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The Diagonale is pleased to announce that the Festival of Austrian Film will open on Tuesday, March 21 with Patric Chiha’s feature film The Beast in the Jungle (La bête dans la jungle, AT/BE/FR 2023, 103 min). This year, the feature film will be accompanied by Viktoria Schmid’s experimental miniature NYC RGB (US/AT 2023, 7 min), whose world premiere marks the start of the gala evening. Source: press release.

Cinema, music, dance

Following its world premiere at the Berlinale, The Beast in the Jungle co-produced by Ebba Sinzinger and Vincent Lucassen (WILDart FILM) will have its Austrian premiere on the country’s largest temporary screen – in the Helmut List Halle – attended by Patric Chiha, Karina Ressler (editing), Dino Spiluttini (original music), Céline Bozon (cinematography), the producers, and part of the international acting ensemble around Anaïs Demoustier, Tom Mercier, Béatrice Dalle, and Martin Vischer. Patric Chiha’s The Beast in the Jungle is a pulsating ode to big city club culture, a plea for the liberating power of losing oneself in the intoxication of dance, life, and love. With NYC RGB on the other hand, Viktoria Schmid shows a view of New York shifted through historical color film processes – proving cinema’s potential for bursting open reality.

“We are delighted to embark on the final Diagonale opening night for which we are responsible with a program that addresses the world: Patric Chiha’s cinema has always refused geographical and genre-specific ascriptions. The Beast in the Jungle is a melancholic, beautiful film with the greatest elegance and fascinating grace. That is a true stroke of luck, not only in times like these. Rarely has Austrian film been so glamorous or cinema, pop, and club cultures so close to one another against the background of historical events of the twentieth century. Cinema in this country has rarely articulated itself more confidently as a machine of longing and desire. As a prelude and kindred spirit: NYC RGB, Viktoria Schmid’s ‘color-shifted’ ode to cinema, to film history, and the inextricably interwoven city New York. With Patric Chiha and Viktoria Schmid, all of the themes and motifs that have fascinated us over the years lead beyond the screen to the festival: music, pop – and last but not least, cinema itself. But most of all: longing and love. A double pack of sensuality! We are extremely pleased to dive into an exhilarating night together with the opening audience.” — Sebastian Höglinger and Peter Schernhuber, Festival directors

Paris, Berlin, Graz – fashion, cinema, dance!

Patric Chiha was born in Vienna in 1975. He studied fashion design in Paris and film editing at INSAS in Brussels. After a series of short films – including Home (FR/AT 2006), made in Ramsau, Styria – Chiha made his first feature film Domaine (AT/FR 2009) in 2009, which premiered at the Venice Film Festival and was screened at the Diagonale’10. His films have been successfully screened at international festivals, including the two documentaries Brüder der Nacht (AT 2016) and Wenn es Liebe wäre (FR 2019), which were also presented in competition at the Festival of Austrian Film in Graz after their premiere at the Berlinale. Chiha was a member of the feature film jury at the Diagonale’19, The Beast in the Jungle is his fifth feature film.

The Beast in the Jungle: “We have to dance, nobody can take that away from us”

Patric Chiha’s The Beast in the Jungle takes us to a big-city nightclub, where the two protagonists May (Anaïs Demoustier) and John (Tom Mercier) remain entangled as if in a spider’s web for over twenty years. The two are bound by a mysterious and unfathomable secret since their youth. Meanwhile, the music from 1979 to 2001 swirls in and around their bodies, time and fashions are in constant motion around them.

Loosely based on a short story by Henry James, we feverishly await the unknown with May and John, listen to their obsessive dialogue and wait with them for the satisfying redemption. Chiha magnificently interweaves the tenderness of a deep and fragile bond between two people with the overwhelming sounds and lights of disco, and in doing so stages the most enthralling and lustful dance scenes in contemporary cinema.

Chiha has already shown his marked sensibility for choreography in Wenn es Liebe wäre in 2019 – a tribute to the ensemble of Gisèle Vienne’s acclaimed performance piece Crowd. From the queer glitter of disco and the intertwined bodies of the 1970s, to the Nouvelle Vague and Klaus Nomi, to the isolation of the drug-induced techno trance of the 1990s, Chiha describes the nightclub as a common place of freedom, into which, however, world political events regularly intrude. As the only omniscient person, the legendary Béatrice Dalle, as the club’s concierge, magically guides us towards the inevitable.

From lightsaber to colour echo: a circle closes!

Viktoria Schmid has been a regular guest at the Diagonale in Graz since 2014. Her installation DON’T MAKE ME DESTROY YOU, presented in 2015 as part of the HDA Architecture Summer, was the first project that Sebastian Höglinger and Peter Schernhuber realised in Graz as festival directors. Together with them, Schmid questioned the relationship between architecture, film and screen: what happens when the iconic Star Wars lightsaber battle is translated into the exhibition space? This work is emblematic with regard to Schmid’s oeuvre, which mainly focuses on that sort of “limbo” between cinema and video art.

Viktoria Schmid was born in 1986 in Neuhofen and studied film at the University of Vienna, the Linz Art University and the Friedl Kubelka School for Independent Film in Vienna. She presents her works internationally in exhibition and film festival contexts, and her innovative short films It’s a Dance (AT 2013), A Proposal to Project (AT 2017), W O W (Kodak) (AT 2018), A Proposal to project in Scope (AT/LT 2020) and KatharinaViktoria 2(021) (AT 2021) were all screened at the Festival of Austrian Film in Graz. Viktoria Schmid’s newest work, NYC RGB, is part of the Diagonale’23 competition. In addition, W O W (Kodak), another work by Viktoria Schmid, will be screened as part of this year’s retrospective FINALE.

The Diagonale will take place from March 21 to 26, 2023. The complete Diagonale’23 festival program will be available from March 10 at 1 p.m. Ticket sales start on March 15.

Info: the opening films of the Diagonale’23 on the website of the Diagonale