For the filmmakers in Variety’s 15th annual 10 Euro Directors to Watch sidebar at the Karlovy Vary Intl. Film Festival, the program functions like a mini-retreat within the larger festival. Chosen by Variety reviewers from among the 2011-12 films produced by European Film Promotion’s 33 member countries, this year’s crop of experienced directors and debutantes view the showcase as an opportunity to mix with peers and recharge their creative batteries.

“I make movies for an audience, yet usually only meet them at a premiere in advance of the theatrical release,” says Brussels-based Geoffrey Enthoven. “But at a film festival I can meet an audience that loves film, and meet other talent and colleagues. It is really important to do this as a filmmaker so as not to become isolated. It can give the opportunity to grow and the right energy to make the next film.”

For Ljubljana’s Nejc Gazvoda, too, the sense of camaraderie is key. “I am really looking forward to meeting other filmmakers and seeing their films,” says the tyro helmer. “For me, it is all about films and discussions about filmmaking and maybe meeting people you are going to work with in the future.”

As usual, the filmmakers comprise an eclectic group, ranging widely in age, background and nationality. Yet their films share a special quality that made Variety reviewers single them out. In terms of numbers, the selection represents seven first features; three very different iterations of the road movie; three knowing, strongly crafted exercises in genre; two femme helmers and the first-ever animated entry. And that’s not even including sui generis “Black Pond.”

“Black Pond” tells the story of a fraying suburban family crossing paths with a disturbed stranger and features well-tuned performances, inventive visuals and a script that’s unsettling, funny and poignant by turns. Tandem writer-directors Will Sharpe (also a featured thesp) and Tom Kingsley shot on a shoestring budget in just three weeks (and it’s their partnership that give our normally 10 European Directors to Watch list its uneven-numbered distinction this year).

While “Black Pond” could become a cult item outside the U.K., Finnish director Timo Vuorensola’s English lingo sci-fi comedy “Iron Sky” has already achieved cult status. Funded by a small army of fan investors, this genre parody features Nazis from the moon invading Earth, with Udo Kier as the Fuehrer.

Equally genre-savvy are Norwegian helmer Magnus Martens’ rollicking, blackly comic, pulp crimer “Jackpot” and Swiss-German director Tim Fehlbaum’s post-apocalyptic survival thriller “Hell.”

Meanwhile, the work of first-time femme helmers Sacha Polak from the Netherlands and Anne-Grethe Bjarup Riis from Denmark couldn’t be more different. Polak’s contempo “Hemel” turns on a young woman’s compulsive and transgressive sexual behavior while Bjarup Riis’ moving WWII drama provides an authentic and nuanced chapter of Danish history.

Three best pals from high school remember the past and confront fears about the future during “A Trip” to the seaside in Slovenian Gazvoda’s modest but compelling debut. Also making the best of a small budget and scenic locales, tyro helmer Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigurdsson wisely employs Iceland’s harshly beautiful landscape as the third principal character in his beguiling, character-driven dramedy about two highway maintenance men.

The third road movie, touching serio-comedy “Come as You Are,” from Belgium’s Enthoven, follows three young special-needs men on a journey to Spain, where they plan to lose their virginity in a specialist brothel.

Spain is also the setting for 2D adult toon “Wrinkles” from Goya-winning helmer Ignacio Ferreras, who also served as co-scribe and editor. Adapted from a much-lauded comic book, the poignant pic centers on the friendship between two seniors in a nursing home.

Karlovy Vary Intl. Film Festival 2012 / World Report: Central Europe
Network and discover | Critics choice helmers seek camaraderie | Tax incentives key to rebirth | Alvernia a one-stop shop for filmmakers | East Euro musicians, facils up competitive ante
10 Euro Directors to Watch