start at 1:00pm and will be held at the Goethe-Institut Los Angeles, 5750 Wilshire Blvd. Suite 100, Los Angeles, Ca. 90036.

The festival's closing night will take place on Monday, May 3rd, at 6:30pm at the James Bridges Theatre on the UCLA campus in Westwood.

For tickets and further information go to www.seefilmla.org, or www.itsmyseat.com (SEE Fest).

Los Angeles' 2010 South East European Film Festival highlights. (Above, Alive! director Artan Minarolli discusses films while at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival.) Film information from the SEE Fest's press release:

GOODBYE, HOW ARE YOU? (Dovidjenja, kako ste?), Serbia 2009, doc, 60 min. Directed by Boris Mitic. 
The cult filmmaker of Pretty Dyana (SEE Fest 2006) is back with a terrific documentary whose narrative comprises darkly satirical aphorisms and commentary on the lives and times of the Serbian people in the last two decades. The subversive genius of Balkan humor is in abundant evidence, matched with images of daily existence that are both funny and nihilistic.

ALIVE! (Gjalle!), Albania 2009, feature, 90 min. Directed by Artan Minarolli. 
From the director of the elegiac “Moonless Night” (SEE Fest 2008) comes a powerful story about a blood feud that entangles a young student in a web of complicated relationships stemming from an antiquated tribal code. “Alive!” has an excellent ensemble cast and a pitch-perfect atmosphere of uncertainty until the very end.

THE BLACKS (Crnci), Croatia 2009, feature, 75 min. Directed by Zvonimir Juric and Goran Devic
War. A city under siege. A truce has been signed, and the special ops squad known as “The Blacks” is about to be disbanded. Despite the cease-fire, the squad commander plans a maneuver to destroy an enemy dam while retrieving the dead bodies of his soldiers from a mine-strewn forest. Although the surviving members of the squad are tortured by their personal doubts and guilt, they move into action behind their leader….  

THE OTHER IRENE (Cealalta Irina) Romania 2008, feature, 90 min. Directed by Andrei Gruzsniczki. 
Sharing themes as it does with some of the finest European thrillers, it is hard to believe that The Other Irene is, in fact, based on a true story. Reluctantly, security guard Aurel (Vasluianu) lets his wife Irene go on a working trip to Cairo. Having had a breath of fresh air, she returns transformed and soon sets out again – but this time she does not come back. Now Aurel's true ordeal begins as he sets out on his own journey: a search for his wife amidst suspicious bureaucrats, corrupt ministers and diffident in-laws. The Other Irene reveals the intransigence of Romanian political and bureaucratic institutions even after the fall of Communism. The film's crisp cinematography, especially apparent in the mall where Aurel works, beautifully emphasizes the main character's solitude, and actor Andi Vasluianu performs the brooding desperation of his character with incredible delicacy. Ronnie Scheib of Variety describes the film as “a cross between The Vanishing and Jeanne Dielman”.

SECRET YEARS (Eltitkolt èvek), Hungary 2009, doc, 90 min. Directed by Mariá Takács. 
In Secret Years, Hungarian lesbians reflect on their experiences living through the years of Communism. Ranging in age from 45 to 70 years old, these women vividly remember the repression of the 1960s and 70s, when they were forced to hide their true identities and could only “be themselves” at secret clubs and picnics. In this powerful documentary, these courageous women proudly reminisce at the methods used to get through some of the toughest times of their lives.

9:06, Slovenia  2009, feature, 71 min. Directed by Igor Sterk. 
This first-rate psychological drama, directed with masterful precision, takes us to Ljubljana, where police inspector Dusan (in a terrific performance by Igor Samobor) investigates an unusual suicide case. His investigation gradually turns into obsession, and he surreptitiously moves into the apartment of the deceased, delving deeper into the man's life and gradually assuming his identity.

A STEP INTO THE DARKNESS (Buyuk oyun), Turkey 2009, feature, 110 min. Directed by Atil Inaç.
How dangerous do you become when you have nothing left to lose? A young Turkmen girl is the sole survivor of a panicked raid on a village in northern Iraq. Desperate to track down her older brother in Turkey, the only other family member still alive, she sets off on an arduous journey over inhospitable terrain. Rescued only to be assaulted by her rescuer, she eventually finds herself, having lost everything, in the clutches of a charismatic religious figure who views her as an expendable weapon in his own violent agenda.

BELLS, THREADS & MIRACLES, Greece 2008, doc, 65 min. Directed by Marianna Economou.
Is something miraculous happening at the St. George Monastery on the Princes' Islands of Turkey? Every year, on the Saint's name day, over 100,000 Muslims visit the Greek Orthodox monastery to pray for a miracle. Are miracles possible in our times? Can Christians and Muslims meet and bond through a common faith? Bells, Threads & Miracles explores the seemingly universal human need to believe in miracles.

TRANSITLAND, 1989-2009 Presented by lead curator from Berlin, Kathy Rae Huffman. 
Transitland is a collaborative archiving project initiated on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. A selection of 100 single-channel video works reflects the transformations in post-socialist Central and Eastern Europe. Transitland is not only the widest-spanning presentation of video art from Central and Eastern Europe but also a unique attempt to address and reflect upon an extensive period of transformation and changes.

Photos: SEE Fest

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1 Comment to Los Angeles' South East European Film Festival: 'The Other Irene'

  1. Alex Christopoulos

    Calling all film lovers in Los Angeles!

    On May 15th, we will be creating the trailer for this year's Los Angeles Film Festival, shooting interviews with people from all over Los Angeles about their passion for movies.

    What moves you? What's your favorite movie, scene, actor or director? Your earliest memory of going to the theatre? Your favorite action scene? Love blockbusters, documentaries, obscure French cinema? Comedy, horror, drama? Whatever your passion, we want to hear from you.

    We're not looking for actors. This is not a performance. We want you to be yourself. Tell us off the cuff and from the heart what you love, what you hate, what makes you laugh, what makes you scared, what makes you cry. Our mission is to express the diversity of people, opinions and films in Los Angeles while unifying them all under one common emotion: The passion for movies.

    Dozens of these interviews will be cut together into a series of trailers that will screen before the films at the festival.

    We are looking for volunteers, there is no pay but it is a great opportunity.

    To sign up, email our casting director with the information below. If you're selected, we'll contact you with all the specifics.

    Alex Christopoulos, casting director
    Shoot date: May 15
    Location: Woodland Hills, CA

    Please include:

    1. Name
    2. Profession
    3. Phone Contact
    4. Snapshot of yourself (no head shots required!)
    5. Top 3 favorite films

    6. What do you feel passionate about and why?

    7. Do you speak a language other than English? if so, which one?

    8. Have you attended the LA Film Festival before? If yes, describe any movies or experiences you remember fondly. To jog your memory, here's a list of highlights from the festival over the years: https://sites.google.com/site/laffcasting/home

    Thank you for taking the time to participate. We look forward to hearing from you!

    Please forward to anyone else that might be interested in taking part.

    Please submit by Friday May 7th.


    Rebecca Yeldham
    Festival Director
    The Los Angeles Film Festival