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More great films here at the goEast FF ,which has wrapped up now with the awards having been given out a few days ago. Here is a little more about some of the films I was able to check out…

The Citizen– d. Ronald Vranik ( Hungary-2016)

Director Vranik returns to the festival after screening his film Transmision here in 2009. This time around he weaves a very human story centring around a African migrant in Budapest ,who struggles to make himself a part of Hungarian society. He comes into the circle of an illegal Iranian immigrant named: Shirin ,as well as a married Hungarian woman: Maria. This trio of characters become intwined in a fluid relationship involving love and loss,as well as racism ,and responsibility.

I found the film had a strong new- realist influence, as the director studies the socio-economic,race, and immigration issues prevalent in modern Hungary. But he never loses sight of the very human story unfolding before us.

Using a cast including a former economist from Africa and a designer from Iran the film grounds itself in an authenticity that again has echoes of the Italian new-realist movement.

A strong  feature here from Popfilm in Hungary….

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Exiled-d. Davis Simanis ( Latvia-2016)

This is the story of a German army doctor sent to Latvia in 1917 in the midst of WW I. He does so to report on back on the conditions of the facilitiy looking after wounded soldiers in a dilapidated old manor house.

While sporadic fighting takes place in the surrounding area, the doctor finds that the injured are suffering from unknown illness’ and trauma from the horrors of the war; and he seems incapable of healing them. All he can really provide for them is comfort and compassion and his time doesn’t seems fruitless. That is until he rescues a young boy left alone in the forest, and finds that perhaps he can help him find his way back to civilization.

Wonderfully played by Ulrich Matthes, this film is loosely  based on the the story of Ovids exile. It is a tough, unrelenting movie, based in historical research on WW I, which was the first large scale mechanized war ;and as a result the first war to unleash a wave of mental and emotional suffering on this magnitude.

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Filthy-d. Tereza Nvotova (Czech/Slovakia-2016)

Filthy is a gritty new film from first time director Nvotova. A graduation work for FAMU, this is an impressive film dealing with the topics of sexual abuse, mental illness, and coming of age.

After being victimized by a family friend and raped, our main character finds herself housed in a mental institution as she tries to cope with the trauma of the event.

Shot in the largest mental institution in Slovakia, a facility little changed since the Communisti Era, the director uses actors and real patients in the wards to give the movie the definite realist edge, and to ground it in the context of modern Slovak society.

Th story deals with  difficult and serious subject, but we never lose sight of the drama and encapsulation of tthe resiliency of human courage.

An impressive first film from Nvotova, and  one would hope for more good things to come from her in the future.

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Marina, Mabuse, and Moritori-d. Kathryn Andersen (Germany 2016)

Artur Brauner and his film studio are the subject if this new documentary from director Andersen.

Brauer survived the Holocast in Poland and made it to West Berlin in 1946. Always having been interested in cinema, he convinced his grandmother to sell her fur coat and with this money financed his first film: Moritori.

Shot in the ruins of Berlin, in near impossible conditions, Braurer created a solid drama about the persecution of Jews in WW II. Unfortunately the film was unsuccessful at the cinemas, so Braurer produced a more commercial film next, which proved to be a big success.

With the proceeds from this film, Brauer purchased an old poison  gas factory in Spandau mand here he set up his CCC Studios.

These studios were to pump out up to 18 feature films a year in the 1950s, and Brauer was credited with singlehandedly keeping the Berlin film scene alive after most of the talent had fled following the war.

The studio would go on to produce over 700 films, including  over 250 made by Brauner himself. Although concentrating on commercial fare the studio did make 24 films through the years dealing with the Holocast. These include Wadjas: A Love Story In Germany and the award wining film : Europa Europa.

Now in his 90s Brauner has handed most of the duties of the studio to his daughter ( and director of this film), Kathryn Andersen.

A very cool look at at the father of ” creative producing” ….

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A Hole In The Head-d. Robert Kirchhoff (Czech/Slovak-2016)

A documentary styled as an auteur film. This is an apt description of a new film by director Kirchhoff which is the latest in a series of works that include the award winning film : Normalization.

Here the director  has made a film that explores the neglected issue of the persecution of the Roma people’s , and their suffering at the hands of the Nazis during WW II.

Individual stories and remembrances are used to create a film more about the memories of the atrocities of the Roma Holocast, than a researcher-led traditional documentary telling of the story.

This style helps connect the film to its diverse characters knowledge of the past, and to their present day situations; including  their hopes for a recognition of their suffering…..

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Holland at goEast

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Agnieszka Holland was at the goEast Film Festival on April 30 to present her brand new film Spoor(Pokot). Here, Holland mixs genres to a subversive end, with her story concerning a retired engineer Janine Duszejko who is an amateur astrologist, vegetarian, and teacher with a great love of animals.

She regularly confronts the male establishment in the rural setting of the film, and fights their regular disregard of the laws concerning animal welfare. What unfolds is a murder mystery of sorts that resonates on many political, ecological, social, and existential levels. Beautifully shot and conceived w an excellent score from Antoni Komasa- Lazakiewicz, and Matthias Eklund,  with healthy doses of black humour.

Based on a novel by Olga Tokarczuki called : Drive Your Plow Over The Bones Of The Dead. I would highly recommend this flick….

what follows is a brief compendium of notes from the insightful talk by the director and moderators at the Caligari Filmbuhle in Wiesbaden  on April 30

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Spoor (animal)

Footprints of the extinct thylacine
Spoor is any sign of a creature or trace by which the progress of someone or something may be followed. A spoor may include tracks, scents, scat, or broken foliage. Spoor is useful for discovering or surveying what types of animals live in an area, or in animal tracking.

Spoor won the Silver Bear at 2017 Berlinale- she graduated from FAMU in 71 studied w Milos Forman-worked with Wadja in Poland-She became part of the Polish New Wave, Moral Anxiety-81 left in exile-TV work includes: The Wire, Burning Bush, House Of Cards- book film is based on was written 9 years ago, premonition at end of book and film? Holland quoted “wadja-doing movies from the future”-

this is a bizarre mix of genres: anarchist,feminist,ecological,fairytale,thriller-difficult to finance-German  financing was key-shot in Silesia near Wroclaw-Holland just back from Hong Kong FF, big interest in this film in Asia-subversive use of genre w unexpected uses and outcomes

-4 season long process, 2 years, 5 DOP, 2 directors,- who is the killer?,we don’t know until the end-she likes American directors Coen Brothers and Wes Anderson as they speak about issues yet still connect to an audience-

protest by right wing in Poland, criticize it as feminist film,fuck them! Poland, Hungary,Turkey, USA are all turning hard right taking away women’s rights and destroying the environment.-their enemy is ecology and women-they are angry, only Catholic, white, heterosexual men are important in Poland-environmental issues in film are linked to woman’s fight

-Holland is the role model for feminist cinema in Poland-she was accepted in an all male film world in the 70s because she was viewed as a masculine filmmaker w balls, but she took offence as she IS a different gender w a different point of view-

women were never represented at the same level in distribution, exihibition etc-Poland has several good women directors currently-

this film shows the anger in society that is growing, fire is anger both good and bad, freedom has released options-revenge story(django)-hunters are a metaphor to some extent

-good film creates a space for the audience to form their own conclusions from the structure the filmmaker has provided-

William Blake reference adds an existential element and is attached to the area the film is located…

Also see: Spoor-The Guardian

 

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Strong Female Leads (4)

Elle + Julieta= Who needs Hollywood?

Elle (French for “she” or “her”) “is a 2016 psychological thriller directed by Paul Verhoeven and written by David Birke, based on the novel Oh… by Philippe Djian. Djian’s novel was released in 2012 and received the Prix Interallié (National Literary Award). The film stars Isabelle Huppert as a businesswoman, Michèle Leblanc, who is raped in her home by an unknown assailant and plots revenge.

The film is Verhoeven’s first feature since 2006’s Black Book, and his first in the French language. It premiered in competition for the Palme d’Or at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival where it received critical acclaim.Elle won the Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film and Critics’ Choice Movie Award for Best Foreign Language Film; it was also selected as the French entry for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, but was not nominated. At the 42nd César Awards, the film received eleven nominations.

Huppert’s performance was widely acclaimed, considered to be one of the finest of her career and she was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress. She also won several awards, including the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama, the National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Actress, the New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actress, the Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Actress, and the Gotham Independent Film Award for Best Actress.”

Wow a fantastic return to form for neglected filmmaker Paul Verhoeven. Originally conceived as a Hollywood production, Verhoeven and writer Dijan shopped the script around L.A.but were turned down by every major actress. So the pair turned to Europe and when financing came through Verhoeven was to have to rise to the challenge of working in an unfamiliar language: French.

However the turn of events seems to have been a good turn really.

With the aid of stellar actress Isabelle Huppert and a fine supporting cast, Verhoeven weaves Dijan’s story into an intricate neo-noir infused with unexpected developments and a strong flavour of black humour.

Complimented by a haunting score from Anne Dudley ,as well as inventive editing and cinematography, Elle turns out to be perhaps the best film of Verhoven’s career and a top work in the rather extensive credits of Isabelle Huppert.

So who needs Hollywood, really? As the Oscars proved  once again…

julieta-vijest

Julieta “is a 2016 Spanish film written and directed by Pedro Almodóvar based on three short stories from the book Runaway by Alice Munro. The film marks Almodóvar’s 20th feature and stars Emma Suárez and Adriana Ugarte as older and younger versions of the film’s protagonist, Julieta, alongside Daniel Grao, Inma Cuesta, Darío Grandinetti, Michelle Jenner and Rossy de Palma.

The film opened on 8 April 2016 in Spain to generally positive reviews. It made its international debut at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival, where it was selected to compete for the Palme d’Or, and was released across the world throughout the remainder of 2016. Julieta has grossed over $21 million worldwide.

It was selected by the Academia de las Artes y las Ciencias Cinematográficas de España as the Spanish entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 89th Academy Awards, but did not make the shortlist.[2] It was nominated for the BAFTA Award for Best Film Not in the English Language in addition to receiving 4 nominations for European Film Awards and 7 nominations for Goya Awards.”

This new flick left me pleasantly surprised. I will admit to not being the biggest fan of director Almodovar so I went into this screening as an aside really. But what unfolded was a  wonderful film chronicling the life of Julieta, with all it’s trials and tribulations.

Based on the writings of Canadian author Alice Munro- this is a understated and engaging woman’s story(s) , with some nourish elements woven in . Women are at the focus of this film and its greatest strength.

Julieta is one of the best films  Almodovar has directed , and another strong European feature that exists outside of the mainstream American industry

The Zookeepers Wife+Toni Erdmann= pedestrian filming in a rapid era

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The Zookeeper’s Wife “is an upcoming 2017 British-American war drama film directed by Niki Caro and written by Angela Workman, based on the non-fiction book of the same name by Diane Ackerman. The film stars Jessica Chastain, Johan Heldenbergh, Michael McElhatton and Daniel Brühl.

The film is scheduled to be released on March 31, 2017, by Focus Features.
A true story about the Warsaw Zoo keepers couple Jan and Antonina Żabiński, who saved many human and animal lives during World War II by hiding them in animal cages.”

I had a chance to see this at a preview screening at the TIFF Lightbox theatre in late January. Jessica Chastain is shooting a film in Toronto and was invited to screen the film and chat about it (and her career) . Unfortunately the audience was required to sign a non-disclosure agreement, but hopefully enough time has elapsed, for me to comment?

This was a big disappointment, based on a very interesting and real story from WWII Poland. Bland, predictable, simplistic filmmaking. And the Polish characters all spoke English in some strange faux-Eastern European accent which really took away from the screening.

Fans of the book may enjoy this but it’s a miss for me I am sorry to say.

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Toni Erdmann is a “2016 German-Austrian comedy-drama film directed, written and co-produced by Maren Ade. It stars Peter Simonischek and Sandra Hüller.

The film, which premiered in competition at the Cannes Film Festival,[5][6] was named the best film of 2016 by Sight & Sound and other respected cinema magazines.[7][8][9]

It has been nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 89th Academy Awards.[10] It won five awards at the 29th European Film Awards: Best Film (a first for a film directed by a woman), Best Director, Best Screenwriter, Best Actor, and Best Actress.[11] It also won the European Parliament LUX Prize.[12]”

I was underwhelmed by this film- it had some very funny moments but seemed stilted and awkward to me. A 2 1/2 hour running time for a one note film is a little rich I would say as well:) Not much of a work of cinema, Toni Erdmann had a very plain and MOW look and feel to it… the German film from the previous year Phoenix, was a far superior film.

Really don’t get the accolades, did I miss something?