Cannes 2021: the most anticipated films from Eastern Europe

6 July 2021

The industry’s most stylish rendez-vous returns from 6 until 17 July, when the Cannes Film Festival will be taking over the French Riviera. After the official event was cancelled in 2020, the programme for Cannes 2021 has been much-anticipated — and with a blend of postponed screenings and new releases, it has a little something for everybody. The Calvert Journal has rounded up the top new Eastern Europe titles ready for your watchlist.

Petrov’s Flu

Director: Kirill Serebrennikov

Initially due to premiere at Cannes in 2020, Kiril Serebrennikov’s long-awaited feature is now a 2021 favourite. Helmed by the Russian director while he was under house arrest as part of a politically suspect fraud case, Petrov’s Flu follows a day in the life of a seemingly ordinary Russian family in the midst of a flu epidemic. But despite its seeming chilling relevance to the Covid-19 pandemic, the screenplay is in fact an adaptation of an earlier bestseller: 2018’s The Petrovs In and Around the Flu by Alexey Salnikov.

The Story of My Wife

Director: Ildiko Enyedi

Oscar-nominated Hungarian director Ildiko Enyedi returns to the red carpet with The Story of My Life, a romantic literary adaptation of a 1946 Hungarian novel of the same name by Milán Fust. It follows Dutch naval captain Storr as he narrates the story of his marriage to Lizzy, a French woman with whom he tied the knot after a friend dared him to marry the first woman who walked into their cafe. The novel is allegedly one of Enyedi’s teenage favourites, and she has diligently brought it to life in this Hungarian, German, French and Italian co-production. The trailer hints at profound dialogue and a mesmerising setting on the high seas.

Evolution

Director: Kornél Mundruczó

Evolution follows three generations of a German family, from the Second World War to modern day Berlin. With a piercing gaze, it watches characters as they struggle with their past, trapped in a society still processing the wounds of its own history. Hungarian director Kornél Mundruczó is better known for his theatre work, and the feature is based on his play of the same name, and co-produced with conductor Steven Sloane.

Babi Yar. Context

Director: Sergei Loznitsa

Based entirely on rare, unearthed archives, Babi Yar. Context reconstructs the events preceding and following the massacre of more than 30,000 Jews on the outskirts of Nazi-occupied Kyiv in 1941. Drawing on years of painstaking archival research, director Sergei Loznitsa has long considered Babi Yar. Context to be one of his most ambitious projects. His work, however, has paid off: resulting is a film that uses the power of cinema to both articulate painful truths, and to give a voice to the surviving descendents of Kyiv’s Jewish population.

La Civil

Director: Teodora Ana Mihai

La Civil, the first fiction feature from Belgian-Romanian director Teodora Ana Mihai, is a harrowing drama set in cartel-controlled Northern Mexico. When Cielo, a mother searching for her abducted daughter, is denied help by the authorities, she is forced to take matters into her own hands — transforming into an avenging activist. Co-produced between Belgium, Romania, and Mexico, Mihai’s film is a promising first step from one of the festival’s up-and-coming names.

Unclenching the firsts

Director: Kira Kovalenko

Set in a former mining town in North Ossetia, Unclenching the Fists follows Zaur, a father who moves with his three children to the town of Mizur. But living deep in the mountains, he quickly becomes overprotective and domineering. Zaur’s eldest child soon moves to Rostov, and his daughter, Ada, is forced to come to terms with a love for a family that is in equal parts comforting and asphyxiating. Directed by Kira Kovalenko, the film was produced by Alexander Rodnyansky: already known for working on Andrey’s Zvyagintsev’s Leviathan and Loveless, as well as Kantemir Balagov’s Closeness and Beanpole.

House Arrest

Director: Aleksey German Jr.

When university professor David takes to social media to criticise his local administration, he suddenly finds himself entangled in an embezzlement case — and promptly placed under house arrest. Yet despite the overbearing surveillance, double-crossing acquaintances, and growing media interest in his case, David remains defiant and unapologetic. Russian director Aleksey German Jr. is known for the raw political takes of his films, and House Arrest is no exception — set to premiere at Cannes, House Arrest promises to be a poignant, timely criticism of Russia’s judicial system.

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