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UNICA 2003

(in Warsaw, Poland)

In his first report on the UNICA Festival Dave Watterson has been seeing things?


I love watching movies. But that's not why I so enjoy the UNICA World Amateur Movie Festivals. The real attraction is people: hundreds of amateur movie makers and watchers from all over the world. Great directors talk cheerfully about anything except their own work. Bouncy young people enthuse about projects fresh to them. Animation veterans mix with guerrilla documentarists. In a corner organisers of national federations discuss falling membership. Techno-fans pore over a table of cine bits and bobs. In the distance a toilet roll unwraps itself across a marble lobby pursued by a camera team. A pantomime Heidi dishes out mead and cake. Young translators "rest" from turning tongues between English, German and French by reading Polish grammar books. A quiet beep indicates an electric invalid scooter reversing, admired by the organiser of a transport film festival. A small boy dressed like an operatic soldier hands out medals.

We learn how to say "hi" and "bye" in Croatian: "Boc!" We attempt the South Korean thank you, but it is beyond us. We share bug repellent while wolfing down superb buffet and beer on the terrace of an old palace. An orchestra plays and an Austrian mutters: "Just like Titanic."

Brian Dunckley's moving one-minuter about a wall in Zagreb where each brick is dedicated to a lost loved one gains resonance when a young Croat explains. The wall is built round the United Nations headquarters and records each death which occurred while the UNPROFOR forces were present but not allowed to intervene in the fighting. The range of films is wonderful.

  I am struck by how often superb lighting compels attention. Two Argentine productions grab us from the start by the way they look: colour but sombre and with heavy shadows: Cantautor by Emiliano Romero and Duerme Negrito (top left) by Hector Gavira. A Spanish production, Les Germanes (bottom left) uses light beautifully to make magical the setting of a tale of love, jealousy and war.

For some time people have been expanding on holiday films to make them dramas. Ramon Font from Spain sucks us into a complicated love story in Moeraki. Breaking up as teenagers the boy rips a page from a New Zealand travel brochure and scribbles a note. It is making a date for 25 years later on the beach illustrated. After being widowed the woman's teenage daughter encourages her to keep that date. It is a perfect excuse for a trip to New Zealand's amazing beauty spots but underpinned by the intrigues and doubts of the love story. Andre van der Hout, a Dutch movie maker, is not quite so successful with The Pilgrimage, a tale of two young girls who set off for Lourdes to bring holy water back to their ailing cat. The youngsters have charm, but not enough acting ability to make the story credible.

A thin, intense German, Reinhold Wurm, is the author of a drama documentary about an illegal alien: a black man existing on the fringes of European society. Seeing life from his view opens our eyes. The director usually makes technical teaching films about carpentry, but worked with his two strapping sons to create this touching and powerful story.
There were several first class documentaries. Niko Mylonas from Lichtenstein made Albania and my School about how a school twinning arrangement helps begin to tackle appalling conditions in one of Europe's least known countries. The Dutch film maker Mark Kateijns made a study of De Mortelen, a nature preservation scheme which started a whole conservation movement. An excellent work by Heidulf Schulze from Germany, Highly Built showed how New Guineans build their tree houses. The men wear only necklaces and penis sheaths prompting one jury member, Radek Stipl, to comment "I am glad I am not their tailor."

Read Part 2 of This Report.
For Full Results of UNICA 2003 - Click here.
Reg Lancaster in Action.

Official UK Entries.

- Dave Watterson    Sep 2003

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