Mannheim-Heidelberg explores diversity, current themes of world cinema


The Mannheim-Heidelberg International Film Festival (IFFMH) perfectly captured the social, cultural and political zeitgeist with this year’s film selections, exploring themes such as women’s empowerment, HIV / AIDS and the post-Soviet collapse of Ukraine.

“The festival does not work by themes, we try to show the best films, but what is interesting is that the themes come to us through the films”, explains the director of the IFFMH, Sascha Keilholz. “Obviously, we are sensitive to the whole range and to the diversity that we can have in the cinema. “

Indeed, this year’s films in the On the Rise competition section and the additional Pushing the Boundaries sidebar, which features cutting-edge works by established young filmmakers, ended up sharing unmistakable themes. Many new female voices are making their mark in Eastern European cinema with stories of women rebelling against patriarchy and male structures, for example, Keilholz points out. “It was quite striking for us.”

Sascha Keilholz
IFFMH / Florian Greiner

In the Romanian drama “Blue Moon” by Alina Grigore, screened in On the Rise, a young woman breaks with her patriarchal family.

Likewise, in the Bulgarian competition title “Women Do Cry” (photo), directors Mina Mileva and Vesela Kazakova tackle patriarchy and the double chauvinistic standard with their story of five sisters who struggle and suffer in their relationships with men. “Women Do Cry” also explores the impact of HIV today.

Living with HIV and AIDS is also at the center of Rodrigo de Oliveira’s Brazilian film “The First Fallen”, although at the start of the epidemic. Set in 1983, the film follows a young biologist who returns from New York to Brazil infected with an unnamed disease. Joining equally positive transgender artist Rose and videographer Humberto, they attempt to survive the burgeoning epidemic together. “The First Fallen” premiered in Mannheim-Heidelberg.

Strong female voices are also evident in French cinema, adds Keilholz. Antoinette Boulat, former casting director, makes her debut at the helm with “My Night”, a romantic drama about a young woman aspiring to be free on a summer evening in Paris. Claire Simon, best known for her documentaries, explores the relationship between the French writer Marguerite Duras and her last partner Yann Andréa, homosexual 38 years her junior.

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“Ahed’s knee”
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Programming, explains Frédéric Jaeger, IFFMH’s program manager, is about “questioning your own point of view and your own privileges, looking at what is beyond your own reach – that’s something we want to share with the public and that is reflected in our competition.

He cites as an example “The Hole” by Michelangelo Frammartino. The cave exploration film leans towards the experimental and could almost be a documentary, he explains. “It’s a cinematic feast for the eyes.”

This year’s program also features flagship films from often under-represented countries, such as the Bangladeshi drama “Rehana” by Abdullah Mohammad Saad, which echoes many themes seen in other films with its story of a assistant professor who refuses to follow the rules of patriarchal society. in a university when it defends students forced to submit to the sexual advances of a professor.

Hailing from Turkey and premiering at IFFMH, Fikret Reyhan’s “Fractured” follows a young man in debt whose extended family struggles for cohesion as they come together to help him raise the money he must. The film, Jaeger says, is “a highlight of Turkish cinema last year.”

Oleg Sentsov’s Ukrainian film “Rhino”, about a young man’s rise in the Ukrainian underworld after the collapse of the Soviet Union, is also in competition.

A major surprise in Pushing the Boundaries is “Earwig,” the surreal horror tale by French director Lucile Hadzihalilovic and the first English-language film, says Keilholz. “It’s nothing you would expect, even for us as professionals. I’ve watched 600 movies this year, but this one is one where I say, ‘Whoa, what was that? This is actually what we mean by pushing the boundaries. She really pushes the boundaries of cinema.

British filmmaker Andrea Arnold’s “Cow,” which is featured at this year’s festival, is also screened in Pushing the Boundaries. “It’s mind-blowing,” says Keilholz. “A documentary about a cow, what can you expect? But after seeing the movie, you know.

“Ahed’s Knee”, Nadav Lapid’s scathing critique of Israel’s militarism and colonization policies and the censorship imposed by its authoritarian cultural policies, is also featured in the sidebar, as is Gaspar Noé’s “Vortex”. about love and the relationship between an elderly couple dealing with dementia.

Other highlights of Pushing the Limits include:

  • Romanian director Radu Muntean’s satirical thriller “Întregalde”, about three young volunteers who find themselves stranded in the mountainous hinterland of Transylvania while delivering aid supplies to remote villages;
  • “Petite Maman”, the story of mourning and mourning by French director Céline Sciamma;
  • Erik Matti’s Filipino political thriller “On the Job: The Missing 8,” which examines corruption at all levels in today’s Philippines;
  • Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s “Memoria”, starring Tilda Swinton as a British immigrant in Colombia who experiences strange events while visiting her sister in Bogotá.


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