Focus programmes at IFFR 2023

09 November 2022

Film still: Kick-Heart


Focus programmes at IFFR 2023

09 November 2022

At IFFR, we celebrate the careers of radical filmmakers and visual artists. For our 52nd edition, we have carefully curated our Focus programmes of inspiring creatives – Hungarian filmmaker Judit Elek, Japanese animator Yuasa Masaaki, American interdisciplinary artist Stanya Kahn, and the long-running Bay Area expanded cinema project arc, who will all be placed in the spotlight with Focus programmes at IFFR 2023.

“Our Focus programmes are a chance for us to celebrate the work of filmmakers whose remarkable careers haven’t always been given the attention they deserve. As always we’re committed to looking into unlikely spheres, be it rural documentaries from 1970s People’s Hungary, performance-based expanded cinema or wild free-form Japanese anime. The unexpected always shines brightly at IFFR.” 

- Festival director, Vanja Kaludjercic

Focus: Judit Elek 

IFFR is honoured to present a vast retrospective of Hungarian filmmaker and writer Judit Elek, whose career deserves to be in the spotlight. Elek's work often touches on issues of political oppression and Jewishness, varying between compassion, tenderness and fury. The programme includes the harsh and unsparing look at a dying relationship Maybe Tomorrow (1979), the sarcastic historical allegory The Trial of Martinovics and the Hungarian Jacobins (1981), and the Holocaust anchored documentary portrait To Speak the Unspeakable – The Message of Elie Wiesel (1996). Elek will be present to launch and sign copies of a publication on her life and career, specially commissioned by IFFR. Keep reading for more information on select titles and a full list of films to be shown in this programme. 

Maybe Tomorrow, Judit Elek, 1979, Hungary

A couple in love, but married to other partners. What is to be done? People hiss and holler truths and insults at each other in a world that seems to consist solely of perennially dirty and derelict houses and apartments. A descent into the mouldy warmth of longing.

The Trial of Martinovics and the Hungarian Jacobins, Judit Elek, 1980, Hungary

A dramatisation of the 1794-95 trial against priest, academic, spy and agitator Martinovics Ignác, ending with his road to the scaffold. A visually austere, tonally understated piece of television with a grimly ironic core – as the film could be an allegory on Hungary’s then-current past.

To Speak the Unspeakable – The Message of Elie Wiesel, Judit Elek, 1996, Hungary, France, United States

A documentary journey with writer/activist/academic Elie Wiesel to several key places from his past: Sighet, his hometown, then and now Romanian but between 1940 and 1944 ruled by Hungary, and Auschwitz, where Wiesel survived the horrors of Nazi death camps. A key work of Holocaust remembrance.

Remaining titles in Focus: 

  • A Free Man – The Life of Ernő Fisch, Judit Elek, 1998, Hungary, France
  • After All the Dead Sing Again..., Judit Elek, 2018, Hungary
  • Awakening, Judit Elek, 1995, Hungary, France, Poland
  • Tamás Cseh: The First Photo, Judit Elek, 1974, Hungary
  • A Commonplace Story, Judit Elek, 1975, Hungary
  • The Eighth Day of the Week, Judit Elek, 2006, Hungary, Poland
  • How Long Does Man Live?, Judit Elek, 1968, Hungary
  • On the Field of God in 1972-73, Judit Elek, 1974, Hungary
  • Inhabitants of Castles in Hungary in 1966, Judit Elek, 1966, Hungary
  • The Lady from Constantinople, Judit Elek, 1969, Hungary
  • Maria's Day, Judit Elek, 1984, Hungary
  • Memories of a River, Judit Elek, 1989, Hungary, France
  • Visszatérés – Retrace (digital director's cut), Judit Elek, 2019, Hungary, Romania, Sweden
  • Encounter, Judit Elek, 1963, Hungary
  • We Will Meet in 1972 – In Dark and in Light, Judit Elek, 1972, Hungary

Focus: Yuasa Masaaki

A selection of films and episodic series make up a Focus programme on the critically acclaimed Japanese animator and filmmaker Yuasa Masaaki. Alongside a selection of his characteristic wild free-form works, IFFR 2023 will show Yuasa’s charming fairy tale Ride Your Wave and his latest work INU-OH – an anime rock opera about friendship and the power of sincere art, that premiered in Venice in 2021. Keep reading for more information on select titles and a full list of films to be shown in this programme. 

INU-OH, Yuasa Masaaki, 2021, Japan

Two outcast musicians in 14th century Japan team up to sing about forgotten episodes of history. Their thunderous, transgressive performances leave the population spellbound but also draw the ire of the authorities and tradition-keepers.

Ride Your Wave, Yuasa Masaaki, 2019, Japan

Lifelong surfer Hinako and hotshot firefighter Minato seemed destined to be together, but when tragedy strikes, their perfect romance is forever altered. Combining everyday realism with spirited fantasy, Ride Your Wave offers a whimsical, bittersweet picture of love and loss.

Remaining titles in Focus: 

  • Happy Machine, Yuasa Masaaki, 2007, Japan
  • Japan Sinks: 2020 Theatrical Edition, Yuasa Masaaki, 2020, Japan
  • Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!, Yuasa Masaaki, 2020, Japan
  • Kick-Heart, Yuasa Masaaki, 2013, Japan
  • Lu Over the Wall, Yuasa Masaaki, 2017, Japan
  • Mind Game, Yuasa Masaaki, 2004, Japan
  • Night Is Short, Walk On Girl, Yuasa Masaaki, 2017, Japan
  • The Tatami Galaxy, Yuasa Masaaki, 2010, Japan

Focus: Stanya Kahn

A Focus programme is dedicated to the widely-exhibited American interdisciplinary artist and 2012 Guggenheim Fellow Stanya Kahn, featuring the international premiere of So Low You Can’t Get Over It (2022) in which animated paintings manifest uncertainty. She often collaborates with performers, visual artists and choreographers – such as with the artist Llyn Foulkes on Happy Song for You (2011). Kahn will discuss her work at an IFFR Talk.  

Happy Song for You, Stanya Kahn, Llyn Foulkes, 2011, United States

“It’s got no theme, it’s got no dream, it’s just a happy song for you.” A dark exploration of the absurd.


So Low You Can’t Get Over It, Stanya Kahn, 2022, United States, world premiere

The familiar bends into the unknown and the solid breaks into parts. Paintings turned into animated hallucinatory images.

Remaining titles in Focus: 

Focus: arc

IFFR presents a rare profile of the single channel and performance-based expanded cinema project arc, with many works including multiple projectors and live accompanying scores. arc is the creation of San Francisco experimental art scene mainstay tooth, who also runs the Black Hole Cinematheque and the celluloid-only film festival Light Field. They will also be present for an IFFR Talk. Keep reading for a full list of films to be shown in this programme. 

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