With a full house and sold-out tickets, this year’s 23rd European Film Festival was a success. Hosted by Metropolis Cinema under the Ministry of Culture from January 26 to February 6, the event featured films from a great number of countries such as Belgium, Slovakia, Spain, Denmark, Italy, France, and Britain.
Featured during the first day’s program was Xavier Dolan’s latest film, “It’s Only the End of The World,” which won the Jury Prize at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival. The young writer/director replaced his usual Canadian cast with a list of famous French names: Marion Cotillard, Gaspard Ulliel, Vincent Cassel, and Lea Seydoux.
One of the three Italian films screened at the festival was Paolo Genovese’s “Perfect Strangers,” a dramedy which follows a group of friends around a dinner table as they decide to read each other’s text messages aloud during the evening. At times hilarious, at times heartbreaking, the film surprises its audience with truthfulness and the realization that our whole lives, and secrets, are contained in small electronic devices.
By the end of the movie, we uncover a darker side to the characters and watch their relationships deteriorate. As he tracks contemporary life, Genovese positions his camera in the last remaining seat of the table, as a way of including the audience in the conversation. In Italy, the director’s latest film is said to be a successful attempt at reviving the typical Italian comedy style of the 1950s.
Ken Loach’s “I, Daniel Blake,” a Palme D’or winner and BAFTA nominated film, was featured twice at the European Film Festival. This touching picture is an outcry and a revolt against the bureaucratic system, as well as the picking out of the weak in today’s society. Daniel Blake is recovering from a heart attack and seeking allowance from the State, which disregards his inabilities and that of his friend, a helpless mother of two. This film is a bold Kafkaesque critique of a nightmarish, unforgiving social system.
The festival is one of many festivals that have recently been providing a platform in Lebanon for foreign and independent films, which are important works of art to consider beyond the size of the venues they are being played in. The public is fortunately responding very well to these initiatives.