Guided by last years' experience, we learned
that having a lack of time is an unavoidable "risk-that-we-must-confront-with"
and an also absolved "VIS MAYOR". But, while preparing the film programme,
we kept one thing in mind: never back off and make no compromise with anything.
In spite of that, we have focused on the films of highest quality which
are the imperative for every festival and surely the identity card for
the credibility in the eyes of the audience, the domestic and foreign critics
and the guests. No one is going to ask you with a prior excuse, whether
you had enough time or not; your result is going to be valued by the choice
of the films, especially if we remember that Bitola’s Festival is
not big by quantity. That is why the quality of the films is very important,
because that is the only way to improve the level of the competition, before
all, looking from the primary aspect - the cinematographic worthiness of
the snap-shooting job i.e. the D.O.P.’s result. There is no room
for modesty, the chosen films are on the last years' level, in some cases
even on a higher one, which, surely, is a guarantee for another successful
performance if we take into account how many films of great quality we
have had last year. The impression over this years' programme ,in a way,
is reinforced by the fact that , after the XVI Festival, we again have
the latest Macedonian releases, the opening film GYPSY MAGIC directed by
the experienced Stole POPOV and ACROSS THE LAKE directed by the debutante
Antonio MITRIKESKI. These two films are having their Macedonian premiere,
after having their world premiere in Montreal. On the other side, we have
made an effort to show three films from the ex-Yugoslavian Republics, which
are independently representing their national cinematography. By coincidence,
those films are debutante releases of young directors. From Slovenia we
have the OUTSIDER, which is surely, their best film that ever participated
on our Festival, directed and shot by the young tandem Koshak / Pepeonik.
We all remember the average in quality films RADIO DOC and CARMEN which
were shown on the XVI and XVII Festival in Bitola. We have the first contestant
from SR Yugoslavia - the film THREE SUMMER DAYS directed, again by a debutante
director Mirjana VUKOMANOVICH; and the HOW THE WAR STARTED ON MY ISLAND
a Croatian film directed by the third debutante director on our Festival
Vinko BRESHAN. This film is out of competition, because its D.O.P. Zhivko
ZALAR is a member of the International Jury. But, it has to be said that
this film was a huge hit in Croatia, beating all the American commercial
block-busters. If we may notice, on this years' Festival, beside the already
mentioned peculiarities (the two Macedonian and the three films from the
ex-Yugoslav republics), we have two more. Namely, we will see 2 films from
each of the leading world cinematographies: the Japanese and the French.
The Land of the rising sun irresistibly imposes the following two films:
THE SLEEPING MAN directed and screened by the tandem Oguri-Mariuke, if
I may notice, a piece of art if looking in comparison with the MABOROSI,
last years' winner of the Golden Camera 300, and the second Japanese competitor
KIDS RETURN directed by the cult Director and actor Takeshi KITANO (we
have to mention that he was awarded the GOLDEN LION in Venice for his latest
release FLOWERS AND DEATH).
The French cinematography will be represented by the two big highlights of our programme, one of them being the world hit (after the opening of the 50th Festival in Cannes) THE FIFTH ELEMENT by the director Luc BESSON (we do not have to point out that in his case, also, we are talking about another cult director after the films SUBWAY, BIG BLUE, NIKITA or LEON) whereas from the screening, visual, technical and technological effects (there are more then 200) the D.O.P., the experienced Thierry ARBOGAST, has made a work of art on which even the biggest American masters of SF or fiction comics can envy him. So, if we do not point out that THE FIFTH ELEMENT is a production of the French "Gaumont", one can get the impression that it has been made by the superior Hollywood machinery.
The second highlight of our programme coming from France is the master piece MICROCOSMOS, feature documentary (and because of that it is out of the competition), in which the Director/D.O.P. tandem NURIDSANY/PERENNOU implements the microscopic eyes of the camera to take us into the magically beautiful microcosmos of the insects. When we talk about the highlights of our programme of this year, it is with great pride that I underline now, the extraordinary Australian representative SHINE, directed by Scott HICKS and D.O.P. Geoffrey SIMPSON, a film which brought the OSCAR for leading male role to the extraordinary artist Geoffrey RUSH playing the role of David, the mentally disordered genius musician. Among the rest 12 films in the competition (6 of them are produced in 1996, and 6 this year), there are also 2 national candidates for this years' AAN for Best Foreign Picture: the Hungarian BOLSHE VITA of the Director Ibolia FEKETE and D.O.P. Andras SZALAI and the Algerian SALUT COUSIN! (French co-production) directed by Merzac ALLOUACHE, one of the leading names of the MAGREB or so called BEUR FILM (the cinematographies of Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco), where D.O.P. is our well known Pierre AIM. Last year he took part on our Festival with the excellent black and white film LA HAINE directed by KASSOVITZ with whom AIM has a permanent co-operation and now, we have Merzak ALLOUACHE counting on Aim's screening craftsmanship in his film.
Finally, the last two films of the total of 14 selected in and out of competition: the Italian LUNA E L'ALTRA of the great author, scriptwriter, actor and director Maurizio NICHETTI, whose poetics is visually captured in the best way by one of the leading Italian D.O.P.s Luca BIGAZZI and the Russian representative BROTHER (participant of the Cannes Festival 1997) a creation of the talented debutante director Alexei BALABANOV and the talented D.O.P. Sergei ASTAKOV.
Let us also mention the accompanying midnight programme, where the audience will have the opportunity to enjoy the nine (out of total of 12) selected films of the serials in two parts EROTIC TALES, in production of famous Regina ZIEGLER, where leading director names of the world film have put their signatures. As the title of the serial may imply, the common line in each of this half-houred films is the cultivated and refined approach in the observation of the erotic in the film, where they represent different versions and feelings of every author from their point of sensibility.
Finally, few words about this years' International Jury consisted of three members. Again, we have the best choice, each one of the members is an authority in their professional field. The President of the Jury is the distinguished British and internationally acclaimed producer, Mr. Simon PERRY, the first man of BRITISH SCREEN, the big friend of the Macedonian cinematography, to which he had given its major success, the film BEFORE THE RAIN, whose author Milcho MANCHEVSKI is also his discovery. MANCHEVSKI’s words on the award giving night in Venice, 1994 were: "Without Simon PERRY the film BEFORE THE RAIN wouldn’t have been completed at all".
The second member of the Jury is from the prime vocation of our Festival. It is the experienced D.O.P. Mr. Zhivko ZALAR from Croatia, who is considered the biggest D.O.P. from ex-Yugoslavia after Tomislav PINTAR. Zalar as a student of Prague, has screened literally all the most significant films of the directors of his generation: GRLICH, MARKOVICH, KARANOVICH, as well as many others. His opus as a D.O.P. is consisted of more than 40 feature films.
Finally, one Lady in our Jury, a dear friend from USA, Deborah YOUNG, a film critic working for the distinguished Hollywood magazine VARIETY and also the editor of one of the European branches with its office in Rome.
Let me come to my final words. With such Main programme, as well as, the accompanying midnight programme consisted of the spicy EROTIC TALES and of course, the ultimately authoritative Jury, the XVIII CAMERA FILM FESTIVAL "MANAKI BROTHERS" in Bitola 1997, has all the rights to be expected with full optimism and pleasure by us and the audience.