(17/11/06) – As Western Europe becomes increasingly aware of its Eastern neighbours, it is predictable that cinema screens should reflect the trend, although the film industry’s process of recognition of Eastern Europe is, and has been, slower than the political and social arenas. Therefore, a project like Lost and Found – Six Glances at a Generation is a welcome initiative to forge cultural exchange and, most importantly, to help a younger generation of Eastern European filmmakers get started in the expensive business of filmmaking.

The project is the brainchild of Nikolaj Nikitin, a member of the European film academy who was acting as a delegate for Eastern European film at the 2004 Berlinale. Nikitin became aware of the dearth of film productions coming from the East and had the idea to assemble a group of young directors from the BerlinaleTalent Campus that year in order to produce a series of short films on a common theme. The group settled on the generation theme and Lost and Found – Six Glances at a Generation, presented in an omnibus format, was born.

Two years later and the project has yielded fruit. Jasmila Zbanic (who directed the segment Birthday) won the Golden Bear at this year’s Berlinale for her first feature Grbavica. Kornel Mundruzco (Shortlasting Silence) got in the last edition of Cannes and Christian Mungiu’s (Turkey Girl, probably the best segment overall) first feature was a huge box office success in his native Romania.

As with every themed project, Lost and Found bears the blessings and shortcomings that go with the territory. On the good side, of course, is the nurturing and shepherding of inexperienced directors through a technically complex process. The results here are quite impressive; the films are immacutely edited and technically flawless. Who knows what will come out of this? The fruits of this collective effort are already appearing so the picture looks promising.

On the downside, the films have a very uniform look about them, which smooths out the authorial differences between them. The next flaw – one that is understandable in the case of beginners – is the general pleasing tone adopted. They seem too keen on being liked, almost to the point of ingratiation, and this sometimes makes the humour and quirkiness that pervades all the shorts, linked as they are by two bizarre animations (Gene and Ratio), alternately quaint, nostalgic and contrived (this problem is particularly relevant in the segment Fabulous Vera by Stefan Arsenijevic). But you certainly can’t accuse these newcomers of not having some latent talent. So the overall verdict is that Lost and Found is a revealing showcase that achieves the goal set out as the premise of the project. I look forward to other similar projects.

The DVD of Lost and Found – Six Glances at a Generation is out now.