Crossing borders in Rotterdam
by Boyd van Hoeij
Borders of all sorts are erected and torn down in films currently playing in the International Film Festival Rotterdam.
In the Spectrum section comes maybe its most straightforward example, Jaroslav Vojtek’s documentary The Border, which looks at the village of Slemence, which was cut in two after WWII, with half becoming part of Czechoslovakia, with the other half going to Ukraine. The villagers, of ethnic Hungarian descent, could only visit their relatives and neighbours on the side after obtaining a special visa in a town 150 kilometres away.
When Slovakia entered the EU and rectified the Schengen agreement, the heavily patrolled border was modernized, and finally anyone in possession of a simple passport was allowed to cross in the village itself, but the results are not only positive, as smuggling cheap cigarettes and petrol seems to become more important than visiting family.
Filmed with simple means over several years, the scenes of desperate relatives shouting across man-made barriers might have become commonplace in East/West iconography, but Vojtek and co-screenwriter Marek Lescak (who also worked on Cannes title Blind Loves [+see also:
film profile]) never lose sight of the human tragedy caused by bureaucratic folly.
The film was produced and is sold by Slovakia-based Leon Productions.
Life in a small and divided community is also at the centre of C’est Déjà L’été (“It’s Already Summer”), the Tiger Award entry from Dutch director Martijn Maria Smits, who went south of the border to film his debut in the post-industrial town Seraing, in French-speaking Belgium.
More famous as the home of the films of the Dardenne brothers, Seraing offers a bleak and desolate backdrop to Smits’ story of an unemployed father, his prepubescent son who’s lost his moral bearings, and his daughter, who has a child from a lover who’s behind bars.
Filmed in shaky digital video, Smits examines the unhealthy family dynamics in which each person essentially exploring and defending their own borders. Faux artistic super-8 shots and music provide character insight as well as some relief from the film’s unrelenting dreariness.
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