Jitters in Kaunas for KIFF’s fifth edition
by Boyd van Hoeij
07/10/2011 - Currently in its fifth edition, the Kaunas International Film Festival (KIFF), kicked off September 27 with a screening of The Field of Magic from local director Mindaugas Survila. The festival, which takes place in the second biggest city of Lithuania, showcases the best of current world cinema as well as special programmes including a filmmaking workshop with Hungarian cinema legend Béla Tarr. The festival continues through Sunday.
Heavyweights screened in Kaunas include Berlinale titles The Turin Horse [trailer, film focus] and A Separation, Gus Van Sant’s Restless and Caméra d’Or winner Las Acacias [trailer] from Cannes, and Spanish foreign language Oscar submission Black Bread [trailer].
But the heart of Kaunas’ programming consists of smaller discoveries, such as the delicate Icelandic coming-of-age film Jitters [trailer]. The first film from director Baldvin Zophoníasson looks at a summer when everything changed for Gabriel (Atli Oskar Fjalarsson), an Icelandic teenager who’s sent to Manchester for three weeks to follow a special language programme for three weeks.
His roommate in Manchester is his fellow Icelander Markus (Haraldur Ari Stefánsson), an aspiring hairdresser. Things go haywire when the couple get very drunk and share a furtive kiss before returning home, where Gabriel is immediately so absorbed again by his attention-craving group of friends that he has little time to figure out what it all means.
The well-observed screenplay stays close to the teenagers’ point-of-view, and all of them seem to struggle with their parents or caretakers, with asserting their independence and defining their own identity.
Almost constantly on screen, Fjalarsson is perfectly cast as the uncertain teen who’s a good listener and thus attracts the attention of guys who want to be his friend and girls who want to be his girlfriend. The supporting cast of fresh faces is also strong.