European Film Festival 2017: Treat yourself to the best of European cinema

European Strike A Pose - Still

Strike a Pose.

The European Film Festival is back for the fourth time at Cinema Nouveau theatres in Johannesburg, Pretoria and Durban from 5 to 14 May.

The line-up of films represents 12 countries, including Ireland and Croatia for the first time.

Each film reflects the skills and take on the world of filmmakers who are not limited by national borders. They include: American Honey, an award-winning British-made road movie set in America’s mid-west; and King of the Belgians, which sees the Belgian king and his entourage crossing the Balkans in a madcap adventure.

Festival director Katarina Hedrén who returns as the curator for the second time is delighted with the pickings.

“With this year’s selection which includes films of different genres, textures and moods, the aim is to entertain, amuse and offer opportunities for reflection, new discoveries and recognition,” she says. “The theme binding the films together is cinematic excellence through acclaimed and award-winning films from 12 European countries.”

The 2017 selection is a mixed pot in terms of film themes which span from animal rights to family dynamics. Dramas and documentaries, comedies, tales of grief and a children’s adventure sit side by side on this eclectic and exciting programme.

“The films are new, but the commitment remains the same: to offer audiences in South Africa an opportunity to experience acclaimed and award-winning European cinema,” says Hedrén.

The European Film Festival is coordinated by the Goethe-Institut South Africa, hosted by Ster-Kinekor Cinema Nouveau, and organised in partnership with the Delegation of the European Union to South Africa and 12 other European cultural agencies or embassies in South Africa: the General Representation of the Government of Flanders, the French Institute, the Italian Cultural Institute, the Camões Institute, the British Council, and the Embassies of Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Ireland, the Netherlands, Poland and Spain.

The films can be viewed at Cinema Nouveau – Rosebank Mall; Cinema Nouveau – Brooklyn, Pretoria; Cinema Nouveau – V&A, Cape Town at Cinema Nouveau – Gateway, Umhlanga.

Tickets are R64. To book visit or

For more information, visit or join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook: #EuroFilmFestSA.

The full European Film Festival 2017 line up is:

stefan zweig

Stefan Zweig.

Stefan Zweig: Farewell To Europe (Austria, 2016), drama, directed by Maria Schrader and starring Tómas Lemarquis, Barbara Sukowa and Josef Hader.

Schrader’s second feature film recounts the last years of Austrian novelist and playwright, Stefan Zweig’s life, which he spent exiled in the Americas, with his wife.

The agony of being uprooted is as present in the ailing author’s life as the abhorrence of meaningless counter-gestures and the sense of powerlessness in the face of fascism.

Stefan Zweig: Farewell to Europe was Austria’s entry for the Oscar for Best Foreign Film. The film won Schrader the award for best direction at the Bavarian Film Awards (2017) and Josef Hader the award for best actor by the German Film Critics Association (2017).

The film is in German, English, Portuguese, French and Spanish with English subtitles.

European Belgium King of the Belgians KOTB2

King of the Belgians.

King Of The Belgians (Belgium, 2016), comedy, directed by Peter Brosens and Jessica Woodworth and starring Peter Van den Begin, Lucie Debay, Bruno Georis and Pieter van der Houwen.

On a state visit to Turkey, the dutiful but uninspired King Nicolas III of Belgium learns of a coup back home (the Walloons have declared themselves fed up and independent). Prevented from going back by air, but filled with a renewed sense of purpose, the king embarks on an unorthodox road trip through the Balkans, accompanied by his reluctant aides and led by a resourceful British documentary filmmaker, initially commissioned to improve the dull monarch’s image.

This thoughtful and hilarious drama was awarded by the Circle of Dutch Film Journalists at Rotterdam International Film Festival and has screened at Venice and Hamburg Film Festivals.

It is in Flemish, French, English and Bulgarian with English subtitles.


The High Sun.

The High Sun (Croatia, 2015), drama, directed by Dalibor Matanic and starring Tihana Lazovic, Goran Markovic and Nives Ivankovic.

Three love stories, unfolding in two Balkan villages in 1991, 2001 and 2011, and featuring the same key cast, capture the moods of each time – from the initial sense of doom, via the determination to survive and rebuild, to the dream of leaving the past behind though wounds are still festering.

Skillful writing coupled with stellar direction and performances has seen The High Sun and Matanic win numerous awards, among them, Un Certain Regard Jury Prize at Cannes (2015), The International Confederation of Art Cinemas at Sarajevo Film Festival (2015), Best Artistic Contribution at Cairo International Film Festival (2015) and the Slovenian Art Cinema Network’s award for Best Film (2015).

The film is in Croatian with English subtitles.

Things To Come

Things to Come.

Things To Come (France, 2016), drama, directed by Mia Hansen-Love and starring Isabelle Huppert, André Marcon and Roman Kolinka.

Isabelle Huppert is as brilliant as ever in her earnest portrayal of philosophy teacher Nathalie Chazeaux. As Nathalie is trying to carve out a new direction in life amidst student demonstrations, the questioning of her intellectual relevance, defining relationships coming to an end and becoming a grandmother, her former star student Fabien unexpectedly becomes both a compassionate friend and a fervent intellectual sparring partner.

Things to Come has screened at numerous film festivals and won Hansen-Love the Silver Bear for Best Director at Berlin International Film Festival 2016.

Isabelle Huppert’s performance won her several awards for best actress, including those handed out by The New York Film Critics Circle and the Los Angeles Film Critics Association.

The film is in French, German and English with English subtitles.

Toni Erdmann

Toni Erdmann.

Toni Erdmann (Germany, 2016), drama, directed by Maren Ade and starring Sandra Hüller, Peter Simonischek and Michael Wittenborn.

In Ade’s third feature, eccentric music teacher, father and practical-joker Winfried Conradi joins his corporate-ladder climbing daughter Ines in Bucharest following his dog’s passing. In an effort to rekindle family bonds, he infiltrates the multinational firm she works for, disguised as the life coach Toni Erdmann.

Toni Erdmann was Germany’s submission for the 2017 Oscars for Best Foreign Language Film, and until the very end, a highly touted winner.

It was nominated for the Golden Globes and the BAFTAs (2017), the FIPRESCI prize at Cannes 2016, the German Film Critics Association Awards for Best Film, Best Screenplay and Best Edit and several International Cinephile Society Awards.

The film is in German with English subtitles.

The Queen Of Ireland

The Queen of Ireland.

The Queen Of Ireland (Ireland, 2015), documentary, directed by Conor Horgan and starring Declan Buckley, Phillip McMahon and Una Mullally.

Horgan’s heartfelt documentary tells about the life and activism of Irish drag queen Pandora Panti Bliss.

Born in Ireland in the late 1960s and instrumental in revolutionising the Irish LGBT-scene, the charismatic, sharp and outspoken performer Rory O’Neill almost seems destined to play an influential role at the time of the 2015 Irish referendum for marriage equality rights. The film traces Panti’s spectacular career, public controversies as well as more personal aspects of Rory O’Neill’s life.

The Queen of Ireland has screened at film festival across the world and won awards for Best Film and Best Documentary presented by Dublin Film Critics Circle.

The film is in English.

sweet dreams

Sweet Dreams.

Sweet Dreams (Italy, 2016), drama, directed by Marco Bellocchio and starring Bérénice Bejo, Valerio Mastandrea and Fabrizio Gifuni.

The course of celebrated Italian author and journalist Massimo Gramellini’s entire life changes on the day his mother dies. Sheltered by his well-meaning but distant father, the nine-year old is left to deal with the void as best as he can. Partly in denial and partly kept in the dark, Massimo grows up in a rapidly changing Italy. Though his professional star is fast rising, he remains stuck emotionally until the day he is asked to reply to the letter of a newspaper reader in distress.

Based on Gramellini’s autobiography, this cinematic gem opened the Directors Fortnight at Cannes 2016 and won the International Cinephile Society’s Award for best film not released in 2017.

Italian with English subtitles.

strike a pose

Strike a Pose.

Strike A Pose (Netherlands, 2016), documentary, directed by Ester Gould and Reijer Zwaan and starring Luis Camacho, Oliver S. Crumes III, Salim Gauwloos, Jose Gutierez, Kevin Stea, Carlton Wilborn and Gabriel Trupin.

When seven young men became Madonna’s backup dancers for her legendary Blond Ambition world tour in 1990, their lives changed.

The mythical documentary Truth or Dare – shot as they travelled the world – contributed to cement Madonna’s status as an icon and one of that time’s most prominent voices for gay rights and AIDS-prevention.

The cost for the superstar’s outspokenness and daring image was paid by those who returned to normal life once the dream was over. Dutch documentarians, Gould and Zwaan, give voice to these men.

Strike a Pose has screened at Tribeca Film Festival and Hot Docs. It won the Jury Award for Best LGBT-film at the Key West Film Festival (2016) and was the runner-up for the Panorama Audience Award at Berlin International Film Festival (2016).

The film is in English.



Spoor (Poland), drama, directed by Agnieszka Holland and Kasia Adamik and starring Agnieszka Mandat-Grabka, Wiktor Zborowski and Jakub Gierszal.

This scenic and original mother-and-daughter directed thriller tells of part-time school teacher, retired civil engineer and passionate animal-lover, Janina Duszejko, who lives alone in a village where hunting is the preferred pastime of the small community’s big men. When one by one, these prominent pillars of society are found dead, without any trace of a perpetrator, the question on everybody’s mind is, ‘Who or what did it?’

With a career, spanning over continents, three-times Oscar-nominated director Agnieszka Holland returns with a fresh film, based on a novel, which she calls ‘a fairytale about anger’ and which competed for the Golden Bear at Berlin International Film Festival (2017).

Polish with English subtitles.


Game of Checkers.

Game Of Checkers (Portugal), drama, directed by Patrícia Sequeira and starring Ana Nave, Ana Padrão, Fátima Belo, Maria João Luís and Rita Blanco. Five close friends gather after the passing of their common friend Martha, at a tourist resort that the deceased was about to open. The group spends the entire night after Martha’s wake reminiscing, eating, drinking, smoking, opening up old wounds, and revealing secrets, in addition to alternately forgiving and judging one another. When the morning comes, the question of the women’s future friendship remains open.

Experienced TV-director Patrícia Sequeira’s first feature has won several awards, incl. Los Angeles Movie Awards for Best Narrative Feature, Best International Film and Best Actress (2016) and Cyprus International Film Festival’s awards for Best Director, Best Leading Actress and Best Script in a First Feature (2016).

Portuguese with English subtitles.


Zip & Zap and the Captain’s Island.

Zip & Zap and the Captain’s Island (Spain), drama (children’s adventure), directed by Oskar Santos and starring Elena Anaya, Carolina Lapausa, Teo Planell, Tom Wilton, and Toni Gómez.

When the unruly brothers Zip and Zap commit an offense out of the ordinary, they are sentenced to a boring family boat trip with their parents. At least that is what it seems like. Stranded at a remote and mysterious island after a storm, they are invited to stay with Miss Pam, whose home is a children’s paradise with no rules. At first pleased, their parents’ sudden disappearance begins to bother Zip and Zap, who set out to find them together with their newfound friends Flecky and Macky.

The visually stunning second feature film about comic book heroes Zip and Zap has screened at BFI London Film Festival (2016) as well as Miami Film Festival and the Audi Dublin International Film Festival in 2017.

Spanish with English subtitles.


American Honey.

American Honey (UK), drama, directed by Andrea Arnold and starring Sasha Lane, Shia LaBeouf and Riley Keough.

Acclaimed British director Andrea Arnold returns with a road-movie set in the US Midwest. The film tells of drifting teenager Star who joins a crew of wayward magazine-selling youth led by the uncompromising Krystal (played by Elvis Presley’s granddaughter Riley Keough). Under the guidance of the slightly older and seductive Jake, the strong-minded Star is expected to master the art of selling magazine subscriptions needed by nobody to anybody – rich or poor – using whatever capacities at hand.

Among its achievements are the Jury Prize at Cannes (2016), the FIPRESCI Prize at Stockholm Film Festival (2016) as well as awards for Best Independent Film, Best Director, Best Actress and Outstanding Achievement in Craft for cinematography at the British Independent Film Awards (2016). It was nominated for a BAFTA for Outstanding British Film of the Year.

The film is in English.


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