The month of July features the latest editions of two established festivals: The 52nd Karlovy Vary International Film Festival and Outfest LA LGBT Film Festival. In spite of the geographical separation of continents and oceans, Karlovy Vary and Outfest LA find a point of connection on the theme of the struggle for unity over division. Whilst Karlovy Vary emphasises the presence of place through Francis Lee’s God’s Own Country and Mark Cousins’ Stockholm, My Love, Outfest looks to internal versus social struggle by way of Erlingur Thoroddsen’s Rift, Palatpol Mingpornpichit’s Fathers and Cristina Herrera Borquez’s No Dress Code Required.
The Karlovy Vary International Film Festival (30 June-8 July)
The 52nd edition of the festival begins as the Brexit talks launch into their first full month of negotiation, drawing attention to Francis Lee’s God’s Own Country. A Yorkshire set coming-out drama of a romance between a English farm boy and Romanian migrant worker, Lee’s film creates a collision between Karlovy Vary and contemporary Europe. It echoes the British and European relationship, an inescapable comparison in the current political time period, but more widely perches itself upon the universal idea of national division over human unity.
Lee reminds us of the strength of character of the British landscape, recalling those famous works of English literature in which the landscape accentuated the bared souls of the characters. Mark Cousins’ Stockholm, My Love meanwhile adds to this sense of the aesthetic of space or place through one woman’s resilient struggle to deal with death and tragedy in Sweden’s capital. Her architecturally trained eye observes the city, the Swedish way of life that is threaded with the visual potency of film archives and film references.
Illuminating the aesthetic of space in the Six Close Encounters strand, one’s eye is drawn to American director John Ford’s classic western, The Searchers. Here is a film that features one of cinemas most iconographic images – Ford’s wide shot of Monument Valley in glorious CinemaScope. Before Lee and Cousins; before contemporary cinema, Ford crafted a near perfect American film, using the desert landscape to mirror the hostility and violent nature of his hero John Wayne. The film is a study of of human nature, a tradition that endures through the work of Lee and Cousins, and exhibited by The Karlovy Vary International Film Festival.
Outfest LA LGBT Film Festival (6-16 July)
The North American Premiere of Erlingur Thoroddsen’s Rift is structured around the internal struggle of isolation. In this Icelandic thriller, following an unusual phone call from his ex-boyfriend, Gunnar is drawn to the remote cabin under a glacier. In this isolated space the two must confront their past, and in the tradition of the thriller, the past takes on a haunting presence. Offsetting the isolated nature of Thoroddsen’s film are Palatpol Mingpornpichit’s narrative feature Fathers and Cristina Herrera Borquez feature documentary No Dress Code Required.
Mingpornpichit’s film tells the story of the realisation of the dream of adopting a child for two gay men that is met with social prejudice. Borquez’s documentary feature about the experience of Mexicali wedding stylists Victor and Fernando, exposes the lack of global marriage equality. If Rift explores the internal difficulties of relationships, Mingpornpichit and Borquez help to complete a stark portrait of an internal offset by a social LGBT struggle. Coincidentally this returns us to Karlovy Vary, and Lee’s Yorkshire based drama, which also screens at Outfest, exposing the preoccupation within art of the human struggle for unity and harmony in our contemporary world.
1. Trailer for God’s Own Country.