Our Picks for CPH PIX

From feminist, Indonesian thrillers to classically French character studies, here are the films you should see at this year's festival.

Still from “Ava” (see below)

So, bad news: summer is over, which means Copenhagen is about to turn into a frigid black hole of evil winds, frozen bicycle locks and darkness that tries to suck the life out of you. But! Good news: the bleaker the conditions get around here, the more the city tries to distract you with excellent cultural programming. First up is CPH PIX—the city’s annual international film festival screening a diverse, captivating and ambitious assortment of films from all over the world. As per usual, you’ve got emphasis on the classics (Tarkovsky’s Stalker, anyone? Or a bit of the Kubrick retrospective?), some heart-warming indie darlings, some murky portraits of lives of crime, some heart-wrenching love stories. But you also have quite a lot of films covering a myriad of female experiences from countries as diverse as Indonesia and France, as well as films communicating a very bold female gaze. From a stark portrait of a young woman accused of being a witch to a visually electrifying story about a teenager about to lose her sight, the themes are plentiful, rock-solid and will definitely hit your sweet spot.

Although you’d probably like to escape your responsibilities and disappear into a movie theatre for two weeks straight to catch all the films, you’re probably a reasonable person with a life and sadly can’t really join all the retired folks around town to do that. Therefore, we’ve done you a little favor and picked our top ten films to see at the festival. Not only will they compel you to put your feminist cap on to analyze how people are portraying women in 2017 and how female filmmakers see the world—they’ll also just entertain you. Enjoy.

LOMO – The Language of Many Others

Director: Julia Langhof

Country: Germany

Language:German with English subtitles

Teenagers have always been angsty and done stupid things when angsty—but nowadays, those enduring growing pains have a new and unpredictable weapon of expressing that anger in the form of the internet. That’s what Director Julia Langhof aptly zooms in on in “LOMO – The Language of Many Others”: what starts out as a portrayal of 17-year-old Karl from a well-to-do German family venting about his life online turns into an observation of what happens when intentions morph into privacy violations and revenge porn. Despite capturing how swiftly Karl hurts people and how detrimental his actions are, Langhof doesn’t want to make you hate him: instead, she wants to portray him as a cog in the wheel of a Brave New World defined by selfies, oversharing and uploading sex tapes with unprecedented nonchalance. For me, the decision to make Karl a character you can empathize with immediately rubs me the wrong way – we’re talking about revenge porn, after all – but you should decide what you think for yourself. Plus, Langhof and co-writer Thomas Gerhold picked up the screenplay award at the Munich Film Festival—meaning there’s definitely some serious meat behind this complex story.

Screenings: 

28/09 -21:30 – Cinemateket (Meet the Director)

2/10 – 17:30 – Empire Bio

10/10 – 16:45 – Cinemateket

Nico, 1988

Director: Susanna Nicchiarelli

Country: Italy, Belgium

Language: Italian and German with English subtitles 

If you went through a Velvet Underground or Andy Warhol phase, you probably at some point listened to German singer Nico’s beautiful and heartbreaking track “Chelsea Girl” on repeat. With her striking and totally 60s cool girl looks, deep bass voice and ever-melancholic persona, Nico is a 60s icon described as the original Factory Girl and Lou Reed’s muse. However, the fame she experienced at the height of those days quickly cascaded into drug addiction, depression and a disappearance from the public sphere—which is what director Susanna Nicchiarelli focuses on in her film “Nico, 1988”. We meet Nico almost thirty years after her glory days within Warhol’s crew; tired, lost and struggling, she grapples with trying to create music, coming to terms with how her life turned out and also battling her addictions. Throughout cinematic history, Nico has remained kind of a mysterious backdrop; very, very rarely has a filmmaker decided to take an empathetic and intimate look at the vulnerable woman behind the iconic facade. So it’s an absolute pleasure that Nicchiarelli has decided to take the plunge with a stellar cast, no less: Trine Dyrholm, who plays Nico, has garnered widespread praise for her spot-on performance in this film.

Screenings:

29/09-2017 – 19.00 – Grand (Meet the Director + Trine Dyrholm)

4/10 – 21.15 – Gloria

9/10 – 17.30 – Empire Bio

Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts

Director: Mouly Surya

Country: Indonesia, France, Malaysia, Thailand

Language: Indonesian with English subtitles

In this visually brilliant feminist Western from the ‘wild west’ of Indonesia, we meet the widow Marlina as she encounters the bandit Markus who thinks he can have his way with her and steal her cattle and chickens. However, this dude knocked on the wrong door: the next day, his buddies find Markus’ body—minus the head. What follows is a dazzling journey following Marlina and other women in similar plights a.k.a. sick of enduring years of being controlled by men coming into their own and making a run for it across the dramatic landscape. The style harkens back to classic Westerns but the acting is a brittle whirlwind of emotion that makes you feel like you’re right there with Marlina and her crew of women. A stylish, feminist piece of badassery that oozes revenge and goddess-like power. Not to be missed!

Screenings:

5/10 – 19:00 – Dagmar

8/10 – 16:30 – Cinemateket

11/10 – 16:40 – Grand

Alanis 

Director: Anahí Berneri

Country: Argentina

Language: English

In this darkly funny yet also quite serious film, director Anahi Berneri makes you feel deeply for Alanis—a sex worker in Argentina who is also a single mother and has to fight to survive and sleep with a roof over her head with her son. The plight portrayed is one that affects sex workers worldwide thanks to all the weird and murky legislation that surrounds sex work: in Argentina, sex work is tolerated but procuring isn’t—which means brothels are illegal. As a result, spunky yet fatigued Alanis has been thrown out of a brothel and must now fight to make ends meet in a society that stigmatizes her life and profession. The film definitely critiques the system that leaves women who do sex work helpless to fend for themselves in a legally restrictive environment, but the character of Alanis lightens it up: played by the excellent Gala Castiglione, she’s lively, unsentimental and very easy to empathize with—creating a film that is equally an entertaining character study as well as food for thought about the structures that harm women more than they help them.

Screenings:

2/10 – 21:15 – Vester Vov Vov

4/10 – 17:00 – Grand

7/10 – 12:00 – Dagmar

Ava

Director: Lea Mysius

Country: France

Language: French with English subtitles

In this coming of age portrait tinged with more than a touch of magical realism, 13-year-old Ava is on holiday with her mother when she finds out that she will lose her sight soon. As soon as she receives this information, she starts acting out in strange ways: she steals a big black dog, falls in love with a mysterious young man and transforms into a surreal and lawless emblem of rebellion who hungers for vibrant life before she loses all sense of vibrancy. The script is written with a dry humor that only the French can pull off, which is a great balance to the magic of the visuals: the kaleidoscopic colours and offbeat situations blur the lines between fiction and reality, but ultimately serve as a lusty metaphor for the beautiful transitions that define teenagehood. Shot on 35 mm film, the visuals are stunning—creating a life-provoking debut film that teases out the light despite the darkness of Ava’s situation.

Screenings:

1/10 – 17.00 – Gloria

5/10 – 16.40 – Grand

I Am Not a Witch

Director: Rungano Nyoni

Country: Great Britain, France, Zambia

Language: English

In certain parts of Zambia, people believe in and fear witches—following the gendered stereotype that the girl you go to school with or the woman who lives a few houses down could be a force of evil. That’s what happens to 9-year-old orphan Shula in this bittersweet and visually stunning film: she’s blamed for tiny and even irrelevant events that happen in her village and is subsequently branded a witch, banished to a government-run ‘witch camp’ which actually proves quite popular with the tourists. Director Rugnano Nyoni’s debut film tackles superstition and gender stereotypes, but it also invites a decent dose of humor: being a witch is not all bad, and nothing is black and white in the film—meaning that the film also flirts with eccentricity, black humour, poetry and magic. The film is warm and wonderful, and the images by David Gallego are some of the most sunning you’ll see all year.

Screenings:

30/10 – 19:00 – Cinemateket (w/meet the director)

3/11 – 20:30 – Teater Grob

Montparnasse Bienvenue

Director: Leonor Serraille

Country: France 

Language: French with English subtitles

Upon first glance, the plot of “Montparnasse Bienvenue” seems a little been there, done that. Julia is over 30, lives in Paris, has just been dumped by her boyfriend of ten years and is on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Pretty regular stuff, right? Well, it would be if anyone else had made this film. Director Leonor Serraille has created a bitingly funny and relatable portrait of the female psyche; just take a look at the trailer to see what we mean. What’s more, the film was primarily made by women: “Montparnasse Bienvenue” features young women in nearly every creative role, from camera to composer, sound to set design. As a result, this film is far from your textbook woman-reinvents-herself romcom you’re used to seeing: it’s an insightful and apt portrayal of a female character who embodies a complexity that, quite frankly, is rare to see in female characters written for the screen. The script is hilarious in all the right places, but it’s Laetitia Dosch’s performance as Julia that really carries the film: frazzled, fearless and cynical all in one chaotic package, she’s impossible not to watch with wonder and fall in love with. In fact, the intense and touching character portrait came together so well that it won this year’s Camera d’Or in Cannes for best debut. See this!

Screenings:

4/10 – 20.00 – Empire Bio

7/10 – 16.40 – Grand

A Wedding

Directed by Stephan Streker

Country: Belgium, France, Luxembourg, Pakistan

Language: French and Urdu with English subtitles

“A Wedding” is part contemporary Romeo and Juliet story, part complex and sensitive study of family dynamics, religious coercion and assimilation. 18-year-old Zahira is pregnant and wants to keep the child, but her boyfriend doesn’t. What’s more, her religious parents are pushing her into an arranged marriage. The more she resists, the more they push—and the more we as viewers are confronted with what happens when pride and tradition clash with new values and opportunities. Yet this isn’t a simple ‘parents=bad, child=good’ portrayal of arranged marriages: similar in tone to Israeli Elite Zexter’s film “Sand Storm” from last year’s festival, director Stephan Streker does a stellar job of making sure no character is purely villified. Instead, all the characters in this dense little family drama individually exude the specific effects of the societies they were raised in—which ultimately raises many insistent and necessary questions about the freedom of the choices we have within our families.

Screenings:

28/09 – 16.45 – Cinemateket (meet the director)

8/10 – 21.30 – Grand