Tuesday, May 07, 2013

BHFF ’13: Shorts Sampler

A film ought to be just long enough to tell its story.  While Hollywood has not conditioned audiences to think of short films as star vehicles, the better ones have much more power than a padded feature.  In fact, several big name filmmakers found twenty minutes was about the right length to tell some important stories.  As a result, those who follow the international festival scene will be particularly interested in a number of the short films selected for the 2013 Bosnian Herzegovinian Film Festival in New York.

As an Academy Award winner, Danis Tanović is truly a filmmaker of international stature.  A past alumnus of the festival with Cirkus Columbia, Tanović again revisits the Bosnian War and its painful aftermath.  Amir survived the war, ultimately settling in Scandinavia.  He has returned to Bosnia hoping to recover his parents’ remains, but sadly, reports of their discovery prove false.  Revisiting his former hometown, he comes face to face with the war’s flesh-and-blood ghosts.

Not only is Baggage (trailer here) is more visually dynamic than Cirkus (thanks in part to cinematographer Erol Zubcevic’s stylish work), it taps into far deeper emotions.  Despite his grim subject matter, Tanović portrays both sides of human nature, producing an unusually resonant film (that might just overshadow the feature it precedes).

The man known to friends as Zizi is no celebrity.  He is a good-natured everyman, whose nickname is untranslatable in a family outlet such as this.  Director Nedžad Begović however, also made the international festival rounds with Jasmina, another past BHFF selection.  His simply but aptly titled documentary profile Zizi allows his subject to tell his story, through his own words and anecdotes.  Zizi proudly proclaims his love for Italy, where he was sheltered as a teenager, but he returned to help forge a new Bosnia.  Even more than Baggage, it is a hopeful film—a quality that has sometimes been in short supply at previous festivals, for understandable reasons.

Ante Novaković has certainly worked behind the scenes of dozens of films viewers know quite well.  For The Fix (trailer here) he also recruited a familiar face, Armand Assante, who portrays Vincent, a gangster kingpin nobody wants to have a sit-down with.  Unfortunately, two incompetent thugs will have to have the big talk.  Fix is not a groundbreaker, but it is entertaining.  It is especially nice to see Assante, Mike Hammer in 1982’s I, the Jury, can still bring his tough guy thing.

BHFF has a strong track record for programming short, but this year’s slate is especially notable.  Very highly recommended, Tanović’s Baggage screens this Friday (5/10) with Krivina (a bit of a tougher sell) as part of Block #3.  Upbeat and likable, Zizi screens later that same evening, as part of block #4.  Perhaps the most commercial and accessible selection of any length, The Fix screens this Thursday (5/9) as part of Block #2.  As always, BHFF is always one of the City’s friendliest and most welcoming festivals, showcasing some of the most serious and sensitively rendered films.  Recommended as the cure for a Tribeca hangover, this year’s edition gets underway Thursday at the Tribeca Cinemas.