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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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Goeast FF-1

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I’m in wonderful Wiesbaden for the Goeast Film Festival. Today is the first full day of screenings and it got off to a fun and interesting start this morning at the very beautiful Caligari Cinema.

The show was a collection of recent short Polish animated films sponsored by the Polish Cultural Intitute.  With some children in attendance it made for a great atmosphere for the animations.

The programme consisted of:

The Little Red Paper Ship-d. Aleksandra Zareba-2013

A Little Bird Wants To Fly-d. Maciej Peska-2014

Xavier The Cat-d. Andrej Orzechowski-2013

The Prince-d. Monika Kuczynieka-2013

Leaves-d. Agnieszka Borowa-2011

Spirits of the Piano-d.Magdalena Osinksa-2010

Three King-d. Anna Blaszczyk-2014

Winter Tournament-d. Maciej Pestka-2016

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You Dont Know How Much I Love You– d. Pawel Lonzinski (Poland 2016)

Director Lonzinski graduated from the National Film School in Lodz and has gone on to make more than 20 award-winning documentaries shown on the international festival circuit. Included is his highly acclaimed 2009 film : Chemia.

In this new film, Lozinski explores personal +interpersonal trauma and the loneliness inherent in the relationship between an estranged daughter ( Ewa Szymczyk) ,and her distraught mother ( Hanna Maciag). The setting is a series of personal counselling sessions with a therapist played by Bogan de Bardo, who is a professional psychologist in real life.

Stradling the line between real time documentary and narrative fiction, the film uses a loose structure with no fixed script and no certain narrative outcome.

The film relies on the exceptional talents of the two lead actors who delve into their own personal fears and traumas in life to channel their own raw experience into the “characters” which are really them.

It is hard to describe but with three close up shots of the 3 characters, and the occasional pan between mother and daughter, the audience is suspended in this documentary narrative that is a powerful portrayal of modern day angst,despair, and loneliness, and the strength and determination it takes to try and reach beyond that existence.

highly recommended…

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Goran-d. Nevio Marsovic (Croatia 2016)

This is a brand new Croatian feature that is part thriller, part family drama,and part buddy film. An interesting take and adaptation of a genre film, this tale is set in the snow covered and seemingly idyllic high plains area of Croatia.

The director made his feature film directing debut at the age of 16 ,and after graduating from the Zagreb Arts Academy ,went on to direct and write for a number of feature and TV productions iincluding the 2010 feature: The Show Must Great On

This is an interesting watch that shifts and changes gears on a regular basis but not to the detriment of the viewer. Making excellent use of the small town snowy landscape ,and also local customs and humour ,really grounds this flick in an authentic time and place.

Story line threads and inventions ,such as the visually impaired lead actress ( Natasha Jansic) ,set  this film apart from more pedestrian representations of genre bending narrative.

Recommended…

 

 

Euro Fests-2017

 

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Hello from Europe folks, hope you are all well. I arrived in Europe a couple weeks ago for some vacation time, and to check out a couple festivals. I arrived early on a cloudy morning at Schipol Airport, and hopped on the TGV to Brussels. After a good sleep, I checked out some cool sights in the city ,and stumbled across the Brussels Cinematek .

The museum was mostly closed, but my timing was good for a screening of a French Film from 1923 called: Visages d’enfants. The film was directed by Jacques Feyder and was screened as part for of their ongoing silent film series that shows restored 35mm prints at their original 18 fps speed. A rotating number  of music specialists provide accompaniment.

“Faces of Children (French: Visages d’enfants) is a 1925 French-Swiss silent film directed by Jacques Feyder. It tells the story of a young boy whose mother has died and the resentments which develop when his father remarries. It was a notable example of film realism in the silent era, and its psychological drama was integrated with the natural landscapes of Switzerland where much of the film was made on location.”

Feyder was one of the main French film directors that developed the Poetic Realism style that began in the silent era. He went to Hollywood in 1929 and directed  Greta Garbo in her last silent feature: The Kiss.

This was a fantastic screening, one of the best film experiences I have had in a long time, with an excellent live piano score. If you find yourselves in Belgique and are a lover of films do check out the Cinematek schedule in between seeing the sights:)

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April 26 finds me in beautiful Wiesbaden, Germany for the beginning of the Goeast Film Festival. This is a long running and highly regarded yearly festival, that specializes in Central European Cinema. This years festival has highlights on woman directors, feminist films and woman’s representation in media, Czech Film Now, as well as  films in competition in both the feature and documentary catagories.

I will be writing more in this in the next two weeks, as the festival is just swinging into top gear tomorrow ,and I have a full slate of 4 films to see at the Caligari Film Buhle to kick off my viewing, so stay tuned for more!

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And speaking of festivals, a little later in my trip, from May 16-23 I am attending the 10 annual Krakow Film Music Festival. It will be a week of workshops and concerts featuring the likes of Giorgio Moroder, Howard Shore, Klaus Doldinger, and Abel Korniowski.

All taking place in the ultra modern convention centre and Tauron Arema,  in the beautiful and medieval city of Krakow, Poland….again more on this at a later date

One additional note: my weekly 2 hour radio programme Soundtrack is still on the air. Guest host Robyn Edgar is filling in so keep listing for an eclectic mix of music from the cinema. The station can be found at 93.3-FM in the Hamilton(Canada) area, or check it out online on our brand new website: http://www.cfmu.ca

The show airs live  from 10:00-12:00 est or download or stream a podcast at your leisure:)

 

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…

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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?

Reading Nordic Noir

Happy New Year and welcome to the first installment of our new monthly series, Oddly-Specific Genres! Last year, we hosted the 2016 Library Challenge, which was pretty intense. This year, we decided to take a more relaxed approach and are instead inviting you to step into a new genre in 2017…or really 12 new genres, […]

via Oddly-Specific Genres: Exploring the Fjord Side — Berryville Book Buzz

Icelandic Noir

Anything to do with Trapped – The Killing Times’ best crime drama series of 2016 – and we’re all over it. That show’s creator, Baltasar Kormakur, has recently opened his own studio, RVK, in Reykjavik and he revealed at the Berlin Film Festival that his next project would be a supernatural thriller based around the […]

via Trapped’s Baltasar Kormakur to make ‘supernatural thriller’ series based around Katla volcano — The Killing Times