Thessaloniki has something for everyone

MOSCOW In a program that draws from a wide range of genres and nationalities, Thessaloniki offers a smorgasbord for all tastes.

“Armin” by Split-born Croatian director Ognjen Svilicic, is an award-winning road movie about the journey of Ibro and his 13-year-old son Armin from their home town in Bosnia to Zagreb, where the teenager is to audition for a part in a German-produced war film.

A subtle tragicomedy that throws into sharp relief the cultural clash evident in Western demands for stereotypical images of war and Eastern yearning for respect, Svilicic’s film most recently played out of competition in the children’s and youth film section of Germany’s Cottbus festival, an annual early November showcase of Eastern European cinema.

Another strong and haunting film from the Balkans — which picked up best film at Bulgaria’s Sofia Intl. Film Festival last spring — is Serbian director Srdan Golubovic’s “The Trap” (Klopka).

A spare and economically told story of the nightmarish dilemma faced by a Belgrade father who is offered the chance to save his critically ill son’s life by killing a man for hire, “The Trap” explores the moral collapse of the middle-class way of life in a country ravaged by civil war and chronic crime.

The desperate father, Mladen, must choose to save his son and lose his own soul or let his son die for the sake of his own integrity and humanity, a decision bound to end in his destruction. Drawn inexorably into that darkness, Mladen’s journey is uncomfortably gripping and not one that allows the audience to walk away unaffected.

Estonian first-time director Kadri Kousaar’s “Magnus” (presented in the Independence Days sidebar) is a stark feature based on the true story of a couple whose feckless attitude to raising their children eventually ends in their son’s suicide.

The film focuses on the teenaged Magnus’ attempts to reconnect with his boozing, hash-smoking, cocaine sniffing, whoring low-life father after years of living with his equally unsavory mother.

The father’s pitiful attempts to bond with his all-but-lost son in a series of drunken and obscure encounters — including a brothel scene in which Magnus meets a hooker who is his psychiatrist moonlighting from her day job at a state-run clinic — have a dreadful and inevitable logic to them.

There’s an entirely unexpected twist at the end of the movie — and one that helps explain why this film has not yet been screened in Estonia, where it is still the subject of a legal battle.

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