The Küstendorf International Film and Music Festival takes place every January in the fairy tale town of Drvengrad, up high on a Serbian mountain, presided over by the charismatic, visionary Emir Kusturica.
A fixture on our Coolest Film Festivals in the World list, we have a blast every time we attend the funky, strange fest. This year, Greg Hamilton is blogging his adventures daily from Serbia over Küstendorf’s run, January 21-26.
The Serbian day is spilling white light through the blinds. It’s 11am and the morning has come too soon…again. While I smell like a bar, it isn’t overpowering, and I don’t feel as poorly as I did the first time. Perhaps I have adapted…or burned out those particular receptors.
Today is the last day of the Küstendorf Film and Music Festival. Hard to believe that it’s only been a week. It feels like I’ve lived in this place for at least a month. The ritual of international films, music, and good times has pulled me in and baptized me. In some ways, I am a changed person because of this place and the community that it creates. That being said, all good things must come to an end, and the winners of the student competition must be named.
Aside from the big awards ceremony and wrap party that awaits the finale to this festival, there is one more major screening left to go. This afternoon featured a rare presentation of the 1986 film Round Midnight followed by a Q&A/workshop with French director Bertrand Tavernier. Seeing this story on the big screen was an utter delight. From its live performance recordings, to the casting of veteran saxophonist Dexter Gordon in the lead role, Round Midnight brilliantly captures the challenges and beauty of the jazz life. The respect for the music and naturalistic approach to the jazz scene and its players were as refreshing as Tavernier’s insights on the production.
As the day came to a close, the tension around the awards ceremony was palpable. It was time to see what the jury had decided. The Küstendorf Eggs were about to hatch.
The Golden Egg found its home with the thrilling and subversive French drama Stella Maris directed by Giacomo Abbruzzese. The Silver Egg was delivered to director Marko Sopic for The Bag, a Serbian film based on a true story of unexpected good fortune. The Bronze Egg was claimed by director Guomundur Arnar Guomundsson of Iceland for Whale Valley, a beautifully rendered vision of two brothers and their strong bond in an isolated world.
Along with the Küstendorf Eggs, two other prizes were awarded. The Viko Filac Award for Cinematography was won by the charming Serbian documentary Merry-Go-Round, and a special jury award went to the minimalist Egyptian drama The Aftermath of the Inauguration of the Public Toilet at Kilometer 375.
As the camera flashes popped and the winners stood in front of the press corp, I felt joy and sadness at finally reaching the end of this adventure. I left the theater with some of my student filmmaker friends and retreated to the momentarily quiet space of the Damned Yard, where we commiserated about the results and the overall impact of the week. Even as the musicians wound up the crowd in the Visconti Restaurant and a finale of fireworks exploded over our small village, I couldn’t help but feel a tinge of melancholy at having to pack my bags. Much like a summer camp, the friends and experiences here will live on—a fitting testament to the magic and wonder that is Küstendorf. MM