Identification Marks: None.
Identification Marks: None.
Image: Supplied

The 10th edition of the EU Film Festival runs in cinemas and online from October 12 to October 22. Offering 16 films from across the continent, made by a variety of directors from the continent both new and established, it offers local cinemagoers’ annual chance to catch up with the best of European cinema and gauge both the creative and social temperature of the continent. Here are three older films made by a selection of the directors featured on this year’s programme including Palme D’Or winner Justine Triet, veteran British social realist Ken Loach – who’s recently announced his retirement from filmmaking after six decades and Polish legend Jerzy Skolimowski who at 85 shows no signs of packing away his camera just yet.

The arthouse essential: Age of Panic (

Her latest film, the winner of this year’s Cannes Palme D’Or, Anatomy of a Fall is a carefully controlled psychological drama that uses the tropes of the courtroom drama to perform a clinical and uncomfortable dissection of the messy details of a French, middle-class marriage but this 2013 mix of documentary and fiction by director Justine Triet is a very different beast.

A frantic domestic comedy set against the backdrop of the hotly contested 2012 French election between Nicolas Sarkozy and Francois Hollande, the film energetically mixes documentary footage of the madness of election day with fictional scenes that detail the fight between a middle class French couple over custody of their children.

The choice to make the lead character a female television reporter and thus give her a reason to be on the jampacked streets on election day is an inspired one that allows us to see both the reality of what was happening on the day and to get a sense of the anxiety, panic and neurosis that are enveloping her on this of all days. Rather than use the documentary footage as the inspiration for a politically inspired fictional story, Triet makes the more difficult but here mostly successful decision to spin her story as a domestic middle-class farce, more in the vein of Woody Allen than Costa Gavras.

It all adds up to a uniquely zany and memorable story about a day from hell for one couple whose self-interested fight seems to pale into significance in comparison to the larger one that’s going on at the ballot boxes outside and it marked Trier as a director with a strong sense of control that would come to serve her well in the future.


The stone-cold classic:

Identification Marks: None (

Jerzy Solimowski was a student at the legendary Lodz Film School in Poland when he made this remarkably adept and resourceful film at the age of 26. The first in what would become a trilogy of semi-autobiographical films it stars the director as Andrzej, a dropout from the Lodz Film School who is trying to dodge military service but soon finds himself in the crosshairs of the draft after he shows his contempt for a military panel.

Doomed in his mind for certain death, Andrzej wanders the streets of the city, seeing it with the eyes of an outsider who is certain he will never return to it. Filmed in real-time and using reels of filmed made as part of Solimowski’s studies at Lodz, the film follows him through the course of a day in which he has dropped out of school, breaks up with his girlfriend and ends up reporting for military duty.

As the New Yorker critic Richard Brody wrote, the short but punchy and memorably executed film is an early example of a style that would become familiar with the rise of Indie cinema in the 1990s and one that manages to convey more successfully than many other more expensive and celebrated films, “the rising artist’s innocent guile and passionate bravado — and the stifled soulfulness of a quietly oppressed and oppressive society.”

Visually imaginative, philosophically potent and imbibed with a strong sense of hope in a seemingly hopeless milieu the film was hailed by European filmmakers like French New Wave legend Jean Luc Godard and set its director firmly on course for a career that’s been marked by a distinctive ability to mix surrealism, playfulness and visual ingenuity.

Jerzy Skolimowski picks films from the Criterion Collection

The diamond in the rough:

Hidden Agenda (Rent or buy from Apple TV+)

Made before the negotiations that lead to the end of the long and terrible “troubles” in Northern Ireland, this twisty political thriller effectively mixes political commentary with thriller genre tropes. It’s not a typical piece of gritty, angry social realism from director Ken Loach but in its exploration of the broader politics and tragedy of the “troubles,” it reflects his lifelong interest in tying politics and social issues to storytelling. Written by “controversial Marxist” Jim Allen and drawing and using the details of a number of real incidents as the basis of its fictional plot it offers a searing indictment of the chaos that still ruled over the region at the time of its making.

Frances McDormand stars as an American activist who together with her husband — played by Brad Dourif — is investigating human rights abuses for an Amnesty International style organisation. When they are slipped a tape by a member of the IRA that implicates a British right-wing group in a recent murder, the couple become pawns in a deadly political game.

Brian Cox plays a British investigator tasked with solving the murders who finds himself not very welcome by both sides in the conflict and soon at odds with his own government when the evidence he uncovers points to British involvement. The details of the conspiracy he uncovers — implicating a right-wing group in destabilising the region as part of a secret plot to topple the Labour government of Harold Wilson and clear the path for the rise to power of the Conservatives under Margaret Thatcher — caused huge outcry and controversy in England when the film was released.

In our own current age of conspiracies, fake news and mistrust of government, it seems a tame theory but at the time it was one that the British establishment and public were barely willing to hear.

As always, Loach doggedly picked the version he believed and used it to propel the action of a film that while sometimes a little too polemical still works on its own thriller terms and features a string of excellent performances.


*The European Film Festival takes place from October 12-22 at The Zone Rosebank in Johannesburg, The Labia in Cape Town, Ster Kinekor Gateway in Durban and online.

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