European Union Film Festival
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European Union Film Festival

With the likes of Pedro Almodóvar, Michael Haneke, and Claire Denis always likely to enjoy prominent billing at TIFF, the European Union Film Festival, now in its seventh instalment, has come to serve as a showpiece for some of the continent’s less familiar filmmaking talents. EUFF 2011 takes place between November 17 and 30 at the Royal Cinema, and features one selection from each of 24 participating European nations. As is EUFF tradition, screenings are free, with tickets distributed on a first-come, first-serve basis.

This year’s opening night selection is the American-Polish co-production, The Winner, from seasoned director Wiesław Saniewski, about a young pianist who becomes indebted to his promoters when he abruptly pulls out of a European tour. His desperation leads to an unlikely friendship with a retired math teacher and compulsive horse-racing gambler. EUFF’s synopsis makes curiously specific mention of the film’s soundtrack, which “includes the music of Chopin, three Elvis Presley songs, and tango.”

On Friday, November 18, the Royal will host two screenings, beginning with the Bulgarian submission, Tilt. The debut feature by Viktor Chouchkov is an energetic tale of forbidden love, set in the immediate aftermath of the fall of Bulgarian communism. It’s a Romeo and Juliet–style romance, only here the forbidding factor isn’t a longstanding family feud but the fact that “Juliet”‘s father is a police colonel, and “Romeo” sells pirated German porn. Tilt is followed by Czech submission Protektor, which, synopsized, gives the impression of a wartime inversion of 2011 festival favourite The Artist. In Marek Najbrt’s film, a Jewish starlet is forced to adopt a dramatically lowered profile when the Nazis come to power, while her non-Jewish husband enjoys increased prominence, and the attendant temptations, as a reporter with the now Nazi-controlled state radio station. We can’t speak to the execution, but it’s certainly a compelling premise.

Also screening during EUFF’s opening weekend are selections from Belgium, Greece, and Germany, as well as a Hungarian-Slovenian collaboration. For further details and a complete screening schedule, visit the festival’s website.