Here Are the Highlights of Espoo Ciné Film Festival

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Eisenstein in Guanajuoto is one of the highlights of the year’s Espoo Ciné. Picture: Elmer Bäck. © Submarine 2015

A Helsinki summer is not complete without a visit to the leafy environs of Espoo Ciné film festival. As usual, the only dilemma is choosing which films to see from the broad range of debut features, classics, documentaries, and the work of both up-and-coming and established film-makers.

Kicking off the festival on August 21st, is 45 Years, by the acclaimed British director, Andrew Haigh, starring the ever-graceful and compelling Charlotte Rampling in a story about buried secrets coming disturbingly to the surface. Rounding off the festival on August 30th, British auteur Peter Greenaway will attend a screening of his latest, Eisenstein in Guanajuato: a vivid and characteristically theatrical production that presents a colourful account of ten days Sergei Eisenstein spent exploring life, sex, and death in Mexico with a film-debut by innovative Finnish theatre actor Elmer Bäck as the iconic Soviet director.

The open-air screenings include Chocolat, screened on the Tapiola Aurinkoterassi on the eve of the festival, and a great chance to see Bergman and Bogart on the big outdoor screen in Casablanca on Saturday August 29th.

Other big features include a number of films by Scandinavian directors, including Liv Ullman’s transposition from Sweden to nineteenth-century Ireland of Strindberg’s Miss Julie, starring Colin Farrell, Jessica Chastain, and Samantha Morton in the classic tale of ill-fated desire and class tension on a midsummer eve. Denmark’s Thomas Vinterberg (director of the incredible Festen, Submarino, and The Hunt) offers us an adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s Far From the Madding Crowd, starring Carey Mulligan as the hapless heroine with a steep learning curve, Bathsheba Everdene, alongside Matthias Shoenaerts, Michael Sheen, and Tom Sturridge as her pastoral, noble, and roguish suitors.

Austria receives special focus this year, with tales ranging from nineteenth-century Romantic suicide pacts (Jessica Hausner’s Amour Fou), a ghoulish client on the couch of Sigmund Freud (David Ruehm’s Therapy for a Vampire), and Helen Mirren starring as a Jewish refugee from World War II who after many years finally reclaims a precious family painting – The Woman in Gold. While Espoo’s annual horror category debuts Severin Fiala and Veronkia Franz’s uncanny psychological thriller, Goodnight Mommy, the controversial and black-humoured documentary work of director Ulrich Seidl is celebrated with a screening of his recent In the Basement and Constantin Wulff’s Ulrich Seidl – A Director at Work, which looks at the making of Seidl’s documentary about the curious and kinky world of Austrian basements.

We asked three of Finland’s most critically acclaimed, incisive, and creative films directors and screen-writers for their tips on what to see at Espoo Ciné this year.

Jenni Toivoniemi – director The Date (2012), writer Korso (2014):

  • Amour Fou (Jessica Hausner)
  • In the Basement (Ulrich Seidl)
  • Goodnight Mommy (Veronkia Franz and Severin Fiala)
  • Chrieg (Simon Jakumet): a documentary by the Swiss director about violence, revolt and alienation in the lives of modern-day adolescents.
  • Bikes Vs Cars (Frederick Gertten): a documentary by the Swedish director about the contemporary eco-politics of transport.

Jan Forsström – director The Princess of Egypt (2013), writer Hyvä Poika/The Good Son (2011):

  • 45 Years (Andrew Haigh): “From the maker of the lauded, intimate gay drama Weekend comes this Berlinale-hyped film about a marital crisis.”
  • One Floor Below (Radu Muntean): “Romanian cinema is still going strong! The latest from Muntean, who specializes in understated but effective films about the Romanian middle class.”

Kaisa El Ramly – actor, and director A Seat With a View (2014):

  • Between Dog and Wolf: The New Model Army Story (Matt Reid): documentary about legendary British post-punk band.
  • A Blast (Sillas Tzumerkas): drama set against the backdrop of the contemporary Greek economic crisis – “After Dogtooth I just go and see all Greek films, I am bewitched by them.”
  • Body (Malgorzata Szumoska): Polish director’s tale of the mystery of body and soul, loss and the afterlife.
  • Chuck Norris Vs Communism (Ilinca Calugareanu): engaging documentary by Romanian director about how an underground VHS market in Hollywood films aided the toppling of Ceausescu’s communist rule in the 1980s.
  • Dora or the Sexual Neuroses of Our Parents (Stina Werenfels): a young woman with learning disabilities explores her sexuality – “An important subject I think, interesting to see how it is dealt with.”
  • Dreamcatcher (Kim Longinotto): a Sundance Film Festival award-winning documentary about Brenda Myers-Powell and her work helping sex workers leave the industry.
  • Drift (Benny Vandendriessche): a man’s journey through life in post-communism Romania.
  • The High Sun (Dalibor Matanic): a tale of war-crossed lovers during the agonizing times of the war in former Yugoslavia.
  • Miss Julie (Liv Ullman): “Ullman and Strindberg, interesting pair.”
  • The Spiderweb House (Maria Eibl-Eibesfeldt): a modern day fairy-tale that mixes the magical thinking of children with harsh social realities.
  • We Are Young. We Are Strong (Burhan Qurbani): a drama about different lives in the wake of the German race riots of 1992 – “Interesting to see due to the racism ‘discussions’ currently happening in Finland.”

All films cited here are either in English or have English subtitles.

More Info

Espoo Ciné international film festival is held from August 21 to 30 2015. During the 10-day festival over 100 feature films are screened to the cinema-loving public in four different locations with attendance figures over 25.000 each year.

For further information on the films and the festival programme, go here.