Europe Voices of Women in Film 21

european women directors return to sydney's festival cinemas this year

In its sixth year of collaboration with the Sydney Film Festival (SFF), European Film Promotion’s (EFP) dedicated programme, EUROPE! VOICES OF WOMEN IN FILM is celebrated in cinemas this year. Ten selected European films and their outstanding women directors will be presented at the 68th Sydney Film Festival from 3 – 14 November 2021.

EFP is proud to announce this year’s selection: From the Wild Sea by Robin Petré (Denmark), Green Sea by Angeliki Antoniou (Greece, Germany), Hive by Blerta Basholli (Kosovo*, Switzerland, North Macedonia, Albania), How To Kill A Cloud by Tuija Halttunen (Finland, Denmark), Last Days of Spring by Isabel Lamberti (The Netherlands, Spain), Nico by Eline Gehring (Germany), Pleasure by Ninja Thyberg (Sweden, The Netherlands, France), Reconciliation by Marija Zidar (Slovenia, Serbia, Montenegro, Kosovo*), Slalom by Charlène Favier (France), Why Not You by Evi Romen (Austria, Belgium).

"We are thrilled that our programme is coming back to Sydney’s cinema screens this year and are looking forward to turning this fine selection of voices by European women directors into an unforgettable cinematic experience. The films in this year's line-up zoom in on human ambitions colliding with nature and patriarchal, capitalist or xenophobic structures. They deal with the dualisms of our time, focus on ambivalences and offer the audience thought-provoking impulses rather than answers“, says EFP's Managing Director Sonja Heinen.

“The Festival is proud to present, for the 6th time, Europe! Voices of Women in Film, showcasing an extremely talented group of filmmakers, and their striking films that engage with some of the most pressing issues of our time. From prestigious award-winners to films developed at film school, the program reveals a broad range of feature films and documentaries. From a provocative film looking at the porn industry, to a number of films about fighting for independence, to documentaries concerned with the environment, these films are sure to absorb and delight Sydney audiences”, says SFF Director Nashen Moodley.

Shot around the Netherlands and the British Isles during the corona pandemic, Danish director Robin Petré uses sober as well as intimate close-ups to show the interconnection of humans, animals and the polluted sea in From the Wild Sea. In Green Sea by Greek director Angeliki Antoniou, a woman who has lost her memory struggles to recall her past and start a new life while cooking simple yet delicious food for workers in a run-down seaside tavern. Kosovan director Blerta Basholli's multiple award-winning film Hive follows the story of Fahrije whose husband has been missing since the war in Kosovo. Her determination to financially support her family by starting her own business is not only resisted by men. In How To Kill A Cloud, Finnish director Tuija Halttunen looks at the ambition and dilemma of Hannele Korhonen, one of Finland's leading climate researchers, to stimulate rainfall over the desert of the United Arab Emirates. In a shanty town near Madrid, the members of the Gabarre-Mendoza family are forced to leave their self-build homes because the land they live on is sold. Shot with non-professional actors, Isabell Lamberti's Last Days of Spring blends fiction with documentary. A xenophobic attack in Berlin changes the life of Nico, a German-Iranian geriatric nurse. Eline Gehring's Nico interweaves emotional insecurities, self-empowering survival strategies and enchanting elements of a fairy-tale. Pleasure by Swedish filmmaker Ninja Thyberg explores the dreams and sacrifices of 19-year-old Bella who moves from Sweden to Los Angeles to break into the porn industry world. In Reconciliation, Slovenian director Marija Zidar offers an impressively nuanced insight into an ancient law of the patriarchal Balkan society after a woman lost her life in a crossfire. Set in a highly selective ski club in the French Alps, Slalom by French filmmaker Charlène Favier follows the lines and boundaries of ambiguities between 15-year old high school student Liz and her ex champion trainer Fred. In Evi Romen's multi-award-winning Why Not You, 20-year-old Mario tries to get over the loss of his boyhood friend while shifting between being an outsider and imaginations of life.

***click here for more information on EUROPE! VOICES OF WOMEN IN FILM***

After the Sydney Film Festival an assortment of the programme will travel to Melbourne's museum of screen culture ACMI and New Zealand's International Film Festival. Part of the selection will be shown beforehand at Canberra's newly launched Capital Film Festival (1 - 12 September 2021).

The national film promotion institutes supporting this year's edition of EUROPE! VOICES OF WOMEN IN FILM are: AFC- Austrian Films, Danish Film Institute, Finnish Film Foundation, German Films, Greek Film Centre, Kosova Cinematography Center, SEE NL (The Netherlands), Swedish Film Institute, Slovenian Film Centre and UniFrance.

EUROPE! VOICES OF WOMEN IN FILM is supported by the Creative Europe - MEDIA Programme of the European Union and Eurimages and will continue its successful cooperation with European Women's Audiovisual Network (EWA) and Festival Scope. Media partners are Screen International, Fade to Her and Fred Film Radio.

*This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244/1999 and the lCJ Opinion on the Kosovo Declaration of Independence.

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Sydney Film Festival is a major event on the New South Wales cultural calendar and is one of the world’s longest-running film festivals. Sydney Film Festival is supported by the NSW Government through Create NSW, the Federal Government through Screen Australia and the City of Sydney.

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The Film Selection 2021

In Green Sea by Greek director Angeliki Antoniou, a woman who has lost her memory struggles to recall her past and starts a new life while cooking simple yet delicious food for workers in a run-down seaside tavern.

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Green Sea
Angeliki Antoniou
Greece, Germany

The debut feature by Kosovo-born Blerta Basholli won three awards at Sundance 2021. Its inspiration is real-life beekeeper Fahrije Hoti. Seven years after Fahrije's husband went missing in the Kosovo war, she is struggling to provide for her children. Her plan to establish a women's co-op and sell ajvar (pepper relish) is met with scorn by men in her village. A woman's morals can be questioned for even the slightest show of independence. But Fahrije is no ordinary woman. Basholli's lean, punchy script and Yllka Gashi's superbly controlled central performance bring the legacy of war and the strength of women into sharp and rewarding focus.

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Blerta Basholli
Kosovo, Switzerland, Republic of North Macedonia, Albania

The slalom - a winding, downhill ski race - is where 15-year-old Lyz feels most at home. Her talent at skiing is matched by a hunger to win, a quality quickly noticed by her infamously severe ski coach. As Lyz settles into an elite team of athletes, Slalom shifts from a sports drama to an urgent depiction of the ways in which powerful people can exploit their impressionable and ambitious charges. Reminiscent of Andrea Arnold's Fish Tank, Charlène Favier handles the themes of this #MeToo drama with a searing frankness, reflecting Lyz's emotional tumult in the lonely vistas of the French Alps.

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Charlène Favier

Nico is breezing through an idyllic Berlin summer, spending her days bantering with her geriatric patients and partying with best friend Rosa. But her easy-going attitude is shattered when she experiences a violent hate crime. Director Eline Gehring's sensitive debut delicately navigates the intricacies of trauma as Nico's former relationships decline. Nico begins seeking comfort in a rigorous karate class, and a budding romance with a pretty carnival worker. Sara Fazilat, who also co-writes, gives a dynamic performance in the titular role, fully embodying a woman fighting for strength in a hostile society.

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Eline Gehring

Hannele Korhonen, a brilliant Finnish scientist, takes on a multimillion-dollar three-year project funded by the United Arab Emirates, to make rain in the desert. Korhonen sees it as an opportunity to further her research into clouds and their behaviour, and to bring about the seemingly impossible. But creating artificial rain may have unforeseen and unwelcome impacts. It soon becomes clear that her sponsors have their own agenda. Caught in a fiendish dilemma between research, finance, politics and ecosystems, Korhonen's integrity is at risk. A fascinating and highly topical documentary.

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How to Kill a Cloud
Tuija Halttunen
Finland, Denmark

Isabel Lamberti's acclaimed short film Volando voy (2015) followed the life of David Gabarre Jiménez, a resident of Madrid's Cañada Real shantytown. In Lamberti's first feature film Gabarre Jiménez returns with members of his extended family to recreate the ordeal of being evicted from their homes. This incredibly well acted and sharply edited exercise in docu-fiction captures the painful transition of a loving family and the fracturing of a tight-knit community. Last Days of Spring offers a memorable glimpse into a way of life rarely seen on screen.

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Last Days of Spring
Isabel Lamberti
The Netherlands, Spain

Across Europe's seas marine life is under pressure from pollution and violent weather fuelled by climate change. Winter is approaching and severe storms are forecast. Volunteers work around the clock to rescue exhausted and injured seals, dolphins and other coastal wildlife. The animals gaze at their rescuers with fear and trepidation, inching away from helping hands, as they undergo rehabilitation. In poetic images, From the Wild Sea captures this troubling scenario, a collision between society and the environment. Robin Petré's debut documentary premiered in the 2021 Berlinale.

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From the Wild Sea
Robin Petré

The sensitive story of Mario (Thomas Prenn, Biohackers), a restless young dancer from a conservative village whose best friend Lenz (Noah Saavedra, And Tomorrow the Entire World) is killed in an attack on a gay bar in Rome. When tragedy strikes, Mario is forced to return to his narrow-minded South Tyrolean community. Romen's screenplay casts an eye on survivor guilt, homophobia and intolerance as Mario's search for answers leads to a chance reunion with Muslim friend Nadim (Josef Mohamed). Winner of the Golden Eye Award (Focus Competition) at Zurich 2020, Why Not You tackles timely issues and packs plenty of punch.

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Why Not You
Evi Romen
Austria, Belgium

Nineteen-year-old Bella Cherry arrives in LA with one goal - to be the next big name in adult film. What she finds is a world of simmering rivalry and loose regulations. Ninja Thyberg demythologises porn through an honest, scrupulous gaze - moments of abuse and exploitation sit alongside gems of genuine friendship and professionalism. This sense of authenticity is heightened by a cast featuring real-life adult film stars and agents. Confident, explicit and propulsive, Pleasure gives voice to an ambitious and unapologetic heroine, and reveals the realities of a cutthroat, male-dominated industry.

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Ninja Thyberg
Sweden, The Netherlands, France

An 18-year-old woman is killed by a bullet intended for her father. It is the tragic outcome of a bitter family feud. Her father's cousin is found guilty by Albania's judicial system and is serving a jail term for her murder. However, under the country's ancient code of law (the Kanun), her father is entitled to take blood revenge. Religious and legal authorities, each with their own agenda, try to sway his decision. Marija Zidar's epic documentary was filmed over five years in Albania's mountainous north - a place stuck obstinately in a patriarchal past.

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Marija Zidar
Slovenia, Serbia, Montenegro, Kosovo