Late Fragment - An Interactive Film

Motovun Film Festival 2008

I write this at Heathrow, after over 36 hours of non stop wakefulness and generally disorganized and limited sleep (sleep is for the dead) and my thoughts are a touch decaffeinated. But here goes.

We arrived to Motovun July 29th, at 4am, finding ourselves atop a steep hill, within narrow, gnarly and medieval streets, greeting the Croatian sunrise with freshly deep-fried Croatian sausages. This nocturnal pattern of being would not change until we left the Glastonbury meets Sundance wondrous debauchery that is the Motovun Film Festival. I was expecting a cast of wildly gesticulating Eastern Europeans with molasses accents an scrunched under thought foreheads but, to my pure delight, found a vibrant crowd of 10% dreadlocked and fully hippified very pretty Croatians, four sweet and sexy Brits, our ridiculously delightful programmer Tanja, a crazy unwashed Frenchman we shall not discuss and a bunch of super serious Russians – all rumbling the confines of what feels like an ancient town baked like dough and then cracked by the sun. Ana, Tina and I slipped into a glamorously vampiric time (substituting alcohol for blood and sweaty bodies swirling around you for the perpetual transylvanian fog) and never ever looked back.

Motovun was founded as a rejection and reaction to mainstream H-wood cinema and it proudly maintains its indie, avant-guard, subversive roots while attracting so many people that they had to scale down advertisement of the fest to keep the crowds manageable. These crowds are young, fun and wild, and most of them camp in a little eco-village at the foothills of Motovun for the duration of the fest . We stayed in a beautiful rustic stone home from where we faced, often moaning, a 10 minute climb uphill to get to the center of the festivities. Motovun is one of the most important, sharply programmed and impeccably run fests in EU and for me, it was me of the favourite film festival experiences of all time.

Some highlights:

Indulging in Polyester dubbed into German and scratch-sniffing the original odorama cards.

The view from the top of Motovun, the sunrises and the early morning fog in the valley below.

Seeing Ken Russel eat truffles and then watching a juicy, scratchy, 35mm projection of Tommy in the tiny hours of the night.

Spending all hours of the day and the night with two amazing Filipinas.

Russian films that blew our minds to pulp.
Rusalka (Mermaid) is a whimsical yet raw film about a small town girl who one day stops talking, ends up in Moscow, discovers a telekinetic power to fulfill wishes, hangs with a legless woman, dies her hair green, falls in love with a nouveau-rich man who sells plots on the moon and when drunk attempts suicide and finally, she forces his soul split open. Cargo 200 (quoting from the fest programme) is “a brutal, bloody, Alan Fordesque thriller about a multiple crime that was committed in a small town on the last day of communism”. I was weirded out by how much the absurdity in this film was actually the hidelarious reality of living in the former USSR.

Medica and other strange potions.
Tina and I were instantly seduced by this magical honey brandy. It tastes like death, burns your throat but you can’t have enough of it. Then we discovered Bambook, which is red wine mixed with cola. yes, and as much as the idea repelled, the thing tasted good. There was also grape leaf alcohol and some kind of thick, bitter concotion Tina would rather forget but I will not.

Russendisco and other strange motions.
Dancing usually lasted till 4am. Russian disco was the best, but there was also techno, Balkan beats, Roma trumpets, a rock band made up of the programmers of the Warsaw, Prague and Sophia film festivals all named Stephan, and virtuosos of Yakutia.

The island of the Serbian.
By magical circumstances, we spent a day on the Island of Brijuni, in the company of Rade Serbedzjia, (the russian general on 24, Mr. Milich in Eyes Wide Shut, Athos in Fugitive Pieces and the star of my favourite Before the Rain). He brought us to Brijuni on his rubber boat, fed us, let us loose into the Adriatic sea and then we we were taken to The Fortress, a theatre company operating inside an old WWI former military complex conquered by nature and so phenomenally re-imagined as a stage and theatre I was left with my mouth wide open the entire time we watched the evening play.

Screening Late Fragment.
It took place, as most film screenings at Motovun, late at night, in the outdoor cinema atop the steep hill, under shooting stars and insects alternating with bats illuminated by projector fallout. The crowd was meaningful, some walked out but we had strong, excited feedback. They told us how much they enjoyed the complexities and stories of our film, which left them in deep discussion after, which was “mrak” (literally “dark” but used like “cool”). The next day we were challenged by two earnest German visual artist who proclaimed we were destroying the delicate souls of impressionable youth with our dark and violent film. Standing by a small commune of flies buzzing above one of their conceptual art pieces we listened to their rant and finally challenged right the fuck back their yearning for escapist, mind-numbing films that shelter people from facing anything substantial. I know they meant well though :) We also screened LF in Zagreb (in an offshoot of the Motovun fest) where we let the audience VJ the film, and for the first time ever, one of them managed the loop the film right back to the beginning, which was really cool because they got to see how it really works and how completely different the trajectories and meanings can be.

Motovun, the people, the dancing, the music, the atmosphere and the sausages – we miss you already and hope to be back next year.

Conversation:

  1. Anita,

    Awesome! Could not have written this better. Everything she wrote is true!!

    Ana

  2. everything is most definitely true and so nicely put. hedonistic debauchery at its worst! but alas, I see no mention of the charismatic and wily ziggmeister who dutifully climbed the steepest hills of Motovun with these gals =( maybe next year =)

  3. I’ve been to most of the Film Festivals as I spend months in Motovun every year.
    Your review is great, pretty accurate :)
    Hope to see you next year!
    PS the wine cola mix is called Bambus, and the reference made my liver hurt!!