As proof of the huge respect that EFA bears to our Festival, on behalf of the traditionally good cooperation, is the fact that they are sending the outstanding Irish scriptwriter and director, Jim Sheridan, as their high representative. His presence is a special pleasure and honour for us, and the multitude of domestic and foreign cinephiles will indeed know how to recognize and appreciate the fact that he will be attending the celebration of our 40th jubilee in person.
Sheridan was born in Dublin, in 1949 and is one of the leading auteurs – writer-directors of Irish cinema, which is proud of his oeuvre that has launched him into the heights of not only UK cinema, but also internationally. The top of his career, and of Irish cinema in general, is the master-piece IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER, which won the “Golden Bear” at the Berlin Film Festival in 1994, and continued to earn 7 more international awards and a record number of nominations, including the 7 Academy Award nominations, 4 “Golden Globe” nominations and 2 BAFTA nominations, although all these respectable institutions should have had the common sense to give, first and foremost, an Oscar, Golden Globe or BAFTA awards to the film as a whole, and then to Sheridan as its writer/director and to Daniel Day-Lewis, for his magnificent creation of the Dublin teenager – Gerry Conlon. One of the Guilford Four accused under the infamous torture by the English police, which forces them to falsely confess that they were the terrorists behind the bombs planted by IRA in 1974 in Guildford Pub in London, resulting in several victims, while Conlon and his father are imprisoned and sentenced, Gerry to a life sentence, whereby after 15 years in prison, the campaigning lawyer Pierce (played by the also excellent Emma Thompson) reopens their case and she fights for their acquittal and rehabilitation and to shed light on the truth and justice, although the years in prison have irreversibly gone by. The key visual link in this magnificent film is the Oscar-winning cinematographer from Wales, Peter Biziou. Himself being an actor of modest ambition, in each of his films, Sheridan has a special relationship with the selected cast, as well as the cinematographers that he works with, and Day-Lewis is his favourite actor, the fruitful collaboration with whom he started from his debut, made when he was 40 years old, the thrilling psychological and deeply humane drama – MY LEFT FOOT (1989) where Lewis plays the disabled Christi Brown, who as a result of his cerebral palsy is only able to draw and write by moving his left foot – which brought him the Oscar for Best Actor in a Lead Role, while actress Brenda Fricker won the Academy Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role. The cinematographer that Sheridan
worked with in his debut was Jack Conroy.

The third effective collaboration between Sheridan and Day-Lewis is in BOXER (1997) where in the triple role of producer-writer-director Sheridan articulated the inevitable, I’d dare say IRA obsessive syndrome, with Day-Lewis in the energetic and exceptional creation of boxer Danny Flynn, who due to his involvement in the IRA, after serving 14 years in prison, comes back to his working-class neighborhood and his girlfriend Maggie (Emily Watson), continuing his life as a boxer. The specificity of his role as a boxer is another proof of his energy as an actor, by training and successfully boxing in front of the cameras, as if he were a professional, which is indeed, a trait of only the best among actors. The film BOXER was a new triple creative work of art, having first writer/director Sheridan, followed by Day-Lewis playing the title role, and certainly all of this comes visually packed by the experienced, double Oscar-winner, cinematographer and director Chris Menges (our laureate of the Golden Camera 300 for Lifetime Achievement).

– Sheridan’s second film is THE FIELD (1990), which puts strong emphasis on the patriotic understanding of one’s property, when “Bull” McCabe, in the Oscar-winning performance of actor Richard Harris, fights against an American buyer for a piece of land offered at an auction after the death of the landlord, fearing that the newcomer/intruder would desacralize the authenticity and ancient roots of the land his family has cultivated for generations. This poignant ethno-drama set in an authentically Irish scenery was shot by cinematographer Jack Conroy (from MY LEFT FOOT).

– When it comes to scriptwriting, as his specialty, in 1996, Sheridan wrote the script for the film SOME MOTHER’S SON (featuring Helen Mirren) by director Terry George, based on an authentic event from 1981, when in an Irish prison, IRA prisoner Bobby Sands goes on a hunger strike, due to IRA’s treatment of political prisoners as criminals. An excellently acted psychodrama about the IRA syndrome.

After he moved to live and work in the USA in 1982, aged 33, Sheridan autobiographically conveyed his own experiences in IN AMERICA (2002), a story about an Irish family that illegally immigrates to the USA. The father Johnny Sullivan (played by Paddy Considine) is an actor who is trying to get a break under very difficult circumstances and care for his 2 remaining children and their mother Sarah (Samantha Morton), at the same time recovering from the tragedy after the death of their 5-year old son. This Manhattan drama was shot in his typical style by the American cinematographer Declain Quinn, bringing Sheridan his Academy Award nomination for best script.

Inspired by the original eponymous film of Danish director Susanne Bier, in 2009 Sheridan shots a re-make, an American version of the film BROTH
ERS with an excellent cast consisting of Jake Gyllenhaal, Tobey Maguire and Natalie Portman, in a story about a missing brother who is deployed to
Afghanistan, while his own brother and wife start a love affair. The cinematographer of this version was
the experienced American Frederick Elmes.

In 2011, once again as a complete author, Sheridan directs the psycho-thriller DREAM HOUSE with the excellent casting featuring Daniel Craig, Rachel Weisz, Naomi Watts, who when moving into the new dream house, face a tragedy involving the murder of a mother and her children. The cinematographer of this effective film is the six-time Oscar-nominee Caleb Deschanel.

As a co-writer (based on Sebastian Barry’s novel), in 2016 he directed the psycho-drama THE SECRET SCRIPTURE with actress Rooney Mara as a woman
who writes her confessional diary while staying in a mental institution. The mysticism and melancholic streak of the film is a specialty in the visual expression of the Russian cinematographer Michael Crichman (laureate of the “Manaki Brothers” Festival).

Consistent with his interest in authentic events that have attracted worldwide attention, in his chronologically most recent film LOCKERBIE, based on writer Peter Biddulph‘s documentary book, Sheridan actualizes the ever-present phrenomen of terrorism, putting the events of 1988 in focus, when a Pan Am plane was taken down by two Libyan terrorists over the Scottish town of Lockerbie, resulting in 269 dead, including Flora, whose father, Dr. Jim Swire begins his own investigation into identifying and punishing the criminals, which, as a final satisfaction, despite the irrecuperable family loss – rehabilitates the essence of justice in all its geopolitical and social dimensions.

Blagoja Kunovski – Dore


Everything is important in a film plot, because even the most miniscule detail suggests certain indications to anticipate, certain moments of readiness to understand the story, to foresee the end, and the viewers are often so inadvertently occupied with the end, that they unfortunately miss the process of contemplation, perception. They miss the transience of the plot twist, the wondrous change of the characters from heroes into villains and vice versa, they miss the things happening in between the dialogues, they miss the film, and it is exactly there, in-between the dialogues that the film hides. Those directors, those cinema artists who when “grabbing” your attention also “steal” your heart are rare, so rare, nearly endemic. Yet, it is true, they might be rare, but they do exist. One of them is the German enfant terrible of Turkish origin, the always smiling Fatih Akin, director, producer, actor… an excellent DJ as well, some would say. If with his first short film “Sensin -You are the one” he won the German audiences and critics, with “Weed” he shone brightly on the international cinema scene. Aged less than 25, his dream had become reality. In 1998, with his first long feature film ”Kurz und Schmerzloss” he won the Bronze Leopard in Locarno, and that same year he was also the winner of the prestigious German award for Best Young Bavarian Director. His unpretentiousness in approaching the essence of the film story lulls you in, only to send you a “meteor” a few moments later and shatter your ease, so that you are stunned, not aware of how it all came to be, trying to go a few moments back… but the baring of the characters continues with the same intensity and it goes straight to the bones, it keeps hurting. In each of his films he completely hands you over to the basic human instincts in expressing love, joy, friendship, hatred, mercy, tolerance, trust, mistrust, revenge, survival… and most certainly pain, as the ancient precursor to any emotion. Akin builds the plot like a tide, like an equation that you don’t know how to solve, but gets under your skin, and you obediently accept it and let it spill over until it reaches a state of dramatic self-criticism. He is a rare, I’d dare say, the only cinema artist who constructs self-criticism up to a level of a state of emergency of the human consciousness, of his social engagement, of a geometry of reasoning. Here I particularly refer to all his stories which observe the German and Turkish, and even Balkan character from a historic and contemporary aspect. And these dualities overlap, separate, merge in an attempt to reach the moment of universal happiness of unhappiness. In his films Fatih Akin perceives the states of happiness and unhappiness as complementary and bound by destiny, his characters are extremely meticulously created in their manner of movement, in their approach, their expression. His way of work with the actors makes them so close to you that you often recognize yourself in them and get angry at yourself, you become ashamed of yourself, you question yourself. And just like that, he achieves what he intended to do, to put you in a constant state of self-examination, where you examine your intentions, actions, feelings. – Starting from 2002 with “Solino”, Fatih begins a new collaboration with the exceptional cinematographer Rainer Klausmann, the two of them soon becoming a leading European and international tandem, and he personally starts a new auteur odyssey in this method of writing and directing, where the meaning of the ordinary human in the creation of the envisaged multicultural society comes to the fore. With the film “Head-on” (for which cinematographer Rainer Klausmann was awarded with the Golden Camera 300 at the “Manaki Brothers” Festival) the tandem continued to build its cult status, especially among the younger audiences and this film earned them the Golden Bear for Best Film and the European Film Award in 2004. They continue with the film “The Edge of Heaven” (Rainer Klausmann was in the Competition at the “Manaki Brothers” Festival) which earned Akin the Best Script Award in Cannes in 2007. “Soul Kitchen” was given the special jury recognition at the Venice Film Festival in 2009, and in 2012 Akin challenged us with the long feature documentary “Garbage in the Garden of Eden” while with the epic film “Cut”, starting from his Turkish background as a moral imperative, Akin boldly absolves the historic syndrome of the genocide over the Armenians. Their next film is the engaged drama “In the Fade” (cinematographer Rainer Klausmann won the Silver Camera 300 in the 2017 Competition of the “Manaki Brothers”, and in 2018, at the 39 “Manaki Brothers” he was a member of the international jury), with which they proceed to win the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Film in 2017. Their latest film “The Golden Glove” (2019), inspired by a true event, based on the novel by Heinz Strunk, shocked both the critics and audiences in Berlin and left no one indifferent. Evil lurks within us, as a germ present in everyone, and you just don’t know what and how it could be set off. A bizarre and difficult film, which is impossible not to experience viscerally. Every neighborhood has its villain, but not every neighborhood has its monster. In Fatih’s films the monster is the darkness in our hearts that could eat us all up, literally. Yet, apart from this monster, there are also these other ones, the innocent ones, who are becoming rarer and rarer. Through the most innocent actions of an ordinary human we get a glimpse into the essence of our existence, the precious little happiness we need for our worldview to be filled with colour, with the horizon that we have always dreamed of; or the thin crevice of hatred that destroys us and fills our hearts full of black tulips. We all have a favourite film by the Akin-Klausmann tandem, I have dear friends who fell in love the night they watched their film and then often hummed the tune. They are still humming to that tune, and I enjoy watching and listening to them. I also have my own favourite film by Fatih Akin, but I won’t tell you which.

Gena Teodosievska
Film critic