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Meet the Young Critics (IX)

Film Critic (Ronald Searle, 1952)


We asked the participants in the ninth edition of the Young Critics Workshop at Film Fest Gent three simple questions. Who are they? What is their favorite “cinephiliac” moment? And which three films are they most looking forward to at the festival? Below are their answers.

Follow the Young Critics’ exploits at Film Fest Gent from October 11 until 22!

Arta Barzanji

I’m an Iranian cinephile, writer, filmmaker, and a current MFA candidate in Film and Media Arts at Temple University. My work, encompassing experimental, narrative, and documentary modes, deals directly with the cinema itself, exploring the relationship between the viewer and the screen while engaging with the works of filmmakers as diverse as Stan Brakhage, Orson Welles, Kamran Shirdel, and Malcolm Le Grice. My critical writings and translations have appeared both in Farsi and English in publications like photogénie, Filmkhaneh, and Film Matters, focusing on filmmakers such as Sohrab Shahid Saless and Straub-Huillet among others.

Cinephiliac Moment

A favorite cinephiliac moment: when, at the beginning of Holy Motors, Leos Carax emerges from his bedroom into the cinema. He opens the double door and is suddenly shrouded in a mysterious red light as he enters, slowly climbing the stairs, with his left hand caressing the wall to his side. I only saw Holy Motors once in 2012 or ‘13, and haven’t had the courage to watch it again since (to protect the magical first encounter, perhaps). Nonetheless, I’ve been haunted by this opening scene for ten years.

Top three anticipated FFG Films

 Three films that I’m most excited about could just be the three Hong Sang-soo films, but if I may cheat and count those as one, I will add De Humani Corporis Fabrica (Lucien Castaing-Taylor & Verena Paravel) and Pacifiction (Albert Serra). Honorable mention to À vendredi, Robinson (Mitra Farahani) — for a final glimpse of JLG, and perhaps also Golestan — and to The Housemaid (Kim Ki-young) from the classics.

Dora Leu

I’m a Romanian film critic and filmmaker, currently finishing my MA in film studies at UNATC in Bucharest. I have previously graduated with a degree in film direction and have also studied art history. I write for Romanian film magazines Acoperisul de sticla and Films in Frame and, at present, I am also working on an experimental documentary about a Romanian radio station in the 90s. My greatest passions are Japanese New Wave cinema, music videos and Irish post-punk bands.

Cinephiliac Moment

As for cinephiliac moments… listen, if you ask me again two days from now I’ll probably give a different answer. But for now, I might settle for the opening scene from Hou Hsiao-hsien’s Three Times, the so-called ‘Smoke Gets in Your Eyes’ scene. There’s something so mesmerizingly cinematic about that billiards game. No words are spoken, yet the slow movement of the billiard balls rolling down the table provides for a different form of communication, one of small gestures and meaningful glances. There’s a sense of familiarity and nostalgic warmth; but who are all these people? Is this just another night between a few friends or are they all strangers? Chang Chen’s clean-shaven, concentrated gaze is perhaps one of his best moments on film, an opaque expression that also projects an elusive feeling.

Top three anticipated FFG Films

Concerning films at the festival, I am also really looking forward to see some Hong Sang-soo, particularly The Novelist’s Film, which I’ve tried to catch all year. I’m adding to my list one Irish film, An Cailín Ciúin (Colm Bairéad), and Bi Gan’s short A Short Story; and in case that’s too short I might go for one film by a Romanian filmmaker that I am very, very curious about, namely Mihai Mincan’s To the North. And if there’s room to sneak in an older film, I would be very excited to see Philippe Garrel’s Le Révélateur for the first time on the big screen.

Angelo Elia

I am an Italian cinephile currently living in Turin and have recently completed an MA in film and media studies. I occasionally write about movies, particularly American movies and even more particularly westerns (I wrote a thesis on the cinematic representations of Wyatt Earp).

Cinephiliac Moment

The ‘cigarette in the egg’ shot in To Catch a Thief. Partly because of the unexpected abruptness that makes it shocking and partly because of the obvious plastic and chromatic qualities that make it unforgettable (and a bit revolting). Moreover, I think there is something mysterious about this image: in a film chock-full of metaphors and similes, one is tempted to interpret this shot as such, yet I never managed to ascribe a clear and unambiguous meaning to it (whereas, for example, I do not need to rack my own brain too much to understand what the fireworks in another famous scene in the same film stand for). And perhaps the truth is that it stands for nothing but Hitchcock’s notorious hatred of eggs (or perhaps, who knows, cigarettes, as there is a similar shot in Rebecca but with a jar of cleansing cream instead of eggs). But even if this were indeed the case and the shot represented nothing more than a quirk of Mr. Hitchcock, it would be no less exceptional, as it is no small feat to succeed in such a sublime way in rendering a personal repulsion objective and universal.

Top three anticipated FFG Films

Mitra Farahani’s À vendredi, Robinson; Cristian Mungiu’s R.M.N.; Aleksandr Sokurov’s Fairytale

Sofie Delrue

I’m a Belgian student currently finishing my Master’s degree in Theatre, Film and Literature at the University of Antwerp. After secondary school I first attended film school in Brussels, but soon realized that I was not ready (yet) to make my own films, so I decided to pursue a more academic course. Even though I love film, I also love the outdoors. And if you can’t find me in the woods or in the cinema, you can probably find me behind the bar of the café where I work in my hometown.

Cinephiliac Moment

Choosing a favorite cinephiliac moment is incredibly difficult as it is ever-changing for me. But for now, I choose the visual language of Sicilia! by Straub-Huillet. The picturesque quality of the cinematography makes the images resonate and occasionally resurface subconsciously. Maybe I choose this film now because the summer months are still fresh memories and the film’s images remind me of sunshine, oranges, great food, the land, the sea and the gusto of summer. But when in the smallest gestures of my daily life, like setting the table or cooking, the images from a film I saw months ago unconsciously reappear, I know that it is a film that has touched my cinephiliac core.

Top three anticipated FFG Films

The three films I’m most looking forward to seeing at Film Fest Gent are, on the one hand, the shorts from the project in Mosul — may I take the liberty of viewing these as one film for a moment — because I think it’s a great project and so far I don’t actually have much knowledge about the city of Mosul, its inhabitants and culture, beyond what I’ve gleaned from the media. On the other hand, I am very curious about Hong Sang-soo’s two films released in 2022: Walk up and The Novelist’s Film. When I saw Introduction and In Front of Your Face at Film Fest Gent last year, I became very intrigued by Hong Sang-soo’s oeuvre. Therefore, I am very excited about the focus on Korean cinema and to see what Hong has created this year.

Kenny Nixon

I’m a New York born, Chicago based studio cameraperson for Bally Sports/Stadium, who turns to criticism and film writing as a respite from work’s drudgery. I graduated from Northwestern University in 2021 with a degree in Film Production, with notable accomplishments including a B- for a paper on In a Lonely Place for being “too enthusiastic about Nicholas Ray”. I find strength in the films of John Ford and Maurice Pialat, as well as in my fandom of the New York Knicks.

Cinephiliac Moment

Same qualifiers as everyone else, the answer to this question changes daily, but I suppose the car chase in Renoir’s La Nuit du carrefour, with its flashlight lit country roads, the roughly recorded direct sound of the cars, immediate sense of real danger, speaks to something that I look for in movies, where everything else besides what is actually happening is what really interests me. The movie is missing two reels and makes absolutely zero sense on a narrative level, but is one of my favorites because its thrust comes from this exact “problem”.

Top three anticipated FFG Films

At the festival I am looking forward to Hong Sang-Soo’s two new films, Serra’s Pacifiction, and a chance to see my first Lav Diaz film. Honorable mention for Garrel’s Le Révélateur, as I saw it only recently, and cannot wait to experience it in a theater with other people.