The European Independent Film Festival (ECU) took place recently at the Grand Action cinema in Paris’ 5th arrondissement. The festival was a rousing success, judging by turnout, selection and general enthusiasm. Hollywood studios have been retrenching, sending young US moviemakers scrambling, but in Europe the indie scene has the infectious atmosphere of a still-emerging movement. There were in fact many young Americans and English-speaking participants at the ECU, setting the tone with their red tee-shirts and fizzy banter. They were joined by European film-makers, Latin Quarter film buffs, and assorted hangers-on.
In all, 72 films from 28 countries were screened. The selection included both short films and feature-length movies. The genres ranged from dramas to documentaries, experimental films and animation. The technical level was high, with professional-quality cinematography, sound and editing. This was a matter of high tech, money (the credit rolls of many of the films rival Hollywood productions), and sheer talent.
On a substantive level, results were varied, based on a sample I took in. A British-made horror film titled Deadside was well-acted, but the director was aiming straight for the commercial cinema. Some entries were influenced by the looming example of Jean-Luc Godard (like a US film, Things You Should Know About a Woman, whose title echoes more than one Godard film). The Legend of Jean the Inverted had Godardian absurdism, but was most interesting for how it incorporated archival footage. A music video made by not-exactly-indie Johnny Depp was well-made but uninspired, a carbon copy of Incident at Owl Creek. The most interesting entries were by Spanish film-makers. Two-Minute Guarantee remade Stepford Wives, with a deadpan quality that was delicious.
The most impressive film was another Spanish film, the feature-length Two Lives of Andres Rabadan, directed by Ventura Durall. The film is set in a psychiatric hospital and tells the story of an unbalanced man sentenced for causing a train derailment and killing his father with a crossbow. We learn about his brutal childhood, and his dehumanizing life in the hospital. Rabadan is portrayed not as a psycho or rebel but a human being resilient in the face of tragedy. The director uses melodrama and dramatic flashbacks like Pedro Almodovar, but without camp or comedy. Durall’s stripped-down approach drags sometimes, but leaves you with an aesthetic high. Indeed, many of the films are fresher than current commercial fare. We can only hope that the European Independent Film Festival stays in Paris, where the stimulating impact of new blood was palpable.
For more information about The European Independent Film Festival 2010, check out the official website here
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