Film Scouts Diaries

2008 Festroia International Film Festival Diaries
Diary #5: Family Matters – or Does It?

by Henri Bιhar

Setubal, Portugal, June 14, 2008 – For some reason or other (is it the selection itself or just the screening schedule?), the focus of this year's Festroia has shifted from kids to families. Shown within days, if not hours, of each other, two films deal with the rapport between angry son and absentee father in alien surroundings.

In Marius Holst's Mirush (Norway, in competition), a 15-year-old Kosovar boy who discovers his mother has a lover (and whose older brother is suddenly killed) heads for Norway to try and find the father who left them when he was very young. Said father now runs a restaurant in Oslo, but can barely make ends meet, pressured as he is by the Albanian mafia.

The boy starts to work in his father's restaurant, without letting him know he is his son. They gradually warm to each other, but they will ultimately have to face tough choices that will impact them forever.

If the acting is pretty good – with the boy bearing a striking resemblance to one of the Festival's drivers - the tale is told and the film is shot in a rather classical way, perhaps a tad too predictable for its own good.


The father in director-novelist Amos Kollek's Restless (an Israeli-Canadian-Belgian-French-German co-production, in competition) left Israel twenty years ago to become a stand-up comic/poet in New York. Just released from the Israeli army, the son shows up one day to find out why the father abandoned him. A young man full of anger clashing with an aging man full of guilt. Both equally determined, both equally restless. But do they really belong together?

The film is appealingly textured (did you know New York had a string of stand-up comedy joints in that cater to the Israeli community?) and the writing quite good – the father's poems and routines are refreshingly biting, sarcastic, full of both love and hate for Israel and Israelis, those who live there as well as those who left it.


To call the leading character in Jan Sverak's Empties "restless" is a masterpiece of understatement. In this Czech-British-Danish co-production (in competition), a Czech literature teacher suddenly realizes he no longer understand his students. Quitting his job at the University, he is now confronted with a two-headed conundrum: a) he has lost his sense of place within society; and b) he is more and more isolated (read: stuck) with his wife Elena in his city apartment.

To escape boredom, he finds a part-time job at the bottle-return counter of a local supermaket and discovers – yes, Virginia – there is a whole world out there that he didn't even know existed and finds more and more absorbing.

Add a third head to the man's conundrum: his wife will definitely not allow herself to be chucked on the backburner.

The teacher is played by Czech icon Zdenek Sverak (who happens to be the director's father) and when young Sverak showed the film to his mother, "she kept groaning 'Oh no, oh no!' throughout the film," the helmer said with a Mona-Lisa grin. Short of making a documentary on one's family, one can't get close to home than that – or can one?

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