Euro films bring global ideas to screen

Filmmaking resonates with modern reality

Trying to define a “European film” nowadays is like trying to find a common element in a vegetable market. They’re all vegetables, they’re all made from the same atoms, and some are better for you than others.

The same could be said of European movies, which are currently riding on an all-time production high. According to European Audiovisual Observatory, 878 features were produced by EU member countries in 2008; it’s a figure that’s been rising annually in recent years.

At present, Hamburg-based European Film Promotion counts no less than 30 national orgs, with Macedonia, Serbia and Croatia its newest members. This year, Variety Critics’ Choice (VCC) includes pics from two of these newcomers — Croat helmer Goran Rusinovic’s psychodrama “Buick Riviera” and Serbian director Darko Lungulov’s mordant immigrant movie “Here and There.” However, though both deal with Central Euro issues, both also contain strong U.S. elements, with the former set in North Dakota.

The films in the lineup are based in a reality that’s never far from the present.

A case in point is Gergely Fonyo’s period musical “Made in Hungaria,” which looks like a Magyar “Grease” but never lets you forget the restrictive era of the early ’60s in which it’s set.

And Dutch director Noud Heerkens’ first feature, “Last Conversation,” has actress Johanna ter Steege playing a woman in a car having a phone conversation with the lover who’s jilted her. Shot with 25 cameras, the movie is a single, 73-minute slice of movie “reality.”

Everyday reality also forms the background of other films in this year’s selection, such as Greek-Cypriot director Hristos Georgiou’s “Small Crime,” superficially about a small-town cop solving a mysterious death but is more a character-driven light comedy; and British helmer Tom Shankland’s “The Children” is a slasher movie in which it’s a bunch of tykes who are the bad guys.

Whether playing with genres and everyday reality, each filmmaker has forged something special from the ordinary and quotidian. Perhaps that’s what makes a movie European nowadays.