This is a post by film critic and former JBFC International Fellow Mihai Chirilov
There is nothing more pleasing for a film programmer to be right there when a talent is born. I happened to see Ruben Ostlund’s debut back in 2004 (on a VHS) while I was putting together the line-up for my film festival in Transilvania. As crazily inventive and uncomfortable as it was, The Guitar Mongoloid was just the right kind of film for my competition, open to first and second time directors. I immediately invited both the film and the director to the festival, and was pretty happy that he accepted to world premiere in Transilvania. The happiness didn’t last long, because one week before going into printing, Ruben wrote me, pleading to remove his film from the festival because meanwhile, a bigger, more reputed film festival that was due one month after TIFF invited him in their competition and their rule was that the film had to be a world premiere. I could have been a bitch and not grant him this – but as much as it complicated my life, having to find a last minute replacement, I knew that the films stood a chance to greatness if shown in that other festival. Luckily, The Guitar Mongoloid ended up winning the prestigious critics’ prize FIPRESCI, otherwise I would have been frustrated – and angry – for life.
I’ve finally met Ruben in person one year later, in his native country, during the Gothenburg Film Festival, while having a cigarette break outside in the cold. I remember him wanting to hide from my jokingly assaulting and badmouthing him – but we ended having a cool and fun conversation. I followed his career ever since and screened every of his films in Transilvania, to great audience response. His is the type of cinema I’m a sucker for: borderline, controversial, disturbing, morally-challenging, and with no safety net – not to mention the pitch-perfect marriage between form and content, with just the right touch of manipulation.
I’m still mad at him because in all these years he couldn’t find the time to come to Transilvania to accompany his films – but not that mad to actually enjoy him failing to be nominated for this year’s Foreign Oscar race with his brilliant new opus Force majeure. On the contrary, I screamed in despair when his name was not listed among the nominees. Most of Ruben Ostlund films deal with multiple layers of interpretations and characters succumbing to peer pressure – as funny as it is and was intended to be, the little clip showing him falling victim to the Oscar pressure and freaking out when he missed out the nomination plays almost like one of his short films. Funny, yet creepily disturbing. Watch it!