Berlinale Forum 2011 – Dom


Dom | The House

Director: Zuzana Liová

Slovak Republic, Czech Republic 2011

Cast: Judit Bárdos (Eva), Miroslav Krobot (Imrich), Marián Mitaš (Jakub), Taťjana Medvecká (Viera), Lucia Jašková (Jana), Marek Geišberg (Milan), Ester Geislerová (Hana)

Eva is the jewel of the village. Church organist, smartest student in the high school. Altogether, too beautiful, too smart for this place.

Money is a problem. When Eva takes a bath, her father Imrich asks “Who’s going to pay for all that water?”

But it isn’t just money. “Why not just take a leash and tie her to the house?” her mother Viera asks him, in frustration.

Imrich is building Eva a house, stealing bricks from the house he started building for Eva’s older sister Jana, who he has broken with, after she got herself involved with a man in the village with whom she now has three children. (Long-held family grudges.)

Neighbors used to help in this work, but now they want money. Money is changing the society, challenging the absolute rule of patriarchy. So Imrich relies on Eva to help him build her house, a prison.

Surprise – no one is as they seem.

The cast is superb. Judit Bárdos makes an indelible, luminous film debut.

Read the Forum essay.

Berlinale Forum 2011 – Cheonggyecheon Medley: A Dream of Iron


Cheonggyecheon Medley: A Dream of Iron

Director: Kelvin Kyung Kun Park

Republic of Korea (South Korea)


Kelvin Kyung Kun Park’s first feature documentary. The last day of a small machine shop, which is moving from a warren in the town to a sleek office building.

“A recurring nightmare and a letter to his dead grandfather, who ran a scrap metal business, are the hooks in his complex, well-conceived and multilayered documentary film. Ultimately, however, he lingers over the people who work the metal: the foundrymen, cutters, welders and so on, his patient observation showing us how the iron shapes the workmen no less than the workmen shape the iron.”

“In the years following the Japanese occupation and during the Korean War, part of the area around the Cheonggye stream was taken over by merchants who made use of the military war scrap, thus helping to lay the foundations for the country’s economic recovery.”

A meditation on iron, ironmaking, war, machinery, industry, art, culture. The men of Cheonggyecheon. Working, eating, drinking. Complaining about money.

The legend of the iron-eating creature. Pulgasari.

The organic beauty of machinery. “Iron has become our unconscious.”

With a stand-out sound design by composer Paulo Vivacqua.

Read the Forum essay.

Berlinale Forum 2011 – Amnistia


Amnistia | Amnesty

Director: Bujar Alimani

Albania, Greece, France 2011


Cast: Luli Bitri (Elsa), Karafil Shena (Shpetim), Todi Llupi (Remzi). Mirela Naska (Maya), Alaksander Rrapi (Fredy)


In his debut feature film, Bujar Alimani depicts the life of a woman and a man in today’s Albania, marked by unemployment, economic hardship and tribal/patriarchal social structures.

Recently sacked textile workers line up to collect their payoffs from new foreign owners, fishermen starve while working for multinational corporations. Humiliation is the norm.

As a condition for entering the EU, Albania introduces conjugal visits to its prison system. A man and a woman come together, their spouses both in custody, their monthly visits for sexual contact more like animal husbandry than human lovemaking. Foul bed in a dark room. Carry your own sheets.

Everybody in this society feels the cold.

For a brief moment, a middle-aged pair revitalize themselves through love, but then there is a general amnesty and love dies. “Morality struggles with passion and there’s a high price to pay.”

“Auteur films can make a difference in countries with a low economic level. Poor countries often provide themes and human models for outstanding subjects.“

Luli Bitri, Karafil Shena, and Mirela Naska must not be missed. As must not this film.

Read the Forum essay.

Berlinale Forum 2011 – Heaven’s Story


Heaven’s Story
Director: Zeze Takahisa
Japan 2010
Cast: Tsuruoka Moeki (Sato), Hasegawa Tomoharu (Tomoki), Oshinari Shugo (Mitsuo), Murakami Jun (Kajima), Yamasaki Hako (Kyoko)

Nine episodes, a running time of four and a half hours, a dozen main characters, a plot spanning nine years.

A survival story, of those who have lost everybody. The agony of bereavement by murder. “The man I wanted killed died before I had the chance.”

Lives connected by murder and loss. “There are events in life that are quickly forgotten by those who aren’t involved, but for those involved they never come to an end.”

“Eight-year-old Sato, whose family was wiped out by a psychopath who then went on to kill himself, learns by chance of a man who has sworn to take revenge on the man who murdered his wife and daughter. For eight long years she waits in vain for him to keep his promise, then takes the initiative herself, setting in motion a chain of tragic events that gradually plunges everyone involved into misery.”

A policeman who becomes a contract killer to support the family of a man whom he killed in self-defense; a partially deaf girl in a rock band; a woman with early-onset Alzheimer’s who adopts a murderer who ends up loving her past death.

“I want to be remembered by the unborn.” The loss of memory, of one’s self.

“When your family is murdered, aren’t you entitled to happiness?”

Tears and pee. The dead keep watch.

Read the Forum essay.

Update: US Distributor – Asian Crush (2011)

Berlinale Forum 2011 – Utopians


Director: Zbigniew Bzymek
USA 2011
Cast includes Jim Fletcher (Roger), Courtney Webster (Zoe), Lauren Hind (Maya), Arthur French (Morris), Jessica Jelliffe (Deborah), and Sacha Yanow (Agnes)

Roger is arguably the worst yoga teacher in the world, and your home-renovation contractor from hell. But he’s a good egg. A single dad after the death of his wife, Roger’s life suddenly gets complicated when his daughter Zoe returns home from military service, on a mission to rescue her certified schizophrenic girlfriend Maya from institutionalization.

Roger’s increasingly frustrated students start to abandon him as he comes to class later and later, retreats into his own head for rambling, free-associative patter that takes the place of actual yoga instruction, and starts bringing a stray pit bull to class.

Tension grows as Maya is released from institutional care and comes to live/camp with Roger and Zoe. Roger’s friend Morris offers a live-in renovation job in his well-furnished house, and the newly formed family move in and promptly begin to decompensate, as the psychiatrists say, or perhaps just begin to find their way.

A perfect cast is led by Jim Fletcher (recently starring as Gatsby in the Elevator Repair Service’s marathon performance of Gatz), Courtney Webster, and Lauren Hind, with strong support by Arthur French, Jessica Jelliffe, and Sacha Yanow. Courtney Webster and Lauren Hind pulled double duty as producers.

Shot on location in Brooklyn in HDCam, with credits to Woodhull Hospital as well as to key artwork, including one fantastic painting of the fall of Nelson at Trafalgar.

The score is by Harvey Valdes, capturing the cold sounds of madness in one of the “longest-lasting guitar improvisations since Dead Man.”

A feature debut for director Zbigniew Bzymek, who is an associate artist at The Wooster Group, where he makes short doc videos and develops video design for productions, including the space vampire opera La Didone.

Read the Forum essay. Visit the film website.

Sinawi Glows in Dahlem


Shamanistic Improvisation Music Ensemble: The Sinawi
7 February 2011
Museen Dahlem, Berlin

A rare opportunity to hear traditional Korean shamanistic music performed in sinawi ensemble by gayageum virtuoso Kim Hae-Sook (Department of Korean Traditional Music, School of Korean Traditional Arts), agaeng master Kim Young-Gil and master percussionist Yoon Ho-Se, and introduced by a hauntingly beautiful folksong prelude by Kang Hyo-Joo of the National Center for Korean Traditional Performing Arts.

Kang Hyo-Joo, Voice, Janggu (장고 or 장구, a double-headed drum)

The Sinawi
Kim Hae-Sook, Gayageum (가야금, a multi-stringed, harp-like instrument)
Kim Young Gil, Ajaeng (아쟁, a bowed, zither-like instrument)
Yoon Ho-Se, Janggu, Jing (a brass gong)

Noraet garak (Kang Hyo-Joo)
Changbu taryeong (Kang Hyo-Joo, Yoon Ho-Se)
Janggu Sinawi (Yoon Ho-Se)
Ajaeng Sinawi (Kim Young Gil)
Sinawi-Ensemble (Kim Hae-Sook, Kim Hae-Sook, Yoon Ho-Se)
Gayageum-Sinawi (Kim Hae-Sook)
Namdo-Sinawi (Kim Hae-Sook, Kim Hae-Sook, Yoon Ho-Se)