VILNIUS - At last, film lovers have a reason to smile. After the usual diet of sickly Hollywood films, the Spring of Cinema film festival will offer cinephiles something to really get their teeth into. And, best of all, the films are being served for lunch, dinner and supper.
The annual festival takes place at the Lietuva Cinema Center and the Skalvija Cinema from April 30 - May 9, and is screening a staggering selection of independent European and world cinema. With 10 screenings a day, the festival will show some 50 films, all of which come highly recommended by critics. It's also pleasing to see documentaries featuring prominently in this year's festival program.
Most of the films being shown are European, although there is a tempting selection of exotic rarities from countries such as South Korea, Mongolia, New Zealand and Brazil.
According to the event's organizers, the movies were all carefully selected from the most prestigious international film festivals, such as Cannes, San Sebastian, Venice, Berlin, Locarno and Toronto.
The organizers have also tried to include a healthy sample of Lithuanian cinema. However, the most recognized Lithuanian presence at the festival will probably be that of Ingeborga Dapkunaite, the first-ever Lithuanian actress to star in the main role of a British film. Dapkunaite played a character called Helen in last year's award-winning British picture "Kiss of Life," a moving story about the importance of love and family.
The festival opens with the extremely controversial French film "Irreversible," which has so far managed to offend, outrage and sicken audiences throughout Europe. In America the film had to be heavily cut before it could gain a release there. In Sweden, however, it was awarded with the prestigious 2002 Stockholm Bronze Horse award. Certainly, Monica Bellucci's choice of films is becoming ever more fascinating.
"Whale Rider" from New Zealand has proven to be an immensely popular movie on the festival circuit. It won the audience award for most popular film at both the Toronto and Sundance film festivals, and has generally played to standing ovations and left audiences in tears.
Or check out the truly poetic South Korean film "Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter and...Spring," which reflects the rhythm of our existence through a series of elegant and elliptical stories, in the true Asian tradition.
Another film (among many) not to miss is the Turkish picture "Distant," directed by Nuri Bilge Ceylan. The film won several awards last year, including the prestigious Grand Prix at Cannes, the San Sebastian film of the year and the Chicago Silver Hugo. This melancholy story is a haunting meditation on life that is beautifully filmed and memorably told. In other words, it's cinema at its finest, like so much else that this festival has to offer. o
April 30 - May 9
Lietuva Cinema Center and Skalvija Cinema
Tickets 4 litas (1 euro) - 6 litas
For more information visit www.kinopavasaris.lt