From Vesna to Vesna – The 25th Portorož Festival of Slovenian Film
This year’s iteration of the Festival of Slovenian Film has added the word “Portorož” to its official name to quash the rumours and speculations that the festival would be better off elsewhere. Its not-so-new director Bojan Labović, however, went down a different path – he shifted the festival into late October when accommodations in town are more accessible.
Critics of this decision keep repeating how the festival usually served as an excellent opportunity for one last seaside holiday, but due to the significant impact of climate change, a dip in the sea was still possible even in late October. Others criticised the fact that there are several other festivals at this time already and that the previous timeslot in late September was more therefore more suitable. An objective judgement on the change in timeslots is difficult, as the Festival of Slovenian Film enabled free accommodations for students of the Ljubljana Academy for Theatre, Radio, Film, and Television as well as the Nova Gorica Academy of Arts for the first time last year, thus increasing the number of attendees at the screenings. Quite a few screenings were sold out this year and films were not shown more than once. Repeat screenings would likely be a logistical challenge with this year’s wide selection of films in such a short time span.
The accompanying program with events in the former salt warehouse Monfort is also getting more and more popular. The warehouse hosted film screenings and evening events, which were scarcely visited in comparison to the relatively full Portorož Auditorium. It seems the music program has not attracted enough attention for the second year running and questions are already being asked whether the selector is a right fit and can relate to the target audience.
If one of the problems of the music and evening programs truly is that the Municipality of Piran does not allow extensions of opening times, then it is worth pointing out that such a move would surely attract more locals to Monfort, as only few festival attendees entertained themselves in Portorož.
Several other film festivals namely start with the music program only after all the screenings are finished, but the representatives of the FSF did not see the financial sense of going to Monfort after the screenings. This meant the attendees could not continue their festivities due to the October pushback, when the Portorož nightclubs are already closed. The music there is worse, but it is an outlet for partygoers to continue until morning, which only seems right for a festival.
Going back to the films, one of this year’s surprises is surely Moja Vesna, depicting a Slovenian-Australian family coping with the death of their mother. Viewers assume a (double) suicide, although the director has intentionally left the ending open-ended. The family must first face their mother’s passing, after which the younger sister steps into her role. Loti Kovačič as Moja impressed the jury enough to grant her a Vesna award, possibly being the youngest recipient ever (the author of this piece does not have full access to the festival archives). According to the director Sara Kern, who also received a Vesna for best directing, Loti was the first to apply for the audition, so the decision to pick her was not obvious from the start, although she proved to be the best choice at the end.
Matevž Luzar’s Orkester was one of the most anticipated films of this year, as it has been talked about for years now. Orkester was namely the first film to suffer the effects of the previous government withholding funds for filmmakers. Some viewers described it as “portraying all aspects of Slovenia”, even though the ending is a bit too “Slovenian”. The lively and easy-going film about an orchestra traveling from Trbovlje to Austria namely leaves a bitter aftertaste. The daring decision to film in black and white has landed the crew the Vesna for best cinematography alongside Vesnas for best film and best screenplay.
Jezdeca and IRIDIUM also came out as big winners, the former winning Vesnas for best actor, best editing, best sound and the viewer’s choice award and the latter winning the Vesna for best debut film. Let us also not forget Dedek gre na jug, the winner of the Vesna for best supporting actor, which was also marked by tumultuous times. The film was also withheld funding, so much so that the director Vinci Vogue Anžlovar even had to take out a mortgage on his home to pay his crew.
The winner of the Vesna for best animated film will also be shown on the International Animated Film Festival Animateka. It was directed by Lea Vučko and is titled Legenda o Zlatorogu. The pinkly clad short film is a hand-drawn reinterpretation of the folk tale about the mythical creature from Gorenjska. When asked whether the creature was, just like in the case of the similarly named beer brand, actually a regular chamois or an ibex, Vučko explained it is indeed a chamois. People apparently tend to confuse the two due to the famous goldhorn statue at lake Jasna, where it is depicted as an ibex.
The 25th Festival of Slovenian Film once again took place in the spirit of networking and socializing of already-known film lovers. The award ceremony was again held on a Sunday this year, so several guests already made their way back home beforehand. The reasoning behind this new tradition seems only to be known to insiders, as the poor timing was only smoothed over by the fact that the following Monday was a holiday.